Classes at the Grotto
COVID-19 UPDATE: While COVID-19 guidelines prevent our gathering in person, the Writers Grotto is pleased to be able to offer our full slate of courses via the online platforms Zoom and Wet Ink. The listings below indicate whether each class is held synchronously (via Zoom), asynchronously (via Wet Ink), or in a hybrid mode, utilizing both platforms. Please wear a mask, practice social distancing, and if you’re looking for an outlet during your time at home, check out the upcoming classes below or our current slate of write-ins. Stay well!
Grotto classes are taught by working professional writers who have been published in the subject they teach. At the Grotto, only published novelists teach novel writing, only published memoirists teach the memoir, etc. Our screenwriting teachers have seen their work come to life on the big screen. It’s a distinct approach, and perhaps why we’ve been voted Best of the Bay Area by San Francisco Magazine. Come to us when you’re ready to take your work to the next level. Browse our current course offerings below.
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We strongly encourage our students to enroll early, as course offerings frequently sell out.
By registering, you agree to abide by the standards of the Writers Grotto: integrity, respect for others, and responsibility for your actions. The Writers Grotto reserves the right to cancel the registration of any individual who does not observe this code of conduct.
Check out our full list of upcoming classes below, or check out these categories:
Take some time for your writing this fall with a series of virtual and in person write-ins hosted by the Grotto. Led by one the Grotto’s many talented and accomplished writers, each of the sessions below provides 60 minutes of space and guidance in which to get your creative energy flowing, generate new material, bring old material up to snuff, and just make contact with the community of writers that is the Grotto, our teachers, and our students.
Choose one or more of the sessions below, and show up for generative exercises designed to help instill confidence in your writing, shift your focus and get you out of a rut, document the emotions and experience of challenging times, and more. Writing prompts, craft tips, timed exercises, accountability—you’ll encounter any or all of these as you write in community with your fellow narrative artists and learn from our writers about what has worked for them. Finish a story you’ve started or free-write your way to something new. Find inspiration and energy writing in virtual community!
WEDNESDAYS, SEPT. 28th – NOV. 2nd | There are limits to what realism can do. Often we try to create stories that are as believable as possible, especially when the seeds of that story come from our own experience. But realism is not always enough to convey what we want our readers to experience and feel. Sometimes what we want to say requires curses, and zombies, and the end of the world. That’s where the genre hybrid comes in, stories that blend different genre elements together in one work, to smash stale tropes, and upend readers’ expectations.
This workshop-based class is ideal for writers who are looking to generate new work or have work in progress and are ready for feedback. We will supplement our workshop by reading and discussing excerpts from published short stories to deepen our understanding of how these writers incorporate the various fantastical elements, and tropes of genre into their work. In addition, we will try our hand at exercises designed to ignite our imaginations, and take our stories to new places, and themes. If time allows, we will share these exercises in class. Each week we will workshop two stories by students. By the end of the course, each student will have had the opportunity to receive verbal and written feedback on their stories at least twice from both the workshop leader and their peers.
SUNDAY OCT. 2nd | For writers the state of flow is something that we all seek–a state of being fully immersed, energized and focused. Writing is wonderful when it flows, but how can we regularly tap into the flow state? In this class we will explore ways of accessing the unconscious for our writing
We will brainstorm, explore, play writing games, look at our dreams, learn a meditation to get you into flow for writing, and I will lead you in group hypnosis for writing. We will learn how to use our intuition to guide us and play with Tarot prompts and automatic writing. There will be time for writing and a break for lunch. We will share some writing that we like at the end of the day. When you leave, I will give you ten activities that you can use outside class to get inspired when the inspiration is not happening.
WEDNESDAYS, OCT. 5th – NOV. 9th | Do you want to write the Great American Novel but find it hard to finish a short story? Maybe you need to ease into writing with something you can write a first draft of in a few hours. I believe that before we can tackle a longer piece of writing, it’s important to learn the elements of what make good writing, and the perfect practice ground for this is short fiction.
This class will focus on learning these elements by writing flash fiction (stories under 1500 words). We will discuss different aspects of craft and read some of the best examples of flash. I will give you daily writing prompts, and each week the class will give you feedback on a new story. At the end of the class I will encourage you to send your finished work out into the world.
SUNDAYS OCT. 9th — NOV. 13th | Is it true or is it fiction – and does it matter? Often the lines between memoir and fiction can be blurry. And most of great literature has at least some elements of truth in it, from books that are largely autobiographical like Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, and Chris Kraus’s Aliens and Anorexia to fictional worlds like Raymond Carver’s and Denis Johnson’s that are drawn from a world that could only be created through personal experience. Lately the term autofiction has been used to describe works like Ocean Vuong, Marguerite Duras, Teju Cole and Annie Ernaux. In this class we will talk about the debate over autofiction versus memoir.
We will explore memories, experiences, and characters from our own lives and turn them into fictional stories, blending the richness of our emotional and felt experiences with elements from our imagination to create compelling writing. We will have writing prompts, in-class exercises, and reading assignments of autofiction and semi-autobiographical fiction. This class is primarily a writing workshop, and your work will be discussed twice in the class. You will be expected to read and comment on classmates’ work.
MONDAYS, OCT. 17th – NOV. 28th | In this class, we’ll spend six weeks building stories from the foundation. We’ll celebrate the trouble at the heart of good short fiction. We’ll look at ways to get characters in and out of (or deeper into) hot water. We’ll look closely at short stories that achieve unity of purpose, precision of craft, and an emotional wallop. We’ll explore diverse forms and voices and examine not only how each story builds from the first word to the last but how tightly the structure depends upon – and enhances – our understanding of character.
During these six weeks, each student will craft a short story from beginning to end, starting with in-class exercises and prompts. Homework will consist of weekly reading assignments as well as student writing. Please be prepared to share your work in class, as we will regularly do so in a supportive, respectful, and constructive manner (with guidelines provided by the instructor). If you’ve written short fiction before, or are looking to start, this class will give you concrete help in developing (or tightening) your craft.
Note: this class is generative rather than revision-oriented. While you may already have a draft, please be prepared to write (and share) new material
WEDNESDAYS, OCT. 19th – NOV. 16th | This is a writing workshop designed exclusively for adopted people, formerly fostered individuals and those born via surrogacy or donor conception. These life experiences have a unique impact and these voices and narratives have often been invisible or silenced. The intention is to create a safe and supportive space for all stories to be heard and acknowledged. We will read and generate work in a variety of genres, including poetry, flash memoir and imaginary narratives. This class will meet as a group via Zoom. I will also hold private conferences with each student at a time that is mutually convenient.
The instructor is a domestically adopted person who edited the anthology, A Ghost At Heart’s Edge: Stories & Poems of Adoption, and whose adoption memoir is forthcoming in 2023.
SATURDAY, OCT. 22nd | The Meet-Cute. That magical moment when two characters collide, hearts flutter, pulses race, and sparks spark. A staple of romance novels and romantic comedies, meet-cute scenes are so much more than a cliché. When done well, the meet-cute is the fertile seed from which the entire story blossoms; but getting all the elements just right – and arranging them to converge in one meaningful moment – is no easy task.
This generative workshop is designed for writers who are interested in the mechanics of romance novels, are looking to improve their writing skills, and who enjoy reading and writing about love and relationships. Writers in this workshop will leave with a clearer sense of how to develop compelling fictional worlds, and an enhanced ability to tell stories that readers will fall in love with. We will discuss and practice common elements of craft, such as characterization, dramatic irony, and interiority. Via in-class discussion, small-group exercises, and individual free-writes, we will play around with familiar tropes, and revel in a shared love for romance. We will also learn what makes the meet-cute so necessary, and why it is so urgent that we are with these characters at this particular moment in their story. By the end of the workshop everyone will have a chance to write and share their own meet-cute scene and start a (fictional!) love affair worth pursuing.
SATURDAYS OCT. 29th & NOV. 5th | “Good artists borrow, great artists steal.” This immersive course, meeting over two Saturdays, will explore the implications of this statement for anyone interested in fiction writing. (And no, we’re not talking about plagiarism.) We’ll examine how models such as newspaper headlines, fairy tales and myth, short-story classics, and non-narrative forms such as recipes and to-do lists can supply practical solutions and inspiration to our fiction writing. We’ll look at such stories as “The Bloody Chamber,” “Good People,” and “What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank” in which Angela Carter, David Foster Wallace and Nathan Englander “steal” from fairy tale, Hemingway, and Raymond Carver respectively. We’ll analyze elements of craft and voice as ways to navigate the risks of parody and imitation, and identify the ways in which writers make “stolen material” fresh. Using prompts, students will do legitimate “stealing” of their own. This workshop gives a fresh and intriguing way of uncovering new material for fiction writers.
TUESDAYS, NOV. 1st – NOV. 15th |Do you have an idea for a children’s book? Maybe you have even written your first page? In this lightning fast (or slightly less fast) hour, I will give live feedback on your pitch or page. I have workshopped hundreds of kid-lit manuscripts as well as stories written by dozens of kids themselves. I’ve also written thousands of stories for kids for major educational publishers, so I have a pretty good sense of what ideas have legs and which ones are barely able to crawl out of bed. But I always see the gold in any idea, because if you feel passionate about it, there’s a great chance kids will, too. I will help you tweak your idea so it can leap for the stars!
Students will be able to sign up for one or more dates in this pitch feedback class. Material isn’t taught sequentially in this class, so you will be able to select the date(s) that work best for your schedule.
THURSDAYS, NOV. 3rd – DEC. 15th | “A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is.” Flannery O’Connor
The advice is often given to writers, if you want to write, then read. But just reading is often not enough if we don’t know what we are looking for in the story. In this class we will read short stories by contemporary masters of short fiction and analyze them to write our own stories. We will read stories by Alice Munro, Ted Chiang, Octavia Butler, Toni Morrison and Carmen Maria Machado. We study master short stories to learn their secrets and borrow them.
Each week we will discuss a different story and look at how authors deal with use of time, point of view, narrative voice, the element of surprise and growth of a character. You will have a weekly mini-assignment towards completing your story and we will spend part of each class looking at drafts of our your stories in smaller groups. In the final two weeks you will turn in a complete short story and discuss it in workshop with the class.
SATURDAYS, DEC. 3rd & 10th | In this two-day intensive, you’ll explore how to make imagery work for you in your own writing, whether fiction or nonfiction. Effective imagery goes far beyond flowery description to bring your reader closer to the experience on the page and to evoke thematic resonance. A well-placed image can reveal character, mood, context, tone, or setting. Whatever your subject matter, imagery brings it to life through concrete detail.