Workshops : Writing Scenes. An online workshop

Writing Scenes. An online workshop

January 11, 2016 - March 4, 2016

a studio course for fiction and narrative nonfiction writers of all levels

Instructor letter

Dear Fellow Writers,

My first car was a 1969 VW Bug I inherited when my grandfather died. I drove that little beast everywhere with a cardboard box of my Grandpa's ashes tucked in in the rear well by the engine compartment, and when the engine finally gave out I returned Grandpa's ashes to my father and bought an ancient Saab sports coupe. I sold that suave, caramel-colored dream to a friend when I started building houses, and I carried on in a series of pickup trucks. Now I drive our family Mini Cooper or take our gracefully aging Ford Ranger or I ride my bicycle when I need to go someplace close by.

And why, exactly, do you need to know the (abbreviated) history of my long affair with cars? You don't, really, except that it seems to me that scenes, like cars, are vehicles that take you somewhere. And while scenes can be as different from one another as a six ton dump truck is from a shiny new Porsche Carrera or from my other grandfather's 1946 Indian motorcycle with the sidecar he used to deliver shoes, they still share certain central elements in common—and in common with cars. They go. They cover distance in time. Brakes help. And things are likely to be different when you stop and get out than they were when you embarked.

In this course, we'll focus our attention on writing powerful scenes. Working without formula or how-to, but guided by effective examples, insightful craft commentary, and peer discussion, we'll decide for ourselves which elements are essential to effective scenework. The goal is for each writer to develop or enhance an organic understanding of what works and how her/his own scenework might benefit. Most importantly, we'll craft scenes that test and explore that new understanding and cement in place practices that will sustain and build upon the insight we've acquired.

Regardless of your length of experience or level of expertise, this course has the potential to be as demanding as you want it to be—or as gently inviting. Each week I'll post a writing assignment and reading suggestion, open a discussion forum, and record a craft talk you can listen to at a convenient time. Every other week you'll have the opportunity to submit a scene for my personal feedback. Over the course of the session there will be opportunities to talk in real-time both as a group and one-on-one with me. None of this is obligatory; you can select among activities and set a pace that feels right to you.

We write by ourselves, but the support and mutual enthusiasm of a dependable group with a common aim can encourage and inspire us. The only obligation you have, signing up for this class, is to exercise a conscious generosity toward the group. We're putting our tenderest selves out there in our work, and we need it to be received with care and consideration. With luck, you'll meet others whose work resonates with your own and who may be amenable—should you wish it—to creating independent critique partnerships or small groups that extend beyond the eight week class session.

Feel free to email me directly with questions at

Best and warmest,


Registration opens November 4, 2015, at