Upcoming classes: Creativity

Take some time for your writing this summer with a series of virtual 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!

Write-ins are held on a variety of days and times to give our students the opportunity to choose a write-in that works best for their schedule.

For virtual events, please contact the instructor directly for Zoom login information.

Questions and information:

Course fee: $25/session

Dates, times, and instructors:

  • Tuesday, August 2nd, 8 – 9 am Pacific Time, with Lisa Lerner ( (Virtual Write-In)
  • Wednesday, August 17th, 6 – 7 pm Pacific Time, with Rita Chang-Eppig ( (Virtual Write-In)
  • Wednesday, August 24th, 6 – 7 pm Pacific Time, with Rita Chang-Eppig ( (Virtual Write-In)
  • Wednesday, August 31st, 6 – 7 pm Pacific Time, with Rita Chang-Eppig ( (Virtual Write-In)

SATURDAY, AUG. 20th  |  Setting sometimes feels like the red-headed stepchild of the fiction-writing process—less integral, somehow, than character or story structure. But whether you’re writing a biting social satire or a sweeping historical epic, a high-fantasy adventure or a gritty dystopian one, your characters and their stories are indelibly shaped by the physical, temporal and social world in which they exist. In order to understand what makes your novel tick, you need to know that world inside and out. This one-session course will unpack how masterful writers across genre use setting to drive story and shape character—and help you discover the world of your own novel, from its unwritten mores and environmental constraints to its narrative traditions and natural wonders.

We’ll draw on excerpts from authors like N.K. Jemisin, Louise Erdrich, and Jess Walter to deepen our understanding of how a novel’s world informs its character, plot, and themes. Through in-class discussion, small-group exercises, and individual free-writes, you’ll gain a deeper sense of how worlds and stories intersect, how to dive into the world of your novel, and how to bring that world to life on the page.

TUESDAYS, SEPT. 6th — OCT. 4th  |  Revisit perception and perspective in a guided reading of Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. First published in 1927, Woolf’s fifth novel is not only one of the most important works of early-20th-century Modernist literature, but also a deeply affecting portrait of a woman and a family beset by the forces of the modern world. Over the course of five weeks, we’ll read this masterpiece together, and explore its sitting rooms and hidden byways in search of not just lessons we might use in our own lives as readers and writers of literature, but new ways of perceiving (for it is nothing if not a novel of perception) the world around us and ourselves.

We’ll read about 50 pages a week (no reading is necessary before the first class), and then discuss when we meet. Each evening will begin with comments from Mark Wallace, which will help put the novel in the broader context of Woolf’s life and work, and the literature and culture of the time in which she wrote. But this is a community undertaking, one in which we will look for joy and insight not only in the text but in the experience of reading something deeply with a group of peers. Participants will have plenty of opportunity to chime in, so don’t be shy. No writing will be required, but you’ll receive optional readings, generative prompts, and other exercises that will help everyone flex their modernist muscles in contemporary ways.

Jenny Bitner

Jenny Bitner

SUNDAY, Sept. 11th  | The three components of writing success are inspiration, writing and community. This one day writing retreat will be a red-letter day on your calendar to focus on your writing.  It will be divided into three parts. During the morning, I will give you prompts for writing and you will do writing exercises to get you started on a piece. In the later morning, you will have time to write and meet with me one-on-one as needed to coach you about your work and writing life. In the late afternoon, we will share something that you wrote in the workshop and talk about what you can do to stay motivated and get support for your writing.

The light-filled new office at 1663 Mission Street has high ceilings, views of the city, and desks and nooks to cozy up, write, and be inspired in.

Elizabeth Forsyth

Elizabeth Forsyth

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 17th | Are you looking for a way to share your work with the world but have no idea where to start? Does the thought of reading your work in front of strangers terrify you? Are you a self published author looking for ways to promote your book? This class gives an overview of how to plan your perfect author event.

In this class we will cover:

  • How to plan your author event
  • How to market your author event
  • Traditional and non-traditional ideas for where to host your author event
  • How to identify potential venues (and how to avoid bad ones!)
  • Practical suggestions for the night of your event
  • …and much more!

Rita Chang-Eppig

WEDNESDAYS, SEPT. 21st – OCT. 26th | If you’re serious about improving your craft and preparing your short stories for submission to journals/magazines, this class is for you. In this 6-week class, the focus will be on workshopping your fiction and deep-diving into craft, centering works by marginalized authors. Students are expected to have taken previous writing classes and to understand the basics of craft elements like description, POV, etc. because we will be building on (or, in some cases, tearing down) our understanding of what “good craft” is. Please make sure you have at least one story ready for workshopping by the start of the class so that you can take full advantage of the class.

Doug Henderson

Doug Henderson

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.

Jenny Bitner

Jenny Bitner

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.

Jenny Bitner

Jenny Bitner

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.


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