Single or multiple sessions; write in class; no homework outside of class. Paintings, photography, and other visual artwork can inspire and deepen our creative writing in unexpected ways. We’ll write in class, using specific works of art instead of words as prompts. All genres are welcome. No readings, no preparation; just bring a love of art and a desire to write and offer constructive feedback.
Borrowed Forms: Experimental Essays
Multi-week; write in class; short readings in-between. Shake up your writing with hermit crab essays, in which we cast raw material into the structure of recipes, instruction manuals, police reports, and other borrowed forms. A playful and liberating approach, especially for memoir writers!
Multi-week; write in class; short readings and research required in-between. Go deeper and wider in your personal essays by “braiding” them, using research and outside voices to enhance your own experiences.
Breaking Writer’s Block
Single session; short writing. Do you have a writing idea that’s struggling to get out? Has a project stalled partway through and now needs a jump start? Through a mix of exercises and supportive discussion, we’ll help each other break through typical blocks and move ahead.
Crafting Memorable Characters
Multi-week; write in class. Vivid characters are the lifeblood of good fiction and memoir. We’ll focus on exercises that add dimension and complexity to our “people on the page.”
Creative Writing Bootcamp
Two-hour sessions on three consecutive days (six hours total); write in class. Have you always wanted to write? Or to rekindle your interest after time away? In this noncompetitive workshop we’ll dive in, build on our strengths, offer each other feedback, and enjoy the process. All writing is done in real time, to prompts. You are not limited by genre. The only prerequisites are a willingness to pick up your pen (or keyboard) and to be a constructive group member.
Donner Party Presentation (Meet the Author)
Interactive; no writing; in person or by Zoom; 60, 90, or 120 minutes (customizable).
See https://donnerpartyhistory.com for an introductory video and more information.
Bring the Donner Party story to your library, classroom, museum, or book club in a unique way. Inspired by Marian Calabro’s award-winning book The Perilous Journey of the Donner Party and updated for the historical 175th anniversary, this real-time PowerPoint program visually immerses you in the saga and describes the author’s research adventures. You’ll be assigned a Donner Party member identity at the start, if you wish, and will discover your character’s fate by the end. Includes Q&A time.
Editing Your Own Writing
Multi-week; write and edit in class. Explore fresh revision techniques that will make your writing clearer and deeper. We’ll write in real time, but also please come prepared with a few short pieces (poetry or prose) that you’d like to edit or revise.
First Draft Fever: Introduction to Creative Writing
Multi-week; write in class. My core workshop will help you create rich first drafts in any genre. We write “in the moment,” either in response to exercises or on work-in-progress. We read our new work aloud or not, as we wish, and respond as careful listeners rather than competitors or critics. If time and interest allows, we can develop our pieces further for more detailed discussion by the group. Writers of all ages and experience levels are welcome.
From Anecdote to Story
Multi-week; write in class. Are you good at writing sketches, but not sure if they add up to a scene or a story? Would you like to boost the emotion quotient (EQ) and free your work from dry descriptions? Through exercises, we’ll practice ways to “thicken up” our writing. Especially suited to writers of fiction and memoir.
The Geography of Memoir
Multi-week; write in class. Places have rich tales to tell. We’ll explore various personal geographies—rooms, towns, states, countries, climates—as catalysts for our life stories. Optional reading includes brief examples from top memoirists.
Leaving a Legacy: Family and Organizational Histories
Single session; no writing. If you don’t tell your story, who will? Learn how to start and what’s involved in capturing the history of your family or organization for posterity. We’ll cover content, research methods, formats, use of outside writers and editors, publishing possibilities, and more.
Life-Writing and Memoir: Mining Your Raw Material
Single session; short writing. Regardless of your age, everyone has a lifetime’s worth of experiences that can fuel great memoirs, short stories, and novels. Through a unique life-writing exercise, we’ll begin mining this gold. You’ll leave with a notebook full of inspiration.
Memoir Writing: Shape & Substance
Multi-week; write in class. Eager to start your memoir or expand and connect fragments you’ve already written? On this multi-week memoir adventure, we’ll use in-class exercises to delve deeper into our inner material. We’ll also explore ways to structure your memoir as a collection of essays or a book, using published memoirs as examples.
The Ode Less Traveled: Poetry in Forms
Multi-week; write in class. A diverting alternative to the usual poetry class! Guided by Stephen Fry’s book, we’ll create our own poems written in forms (not in free verse). Poetry experience is welcome but definitely not necessary. Bring your love of language and wordplay, and the desire to try your hand at haiku, pantoums, ballads, sonnets, villanelles, pattern poems, acrostics, and more.
Multi-week; write in class; no homework outside of class. In the best essays, the personal becomes universal. We’ll frame our experiences and viewpoints by applying the basics of essay construction, all of which are within the reach of every writer. Short readings include work by master essayists such as E. B. White, Joan Didion, and David Sedaris.
Playwright for a Day
Single session; write in class. Play with playwriting! Draft a monologue and a one-minute play for instant performance and supportive feedback. No experience necessary. A great way for poets and prose writers to experiment with a new form.
Publishing 101 for Creative Writers
Single session; no writing. Get the whole publishing picture in one quick but intensive sitting. Explore the three current paths to book publishing (mainstream, print/ebook on demand, and true self-publishing). We’ll also discuss literary agents, the use of outside editors, and more. I leave plenty of time for Q&A and discussion of individual projects.
Scene Structure Basics
Single session (90 minutes minimum); write in class. In this condensed introduction to scene structure, we’ll view short examples via YouTube and do a few exercises applicable to fiction and memoir.
Scene Structure & Dialog
Multi-week; write in class. Strong dialogue and coherent scenes form the backbone of plays, fiction, and memoir. We’ll analyze examples by master writers including Tennessee Williams, Aaron Sorkin and Toni Morrison, then use creative prompts to craft our own.
Writing in Real Time
Multi-week; write in class. Find instant gratification in this experimental and non-judgmental workshop. You’ll come away with at least four poems (week one), a short-short story (week two), one memoir scene (week three), one play scene (week four), and a work in the format of your choice (optional week five). All of these will be first-drafted in class, without homework.