Register now for upcoming classes! Early enrollment is strongly recommended, as course offerings frequently sell out. If a class is filled to capacity, please contact the instructor to request waiting list placement.
All upcoming classes are listed below. You may also browse these categories:
SATURDAY, JANUARY 20 | Writers of all levels interested in screenwriting often begin with the same questions (and some misconceptions) about how and why writing a screenplay is different from other forms of writing. What is the lifecycle of a screenplay? What is different about writing with collaborators (such as directors and actors) in mind? What is the relationship of the screenwriter to the audience? What does it mean to write in the immediate present? Why do some ideas lend themselves well to the screenplay form and others not so well? What, in practical terms, does it mean to “write in pictures”?→ READ MORE
SUNDAYS, JANUARY 21 & 28 | How do you draw readers into the world of your memoir—whether traveling on a BART train in San Francisco, hiking along the banks of the Merced River in Yosemite, or remembering your first house as a child? In a comfortable environment, we’ll go over the basic elements of great memoir writing. Exercises will help you heighten language through sensory detail, learn the difference between scene and summary, and deal with time shifts by using flashback and slow-motion techniques. We will also review the more challenging aspects of point of view, so you can find the right voice and fully engage your readers.→ READ MORE
SUNDAY, JANUARY 21 | If you’ve ever tried freelance writing, you’ve encountered a jungle. Publishing thrills abound, but if you don’t watch out, you get eaten alive. That’s because competition is stiff and writing skills don’t translate easily into income. To survive, you’ll have to think like a hard-nosed business person.
In this course, you’ll learn to evaluate the market for your work by analyzing your strengths and weaknesses, finding your competitive edge and identifying your niche. Does a previous career or academic training give you depth of knowledge in a specialized field? Do you live in a news hotspot?→ READ MORE
MONDAYS, JANUARY 22—MARCH 5 | How do you start writing about your life, either in memoir or personal essay? Hint: Not at the beginning. The scenes we remember most vividly in our lives are the ones that carry the most meaning and emotional weight. In this class, we’ll write vivid scenes as a way of developing a memoir or just to improve your technique writing scenes for other narrative work. Once you write several vivid scenes, you start to see your material form–your themes and structure. This is a workshop class, both for people who have taken Vivid Scenes: Developing Your Memoir and for others who have some experience writing scenes.→ READ MORE
MONDAYS, JANUARY 22 —FEBRUARY 26 | Storytellers—whether they are novelists, memoirists, or narrative journalists—know that characters are key to any great yarn. Yet developing characters is harder than you might think. Especially minor ones, where few words must make an impression. But even when we have paragraphs—or an entire book— to capture character, we don’t always hit the nail on the head. Connie Hale, who has made the profile her preferred form, uses readings, in-class exercises, and writing prompts to help you draw people on the page—and draw out important themes. The class will move from short sketches to longer work, which will be workshopped in class.→ READ MORE
SATURDAY, JANUARY 27 | Why do some memoirs take off from the first page, while others stall out before the end of chapter one? More importantly: How can you make sure the memoir you’re writing gets all the necessary gears lined up on those all-important first five pages?
In this combination craft lecture and trouble-shooting workshop, you’ll learn the three Cs of narrative engine: Character, Conflict, and Clock. What’s clock, you say? Glad you asked. It’s a simple but elusive element that’s crucial to your story’s drive—but many memoir writers don’t realize their pages are missing it.→ READ MORE
SATURDAY, JANUARY 27 | Words don’t live only on the page. Writers frequently read their work at festivals, book signings, and literary reading series. Much like the craft of writing, there is an art to reading your work out loud to an audience. Selecting the right piece to read is only half the battle. Knowing how to read in a way that engages your listeners (who are also potential readers) is the other part.
In this four-hour intensive workshop, writers will learn how to read their work to an audience for maximum impact. Students will learn how to: select what to read, modulate and project their voice, pace their reading, and practice and prepare ahead of time.→ READ MORE
MONDAY, JANUARY 29 | Big challenges can spark writing that is personal, meaningful and cathartic. We’ll read from Oliver Sacks and Joan Didion and do our own generative short exercises to explore how to find points of entry into personal experiences of loss. The setting facilitates your ability to access memories and ideas and connect them to the page in a safe and supportive environment. You will leave the class with starting points for possible essays, stories, poems. All genres are welcome.
As a seriously ill patient as well as a caregiver for my mom, I channeled my grief into a book project and writing assignments (to help pay the bills and avoid going crazy).→ READ MORE
TUESDAYS, JANUARY 30 —MARCH 6 | 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, Anais Nin made her diary her art, and now novels are being written in tweets and texts. Each week we will explore different experimental styles from surrealism to postmodernism 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 writers or experienced writers wanting to push their writing in new directions.→ READ MORE
SATURDAYS, FEBRUARY 3 —MARCH 10 | How many times have we written stories that fail to move readers even though the suspense is impeccable, the characters are convincing and every sentence is perfect? Chances are it’s because we’ve failed to create a narrative arc—the dynamic whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. In this five week course, we’ll explore and define the elements of narrative arc, including the use of ambiguity, the leap to improvisation and — perhaps most important –letting yourself be surprised by your own story. We’ll also discuss more subtle aspects of narrative, including pacing, unity and proportion.→ READ MORE
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 4 | The beauty of nonfiction books is that they can frequently be sold on the basis of a 40- to 60-page proposal. What is a proposal? Essentially, it is a business plan for your book – a document that outlines your book’s basic premise, provides data indicating that there’s a sizable audience for it, and otherwise convinces a publisher to give you money to write it. Memoirs, narrative journalism, business books, histories, and biographies can all be sold on proposal.
In this seminar, students will learn the seven components of a book proposal, read examples of proposals that sold, and get the lowdown on the publishing industry – including the best way to find an agent.→ READ MORE
SUNDAYS, FEBRUARY 4 —MARCH 4 | This workshop is an empowering, vital resource addressing the practical concerns of establishing a sustainable literary career in the Bay Area. Building a writing career requires both creative and business skills, as it does for any artist. If you are serious about your writing and want to increase your professional opportunities, as much work needs to happen outside of the studio as within it. Topics will include marketing and PR, applying for literary grants and fellowships, writing a personal statement, creating and using a literary calendar, and learning to present yourself as a writing professional.→ READ MORE
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 4 | Michel de Montaigne, perhaps the father of the personal essay, wrote, “I have never seen a greater monster or miracle than myself.” That sums up the personal essay — identifying the monster within and transforming it into something miraculous. Whether it’s a small realization or a dramatic triumph over tragedy, the personal essay takes the reader on a journey where the writer — and reader — come out different on the other side. This day-long class will teach you the basics of writing essays about your life, and you’ll finish the class (miracle!) with an outline for an essay of your own.
THURSDAYS, FEBRUARY 8 —MARCH 29 | This course provides guidance on the fundamentals of successful screenwriting within an open and encouraging workshop format, and is designed to accommodate all levels. We will work with a combination of fundamentals and script analysis to support students in launching an original feature-length screenplay.
Screenwriting doesn’t work when approached as a paint-by-numbers craft, yet because it is more technical than other forms of fiction writing there is a tendency to obsess over screenwriting rules, to the detriment of original ideas. In moving between screenwriting books, interviews, drama theory, scripts and films and the weekly exercises we seek to avoid those pitfalls by approaching screenwriting rules as tools and creating a space for ideas to grow.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 24 | “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.→ READ MORE
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 25 | Breaking into the world of freelance writing can seem mysterious and downright impossible at the outset. How will you make enough money? If you currently have a job, how do you transition into full-time freelancing? When can you take the plunge? Where will you find clients? How will you successfully pitch to publications, especially if you don’t have a portfolio?
It took me several years of pitfalls, wrong turns, financial struggling, over-caffeinated meltdowns, and learning on the job to successfully make it as a freelance writer. In this one-day bootcamp, I will teach you the fundamentals of how to successfully begin freelancing for a variety of publications including magazines, newspapers, websites, and other forms of paid writing and editing work.→ READ MORE
SUNDAY, MARCH 4 | This seminar could also be called Everything You Wanted to Know About Memoir But Were Afraid to Ask. We will discuss the elements that go into a successful memoir, including dramatic storytelling, tension, vivid characters, and clear sense of direction.
We will review the basic building blocks of storytelling – scene, summary and musing, and how to navigate the places where memory fails you. We discuss issues that arise from writing about living people. We will also address the publishing business, including how to increase your chances of finding an agent and getting published.→ READ MORE
SUNDAY, MARCH 4 | Starting, changing, or jump-starting your career? Whether you’re applying for a Fulbright, for a summer residency, as a writer-in-residence, for an MFA, to J-school, or for a journalism grant, you’ll learn tips and tricks for success. Learn how to fund a trip, fund your reporting, fund your writing, or fund your space – on someone else’s dime.
This class will cover how to craft a successful project proposal, work plan, or personal statement; how to solicit and draft letters of recommendation; and how to make the most of your time during and after your fellowship whether it’s one week or one year.→ READ MORE