Flash Fiction: Little Stories with a Big Kick (with Jenny Bitner)


Jenny Bitner

Jenny Bitner

Contact: jennybit@yahoo.com

Number of sessions: 6

Time: 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm

Dates: Mondays, October 5, 19, 26; November 2, 9, 16 (no class October 12)

Course fee: $385

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 1500 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.

Jenny Bitner’s short stories and flash fiction have been published in Best American Nonrequired Reading, PANK, The Sun, Mississippi Review and Fence magazine. She has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Virginia.

Pushing the Boundaries: Experiments in Writing (with Jenny Bitner)


Jenny Bitner

Jenny Bitner

Contact: jennybit@yahoo.com

Number of sessions: 6

Time: 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm

Dates: Tuesdays, September 22, 29; October 6, 13, 20, 27

Course fee: $385

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.

Jenny Bitner’s short stories and flash fiction have been published in Best American Nonrequired Reading, PANK, The Sun, Mississippi Review and Fence magazine. She has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Virginia.

Fiction Workshop: Racheting Up Conflict (with Karen Bjorneby)


Karen Bjorneby

Karen Bjorneby

Contact: karen.bjorneby@gmail.com

number of sessions: 6

Time: 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm

Dates: Thursdays, October 15, 22, 29; November 5, 12, 19

Course fee: $300

If desire is the engine that drives fiction, then scenes of conflict are the pistons firing off, one after the other. But over and over, I hear editors complain that the manuscripts submitted to them either sputter and stall out, or accelerate so slowly the conflict isn’t fully engaged until the last scene. In this class, you’ll do writing exercises to help you get your characters more active and stronger conflicts with other characters; you’ll receive weekly take-home assignments. Finally, you’ll have a chance to submit a story of your own for directed discussion, so that you go home with a few ideas about how to structure, pace, and deepen the conflict in your work.

Karen Bjorneby is the author of Hurricane Season, which was a Foreword finalist for best independent press short story collection of the year. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in The Threepenny Review, New Letters, The Sun, North American Review, StoryQuarterly, New Orleans Review, Confrontation, and online at Poetry Daily, among others. She’s received a Pushcart Special Mention citation, two other Pushcart nominations, a National Magazine Award nomination, and she was a Tennessee Williams Scholar at the Sewanee Writers Conference. While completing her first novel, Naked, Shining, and Alive, she’s been working as an independent editor and teacher, helping her clients and students publish award-winning novels, short stories, and essays. www.karenbjorneby.com

Airports, Catacombs and Rooftops: Setting in Fiction and Memoir (with Laurie Ann Doyle)


Laurie Ann Doyle

Laurie Ann Doyle

Contact: doyle.l@berkeley.edu

Number of sessions: 1

Time: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm (includes a break for lunch)

Date: Sunday, November 15

Course fee: $95

“Place is character. To know the rhythms, the textures, the feel of a place is to know more deeply and truly about its people.” – Richard Russo

Writer after writer will tell you that setting fuels their drive to write. Every human being has a profound connection to place and time, whether as home, refuge, heritage, or exile. Setting in fiction and memoir is not merely scenery or backdrop but essential to your story’s significance. In this interactive one-day workshop, you learn how a powerful setting can help create a whole world, reveal your main characters, and heighten tension. We’ll read writing by masters of setting, such as Baldwin, Didion, and Garcia Marquez, examining how these authors intertwine sensory detail, point of view, and character to craft memorable settings. As the workshop progresses, you’ll have the chance to free-write a variety of settings yourself, including the place you call home, where you’ve been lost, and a location that’s either exotic or mundane. You’ll have the opportunity to share what you’ve written in a supportive atmosphere. There will be plenty of time for your questions and concerns. My dual goals for this workshop are for you to come away with concrete strategies for creating powerful settings, and to experience for yourself that the crafting of settings can be a writer’s greatest pleasure.

Laurie Ann Doyle is the winner of Alligator Juniper’s National Fiction Award, as well as nominations for Best New American Voices and a Pushcart Prize. Her new book of short stories, World Gone Missing, is shortlisted for the Livingston Press Fiction Prize and a story will appear in the press’s fiction anthology. Other stories, essays, and poems have been published in Jabberwock Review, Arroyo Literary Review, Dogwood Journal, Under the Sun, and many other literary journals. She earned an MFA at University of San Francisco and has had the pleasure of teaching with the UC Berkeley writing programs since 2007. https://www.laurieanndoyle.com

Sin and Syntax Workshop: Grammar Brush-up for Writers (with Constance Hale)


Constance Hale

Constance Hale

Contact: kailani2123@gmail.com

Course fee: $60

Number of sessions: 1

Time: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm

Date: Saturday, September 12

Course fee: $60

Six hours, 60 bucks, free bagels, buckets of grammar.  How can you resist? Grotto member Connie Hale will lead you through a series of hilarious exercises to perk up your writing in surprising ways. (We’ll use Sin and Syntax as our guide, but dip also into Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch.) Writers will stretch new muscles, disabuse themselves of bad habits, and duke it out in a war of words. We’ll also talk about how to cultivate that most elusive of literary elements: the writer’s voice. This 1-day session is perfect for writers of fiction, nonfiction, and memoir who want to take their prose to the next level. While we realize this is catnip for students heading back-to-school, the course is intended for adult writers and writing teachers. No grammar competency required, but a sense of humor is a must.

Constance Hale has transformed “writing reference” shelves with her irreverent books on language—which are used in writing classes around the world. A former editor at Wired, Health, and the San Francisco Examiner, her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Afar, The Atlantic, and Smithsonian. She directed the narrative journalism program at the Nieman Foundation at Harvard and wrote an eight-part series for the “Draft” series at the New York Times’ Opinionator. She covers writing and the writing life at sinandsyntax.com.

Fund Your Writing Passion (with Vanessa Hua)


Vanessa Hua

Vanessa Hua

Contact: vanessahuasf@gmail.com

Number of sessions: 1

Time: 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Date: Sunday, November 1

Course fee: $85

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. Tea and snacks included in this fun and informative afternoon! If you want to workshop your proposal, please come prepared with copies (not required; you can learn much by participating in critique).

All students will receive a packet of winning applications and a resource list of fellowships. Also included is critique of your fellowship application, up to one year after the workshop.

Vanessa Hua has been awarded writing/reporting fellowships and scholarships from the Steinbeck Center, the International Reporting Project, the East-West Center, the Fulbright Program, Aspen Summer Words, San Francisco Foundation, and the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, among others. She is an award-winning writer whose fiction and nonfiction have appeared in ZYZZYVA, Calyx, New York Times, Washington Post, and elsewhere. She has been a staff writer at the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, and Hartford Courant, and filed stories from Panama, China, South Korea, and Burma. She is a graduate of Stanford University and UC Riverside’s MFA program.

How to (Profoundly) Move Your Readers: The Craft of Developing Dramatic Emotions (with Junse Kim)


Junse Kim

Junse Kim

Contact: junse6@gmail.com

Sessions: 5

Time: 6:30 pm -9:00 pm

Dates: Sundays, October 4, 11, 18, 25; November 1

Course fee: $325

One of the most difficult narrative issues in fiction writing is how to emotionally move your readers. Often, what we writers render on the page are concepts of drama meant to profoundly affect the reader, but they do not. In this 5-week process class we will dissect the intricate concepts of how emotions are developed in fiction, and master how to recognize and apply narrative craft that develop dramatic emotions in ways that can move our readers.  These skills will be developed through in-class writing exercises and assignments, focusing on interior monologue, characters’ perceptions, creating motivations, and more.

This is a rare opportunity to take a class that was originally designed as a graduate level fiction writing course.

 Junse Kim is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, a Faulkner Short Story Award, and the Philip Roth Residence in Creative Writing at Bucknell University. His fiction and creative nonfiction has been published in a number of literary journals, including Ontario ReviewZYZZYVA, and Fourteen Hills. He teaches fiction writing at the MFA program at San Francisco State University.

Query Letter Workshop: Inside Tips From a Literary Agent (with Chelsea Lindman)


Chelsea Lindman

Chelsea Lindman

Contact: clindman@sjga.com

Number of sessions: 3

Time: 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm

Dates: Wednesdays, July 15, 22, 29

Course fee: $195

This course will provide useful tips on how to write an effective query letter that gets an agent’s attention, presents you as an appealing potential client, and introduces your work in the most saleable way.  We’ll examine how the query letter is broken into three sections, and discuss how you can make sure yours grabs an agent’s attention.  We’ll also discuss author-agent working relationships and what to look for in your agent, as well as publication strategies, including what you can do to help your work stand out.  Whether you are writing fiction, nonfiction, children’s books or cookbooks, finding the right agent to champion your work is essential to getting your book published.

Our first class will discuss the query letter, discussing the goals of a query letter and what first-time authors ought to do as well as avoid when approaching an agent. In our second class, students will come with their query letter written and ready to read aloud for critique. In our final meeting, we will discuss the publishing process as well as have a final reading of query letters.  Students should be able to leave this class feeling confident that they have a clear understanding of what goes into making their manuscript a book, and have a polished and effective query letter ready to send out to potential agents.

Aspiring authors at any stage in their writing will find this course useful.

Chelsea Lindman is a literary agent at Sanford J. Greenburger, Associates.  Her fiction clients include Sherwood Anderson Fiction Award Winner Kristopher Jansma, LA Times Book Prize Finalist Ariel S. Winter, and Richard Bausch Fiction Prize Winner Jesse Goolsby; and her non-fiction clients include web phenom Cole Stryker, TEDx speakers Stacey Ferreira and Jared Kleinert, and Harvard PhD candidate Jason Silverstein. Chelsea began her publishing career as an editor at Europa Editions, where she worked with bestselling authors Elena Ferrante and Muriel Barbery.  She is a graduate of University of California, Santa Barbara.

Revision Boot Camp: Circuit Training for your Manuscript (with Susan Ito)


Susan Ito

Susan Ito

Contact: susanito@mac.com

Number of sessions: 1

Time: 10:30 am – 3:30 pm

Date: Saturday, June 13

Course fee: $125

For some writers, first drafts are the fun part. Anything is possible! After that, revision can feel overwhelming. But it can also be fun and rewarding, especially when broken down into manageable components.

Come to this one-day revision boot camp with your manuscript (two hard copies of either a fiction or creative nonfiction piece, 20 pages maximum) and you’ll go through a series of timed stations, examining and working on your pages from a wide angle and up close. Learn how to focus on one element at a time: dialogue, character emotions, sensory details, plotting, time elements, a title brainstorm and more. At the end of the day, your manuscript will be beautifully polished from every possible angle, and you’ll be able to apply these techniques to any piece of writing.

Susan Ito is the author of The Mouse Room, a SheBooks mini-memoir. She co-edited the anthology A Ghost At Heart’s Edge: Stories & Poems of Adoption (North Atlantic Books). She is a creative nonfiction editor at the online literary journal Literary Mama, and her work has appeared in Growing Up Asian American, Choice, Hip Mama, The Bellevue Literary Review, Making More Waves, and elsewhere.

Craft of Fiction and Memoir: An Imagery Intensive (with Lindsey Crittenden)


Lindsey Crittenden

Lindsey Crittenden

Contact: lindsey@lindseycrittenden.com

Number of sessions: 1

Time: 10:30 am – 4:30 pm

Date: Saturday, August 22

Course fee: $150

In this one-day intensive, you’ll explore how to make imagery work for you in your own short stories, personal essays, or memoir.   Effective imagery goes far beyond flowery description to bring your reader closer to the experience on the page and to evoke thematic resonance.  A well-placed image can reveal character, mood, context, tone, or setting.  Whatever your subject matter, imagery brings it to life through concrete detail.  In class, we’ll explore how to draw on intuition and right-brain association to harvest images; we’ll also look at how to choose and shape those images.  We’ll look at effective uses of imagery in published pieces, giving you specific guidelines for what to apply to your own work.  This class is suitable for writers looking to improve a work-in-progress or to start something new.

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. An Honored Instructor at UC Berkeley Extension, she has taught and helped develop creative-writing curriculum for twelve years.