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Planning a Novel with Jeanne Thornton

Genre: Fiction

Date: Saturdays

April 20, April 27, May 5th, May 18th & June 1, June 15

Time: 9 AM - 11:30 AM PST/ 12 - 2:30 PM EST 

Planning a Novel is a seminar designed to take you from the loose impulse for a novel to a solid outline and vivid first act. Over six weeks, we’ll build out from whatever starting point each student chooses—a genre, a setting, a character concept, a theme, a line of music—to distinct and felt characters, a sense of unique voice and perspective, and the beginnings of conflict that will help determine the novel’s overall shape. We’ll do journaling assignments designed to help us clarify and reflect on our story and make clear choices to shape it, as well as set and work to meet accountability goals (word count or otherwise.) We’ll also read pieces of theory and criticism that will help define and suggest different potential forms a narrative might take. In the end, each student should leave the seminar with substantial writing toward a novel’s “first act”—the crucial pages that connect with readers and teach them how to read the book, as well as a plan for reaching a finished, thoughtful draft.


View the syllabus


Character Craft in YA Fiction

Genre: Fiction

Date: Sundays

April 21, May 5, May 19, June 2, June 16 & June 30

Time: 11 AM - 1:30 PM PST / 2 - 4:30 PM EST

Teenage protagonists can be such fickle creatures. Sometimes they get away from us. Sometimes they stare back at us stone-faced and refuse to engage, let alone reveal their secrets. This online writing seminar taught by New York Times bestselling YA author Nova Ren Suma is for those who want to go beneath the surface and delve into writing riveting character-driven stories for the young adult space.


This generative fiction seminar will be held over six sessions in Zoom, meeting twice a month for three months. Each session is themed and aims to offer tools that will aid YA writers in embodying compelling and complex young characters and building organic plots that stem from these characters’ wants, fears, histories, and needs. In-class exercises, spotlights on excerpted reading, and writing prompts will focus on elements of character craft such as voice, perspective, motivation, specificity, coming of age, and transformation. There will be multiple opportunities for volunteers to speak about process and share new work aloud with the group, creating a community during our time together.


Writers should come to the first session with a YA project and a character already in mind who you’d like to deepen and explore. You can be at any stage of the writing process—first-drafting or revising a novel, imagining the early bits of a story—so long as you’re open to generating fresh scenes and possible new story avenues during our time together. All experience levels and all genres of YA and YA-crossover are welcome. 


View the syllabus


Fiction Revision as an Act of Radical Love with Reena Shah

Genre: Fiction
Date: Saturdays
May 4th, May 18th, June 1st, June 15th, June 29th & July 13th
Time: 9 AM – 11:30 AM PST/ 12  – 2:30 PM EST 

Revision is perhaps the part of the writing process least discussed. It’s also, in Kiese Laymon’s view, an act of love (“We revisit what we love.”). Using this principle, we will work together to revise a short story or novel excerpt from beginning to end. Regardless of whether the work is a 2nd draft or a 6th, the goal is to be open, take risks, and make significant changes. We will talk about our intentions for a specific story or novel excerpt, what we love about it, as well as the problems we’re encountering. We’ll move from global revision techniques, such as outlining cause and effect and diagraming character arcs and conflict, to more surgical shifts, like rewriting a scene from a different perspective and reworking the rhythm of our sentences. We will also read, watch, and listen to texts and videos from writers like Peter Ho Davies, Kiese Laymon, Mat Bell, and Garielle Lutz, among others, with plenty of time to discuss, ask questions, and write together.

My goal for you is to 1) have a full short story or novel excerpt revision by the last session and 2) leave the seminar with new revision techniques for future drafts and work. The last session will include a reading of revised sections—it might be a scene, the opening, the ending—with the aim of showcasing and celebrating our work. This is not a critique workshop, rather a deep dive into sustained revision that approaches the process with more love, more play, and less fear.

These 2.5 hour-sessions include two 10-minute breaks on the hour or one 15-20-minute break midway. Readings will be delivered at least 1 week prior to a scheduled session. As a group, we can continually add readings to a course library.

View the syllabus

Collaging the Personal Essay with Aisha Sabatini Sloan
Genre: Nonfiction
Date: Saturdays
May 4th, May 11th, May 18th, May 25th, June 1, June 8th
Time: 9 AM – 11:30 AM PST/ 12  – 2:30 PM EST

This virtual seminar will investigate the way that contemporary essayists approach questions of structure. At the same time, we will conduct a very amateur investigation into how collagists approach their work by exploring the work of a new collage artist every week. In order to borrow from collage as a frame for thinking about the writing process, you will be invited to use scraps, scissors, and glue every week to play with visual elements of collage. Participants will sign up to give one presentation each on a collage artist or collage-related idea and synthesize this topic with the essay forms we’ve encountered that week, including at least one writing prompt. My hope is that, regardless of your comfort level with visual art/crafting coming into the class, over time we will all build some level of trust in our own ability to use visual techniques to conceptualize of essay structures we’re interested in using ourselves. As we consider the work of essayists and artists, we will begin drafting essays of our own. 

View the syllabus


Instructions for Application:

1. Fill out the questionnaire.

2. Upload your manuscript:

Nonfiction, Novel & Short Fiction: Excerpt of 2,000 words or less. Double-spaced, 12pt font. 


Please note the following:

  • Scholarship deadline is April 1st. Payment plans are available for admitted participants. We are willing to work out a payment plan that best meets your needs. 
  • Please do not apply with published material. However, it is acceptable to apply with work that is out for submission.
  • Your submitted manuscript does not have to be a complete story/essay/chapter.
  • All scholarship applicants will also be considered for general admission.
  • Applicants must be 21 years of age by the time of the workshop.


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