Past Workshops

Allies and Antagonists, with Jacqueline Sheehan

Where would Harry Potter be without Voldemort and Hermione?  Or Scout without Dill and Boo Radley? The role of secondary characters is not just to populate your story, but to drive it forward. The people close to your protagonist can be antagonists—characters who create conflict for your main character—or they can be allies, who assist the main character’s journey. If your antagonists and allies aren’t fully realized, your story will undoubtedly feel flat. A finely drawn secondary character is one who is neither wholly evil or completely good—one whose desires and foibles intersect meaningfully with your protagonist’s. Spend the morning with best-selling author, Jacqueline Sheehan, sharpening the conflict in your story through that crucial, mysterious energy between characters. 

Blueprint Your Book: Fine-Tuning the Fundamentals, with Susanne Dunlap

Welcome to the Blueprint Your Book series, the first of its kind at Writers in Progress! Over the next four months, writers will have the opportunity to create and stack the building blocks of their book in a way that provides structure while still allowing ample space to discover as they write. In this first workshop, writers will explore fundamental questions necessary to determine a book’s purpose, shape and scope.  We will also begin to outline and hone our stories’ initial structures. Together, we’ll brainstorm these crucial elements, draft our answers, and receive encouraging, thoughtful feedback on our efforts. Writers of all genres are welcome to register for all four half-day workshops in this Blueprint series, or for only specific workshops that meet their current needs.

Saturday, June 20, 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. ($75)

Putting Yourself on the Page, with Emily Lackey

When it comes to writing nonfiction, one of the hardest jobs we face as writers is making ourselves into characters. Like the other people that populate our work, we need to exist on the page as fully-formed human beings. We need to be seen by our reader and understood. We need strengths. We need weaknesses. We need flaws. We need foibles. And, above all, we need insight into ourselves that we didn’t have at the time… or maybe we still don’t have as we’re writing. In this half-day workshop, we’ll explore all of the ways we as writers can put ourselves fully on the page of our nonfiction so that the person our readers need to understand the most—our narrators—are open, honest, believable, vulnerable, and real. 


Writing The Hard Stuff, with Donna Jenson

If this were your last chance to get down in writing something that’s been weighing on you, what might that be?  The stories that are closest to our to our hearts–those we most need to write–are sometimes the hardest ones to tell. Possibly because these stories hold emotional sway over us.  Perhaps we doubt our version of the ‘truth,’ fear what we might stir up, or worry about exposing others…

Writing about the hard stuff is, well, hard. And sometimes it takes courage to share your stories.  It helps to have some tried and true techniques for accessing deep material, as well as ideas for how (and whether) to share it. Use this half-day workshop as a laboratory for uncovering or discovering what you most want (but fear) to give voice to.  Writing prompts and exercises will jumpstart the dive. Then, in a supportive group of like-minded explorers you’ll share and receive feedback on where your writing resonates with power and strength. We’ll discuss ways the inner critic can hamper or derail us when we try to dive deep, techniques for overcoming resistance and finding support, and ways to honor your stories while simultaneously honoring the characters that populate them.  Though we will discuss the creative process, this is not a therapy group: we will keep our focus on the writing and the tools and techniques for accessing it.  

The Inside Outline: An Online Workshop, with Susanne Dunlap

The hardest part about writing a book-length manuscript is thinking on multiple levels at once and keeping everything organized in your head and on the page. Writers have to make sure their plot makes sense and creates the necessary narrative drive, and that their characters follow a satisfying arc of change. Some authors—plotters—make detailed plot outlines that plan out action but leave the character arc to evolve on its own. Others—pantsers—rely on their gut and storytelling instincts and hope for the best.

But there is a third technique that can help both pantsers and plotters see the shape and trajectory of their manuscripts and identify problem areas they might not have noticed. It’s called the Inside Outline. The Inside Outline is a powerfully simple tool that makes it possible to track both plot development and character arc in a single, living document. Why does that matter? Because writers can then see the logic of the plot and how it reflects the inner workings of their main character. It helps writers to pull apart those complex layers so they can fuse them effectively in their manuscript.

The beauty of this tool is that it works for both pantsers and plotters, and can be used at the beginning of your project when all you’ve got is an idea, in the middle when you’ve written yourself into a corner, and at the end, when you’ve got a completed manuscript but something isn’t working quite right. In this workshop, writers will create their own Inside Outline and receive personalized feedback. Once you are familiar with this technique you’ll never look back!

Book Marketing for Authors, with Susanne Dunlap

Congratulations! You’ve got a finished book! Now what? Whether you’re fortunate enough to get a contract with a mainstream publisher or decide to self-publish, it’s largely up to you to help your book find readers. Goodreads, BookBub, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Amazon, and a host of other online platforms and DIY advertising options are out there waiting to take your time, energy, and money. But how do you figure out what works and what doesn’t?

In this half-day workshop, multi-published author Susanne Dunlap will bring her background in advertising and marketing to the table to help writers navigate the murky waters of self-promotion. We will cover the basics of using your free social-media accounts to connect with readers, as well as how to set up Facebook ads and dip your toes into Amazon advertising—without losing your shirt. We’ll discuss strategies for traditionally published authors with limited control of factors such as pricing and keywords, and explore options for self-published authors who can do it all—but who face different challenges. Recommended for anyone who has plans to get a book-length work in any discipline published.

Submitting Your Work, with Emily Lackey

Every writer dreams of the day her work is in print; but the road from dreaming to publishing is  treacherous, filled with pitfalls, politics, and more places to submit than a writer knows what to do with.  In this half-day workshop, writers will discover the fundamentals of submitting their work to literary journals, websites, and magazines. We’ll discuss how to find the right venue for your work, how to organize your submissions, what to include in a cover letter, and how to deal with and respond to inevitable rejections (or acceptances!). Writers will leave this workshop with a clear sense of how to start submitting their work, a list of where to submit, and a personalized plan for their submission process. Whether you’re a writer just starting out or a writer ready to send your work out into the world, this professional workshop is a must!

Character Psychology 101, with Jacqueline Sheehan

A little psychology goes a long way to develop our characters, giving them strong desires and uncovering flaws that make them more human. We will generate new material through creative prompts that illuminate our characters’ psyches! Bring writing implements and a desire to go deep! Register for this workshop.

Navigating Narrative Time, with Dori Ostermiller

As a fiction or narrative non-fiction writer, you can and must manipulate time by compressing and expanding it to fit the needs of your story. Writers do not show every moment of a plot, every instance in a character’s life, but instead summarize or skip over big sections of time that are less relevant, while drawing out and emphasizing the moments which matter to the story. In this morning craft intensive, we’ll cover some essential techniques for mastering narrative time, including how to create deeply experiential ‘real-time’ scenes, integrate lively backstory while maintaining narrative flow, flash backward and forward in time without losing the thread, and build effective transitions for holding it all together. We’ll examine successful examples from published works, do some exercises and in-class writing, and share constructive feedback on participant work. Appropriate for all levels and genres of narrative – either fiction or nonfiction!

Shaping Your Memoir, with Cathy Luna

You have an important story to tell, but what’s the best way to tell it? Memoirists grapple with many of the same structural questions that face novelists and other storytellers: where does my story begin and end? In what order should the events unfold? Should I tell it chronologically, or organize events in a different way (framed, collage, braided, circular, etc.)? What structure will keep my readers engaged and also illuminate the universal themes at the heart of my story? In this six-week workshop, we will examine and play with various ways to map, scaffold, and structure our stories. Through specific craft exercises, examining published excerpts, generating new work and receiving supportive feedback, writers will try out potential structures for their memoir and gain tools for choosing and incorporating a structure that will help their story shine.

Revision Intensive, with Emily Lackey

“The best way out is always through,” Robert Frost said in his poem “A Servant to Servants,” and the same can be said for writing: the best way to finish your work in progress is dive headfirst into the muck of your draft and find your way through. That stage—the revision stage—is where the real writing happens. But why then is it so hard to revise the thing we’ve already written? In this workshop, writers will learn real strategies for tackling the revision process. We’ll spend the morning interrogating where the reluctance to revise comes from, investigating tips to organize our projects, and exploring innovative ways to see our work anew. Then we’ll spend the afternoon putting those lessons to use, diving headfirst into our drafts and finding our way through. Writers of any genre are welcome. Participants should bring two printed copies and one digital copy (on a computer) of a draft they are interested in revising.

Crafting Compelling Scenes, with Susanne Dunlap

Whether you’re writing fiction, nonfiction, or memoir, the most important moments are rendered in scenes. Scenes are where you plunge the reader into the action, immerse them in the heart of a situation, or take them along for the ride on your character’s emotional rollercoaster. They provide the forward momentum that keeps your reader turning the pages. In this half-day workshop, we’ll identify different kinds of scenes and explore the craft of creating them. We’ll analyze examples from literature and take some time to work on a scene in your own projects. Writers of all levels are welcome

The Art of Keeping a Notebook, with Tzivia Gover

Journals and notebooks are the unsung heroes of the writer’s life, where we record, reflect and celebrate the sources of our creative works: daily observation, imagination, memory, and dream. Our journals also remind us that writing is more than just a path to publishing: it is a way of life.  In this workshop, we’ll enliven our journaling practice to recharge our creativity, hone our craft, and connect more deeply with the source of our writing. Participants will be introduced to journaling prompts and practices that inspire a richer, more meaningful experience, on the page and off!

Building a Book with Good Bones, with Randy Susan Meyers

Whether you’re writing your first novel or your fifth, it’s easy to get lost in the morass of researching, generating and sketching. For those beginning a draft (or those lost in their umpteenth revision) this all-day workshop will provide a valuable and effective approach for building (or rebuilding) your book structure. We will employ the ‘how do you eat an elephant’ approach: one bite at a time. Starting with an initial idea, participants move through a step-by-step outlining process. We’ll explore “what-if’s,” create a concept paper, transition into characterization, indexing and finally spine-building. By the end of this day, you will have a strong skeleton on which to hang your book. Appropriate for memoirists too!

What’s Your Big Idea? A Memoir Workshop with Cathy Luna

We hear it all the time: the best memoirs tap into something universal in the human experience. In these memoirs, the authors’ stories teach us something important about a larger theme (loss, courage, coming of age, etc.). But how, as writers, do we uncover the themes or big ideas at the heart of our own stories? And how do we craft our stories so that these larger meanings shine?  In this half-day workshop, we will examine several best-selling memoirs for their themes and play with a variety of active techniques to help uncover and illuminate the big ideas within our own true stories. Workshop participants will leave with a strong sense of their memoir’s theme as well as how to structure their story around this central idea.

Pitching the Personal Essay, with Meghan Nesmith

Personal essays are both hugely popular and hugely misunderstood. How can a writer convince an editor that their own deeply intimate story will be of interest to a broader audience? What are the best places to pitch a personal essay? And how does one write a pitch in the first place? In this workshop, writers will learn the basics of pitching personal essays, including finding the the right editor and venue for your work. Then, we’ll look at how to craft personal essay pitches that highlight the universality of our stories, find a “hook” to make our stories timely, and demonstrate to an editor that our stories will resonate with readers. We’ll break down successful personal essay pitches and have plenty of time to practice writing our own. At the end, we’ll go over a list of places to pitch your work! Perfect for nonfiction writers of all levels.

Experimenting with the Hermit Crab Essay, with Sarah Earle

The Hermit Crab Essay is an essay form coined by Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola in “Tell it Slant: Creating, Refining and Publishing Creative Nonfiction.” The idea is that the essay’s tender, vulnerable truth seeks an outside structure to contain it.  Just like the hermit crab itself, which spends its life seeking out a succession of ever-changing mollusk shells, writers go about combing life’s ocean floor for carapaces for their own material. These forms might not, at first glance, seem literary: a recipe, a how-to guide, an FAQ page, a real estate ad… Once the writer’s story starts to inhabit the form, there is no telling how it will grow.

In this half-day class, writers will be introduced to the concept of the hermit crab essay, and spend some time reading and discussing different published examples together.  Then, they’ll explore, feeling out their options, picking up shells and putting them back down, deciding if their heft, size, and weight feel right for the story they will contain.  By the end of the class, students will have generated the first draft of a hermit crab essay and have the opportunity to gain feedback from teacher and peers about how to move their essay forward.

Character and Conflict, with Jacqueline Sheehan

Making nice with each other may be our goal in life, but when it comes to writing, conflict is key. Whether external or internal, conflict really is the cog that turns the wheels of a story. But how do you create conflict in a way that doesn’t feel forced or contrived? In this all-day workshop, writers will explore myriad ways to create conflict that propels the plot and creates complex characters. We’ll discuss protagonists and antagonists, the internal and external forces working against the main character’s desires, and how even the use of language, imagery and sense detail can raise the stakes and keep our readers transfixed.

Screenwriting Essentials, with Pamela Marin

We’ve all been there before: you’re watching a movie, you’d hoped for a couple hours of entertainment, but thirty minutes in, you’re already bored.  The plot is dragging, the characters aren’t credible, and you find yourself thinking, I could do better than that!

Screenwriting differs from prose writing in almost every way, but anyone who loves language and movies can get started. In this half-day workshop, writers will learn some of the essential ingredients that go into telling a story on screen, as well as some key differences between screenplays and prose. After an overview of the fundamentals, we will will dive head-first into the building blocks of screenwriting and will emerge at the end with a completed scene. Whether you’ve always dreamed of writing a screenplay, or you’re a prose writer who’s curious about the genre, this workshop will inspire you!

Bad Guys We Love to Hate, with Jacqueline Sheehan

Where would Harry Potter be without Voldemort?  Gatsby without Buchanan or Atticus without Bob Ewell?  Great bad-guys are just as important (if not more so) to good stories as protagonists. In fact, antagonists are often the most memorable characters in literature, without which, many best-selling stories would cease to exist.  If your antagonist isn’t fully realized, your story will undoubtedly suffer. But what is an antagonist, exactly, and how do you create one that is not only a great foil but also a compelling and three-dimensional character in her own right?

Spend the morning with best-selling author Jacqueline Sheehan sharpening the conflict in your fiction through that crucial, mysterious energy between protagonist and antagonist. A finely drawn antagonist is the one who is neither wholly evil nor entirely good. When we tackle the beast of a fully fleshed antagonist, we involve the reader intimately, as well as increasing the tension in our stories.

Finding the Voice of Your Story, with Dori Ostermiller

There’s lots of talk these days about voice in narrative, but what is it, exactly? If the voice of our story is the doorway through which readers enter, how do we let them in? How do we consciously create a written persona that is compelling, readable and true? In this four-week craft intensive, we will explore what factors go into creating voice, in fiction and memoir.  We’ll study some examples of memorable voices in literature, do lots of writing, and learn a few effective techniques for crafting a powerful narrative persona—one that not only engages the reader but also invites discovery and surprise… There is nothing more exciting, for both reader and writer, than following a live, candid and curious mind on the page.

Writing Across Culture, with Elletra Pauletto

One of the first rules of writing is to write what you know. But what happens when we attempt to go beyond these boundaries and explore new ways of thinking, talking and living? How do we portray a different culture, race, gender or ethnicity–something that is essentially unfamiliar to us–in a way that is respectful, authentic and whole? In this class we will read authors who have attempted to put themselves in others’ shoes, or who are writing about cultures that are not their own, and discuss whether they have done so in a way that is sensitive or appropriate to the story. Special attention will be given to identifying stereotyping and cultural blindness in our own writing, and learning how avoid falling into the sometimes subtle trap of romanticizing the exotic.

Revision Strategies for Novels and Memoir, with Randy Susan Meyers

Revision can be overwhelming. Structural techniques and tools—ranging from effective computer programs to editing checklists, to judicious use of your three-hole-punch—can help marry your left and right brain. The workshop will cover three areas of revision: concrete organizational ideas, strategies for reading and editing your own work, and managing and editing manuscripts with computer tools. The workshop will also include discussion of evaluating and incorporating critique. In-class exercises will help sharpen revision techniques. Handouts will include strategy sheets, suggested readings, and examples of computer-generated tools

Young Adult Fiction, with Morgan Sheehan-Bubla

Are you curious about the growing world of young adult fiction? Do you think you may have a YA novel in you? This info-packed half-day workshop will bust a few myths, and provide a solid introduction to the YA craft. Through writing prompts, examples and discussion you’ll leave this workshop with the start of a story and a kick-ass main character. This workshop is open to teen and adult writers. Why not write what you love to read?

Dialogue Intensive, with Emily Lackey

Effective dialogue is the linchpin of successful scene-writing.  Dialogue can propel a story forward, reveal character, increase narrative tension: in short, dialogue done well engages readers like no other craft element. Yet, for almost all writers, writing compelling and authentic dialogue is one of the biggest hurdles. In this half-day intensive, writers will look closely at the elements of dialogue that make for effective scene work. Through exercises and examples, writers will learn how to craft dialogue that is purposeful, builds character, and develops the subtext that gives their scenes life. Participants should feel free to bring work that is already in progress, but writers of all levels and genres are welcome!  Peek inside this workshop in Emily’s Blog

Starting a Novel with Good Bones, with Randy Susan Meyers 

Whether you’re launching your very first novel or beginning your fifth, it’s so easy to get lost in the morass of researching, generating and sketching… For those beginning a draft (or those lost in their umpteenth revision) this one-day workshop provides a valuable and effective approach for building (or rebuilding) your book’s structure. We will employ the ‘how do you eat an elephant’ approach: one bite at a time. Starting with an initial idea, participants move through a step-by-step outlining process. We’ll explore “what-if’s,” create a concept paper, transition into characterization, indexing and finally spine-building. By the end of the day, you will have a strong skeleton on which to hang your story. Back by popular demand. Appropriate for memoirists too!

Busting through Writers Block, with Cindy Littlefield 

You know how the writing process goes: inspiration strikes, your story starts off like gangbusters, and then your work comes to a screeching halt somewhere in the murky middle.  It’s easy to lose your momentum when things start to get complicated… In this half-day workshop, writers will try their hand at a number of inspiring, quirky, challenging (in a good way!), and unforgettable tricks for getting their work moving again… Working together, we’ll rewrite a classic fairy tale, get swept away in a stream-of-consciousness writing exercise, play with improvisational dialogue, and create descriptions without using the very words we know are perfect (but overused) for the job. Writers of all genre are welcome. Come prepared to play and get unstuck!

Writing the Body, with Emily Lackey

There has never been a more important time to write about our bodies. In the current political climate, especially, it feels necessary to acknowledge the way our bodies can act as deep sources of creative inspiration. Our greatest stories come not from our heads but from our hearts, our shoulders, our hands, our backs. In this workshop, we will free ourselves from the self-consciousness and doubt that comes with writing and return to where our stories first began: our bodies. Through a series of meditations, exercises, prompts, and time to write, we will tap into our most fundamental selves, celebrate our bodies in their various stages, and bring our experiences of being alive in our bodies fully to the page.

Dreaming on the Page, a writing workshop with Tzivia Gover

Dreams can offer writers themes, images, prompts, motifs or entire story lines. Likewise, crafting poems and stories from dreams can help writers discover new levels of creativity, insight, and healing. In this weekly workshop, we will use dreams and the subconscious to inspire and energize our writing. Participants will generate and share new work in a safe, welcoming and supportive environment.  We’ll explore the intersections between dreaming and writing, and learn how dreams can inspire fresh ideas or help us move through creative blocks.  We will also learn to optimize creativity by understanding the brain chemistry of the dreaming mind.

Because the aim of this workshop is to encourage creative expression, self-awareness, and growth, this workshop is perfect for writers of all levels and of every genre–whether or not you remember your dreams!  Read Tzivia’s blog here

Writing Political Fiction: Balancing Craft and Commitment, with Ellen Meeropol

Fiction about social justice has the potential to open eyes and change minds, to entice us to consider the world in fresh ways. In this workshop we will consider strategies to develop dramatic situations without lecturing our readers. Participants are invited to bring to the group a politically-infused novel they admire and consider why it works. Using examples from literature and writing exercises, we will work on framing language, developing characters, and structuring plot to dramatize conflicts of race, class, gender, war and peace, while avoiding the pitfalls of authorial intrusion and didacticism.

Writing Sex, with Emily Nagoski

There are so many reasons to write about sex.  Done right, a well-placed sex scene can add depth, emotional nuance, heat and believability to your narratives.  And there’s no better way to reveal character!  But writing about sex can be intimidating, and it’s one of the hardest things to pull off…   Spend a fun and illuminating morning with best-selling author/world renowned sex educator/kick-ass speaker/Ted-talker, Emily Nagoski, learning to write about sex in a way that is both subtle and, well, sexy, both accurate/believable and nuanced.  Participants will move through a series of short exercises based on central findings from the science of sex, then learn how to transform this knowledge into writing that a reader can’t put down…