Register now for upcoming classes at the Grotto! Early enrollment is strongly recommended, as course offerings frequently sell out. If a class is filled to capacity, please contact the instructor to request waiting-list placement.
All upcoming classes are listed below. You may also browse these categories:
WEDNESDAYS, AUGUST 29—SEPTEMBER 25 | Want to write more structured pieces but don’t know where or how to begin? If you are an avid journaler who wants to develop your writing into a story or essay, or someone who finds the narrative form too terrifying and frustrating to approach by yourself, this class is for you.
Much of this course will be dedicated to learning how to spark and shape your creativity. Using prompts and short exercises, we’ll spend part of each class by mining observations, memories, and imaginings. Then we’ll look at how to create narrative from this raw material, focusing on scene and dialogue, two of the primary tools of narrative writing.→ READ MORE
THURSDAYS, SEPTEMBER 13 —NOVEMBER 8 | This course is designed for students who have experience in a fiction writing workshop and want to go deeper in developing their writing. In our intimate workshop, we will discuss the direction your work is taking and how you can move it towards publication. Your will have the opportunity to have your work discussed in the workshop at least four times. We will discuss craft issues as they relate to strengthening your individual writing. I will give you written feedback on all of your submissions. You will be expected to read and give feedback on other students’ work.→ READ MORE
SUNDAYS, SEPTEMBER 16 & 23 | Whether you have a story fresh from the printer or tucked away in your desk drawer, this highly interactive, two-session workshop gives you concrete tools to strengthen your work and publish it. Students in this class have gone on to publish work in online and print journals, as well as place in national writing contests. During the workshop, we’ll talk about revision as a process of “re-envisioning” the piece, and you’ll learn how to accomplish this in do-able steps. You’ll have the chance to step back and look at your story, assess where it would benefit from more work, and select among different in-class revision exercises to get the process going.→ READ MORE
WEDNESDAYS, SEPTEMBER 19 — OCTOBER 24 | How do you turn your life journeys and family tales into gripping stories with a deeper meaning, whether social, spiritual, cultural, historical, political? Stories that capture a particular moment or culture and move readers? Each week, we will practice one of the six key elements of memoir, personal essay, or travel writing. Fun homework prompts will help you generate new material — or dive deep into existing projects — that moves down into the self for the specific details that make your stories unique and out into the world for the metaphors and themes that touch others.→ READ MORE
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 23 | Save thousands of dollars hiring professional editors by learning to edit your own work. As a freelance book editor of 13 years, I see the same mistakes over and over. From exercises to improve your story arc, character development, dialogue and description, to tips for copyediting your completed manuscript, I’ll teach you how to turn your good manuscript into a great manuscript in this one-day intensive workshop. Bring a sample of your work (10 pages) and lunch. I’ll provide tea and snacks.
Meghan Ward is an author, book editor, and social media consultant.→ READ MORE
THURSDAYS, SEPTEMBER 27 —NOVEMBER 15 | How do we grab the attention of our readers and pull them into our stories? By imbuing our pages with a raw humanity that elicits a deep emotional response in them. A finely crafted opening will keep the reader turning pages, curious about the fate of our characters or subject matter.
Your first pages set the stage for the rest of your book. What works? Masterful storytelling. Strong characters. Artful language. Tension. Drama. A clear sense of theme and direction. A mystery. Elements that keep readers hooked, eager to know more.→ READ MORE
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 29 | “Flat” writing hands off lifeless information in a two-dimensional exchange between reader and writer. Three-dimensional writing places the reader in a charged space of heightened experience, renewed perspective, and active meaning-making. How is that three-dimensionality created, and what do you do when you find your language stuck in 2-D? This combination lecture and workshop for writers of fiction and literary nonfiction examines specific strategies for three-dimensionality drawn from contemporary writers like Sheila Heti, Jo Ann Beard, and Maggie Nelson, and classics by Marguerite Duras and Bruno Schulz. We will try out new techniques and tricks—but ultimately what you will achieve is a shift in consciousness that will help make your writing spacious and transporting.→ READ MORE
SATURDAYS, SEPTEMBER 29 & OCTOBER 6 | Getting published is a thrill. The joy of creation combines with the opportunity to inform, entertain or inspire a broad audience. But if you’ve ever contemplated a career as a freelance writer, you probably know it’s a jungle out there. Competition is stiff and writing skills don’t translate easily into income. To succeed, you have to carefully plan your career.
In this course, you’ll create a road map to realize your fondest literary ambitions. Do you want to make money? Get published in top magazines? Hit the bestseller list?→ READ MORE
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 30 | Breaking into the world of freelance writing can seem mysterious and downright impossible at the outset. How will you make enough money? If you currently have a job, how do you transition into full-time freelancing? When can you take the plunge? Where will you find clients? How will you successfully pitch to publications, especially if you don’t have a portfolio?
It took me several years of pitfalls, wrong turns, financial struggling, over-caffeinated meltdowns, and learning on the job to successfully make it as a freelance writer. In this one-day bootcamp, I will teach you the fundamentals of how to successfully begin freelancing for a variety of publications including magazines, newspapers, websites, and other forms of paid writing and editing work.→ READ MORE
TUESDAYS, OCTOBER 2 & 9 | Whether it’s a love letter, a business or book proposal, an opinion piece, or a sales pitch, persuasive writing is a big part of our lives. Yet we so often shy away from putting language to work for us in these contexts, or fail to take advantage of simple techniques that can make this kind of writing more effective.
In this two-part class, we’ll look at ways your writing can help do the job of persuasion, whether in a personal, a professional, or a social context. We’ll look at famous love letters, including Napoleon’s and Frida Kahlo’s, and extract lessons from some of the best known persuasive speeches and other texts throughout history.→ READ MORE
WEDNESDAYS, OCTOBER 3 —NOVEMBER 14 | Often considered one of the most difficult forms to master, the short story is a balancing act of brevity and depth. In this craft workshop, we will read great short stories from authors like James Baldwin, Alice Munro and Carmen Maria Machado that have particular strength in character, plot, setting, and emotional resonance and use these stories to discuss the craft of short story writing. We will workshop your stories with these masters in mind. The best way to develop your craft is to imitate the masters.
Jenny Bitner‘s short stories have appeared in Best American Nonrequired Reading, PANK, The Mississippi Review, The Sun and The Fabulist.→ READ MORE
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 6 | Artist statements are not just for visual artists and performers; in the 21st century, writers need them, too. You will use some incarnation of this statement on your own web page and media account, in personal and project statements for residency applications, and in letters of intent for grant and fellowship applications. Your statement needs to demonstrate that you are a thoughtful, deliberate writer who takes her literary career seriously. Bear in mind that this statement speaks for you on grant, fellowship, grad school, conference, and residency applications. Learn how to cast your work in its strongest, most evocative light.→ READ MORE
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 7 | Social Media is constantly changing. What worked in 2017 doesn’t necessarily work in 2018. So, whether you think you know social media or not, your strategy could probably use a refresh. Join me for a fun, interactive one-day workshop to learn what’s new with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, and LinkedIn as well as the best tools for managing your social media presence online. This course is great for writers and non-writers alike. Bring your own lunch or join me at American Grilled Cheese during the break. Snacks and tea are provided.
Meghan Ward is an author, book editor, and social media consultant.→ READ MORE
WEEKENDS, OCTOBER 13-14 & 20-21 | Are you a seeker with existential experiences and questions to phrase or interpret? Have you had a spiritual experience that has moved or changed you? Do you want to write a story about your transformation through a significant emotional event? In this workshop, you’ll get that chance! You’ll unveil, identify, and select the important steps of your journey that you wish to write about.
In this workshop, I will provide an overview of methods used to write about the spiritual journey. This will include memoir, travel writing, personal essay, letter, creative nonfiction, fiction, and short story.→ READ MORE
SATURDAY & SUNDAY, OCTOBER 13 & 14 | Great short stories don’t happen by magic. The best authors work tirelessly to build the scaffolding of their plots, laying groundwork so well hidden, readers simply forget about the man behind the curtain. Short Fiction in Motion is a workshop intensive on getting to know the wizard behind your own writing. We’ll use visual representations to decipher the form of your plot, building new structures and amplifying old ones within your draft.
In advance of this weekend intensive, all students will submit a story of their own, no longer than 5,000 words.→ READ MORE
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 14 | The beauty of nonfiction books is that they can frequently be sold on the basis of a 40- to 60-page proposal. What is a proposal? Essentially, it is a business plan for a book – a document that outlines your basic premise, provides data on competing titles, includes audience research, summarizes chapter contents and includes other core information that convinces a publisher to give you a wad of money so you can take time off and write it. Memoirs, narrative journalism, business books, histories, and biographies can all be sold on proposal.→ READ MORE
MONDAYS, OCTOBER 15 —NOVEMBER 12 | One of the biggest challenges writers face is getting their work the recognition it deserves. You’ve been sending your work out—stories, articles, poems, plays—and you know it’s good work, but no one’s biting. You’ve applied for grants, travel scholarships, and writers’ conference funding, to no avail. You’d love to be invited to present work at Litquake or another high-profile reading series, or to read at a conference. You’d like to publish in literary journals that pay writers, and you’d like to start winning some writing contests. What’s the missing link?→ READ MORE
MONDAYS, OCTOBER 15 —NOVEMBER 12 | Being able to write clearly about science is a super power — and it’s a power that’s in high demand. As a lay person who has a specialty in writing about biotechnology and medicine, I’ve always figured that by the time I understand something, I can explain it clearly on the page. This class will focus on how to write about complicated medical, science, and biotech topics while sounding like a human being. We will work on story-telling skills and how to make complex stories about health, medicine, and science engaging to a lay reader.→ READ MORE
TUESDAYS, OCTOBER 16 —NOVEMBER 13 | This intimate class is for writers who are in the midst of a project, whether personal essay, memoir, creative nonfiction, or magazine feature. We’ll help you take your work to the next level and aim for a publishable piece. The class will be designed to work on students’ pain points, whether structure (okay, almost always structure), writing process and goals, voice, style, clarity, etc. You should come to the first class with up to 1200 words of a piece, an outline, a book proposal, or whatever you’re working on, so we can dive right in.→ READ MORE
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 20 | For a freelance journalist, essayist, or nonfiction writer, a good pitch letter can not only generate work but open doors, build new relationships, and even kickstart a career. But crafting a pitch, targeting it to the right publication, and getting it in front of the right person isn’t always simple.
In this class, you’ll gain new insights into what editors are looking for and why—as well as all the reasons they don’t want to assign you that story—and learn new ways to make your pitch letters as compelling as possible.
We’ll also talk about generating ideas, how to find the right editor at the right title, how to pitch early and often, and about the kind of perseverance it takes to prevail in an extremely competitive environment.→ READ MORE
SATURDAYS, OCTOBER 20 & 27 | Nature writing gives us wings with which to soar, peaks to summit and insight into the cycles of life. But it can feel so damn far away from the day-to-day realities of city living. Join author Kristin Kaye in a wild plunge into the complexities of concrete landscapes. We will explore the terrain of Nature Writing and juxtapose the gift of a vast expanse with the mash-up of city streets, random trees and parks that are squeezed into city blocks. We will read together, explore essay form and consider the gift, or lack, of green and wildlife in different settings.→ READ MORE
SUNDAYS, OCTOBER 21 — NOVEMBER 4 | In this three-morning class, we’ll go over the basics of great memoir writing. How do you draw readers into your world using sensory detail–the sounds of the BART as it rushes through the tunnel, the smell of your childhood home, the taste of morning coffee? How do you write both summary and scene? How do you make your dialogue sound authentic? How do you deal with time shifts? How can you make your voice sing on the page? Excerpts from memoirs will be used for inspiration as well as Judith Barrington’s Memoir Writing.→ READ MORE
TUESDAYS, OCTOBER 23—NOVEMBER 20 | One of the most difficult narrative issues in fiction writing is how to emotionally move your readers. Often, what we writers render on the page are concepts of drama meant to profoundly affect the reader, but it does not. In this five-week process class we will dissect the intricate concepts of how emotions are developed in fiction, and master how to recognize and apply narrative craft that develop dramatic emotions in ways that can move our readers. These skills will be developed through in-class writing exercises and assignments, focusing on interior monologue, characters’ perceptions, creating motivations, and more.→ READ MORE
SUNDAYS, OCTOBER 28 & NOVEMBER 4 | Are you an educator or activist with a story but don’t know where to start? Does your community involvement both inspire you and eat up potential writing time? Committing yourself to writing—just like committing to social engagement or spiritual practice—takes time and faith. This two-day workshop will re-inspire and renew those on the front lines who need both. Whether you’re reflecting on a lifetime of engagement, helping others develop their voices, recording group oral histories, or journaling the resistance, you’re telling two stories—the personal and the cultural, the private and the public.→ READ MORE
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 3 | Those interested in screenwriting often begin with the same questions (and some misconceptions) about how and why writing a screenwriting for film and television is different from other forms of writing. What is the lifecycle of a screenplay or tv pilot? What is different about writing with collaborators (such as directors and actors) in mind? What is the relationship of the screenwriter to the audience? What does it mean to write in the immediate present? Why do some ideas lend themselves well to the screenplay form and others not so well? What, in practical terms, does it mean to “write in pictures”?→ READ MORE