Upcoming classes: Zoom

Meghan FlahertyWEDNESDAYS, JUNE 2 — JULY 7  |  Summer can be a sluggish time. Do you need deadlines? The accountability of a class? The feedback of your fellow writers? A little inspiration just to spur you on? This workshop-based class is designed for writers of any kind of nonfiction. Bring your memoir, essay, criticism, food writing, travel writing, biography—you name it!—and work on a revision or simply generate some new material in a supportive environment.

Students will focus on their own pages, writing and revising, while also supporting each other through feedback in the workshop setting.

Prompts, suggestions, and short readings for inspiration will be offered as appropriate, depending on the needs and desires of the group.

This class will be held via Zoom. Registered students, please contact the instructor directly for Zoom details.

Make some time for your writing as you emerge from quarantine. Join Grotto member Lyzette Wanzer for an evening of writing designed to shift focus and open a vein of creative energy to keep you writing during this time. We’ll have prompts, accountability, and—if you choose—sharing. Finish a story you’ve started or free-write your way to something new. Find inspiration and energy writing in virtual community!

Choose one or more of the sessions below. Write-ins are held every Friday from 5:30 to 7:30pm.

All write-ins are held via Zoom. Registered students, please contact the instructor directly for Zoom login information.

Rachel Howard

SUNDAY, JUNE 27 |  Learn how to shift your writing from two-dimensional to three-dimensional, and try out techniques to make your storytelling spacious and transporting. For fiction and memoir writers.

Moving between discussions of reading and on-the-spot exercises, 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.

“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.

TUESDAYS, JUNE 29 — JULY 20 |  Are you a technologist at sea in the world of words? A manager moved to make memos more motivating? A retiree with storytelling on the agenda? Whatever your background, this course will boost your writing skills to the next level. You’ll learn how to apply the principles of clarity, specificity, precision and brevity to any kind of writing. You’ll escape the smothering embrace of academic jargon and business-speak while yet tailoring your approach to the specific needs of your audience. You’ll finish with new confidence and joy in writing.

Students will read a variety of short texts on writing techniques. They will participate in weekly writing exercises, complete short homework assignments and critique each other’s work.

THURSDAYS, JULY 8 — AUG. 26  |  This class provides concrete help to the beginning memoir writer. We will explore and practice such craft elements as narrative distance, scene and summary, and the handling of time, as well as the challenges of writing about real people and our own lived experience, of placing our narrative in a wider context, and of examining our own motivations, perceptions, and insights.

Writing memoir draws upon all of us. We are the writer, the narrator, and the character living the events recounted. But which events, and how recounted? Many of us start with a specific period of time or relationship in mind; others memoirists travel over decades in pursuit of a thematic connection. The hardest part is deciding how to organize it all. Our stories rarely leap fully-formed to the page, however well we think we remember all the pieces.

Students will be expected to complete weekly short written assignments, one short self-contained memoir piece (5 pages), and one longer memoir piece (10-12 pages). We will use prompts in class (and as homework), and students will be expected to share their work in a supportive environment. In addition, there will be assigned weekly reading from Judith Barrington’s book, Writing the Memoir.

Rachel Howard

SATURDAY, JULY 10  |  In this practical one-day course you will identify the essential three C’s of your book’s opening pages—Conflict, Character, and Clock—so that your narrative engine is ready to rev.

Through a combination of lecture, discussion of readings, and student work-sharing, we will identify the key aspects of your book’s story to set into place in the opening pages. Each student will have a chance to share his or her book opening for nitty-gritty, practical feedback.

THURSDAYS, JULY 15 — 22 |  Your opinion matters. You have taken the time to research an issue and think it through. Now how can you get the word out to the people who need to hear it? Newspapers, magazines, and websites are looking for well-reasoned essays. But their criteria are very different from the ones your college English professor used. In this three-hour course, you will learn the basics of writing an essay or op-ed for publication. You will write your own opinion piece, then submit it for critique by the instructor and peers so you can polish it for publication.

Students will write an essay of about 700 words suitable for publication on a newspaper or news website. They will critique each other’s essays.

TUESDAYS, JULY 20 – AUG 24  |  This workshop-based class is designed for writers currently working on novels and ready to revise portions of their manuscripts. In our first session, students will share a bit about their works-in-progress and where they are in the writing process. We will also outline the rules for our workshop and review how best to give—and receive—helpful, constructive feedback. Otherwise, our class time will be primarily devoted to workshopping chapter-length sections from students’ novels, focusing on ways to deepen character depictions and motivations, hone narrative voice, and craft a compelling arc on a scene-by-scene basis. To supplement our workshop, we will also read and discuss excerpts from published novels to deepen our understanding of how great writers across genres use elements of craft and story to create gripping narratives and unforgettable characters. By the end of the course, each student will have the opportunity to receive feedback on their novel excerpts from classmates and the instructor at least twice. While this class does not have specific course requirements, it may be best suited for students who have taken Emily’s Intro to Novel-Writing class or another multi-week novel course.

SATURDAY, JULY 24  |  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.

MONDAYS, JULY 26 — AUG. 30 |  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 1,500 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.

Anita Amirrzevani

WEDNESDAYS, JULY 28 — AUG. 25  |  Strong scenes are the basic building blocks of the best novels and short stories ever written. This five-week course for beginning and intermediate writers will break down the art of scene-writing in fiction and give you the tools for writing scenes that readers will never forget.

The class will consist of:

  1. assigned readings on writing techniques and examples of fiction that illustrate those techniques
  2. writing prompts
  3. opportunities to receive peer feedback on your work
  4. feedback from the teacher on your work

WEDNESDAYS, JUL. 28 — AUG. 18  |  When we think about traditional “nature writing,” poems and essays about getting lost in “pristine wilderness” and survival stories of (mostly White) rugged adventurers may come to mind. In this course, we’ll use nature writing from Black, Indigenous, Immigrant, Queer and other writers of color to explore how we can write about nature and the outdoors  in ways that also considers issues like ancestry, colonization, racial justice, migration trauma, sexuality, and more.

In our time together, students will read work from authors like Audre Lorde, Kiese Laymon, Natalie Diaz, Sabrina Imbler, Marta Valdés, George Abraham, Robin Kimmerer, and many others to help expand their idea of what nature and outdoor writing can look like. We’ll use this work as inspiration and an entry way for creating and eventually sharing our own nature and outdoor writing with the group. By the end of the course, students will have at least one piece of nature writing (of any genre) to present to the class.

Lisa Lerner

TUESDAYS, AUG. 3 — SEP. 14  |  Get a jump on the college essay process before school starts and homework overwhelms! In this workshop, students will write at least one main college essay. In the process, they will learn essay-writing tools such as how to choose topics, write a compelling hook and introduction, develop ideas through personal anecdotes and observations, and reflect on their experiences to create powerful conclusions. Even though these essays are memoir-type nonfiction, they use many of the same tools that make fictional stories come alive.

Cheerleading, snake-charming, handholding, and tear-wiping – how do you get your teen to write those dreaded college essays? And WHY is it so dreaded? First, kids are expected to do a type of writing with which they have little to no academic experience. Then, suddenly, their whole life is on the line if they don’t tell the greatest story ever told – in which they are the star! On top of that, they need to reflect on What It All Means and How They Are Forever Changed. Yikes!

Jenny Bitner

WEDNESDAYS, AUG. 4 — SEP. 8  |  What happens when we approach writing like an experiment? Our minds are open, our writing is deep, and there is no room for writers’ block or cliché ideas. Burroughs used cut-up writing, Anaïs Nin made her diary her art, the surrealists played party games, and now novels are being written in Tweets and texts. Each week we will explore different experimental styles from surrealism to postmodernism to hybrid writing, and do exercises to loosen our minds and push us in new directions with our writing.

With daily writing prompts and in-class exercises, this class is great for beginning or experienced writers wanting to push their writing in new directions. In the first session, we will do a group hypnosis for creativity and for opening our imagination in new directions. We will also explore how to mine our unconscious minds for inspiration and depth through class exercises and practices.

This class is for experimenting and generating writing in new styles, but I have been teaching this class many years, and students are often happily surprised by the results of these experiments.

Asynchronous learning materials for this class will be available online (via the Wet Ink platform). Scheduled class sessions will take place via Zoom. Registered students, please contact the instructor directly for Zoom details.

Jenny Bitner’s fiction and poetry has been published in Mississippi Review, The Fabulist, The Sun, Fence, Corium, Fourteen Hills, Mid-American Review, and PANK. Pine Press published a chapbook of her poetry entitled Mother. Her story “The Pamphleteer” was published in Best American Nonrequired Reading. Her work was also included in the anthology Writing That Risks. Her nonfiction has appeared in Utne Reader, To-Do List, The San Francisco Bay Guardian, and Men’s Health. She earned an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Virginia. She is also a certified hypnotherapist. Her novel Here Is A Game We Could Play was published in 2021 from Acre Books.

Contact: jenny.bitner@gmail.com

Number of sessions: 6

Dates: Wednesdays, August 4, 11, 18, 25; September 1, 8

Time: 6:00 – 8:00pm Pacific Time

Course fee: $395

WEDNESDAYS, AUG. 11 – 25 |  This short, fun, interactive class will help you revise, tighten, improve, and sharpen your writing. We’ll do in-class exercises, and students will be expected to complete focused homework assignments for each class. Students will learn how to examine their own writing as well as to provide constructive (never mean!) feedback to others.

Students will use their own (and one another’s) work to practice writing skills such as clarity and concision. We’ll examine the sentence, the paragraph, the phrase, as well as rhythm and meter, diction and syntax. We’ll identify and eliminate common weaknesses and clichés.

Bring up to ten pages—ANY ten pages, as long as they’re written in English for a non-academic or non-technical audience—and you’ll leave with concrete skills and greater confidence for works of any length.

Lyzette WanzerSUNDAYS, AUG. 12 — SEP. 16  |  In a safe, supportive community catering to writers of color, learn how to plan a submissions strategy, create a plan of attack for your work, research markets, and locate the ones that are the best fits for your writing.

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 learn how to plan a submissions strategy create a plan of attack for your work, and learn how to research markets and locate the ones that are the best fits for your writing. Then we will focus on submitting short stories, articles, poems, essays, novel excerpts, and/or creative nonfiction pieces to over 15 markets. In a safe, supportive community, you’ll begin by learning proper submission etiquette and protocol, avoiding pitfalls that mark you as an amateur and get your submission tossed onto the “No” pile—before editors have even read it.


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