Writing Classes & Conferences

This is an entirely subjective selection of classes taught either by me or by writers and teachers I respect. I also include writing conferences that I am participating in, or that I think are well worth your time and money. All are listed (more or less) in chronological order, unless one item is especially newsy.

Greensboro Writers Retreat

First-Person Plural: Crafting stories from our lives 
A writing workshop with Zoe Carter and Connie Hale

September 12 – 14, 2014

Greensboro and Hardwick, Vermont

An intimate and unusual workshop, led by Zoe FitzGerald Carter and Constance Hale, who have published memoirs and essays in books and in Vogue, Health, Honolulu, The Atlantic, and O. This year, the retreat also feature chef and food writer Stephanie Rosenbaum Klassen, who will cook all our meals in the kitchen of Zoe’s expansive family home on Lake Caspian. The retreat kicks off on Friday night, at The Galaxy Bookshop in Hardwick, with a reading and a conversation about mixing memory, food, and meaning. Zoe, Connie will lead most of the sessions on Saturday and Sunday, with Stephanie stepping in as well. We will mix guided writing, workshopping, coaching, and private writing time. Late Sunday afternoon, all participants will have the opportunity to read at the Galaxy and enjoy a special farm-to-table dinner. The workshop is open to writers of all levels and genres. $300 includes all writing sessions and meals. Limited lodging is available for $60/night. For information, email chale (at) well (dot) com. To register, drop a line to zoe (at) mac (dot) com. More info and updates are here.

Here’s a recap of the Fall 2013 workshop:

What happens when you gather a dozen professional writers, install them next to a Vermont lake, and encourage them to take in the natural wonders, sit by the fire, and dig deep into memories, dreams, and fears? This is the annual experiment conducted by Connie Hale and Zoe FitzGerald Carter. This year, out came poems about love at 80 and violence in Sri Lanka, as well as essays about walking daughters to school, easing the loss of a mother by eating popcorn, and facing down the ultimate alpha male—a sea lion ready to rumble. Grotto chef Stephanie Rosenbaum plied us with farm chickens, fat apples, and warm maple syrup, all the while sharing insights about how to write about food in a way that is fresh and bracing. The retreat concluded with participants reading at Connie’s cousin’s bookshop and chowing down at the restaurant next door. If you long for a little leaf peeping in 2014, drop a line to zoe (at) mac (dot) com.

The Book Biz, from A to Z

Six sessions, September 30 to November 4, 2014

The Writers Grotto

San Francisco, CA

This six-week class provides a complete overview of the book business from inside and out: what it takes imagine and pull-off a long-form literary project—but also what it takes to land an agent, work with an editor, and let the world know about the finished book. The idea is to allow each participant to take a book idea to the next level, and you will get feedback on a personal project—whether exploring possibilities, testing an idea, crafting an irresistible proposal, or writing a killer chapter. In each class, a different member of the Grotto (including authors Ethan Watters and Caroline Paul, agent Danielle Svetcov, editors Laura Fraser and John Gravois, and publicity guru Lee Kravetz), will share experience and expertise. For additional information about the class and registration, visit the Writers Grotto Web site.

Sin and Syntax:

How to Craft Wicked Good Prose

October 4, 2014

The Writers Grotto

San Francisco, CA

This is a special workshop featuring the all-new edition of Sin and Syntax, which you will receive as part of attending. Grotto member Connie Hale will lead you through a series of hilarious exercises that will perk up your writing in surprising ways. (We’ll also rely on Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch.) Call it grammar for grownups: 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. It is perfect for writers of fiction, nonfiction, and memoir who want to take their prose to the next level.

No grammar competency required, but a sense of humor is a must. All attendees will receive morning coffee, a free copy of the new edition, and the chance to impress their peers. The workshop is also open to writing teachers. Information about how to register is posted here.

New Avenues in Journalism

An ASJA Conference

October 10 11, 2014

San Francisco State University

From the conference Web site: New opportunities are opening up in journalism as the old business models are collapsing. Few writers can make a living on what magazines pay these days. But anyone with a computer can reach a worldwide audience in seconds. To help independent writers negotiate this new terrain, ASJA is bringing thought leaders and innovators to San Francisco for a two-day conference.

The Latest in Longform:

The Berkeley Narrative Journalism Conference 2014

November 8, 2014

Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley

Under the direction of Constance Hale, a veteran journalist and teacher, this Cal conference brings together top editors and an audience of talented, veteran writers. The all-day event will be one long conversation about the tradition and the edges of literary journalism. Sessions will ask big questions and will also bore in on specific techniques. Platforms discussed will range from microblogs to books and genres looked at will range from spot news to memoir. We will not just explore how to research and write great stories, but also where to publish them, and how to collaborate with agents and editors. There will be keynotes, lectures,  practical workshops, and additional “master classes” on Sunday, Nov. 9. Attendance is limited to 75 experienced writers, to allow for small-group sessions and rich networking. Registration begins September 1. Email NarrativeatCal [at] gmail [dot] com for more information. More detailed information here.


Finding the Writer’s Voice

December 4, 2014

University of Hawai’i at Mānoa

What do we mean when we refer to a writer’s voice, and how can each of us develop a distinctive one–whether for emails, memos, or memoirs? Does an author have one voice or many? Constance Hale, the author of bestselling books on literary style including Sin and Syntax and Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch, answers these questions and others in a presentation that mixes readings, lecture, and discussion. Find more about this free public lecture here.


Mokule‘ia Writers Retreat:

Nā Wahi Ho‘oulu

(Places That Inspire Us)

May 3 – 8, 2015

On Oahu’s North Shore

After its first successful writers retreat in April 2013, Camp Mokule‘ia will host another gathering of artists interested in exploring the notion of place in their work. Directed by Constance Hale, the 2015 will include top writers and editors from the islands and the mainland, as well as Hawaiian musicians and cultural icons. Writers of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, essays, and memoir to are invited to spend five amazing days and nights on O‘ahu’s North Shore.

With the mountains at our back and the open ocean at our front, we will learn from the masters, write in the shade of ironwoods, wander along the beach, salute the sun in morning yoga, and come to understand the essence of Hawaii through evening programs led by island composers, dancers, and musicians. The program includes daily workshops, private writing time, and one-on-one meetings with faculty. Optional activities—available to family and companions staying at the camp—include yoga, snorkeling, beachcombing, and even skydiving. Other highlights include hike to sacred spots in this remote part of the islands .

Information, updates, and registration will be posted here.