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, APRIL 7 | Big challenges can spark writing that is personal, meaningful and cathartic. We’ll read from the masters: 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 goal is to facilitate your ability to access memories and ideas and connect them to the page. A student favorite is the exercise to “write about the worst thing someone said to you in your grief,” which can be darkly funny.
You will leave the class with starting points for possible essays, stories, poems.→ READ MORE
WEDNESDAYS, APRIL 11 —MAY 2 | This workshop is designed to help both budding and seasoned storytellers write lively, well-constructed memoirs and personal essays. Over four evenings, we will discuss the essential components of successful literary memoir: Structure, Scene, Story/Character Arc, and Theme.
We will read examples from recent essays and memoirs and consider the thorny issue of “truth in memoir” and the challenge inherent in writing about the people we love. Students are encouraged to share their writing conundrums although issues that are overly specific will be answered by the instructor privately.
There will be a short in-class writing exercise every week and students will have the chance to submit 6-8 pages of an esasy or manuscript for critique by the class.→ READ MORE
SUNDAY, APRIL 15 | 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 five-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
MONDAYS, APRIL 16 —JUNE 11 | This course provides guidance on the fundamentals of successful screenwriting within an open and encouraging workshop format, and is designed to accommodate all levels. Students will go through a typical development process; turning an idea into a viable premise, creating an outline, developing characters and storylines, building a world and exploring theme. The course ends with a “table read” of each students’ first ten pages of a feature screenplay or tv pilot.
Moving between screenwriting books, interviews, drama theory, scripts and films and the weekly exercises, we seek to avoid the pitfalls of formula by approaching screenwriting rules as tools and creating a space for ideas to grow.
TUESDAYS, APRIL 17 —MAY 1 | 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 some great writing about place, and will look at specific techniques great writers use to capture the world around them, focusing on writing about the real world, but looking at fiction as well.→ READ MORE
TUESDAYS, APRIL 17 —MAY 22 | In this class you will birth, nurture, and release a brand-new flash fiction story. You will engage in extensive revisions of your work, and then during our last two weeks together, submit your finished piece to three literary journals for publication, or to three literary contests for judging. A laptop, tablet, or iPad is required for this workshop. If you write longhand, please also bring your journal or notebook along with your computer (not in place of it). Students registering for this class should be prepared to create new work from scratch in a concentrated, serious environment.→ READ MORE
WEDNESDAYS, APRIL 18 —MAY 9 | Audio is a powerful medium that’s surging in popularity. It’s never been easier to produce high quality audio to get your message out, whether for radio stories, podcasting, personal promotion or business branding. But how do you get started? Two veteran journalists of public radio and podcasting show you the basics of how to record great audio, conduct killer interviews, craft a captivating story, and get your audio creations out into the world.
In this hands-on workshop, every student will produce a complete audio story — and will acquire the skills and confidence to produce future stories and whole podcasts on your own.→ READ MORE
WEDNESDAYS, APRIL 18 & 25 | For a freelance journalist, essayist, or nonfiction writer, a good pitch letter can not only generate work but open doors, build new relationships, or even kickstart a career. But crafting the best pitch, targeting it to the right publication, and getting it in front of the right person isn’t always simple.
In this class, you’ll gain new insights into what editors are looking for and why—as well as all the reasons they don’t want to assign you that story—and learn new ways to make your pitch letters as compelling as possible.→ READ MORE
THURSDAYS, APRIL 19 — JUNE 7 | 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. Your will have the opportunity to have your work discussed in the workshop at least four times. We will discuss craft issues as they relate to strengthening your individual writing. You will be expected to read and give feedback on other students’ work. This class can be taken more than once.→ READ MORE
SATURDAY, APRIL 21 | 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
SUNDAY, APRIL 22 | 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
MONDAYS, APRIL 23—JUNE 4 | In this class, we’ll spend six weeks building stories from the foundation up. We’ll celebrate the trouble at the heart of good short fiction. We’ll look at ways to get characters in and out of (or deeper into) hot water. We’ll look closely at short stories that achieve unity of purpose, precision of craft, and an emotional wallop. From James Joyce’s “Araby” to Aimee Bender’s “The Rememberer,” we’ll examine not only how each story builds from the first word to the last but how tightly the structure depends upon – and enhances – our understanding of character.→ READ MORE
TUESDAYS, APRIL 24—MAY 29 | Is it true or is it fiction – and does it matter? Often the lines between memoir and fiction can be blurry. And most great literature has at least some element of truth in it, from books like Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior to Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar to modern examples like Lydia Davis and Chris Kraus’s work. By blending the elements we create a more layered and interesting narrative.
Do you have true stories that you would like to turn into fiction or fiction that you would like to add more of your own history to?→ READ MORE
SUNDAYS, APRIL 29 & MAY 6 | 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
THURSDAYS, MAY 3 — 31 | This is a class to workshop personal essays–short pieces about a journey of transformation, such as you might find in the New York Times’ “Lives” or “Modern Love” column. We’ll spend the first class talking about structure and looking at some models, and then the rest of the classes will be mainly devoted to reading and giving feedback on students’ essays, with some tips on craft (dialogue, scene vs. summary, great beginnings and endings). This class is a perfect follow-up for anyone who has taken the one-day “Monster and the Miracle” class, or “Vivid Scenes” with Laura.
SATURDAYS, MAY 5 —12 | All writers know that suspense is crucial to good fiction and creative nonfiction. Without wanting to know “what comes next,” readers will stop reading. This course shines a lens on traditional and radical techniques for keeping readers involved. Among them are: (1) The uses of uncertainty (2) Withholding information (3) Breaking out of traditional narrative forms (4) External and internal conflict.
We’ll explore suspense in long and short forms of fiction and nonfiction, examining plot, character, image, and idea-driven writers such as Elmore Leonard, Alice Munro, Italo Calvino, and the essayist Natalia Ginzburg.→ READ MORE
SUNDAYS, MAY 6 —JUNE 10 | Writers, 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 focus on submitting a maximum of two short stories, articles, essays, and/or creative nonfiction pieces to 15 markets in just five weeks (poets should be prepared to submit a group of three to five poems.) In a safe, supportive community, you’ll begin by learning proper submission etiquette and protocol, avoiding pitfalls that mark you as an amateur.
- Learn where to locate legitimate, respectable markets
- Become proficient in navigating the publication landscape
- Get practical tips on formatting submissions that look professional
- Find out what the most popular submission platforms are and how they make your life easier
- Write your author bio
- Create a Research Collection Sheet to identify individualized markets
- Select and use a professional submission tracker
This workshop is designed for committed writers who have one or two finished, polished pieces (three to five pieces for poets) of 5,000 words or less that are ready to send out for publication.→ READ MORE
SUNDAY, MAY 6 | Come meet a group of Grotto authors and learn about the publishing business at this informal panel. We’ll discuss everything from finding an agent, to what it’s like to work with an editor, to what happens once a book is released into the world — and how you can boost your book’s commercial and critical success.
We’ll address the various modes of publishing available to modern writers and debate the pros and cons of major New York publishers versus independent presses and self-publishing.
There will be plenty of time for questions. A mixer will immediately follow the session, with light refreshments.→ READ MORE
ALTERNATE WEDNESDAYS, MAY 9 — JUNE 6 | 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 and Facebook when you should be writing? You’re not alone!
Using lessons from Charles Duhigg’s New York Times bestseller, The Power of Habit, I will help you design a writing life 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.→ READ MORE
SATURDAY, MAY 19 | Come to the Grotto for an exhilarating day of learning a variety of skills to bolster your writer’s toolkit! We will feature six of our instructors, each teaching a 50-minute class focusing on a specific tool that you can use immediately. You’ll experience six rapid-fire sessions taught in a round-robin style, with a delicious catered lunch at midday. At the end of the day, we’ll celebrate with wine and refreshments, and our signature Three-Minute Reading – an optional (but encouraged!) open-mike event to highlight some of the fabulous writing generated throughout the day. Join us for a fun, dynamic journey through the Grotto’s classrooms!→ READ MORE
SUNDAY, MAY 20 | Save thousands of dollars hiring professional editors by learning to edit your own work! As a freelance book editor of 15 years, I see the same mistakes over and over in the manuscripts I edit. From exercises to improve your story arc, character development, dialogue, and description, to tips for copyediting your completed manuscript, I’ll teach you how to turn your good manuscript into a great manuscript in this one-day intensive workshop. Bring a sample of your work (10 pages) and lunch. I’ll provide tea and snacks.
Meghan Ward is a writer, professional book editor and the founder of Writerland.com, a blog about writing, editing, publishing, and social media.→ READ MORE
SATURDAY, JUNE 9 | 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
SUNDAY, JUNE 10 | Master Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and SnapChat all in one day. In this one-day intensive workshop, you will learn how to A) Create a social media strategy that works for you and B) Master the five most popular social media networks of 2018. Tea and snacks provided. Bring your own lunch.
Meghan Ward is the founder of Writerland.com, a blog about writing, publishing, and social media, and the author of SheWrites.com’s “Networking for Introverts,” a column about social media. Her memoir, Runway, chronicles the six years she spent working as a high fashion model in Europe and Japan.→ READ MORE