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.


***SEE BELOW: Registration is now open for Mokule‘ia Writers Retreat,

May 4 – 9, 2014, on O‘ahu’s North Shore. ***

Grammar Intensive: How syntax makes your prose sing

UC Berkeley Extension

March 29 ~ 10 am to 5 pm

Berkeley, California

Syntax – that collection of prissy rules dictating how to string words together into sentences – can be a minefield for even the best writers. This one-day workshop, developed for writers and editors, will give you the basics of grammar and help you straighten out your sentences. The class gives equal attention to the parts of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives, and the like) and the parts of a sentence (subject, predicate, and various other pieces). The mysteries of punctuation are also demystified. This is grammar for grownups: a lists of do’s and don’ts will expose common pitfalls; readings will be illustrative but not too sober; in-class exercises allow students to stretch new muscles; short writing assignments show how a command of language is as important as a commanding idea. $195. See here for information and registration.

Fundamentals of Freelancing

UC Berkeley Extension

April 5 ~ 10 am to 6 pm

San Francisco, California

Are you interested in learning about a freelance writing and editing career? Constance Hale leads this one-day seminar to help you examine the changing media landscape and develop strategies to survive and thrive. Deepen your understanding of what magazines, newspapers, books and websites look for, and discuss how social media and blogging fit in. You will also consider how to support dream projects with good work that pays the bills—whether it’s tech writing, teaching, ghostwriting or corporate editing. Guests share their unvarnished experiences, and innovative course materials help you define your goals, sharpen your skills and develop a personal strategy. The presentations are rich in wisdom, the exercises rigorous but fun. $195. Go here for information and registration.

Sassy Sentences and Wicked Good Prose:

How to Craft Better Writing

American Society of Journalists and Authors Annual Conference

Thursday, April 24 ~ New York City

This version of a popular workshop Connie Hale leads all over the country is tailored specifically for ASJA members. She will proceed through a series of hilarious exercises that will perk up your writing in surprising ways, and she’ll leave you with five secret tips. Call it grammar for grownups: Writers in attendance 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 any genre who want to take their prose to the next level. No grammar competency required, but a sense of humor is a must.

This workshop will only be open to ASJA members. To join, go here. To get information on the entire conference go here.

The Hawai‘i Book and Music Festival:

A Celebration of Story and Song

May 3-4, 2014 ~ 10.a.m.-5 p.m.

on the Civic Grounds outside Honolulu Hale (City Hall)

This two-day extravaganza celebrates books, literary conversation, Hawaiian music, and traditional hula. It happens in historic downtown Honolulu and is free and open to the public.

Among the authors featured are Adam Johnson, Rebecca Walker, and Kaui Hart Hemmings. There will also be discussion about some important additions to the Hawaiian history canon, like the new annotated edition of Hawai‘i’s Story by Queen Lili‘uokalani and the new edition of the original Hawaiian-language Bible.

For those who adore Hawai‘i’s traditional culture as much as its literary culture, there will be lots of music to make the hips sway. Not to mention dancing by various hālau hula (traditional schools of dance) as well as a panel of kumu hula (dance masters) who have followed in the tradition of the late Aunty Maiki.

(If you are coming to the Mokule‘ia Writers Retreat, come early for HBMF, and stay late for the hula show at Hawaii Theatre.)

More details here.

Mokule‘ia Writers Retreat:

Nā Wahi Ho‘oulu

(Places That Inspire Us)

May 4 – 9, 2014

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 2014 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 are posted here.

Lit Camp

May 15 – 18, 2014

Mayacamas Ranch ~ Calistoga, CA

The San Francisco Bay Area’s first juried writers’ conference, Lit Camp is a joint venture between two respected literary organizations – Litquake and the SF Writers’ Grotto. It  features representatives from San Francisco’s best magazines and sites, as well as editors and agents from top publishers.

The camp is held at Mayacamas Ranch, in Napa Valley, a secluded retreat center set atop rolling hills. Accommodations are rustic wooden cabins outfitted with organic linens. Mayacamas has a salt-water pool, a jacuzzi, a spring-fed pond, an organic garden, hiking trails, and a yoga room. (You won’t want to miss Yoga for Writers).

More online at litcampwriters.org.

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

And intimate and unusual workshop, with Zoe FitzGerald Carter and Constance Hale, who have published memoirs and essays in books and in Vogue, Health, Honolulu, The Atlantic, and O. The workshop begins Friday night, at The Galaxy Bookshop in Hardwick, with a reading and a conversation about memoir. Saturday and Sunday mix guided writing, critique sessions, coaching, and private writing time. Late Sunday afternoon, all participants will have the opportunity to read at the Galaxy; followed by a special farm-to-table dinner. The workshop is open to writers of all levels and genres.

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.