Register now for upcoming classes at the Writers 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.
By registering, you agree to abide by the standards of the Writers Grotto: integrity, respect for all other people, and responsibility for your actions. The Writers Grotto reserves the right to cancel the registration of any individual going against this code of conduct.
All upcoming classes are listed below. You may also browse these categories:
SATURDAYS, OCTOBER 26; NOVEMBER 2-23 | Writers, it’s time to set aside the bevy of excuses about why you’re not sending your work out to journals, newspapers, magazines, and contests. In this boot camp-style workshop, you’ll focus on submitting a maximum of two short stories, articles, essays, and/or creative nonfiction pieces to 15 markets in just five weeks (poets should be prepared to submit a group of three to five related poems.) In a safe, supportive community, you’ll begin by learning proper submission etiquette and protocol, avoiding pitfalls that mark you as an amateur.
- Learn where to locate legitimate, respectable markets, including literary journals, contests, and grants
- Become proficient in navigating the publication landscape
- Get practical tips on formatting professional submissions
- Find out what the most popular submission platforms are and how they make your life easier
- Write your author bio
- Create a Research Collection Sheet to identify individualized markets
- Select and use a professional submission tracker
- This workshop is designed for committed writers who have one or two finished, polished pieces (three to five pieces for poets) of 5,000 words or less that are completed, proofread, and ready to send out for publication. A laptop, notebook computer, or iPad is required for this class.
Lyzette Wanzer is a San Francisco writer, editor, and creative writing workshop instructor. She received her M.F.A. in Fiction from Mills College. A flash fiction connoisseur and essay aficionado, her work has appeared in Callaloo, Tampa Review, The MacGuffin, Ampersand Review, Journal of Advanced Development, Journal of Experimental Fiction, Pleiades, Flashquake, Glossalia Flash Fiction, Potomac Review, International Journal on Literature and Theory, Fringe Magazine, The Naked Truth, and many others. She is the recipient of an Investing in Artists grant from the Center for Cultural Innovation, three Individual Artist Commission grants from San Francisco Arts Commission, and three Professional Development Grants from the Creative Capacity Fund.
Number of sessions: 5
Time: 11:00 am – 1:30 pm
Dates: Saturdays, October 26; November 2, 9, 16, 23.
Course fee: $330
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 27 |
Getting published is a thrill, but competition is stiff. To succeed, you have to carefully plan your career.
In this survey course, you’ll create a roadmap to your fondest literary ambitions. Do you want to make money? Get published in top magazines? Hit the bestseller list? You’ll learn to evaluate the market for your work by analyzing your strengths and weaknesses, finding your competitive edge and identifying your niche. You’ll lay out each step you must take to get from where you are to where you want to be.
This course will include a concise overview of the following topics:
- Setting goals
- Psychological obstacles
- Market research
- Negotiating rates
- Time management
- Professional organizations
- Working with literary agents
- Developing relationships with editors and publishers
Number of sessions: 1
Time: 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Dates: Sunday, October 27
Course fee: $95
MONDAYS, OCTOBER 28; NOVEMBER 4-25 |This is the class to take if you want to dip your toes into writing a full-length memoir. A memoir is a story from a life (autobiography is the story of a life). How do you take events from your life and shape them into a compelling read? This is a level one class for students who have some experience writing but haven’t yet written an entire draft of a memoir. We will talk about what to leave in and take out, structure, theme, stakes, and thorny questions about what if your Mom or ex-spouse reads it. Students will create an outline of their book with a narrative arc, and workshop a chapter or two. Included in the price of the class is a one-to-one half-hour session with the instructor, to be scheduled within a month of the final class.
Laura Fraser is a New York Times-bestselling author of the memoirs An Italian Affair, All Over the Map, and The Risotto Guru. She has written hundreds of articles for national publications, including at The New York Times, Gourmet, Sunset, San Francisco Magazine, O: the Oprah Magazine, and many others. She has taught writing at universities and writing conferences, as well as at the Grotto, for over 20 years.
Number of sessions: 5, plus individual critique session
Dates: Mondays, 28; November 4, 11, 18, 25; individual critique session to be scheduled by December 18.
Time: 6:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Course fee: $395 Early Bird until October 15; $425 after. Includes half-hour personal critique.
TUESDAYS, OCTOBER 29; NOVEMBER 5-19 | No matter how compelling the characters, dialogue, or action, great scenes need a sense of place that all too often gets short shrift. And when your subject is a place itself, the task is only more demanding. It’s easy to fall back on list-making when writing about place, and that’s a tool that can be used to great effect, but there are so many more approaches to be explored.
We’ll dive into great writing about place, and will look at—and utilize—specific techniques great writers use to capture the world around them. We’ll focus on writing about the real world, but will look at genres from essay to fiction, poetry, science fiction, and more. The class will emphasize writing that takes a specific place as its primary subject, but will also look at place as a way to set a scene in which some other element is of primary importance.
We’ll explore the use of place by writers like Joan Didion, Richard Powers, Annie Proulx, Iain Sinclair, and William Least Heat-Moon (among others), and engage in brief writing exercises in each session. We’ll also visit (virtually) with one of editors and/or writers from The Common (thecommononline.org), Amherst College’s literary magazine devoted to “our individual and collective sense of place.”
A freelance writer in San Francisco, Mark Wallace has reported from all over the world, writing for publications from The New York Times Magazine to The New Yorker, Wired, Salon, the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Sigh Press Literary Journal, the Philadelphia Independent, and many others.
Number of sessions: 4
Time: 5:45 pm – 7:45 pm
Dates: Tuesdays, October 29; November 5, 12, 19
Course fee: $249
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 2 | “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.
Rachel Howard is the author of a novel, The Risk of Us, and a memoir about her father’s unsolved murder, The Lost Night, described as “enthralling” by the New York Times. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Zyzzyva, Gulf Coast, Waxwing, the Hudson Review, the Arroyo Literary Review, TheNewYorker.com, and the New York Times Magazine. This lecture/workshop is adapted from the craft talk she delivered as Distinguished Visiting Writer in the M.F.A. Program of St. Mary’s College of California. More on Rachel at www.rachelhoward.com
Number of sessions: 1
Time: 9:30 am – 1:00 pm
Date: Saturday, November 2
Course fee: $95
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 3 | 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.
In this seminar, students will learn the seven components of a successful book proposal, study examples of proposals that led to book deals, and get the lowdown on the publishing industry – including the best way to find an agent.
This seminar is helpful for writers who are interested in sussing out an idea to see if it has market value or for writers who are “stuck” and need to step back and examine their book’s structure and big ideas to make sure they’re working with a solid, original premise.
Fresh coffee and light snacks included.
Julia Scheeres is the New York Times bestselling author of the memoir Jesus Land and of the narrative history A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Jonestown. She has taught creative writing at San Jose State and Stanford University and is a frequent contributor to the New York Times Book Review. Her articles, essays and reviews have appeared in many publications, both large and small. A few clips: https://juliascheeres.contently.com
Number of sessions: 1
Time: 9:00 am – 12:00 noon
Date: Sunday, November 3
Course fee: $125
THURSDAYS, NOVEMBER 7-21 |Whether you’ve always dreamed of writing professionally, you already do, or you’d like to figure out how to create better content for your job or business, this class will improve your writing in three weeks – guaranteed!
The first week, we’ll start off with Story and Structure. This will help you start the writing process: from getting over writers’ block, understanding your audience and purpose, doing research, brainstorming, and creating an outline so that your writing is engaging, logical, smooth, and satisfying to the reader. We’ll also remind you of stuff you should’ve learned in high school but may have forgotten: how to avoid the dreaded passive voice, weak verbs, excess verbiage, and a corporate or academic tone.
The second week, we’ll dive in to Revisions and Style. That will help you cast a critical eye on your creative efforts to become a clearer, more compelling writer. We’ll cover ways to cut clutter and make your writing sparkle. We’ll talk about the basics of good narrative and do a few writing exercises so that you will have hands-on experience revising your work as well as editing others’ pieces.
You’ll bring in a short piece you’ve written to the third class, Workshopping, so we can help you revise it. At the end of the three weeks we’ll toast our success as better writers. You’ll leave with that great feeling: Hey, I can write!
Laura Fraser is a New York Times-bestselling author of three books who has worked as a freelance journalist since she graduated from college. She has written hundreds of articles for national publications, including at The New York Times, Gourmet, Sunset, San Francisco Magazine, O: the Oprah Magazine, and many others. She has taught writing at universities and writing conferences, as well as at the Grotto, for over 20 years. She conducts workshops internationally in writing and digital storytelling for corporations and non-profits to help people everywhere be better writers. She’s also the niece and mentee of the late William Zinsser, author of On Writing Well.
Number of sessions: 3
Time: 6:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Date: Thursdays, November 7, 14, 21
Course fee: $200
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 10 | Writers of all levels interested in screenwriting begin with the same questions (and some misconceptions) about how and why writing a screenplay is different from other forms of writing. What is the life cycle of a screenplay? 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”? In this seminar and mini-workshop, we’ll tackle these questions and more through a mixture of lecture, examples, and opportunities for writing exercises.
Topics will include:
- The unique challenges of screenwriting
- The purpose of the screenplay format
- The stages of screenwriting: idea, logline, treatment, screenplay
- How to generate ideas and recognize promising ones
- Learning screenplay structure without being limited by it
- Creating unforgettable characters
- Writing crisp dialogue
- Writing cinematically
- A mini-pitch session
This class is for writers of all levels and genres new to screenwriting. All students will receive an online packet with suggested screenplays, software recommendations, and links to useful resources, groups, and conferences.
Xandra Maria Castleton, M.F.A., is a screenwriter and producer whose scripts have served as the basis for award-winning documentary, television and narrative film projects, among them an Emmy Award-winning profile of John Waters. Her films have premiered at festivals such as Sundance, Tribeca, AFI, and Rotterdam, while her feature dramatic comedy, Full Grown Men, was the winner of the 2007 Sundance Channel Audience Award prior to a critically successful theatrical release by Emerging Pictures. Xandra was the co-creator and writer of the scripted television documentary Stand Up Planet, starring Hasan Minhaj of The Daily Show.
Number of sessions: 1
Time: 1:30 pm – 5:30 pm
Date: Sunday, November 10
Course fee: $150
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 17 |
In this interactive, one-day workshop, we will collaborate on producing a zine together. Instructors Susan Ito and Maw Shein Win will introduce a host of collaborative writing exercises to ignite your imagination and push your creative practice to new places. We will share inventive strategies to generate fresh ideas and inspire your writing through working and playing together. You will learn how to physically construct your own zine that includes work from the whole group.
At the end of the workshop, you will leave with a unique collaborative zine of words and images as well as an invaluable list of resources and exercises to keep you moving forward in your writing and creative life. This lively and engaging workshop is excellent for both poets and prose writers who have an interest in collaborative writing. Beginners are welcomed, as well as experienced poets, writers and artists who are looking to stretch their creative boundaries.
Light snacks and beverages provided. Bring a notebook.
Maw Shein Win is a poet, editor, and educator who lives and works in the Bay Area. Her writing has appeared in various journals and anthologies, including Poetry International, Poets and Writers, Cimarron Review, Fanzine, and others. She is a member of the The Writers’ Grotto, and her poetry chapbook Score and Bone is on Nomadic Press (2016). Her collection Invisible Gifts: Poems was published by Manic D Press in 2018. Maw is the first poet laureate of El Cerrito (2016 – 2018), and her forthcoming full-length collection will be published by Omnidawn in 2020. She is a 2019 Visiting Scholar in the English Department at UC Berkeley.
Susan Ito is author of The Mouse Room. She co-edited the anthology A Ghost At Heart’s Edge: Stories & Poems of Adoption. She has been a columnist and editor at Literary Mama, and her work has appeared in Growing Up Asian American, Choice, Hip Mama, Catapult, The Bellevue Literary Review, Making More Waves and elsewhere. She has performed her solo show, The Ice Cream Gene, around the United States. She writes and teaches at the Writers’ Grotto, at Bay Path University and Mills College.
Number of sessions: 1
Time: 11:00 am – 3:00 pm
Date: Sunday, November 17
Course fee: $100