QUICK BITES: 60 TO 90 MINUTES
Do your sentences sag? Does your description drag? Or is your manuscript simply struggling to lose those last 5,000 words? Never fear! Now you can trim and tone your prose in a fearless, fun session that’s guaranteed to leave your work leaner, cleaner, and meaner than ever before. Come learn how to take your writing style from flab to fab!
The Seven Deadly First-Page Sins
There's no one right way to begin your story – but there are plenty of wrong ones. In this class, we'll take you on a cautionary tour through the pits of page-one hell, complete with agent pet peeves, reader turn-offs, and "thanks but no thanks" editorial dealbreakers. Don't let your manuscript suffer in form-rejection torment: let us guide you through the slush-pile inferno and lead your story toward the light!
Locksmithing for Writers
If you need that break-in scene to read just right - and if you'd like some first-hand experience to help you write it - then step right up! This introductory course includes essential vocabulary and hands-on lockpicking practice with a variety of antique and modern locks, along with little-known hints and facts guaranteed to inspire your next ingenious plot twist. Limber up your fingers and get ready to write some wrongs!
Wait! Before You Hit ‘Send’
You've gotten to "The End". You've reworked and revised your story until your eyes bleed. And now you're finally ready to send it off – to an agent, an editor, or straight to Amazon. But are you really? In this class, we'll walk you through the no-stress, no-regrets checklist of everything you and your manuscript need to ensure that you step out into the spotlight polished, professional, and primed for success.
No Mustard on Your Shirt: Spill-Proofing Your Grammar and Style
It's a truth every interviewee knows: there's nothing more tragic than missing out on your dream job because the interviewer can't see past the stain on your collar. In this class, we'll tackle the grammar and style mistakes that even experienced writers make, and highlight winning strategies for scrubbing them out of your manuscript. Don't give your reader even one easy reason to toss your work aside: come learn how to put the "pro" in your prose!
Editing Like a Boss
At last! After all those hundreds of hours spent slaving away at the keyboard, your first draft is finally done. Now you can sit back and bask in the glory of your beautiful, shining... unpublishable mess. Never fear! This fast-and-furious revisionary rumble will fire you up to pummel your plot, pulverize your prose, and kill your darlings with bloodthirsty red-penthusiasm. No fear – no shame – no surrender!
Writers of the Purple Sage: Adding Western Elements to Your Work
These days, the Western is like peanut butter: not often served on its own, and yet it seems to go with just about everything. In this interactive workshop, we’re going beyond Stetsons and six-guns to explore the heart of a Western story, discuss marketability and hybrid genre concerns, and help you discover what the old-fashioned West can do for your newfangled narrative. Saddle up and bring all your burning questions!
Juice-Box Hero: Squeezing Plot From Character
They say there are only six plots. Maybe seven. But there are a million characters - and a great one can make an author's career. If you have an AMAZING character (or ten), but are struggling to sustain their storylines - or if your intricate, masterfully-crafted plot feels a bit flat on personality - have no fear. Come on out and discover how to distill a story that readers will remember from characters they'll never forget. Bring your enthusiasm and all your burning questions!
The Gift of Place: Creating Space for Extraordinary Change
We all have that one person in our lives - the one whom we love dearly, and who would be so much happier if only they would...
Or maybe it's ourselves we're frustrated with: we KNOW we need to make a change, and yet...
Regardless: if your good intentions aren't yielding good results, it may be less about 'what' you're trying to achieve and more about 'where'. Come discover the essential role of place in changing our minds, our habits, and our lives - and how you can host exceptional, life-changing moments to bring out the best in anyone.
GOING DEEPER: 1 1/2 to 3 HOURSFormed in Fire: Storysmithing with Passion and Precision
Should you write three acts or five? 'Save the Cat' or pants a zero-draft? And the $64 question: is there life outside the Hero's Journey?
If you are long on plotting advice and short on certainty, have no fear: there is a process and a story structure that will suit you perfectly - and we are going to find it! Come take a tour of the most common story shapes, discover the logic they are built on, and learn how you can adapt or even abandon them in a way that still satisfies your voice, your vision, and your readers. Forget the formulas, and prepare to take your place at the forge!
Character Arcs and ArchitectureA protagonist should be likeable, they say - but what if you want to explore the darker side of human nature? And allegedly they should grow and undergo a significant change in the course of the story - but how does that apply when you're writing a twenty-book series? And what if the story you're telling really does need half a dozen point-of-view characters?
If you've been struggling to find the balance, have no fear. In this hands-on, high-energy interactive workshop, we'll drill down past the standard do's and don'ts. Come explore the logic underlying common rules of characterization, discover how and when to bend those rules, and map out a plan that satisfies your vision and your readers. Bring your fictional friends and all your burning questions!
Troubleshooting Your Novel
“Write a novel,” they said. “It’ll be fun,” they said.
Well, if it’s stopped being fun – or if you’ve just been staring at the same slumping word-heap for way too long now – don’t give up! Pack up your manuscript and bring it into the shop for a hands-on, can-do story intervention. Together, we’ll load up your toolbox with problem-solving techniques for novelists’ most frequent creative conundrums - no fear, no shame, no surrender!
Hands-On Research for Writers on a Budget
Yes, Google is great. Books are even better. But no amount of reading in the comfort of your own living room can substitute for the real thing: going to a new place – talking to real live human beings – smelling, touching, and even tasting the world you need your readers to believe in. In this class, we’re going to talk about how to do all that when money is tight, time is short, and you don’t already have an uncle who works for the CIA. Come discover just how much you can do right in your own back yard – and how to make your next expedition equal parts frugal, fruitful, and fun!
Bigger, Badder, Radder Author Events
It’s every author’s living nightmare: you throw your first-ever honest-to-goodness book signing… and only three people show up. (And one of them is just looking for the bathroom.) But live author events are a great opportunity to meet new fans and make valuable connections in the larger literary community – as long as you prepare correctly. In this quick, can-do workshop, we’ll cover everything from conventions and collaboration to the dollars-and-sense art of eye-catching table displays. Roll out the red tablecloth and limber up your autograph arm!
A Query Home Companion
You've logged thousands of hours on your manuscript. Spent years learning the craft of writing. You’re finally ready to land your dream agent and score that book deal. So why does it suddenly feel like you're starting from zero? The truth is, submitting to agents and publishers is an art form all its own — and in this high-energy, interactive workshop, you’ll learn how to plan, write, and perfect a query letter that shows you mean business.
Worlds Apart: Worldbuilding from the Inside Out
It’s a hard truth every writer knows: a good story needs a great setting, and many a diligent storyteller has gotten lost in the details. But doesn’t have to be that way! Whether you’re adapting the past, delving into distant regions of the present day, or conjuring other worlds altogether, some principles of good story-grounding are universal – and you can start applying them right away. Come learn the secrets of crafting immersive, dynamic settings – real or imaginary! – that your fans will want to explore for years to come.
The Ten Commandments of Sci-Fi and Fantasy Worldbuilding
It’s a hard truth of speculative fiction: worldbuilding is a time-sucking rabbit-hole of research, and many a diligent writer has gotten lost in the details. But doesn’t have to be that way! Whether you’re constructing a fantasy realm, inventing an alternate past, or postulating a post-apocalyptic future, some principles of good world-creation are universal – and you can start applying them right away. Come learn the secrets of crafting innovative, believable, dynamic settings that your readers will want to explore for years to come.
3 HOUR / HALF-DAY WORKSHOPS
The Plate Tectonics Theory of Dialogue
When it comes to dialogue, a good scene is a 'geologically active' one. Like pieces of the Earth's crust, characters clash, fold, and buckle as they interact (and yes, sometimes even bump and grind!) In this class, we'll analyze the features of real human speech, and how to amplify and manipulate them to suit your purpose. Whether your current scene is as subtle as a tremor or as explosive as an earthquake, we'll craft dialogue guaranteed to keep your plot moving, your pages turning, and your readers on their toes.
Dialect to Die For: Giving the Finger to the Queen’s English
When it comes to dialect, we often hear that 'less is more'. So how do you render a good Scottish brogue, or Southern drawl – and for that matter, how can you give a non-English-speaking character a voice that's distinct but still readable? In this class, we'll examine how to represent accents and speakers of other languages in a way that captures their voices without reducing them to verbal tics, gimmicks, or stereotypes.
The Comma Sutra: A Better-Punctuation Guide to Spicing Up Your Text Life
Does your writing lack a certain… variety? Does your manuscript suffer from premature exclamations, heavy or abnormally frequent periods, or have difficulty maintaining even a semi-colon? Don't suffer in silence! You too can enjoy the satisfaction and self-confidence that comes with knowing how to please your critique partner. In this class, we'll practice the ins and outs of good punctuation (and yes, it WILL be raunchy.) Join us, won't you, as we embark on a journey of true textual healing.
Auntie M’s Guide to Greaseless Self-Promotion
“Yeah, writing is great, but I tell you what I really love: constantly shilling my book to a crowd of indifferent strangers.” Said no writer, ever.
But while marketing yourself is an unavoidable task, it doesn’t have to be an unbearable chore. If you’re disappointed, burned out, or just wondering where to start, this workshop is for you. We’ll work together to help you find your audience, harness your talents, and rekindle your enthusiasm – one step at a time.
Conquering the Freshman Fifteen
Your first fifteen pages need to thrust the reader right into the action of the story, of course. Oh, and also inspire an emotional connection to the character. While simultaneously providing description to ground us in time and place (but not too much) –and be sure that your first pages are making the right promises about the story to come, too – and is there any way you could sneak some zesty dialogue in there while you’re at it?
If your head is spinning and the words are blurring – don’t worry. Set your poor anxiety-sodden manuscript aside (just for a day!) and join us for a fun, fearless first-chapter free-for-all. We’ll work together to dissect the opening scenes from contemporary bestsellers, comparing notes to discover what they have in common and how you, too, can launch your reader smoothly into your story-world – no stress, no shame, no surrender!
WEEKEND TO WEEK-LONG SEMINARS
Word Alchemy Lab
If your book were a movie, it would be an instant classic. A stellar premise. Unforgettable characters. Mind-blowing plot turns. But somehow the words on the page aren't fully conveying the tension of the tight parts, or the loveliness of the pretty parts, or the shocking-ness of the shocking parts. Never fear! In this class, we'll study the art of adapting your writing style to suit any purpose, refining each page and paragraph, and fine-tuning every line until it sings.
Part I (Micro-Level): Break out the petri dishes, because we're putting the English language under a microscope. This is a fast, fun, fearless exploration of the science behind good word choice, sound sentence construction, and the invisible artistry that authors, advertisers, songwriters, and poets use to make you fall in love with their words.
Part II (Macro-Level): We're tackling the big picture here: paragraphs, scenes, chapters, and stories, and the master-class techniques underpinning all of them. But we'll also take a look at where good writing diverges, and how to change your style when switching between informative writing and its more creative counterpart.