Upcoming classes: Fiction

Maw Shein Win

Susan Ito





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 WritersCimarron 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: Saturday, December 14th

Course fee: $100

Lindsey Crittenden




SATURDAYS, JAN. 11–Feb. 8 |

“Good artists borrow, great artists steal.” This course, meeting every other week for three 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, working over the three sessions to present (on our final meeting) new material for a short story. This workshop gives a fresh and intriguing way of uncovering new material for fiction.
Lindsey Crittenden is the author of an award-winning short-fiction collection, The View From Below, and a memoir, The Water Will Hold You (“exquisitely written,” Publishers’ Weekly starred review).  Her short stories and essays have appeared in The New York Times, Glimmer Train, Arroyo Literary Review, Best American Spiritual Writing, Pisgah Review, Quarterly West, and other publications. She has used self-help, writing manuals, and the work of Edith Wharton in her own “stealing.”

Number of sessions
: 3


Dates: Saturdays, Jan. 11, 25; Feb. 8

Time: 1:30 pm –4:30 pm

Course fee: $285. Early bird discount: $255 by Jan. 4

Meghan Ward




TUESDAYS, JAN 14–FEB 11  | Are you feeling stuck or unmotivated to finish your novel, memoir, or short story collection? Are you a procrastinator? Are you easily distracted? Do you find yourself checking email, Facebook, and Instagram when you should be writing? You’re not alone!

Incorporating lessons from Charles Duhigg’s New York Times bestseller The Power of Habit and Hal Elrod’s Miracle Morning, I will help you design a writing routine that works for you and give you the tools to stick with it. You will set goals, create a plan for achieving those goals, and then get to work. This class is a five-session online version of my in-person Writing Habit class, giving you more tools and more personalized attention throughout the 28 days we’ll be meeting. Through our online class portal, you’ll have the opportunity to download class materials, upload assignments, and receive daily support and encouragement throughout the process. Make a New Year’s resolution now to FINISH THAT BOOK in 2020!

This is an online class.

Meghan Ward is a writer, professional book editor and the founder of, a blog about writing, editing, publishing, and social media. Her clients include novelists, memoirists, nonfiction authors, short story and personal essay writers, and PhD candidates. Through 15 years of editing experience, Meghan has developed a series of steps every writer can master to improve their stories, clean up their writing, and save thousands of dollars on freelance editors. Follow Meghan on Twitter @meghancward, on Facebook @meghanwardauthor and on Instagram at +meghancward.


Number of sessions: 5

Time: Online; asynchronous. Classes post on Tuesdays.

Dates: Tuesdays, Jan. 14, 21, 28, Feb. 4, 11

Course fee: $375

Jenny Bitner




TUESDAYS, EVERY TWO WEEKS, JAN 14-MARCH  24 | 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. You will have the opportunity to have your work discussed in the workshop at least three 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 (50 pages a class). This class can be taken more than once. Classes will meet every other week, which will leave more time for writing and review of work.

Jenny Bitner’s fiction has been published in Mississippi Review, The Sun, Fence, The Fabulist and PANK. Her story “The Pamphleteer” was selected by Dave Eggers for Best American Nonrequired Reading and incorporated into an opera by The Paul Bailey Ensemble. Her nonfiction has appeared in Utne Reader, To-Do List, The San Francisco Bay Guardian and Men’s Health. Pine Press published a chapbook of her poetry entitled Mother. She earned an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Virginia.


Number of sessions: 6.

Time: 6:00 pm – 8:30 pm

Dates: Every other Tuesday, Jan 14, 28; Feb 11, 25; March 10, 24

Course fee: $425

Jenny Bitner




WEDNESDAYS, JAN 15-FEB 12 (skip a week) | 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. During the first four weeks we will be learning and practicing aspects of craft and in the final two weeks we will workshop your stories.

Jenny Bitner’s short stories have appeared in Best American Nonrequired Reading, PANKThe Mississippi Review, The Sun and The Fabulist. She has an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Virginia. She loves both experimental and traditional short stories.


Number of sessions: 6.

Time: 6:00 pm – 8:30 pm

Dates: Jan. 15, 22, 29 Feb. 5, 12, (skip a week), 26

Course fee: $425

Susan Ito




FRIDAY, JAN 17 | End the week on a high! Join Grotto writer Susan Ito for an evening of writing designed to banish the work week and open a vein of creative energy to keep you writing through the weekend and beyond. Join the group for prompts at the community writing table or find your own cozy carrel or couch. Finish a story you’ve started or free-write your way to something new. Find inspiration and energy writing in community! Snacks, encouragement, and tea provided.


Susan Ito is the author of The Mouse Room. She co-edited the literary anthology A Ghost At Heart’s Edge: Stories & Poems of Adoption. Her work has appeared in Growing Up Asian American, Choice, Hip Mama, Hyphen, Catapult, The Bellevue Literary Review, and elsewhere. She is a MacDowell fellow, and was awarded residencies at Hedgebrook and the Blue Mountain Center. She has performed her solo show, The Ice Cream Gene, around the U.S. She teaches at Mills College and Bay Path University, and was one of the organizers of Rooted & Written at the Grotto, a series of events for writers of color in the Bay Area. Her theatrical adaption of Untold, stories of reproductive stigma, was produced at Brava Theater.


Number of sessions: 1

Time: 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm

Dates: Friday, Jan. 17

Course fee: $20

Jenny Bitner




SATURDAY, JAN 25  | 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, and explore guided meditation for creativity. I will give you ten activities that you can use outside class to get inspired when the inspiration is not happening, and you will create 23 Ideas for Me — a book that we will brainstorm together with individualized prompts for your writing. This will be three hours (with a 10-minute break) of intense brainstorming, creating, idea-making, and writing that will leave you inspired to write NOW.

Jenny Bitner’s stories have appeared in The Best American Nonrequired Reading, The Sun, PANK, Mississippi Review, and the Fabulist. She has an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Virginia. She is a certified hypnotherapist and is especially interested in using the unconscious mind to enhance creativity.


Number of sessions: 1

Time: 10 am – 1 pm

Dates: Saturday, Jan. 25

Course fee: $95

Laird Harrison




SUNDAY, JAN 26 | 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.

Among the topics covered:

  • Setting goals
  • Psychological obstacles
  • Market research
  • Accounting
  • Negotiating rates
  • Pitching
  • Time management
  • Professional organizations
  • Contracts
  • Working with literary agents
  • Developing relationships with editors and publishers

Number of sessions: 1


Time: 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Dates: Sunday, January 26

Course fee: $95

Laura Fraser



MONDAYS, JAN 27–FEB 10 |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 TimesGourmet, Sunset, San Francisco MagazineO: 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. She brings a sense of humor to class, and sometimes snacks.

Number of sessions: 3


Time: 5:45-8:15 pm

Date: Mondays, January 27, February 3, 10

Course fee: $225



From gorgeous glossies to edgy news sites, magazines captivate readers and shape our culture. All of them are looking for great writers. In this course, you’ll learn to weave the stories that editors crave. We will guide you through each step to creating your own major magazine article: finding a story idea; selecting the right magazine to publish the story; honing your pitch; identifying and approaching sources; interviewing; handling anecdotes, quotes and statistics; choosing a structure; and crafting leads, middles and endings. The course will include time outside class reporting and writing, time in-class in workshops with your peers, and reading assignments. You’ll finish the class ready to launch your magazine writing career.

Alissa Greenberg is a full-time freelance journalist, reporting stories at the intersection of community, culture, science, and business. She’s pitched—and published—work online and in print at The New YorkerThe AtlanticThe Washington Post, The Los Angeles TimesThe San Francisco Chronicle, and Roads & Kingdoms, among others.

Laird Harrison’s writing explores the relationship of science and society. His work has appeared in Time, Audubon, Salon, Discover and many other newspapers magazines and websites. He has produced video for and audio for KQED. He has taught writing at San Francisco State University, UC Berkeley Extension and Mediabistro as well as the Writers Grotto.

Number of sessions: 8


Time: 6 pm – 8:30 pm

Date: Mondays, Jan. 27; Feb. 3, 10, 17, 24; March 2, 9, 16

Course fee: $550. Early Bird fee $450 if you register by Jan. 19.


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