Upcoming classes: Journalism
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 28 | One of the toughest parts of being a freelancer can be figuring out what your editor wants from you and when they will want it. If you’ve never worked the other side of the desk, editors can seem capricious, demanding, and uncommunicative. Understanding the editorial process will minimize your frustration and can help you build solid relationships that lead to more work.
By the end of this three-hour, interactive workshop you will better understand the jobs of different levels of editors at various publications. You’ll have a good sense of how stories are developed, approved, and edited. And you’ll walk away with tips about how to smooth the process, and how to deal with revision requests, photo memos, and fact checking. We’ll talk about when and how to stick to your guns – and when to compromise.
Come with stories from the trenches! This is a facilitated conversation, not a top-down training. We’ll discuss your best- and worst-case experiences and brainstorm solutions and strategies. By the end, you should leave with some templates for difficult emails you’ll need to write as well as a class-list of peer freelancers who can become part of your trusted network for facing the challenges of freelancing.
Sarah Pollock has decades of experience as a writer and editor. She has managed magazines and been a senior editor at Mother Jones, developing stories for a national audience. At the moment, she’s working the freelance writing side again – even though she’s appalled at what’s happened to pay rates. She’s also a veteran teacher and facilitator, having spent a couple of decades running the journalism program at Mills College.
Number of sessions: 1
Dates: Saturday, September 28
Time: 10 am – 1:00 pm
Course fee: $100
SUNDAYS, OCTOBER 6-27; NOVEMBER. 3 | You don’t need a jester’s cap or a red clown nose to make people laugh. It takes a pinch of craft and a judicious seasoning of self-awareness as a writer. Working together through class discussions as well as in-class reading and writing exercises, we’ll explore just how humor can make your writing sing–or caterwaul, depending on your particular voice. Fiction, non-fiction, journalism–this class is appropriate for any genre where you want to add a dash of humor. Join us!
Allison Landa is a Berkeley-based writer of memoir and fiction whose work has been featured in The Guardian US, The Washington Post, and The Huffington Post, among other venues. A graduate of St. Mary’s College of California’s M.F.A. program in creative writing, Allison runs the On the Cusp reading series in San Francisco. You won’t, however, find her running marathons.
Number of sessions: 5
Time: 4:00 pm – 6:30 pm
Dates: Sundays, October 6, 13, 20, 27; November 3
Course fee: $300
TUESDAYS, OCTOBER 15-29; NOVEMBER 5-19 | Feature stories are nonfiction pieces that focus more on human stories than factual exposition – but they still are deeply reported. They are meant to engage readers emotionally and create empathy for their subjects, and they’re an excellent way to draw readers into complicated topics. They are also some of the best stories to pitch as a freelancer, having a place in everything from travel magazines to general interest publications.
In this six-week workshop, we’ll study different types of feature stories and analyze what makes them work. Our central concerns will be story focus and story structure – we’ll use published models to explore various ways to create a compelling narrative. We’ll also talk about how reporting and interviewing for features is different from news reporting, and we’ll examine feature story elements such as setting, character, detail, dialogue, and action.
The course will include outside reading, weekly brainstorms, and exercises that take you through the process of finding a story, focusing it, reporting it, and producing a draft. By the end of the class you should have completed one story which I will critique. (The length and ambition of your story will depend upon the experience you had prior to taking this course.)
This workshop should be useful for new and mid-career writers.
Sarah Pollock has written and edited thousands of features in her decades as journalist. She has been a newspaper staff writer, written regular magazine features, managed several publications, and was a senior editor at Mother Jones, developing and editing stories for a national audience. She’s also a veteran teacher, having spent a couple of decades running the journalism program at Mills College..
Number of sessions: 6
Dates: Tuesdays, October 15, 22, 29; November 5, 12, 19
Time: 6:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Course fee: $420
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
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 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