Past Workshops

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…