Master Class Workshops

Four days of close personal guidance in small groups with living masters of their genres. Choose from Fiction, Memoir, Nonfiction, Publishing and more.


4 Days | Monday 11/7 – Thursday 11/10  2022 |  9:00am to 12:00

Writing for Series Comedy

with Marta F. Kauffman

The name says it all. Friends was not only about a tightly knit team of characters, it was a model of creative collaboration, led by series co-creator and legendary producer Marta F. Kauffman. This is an unparalleled opportunity to learn how Marta created Friends and the hit series, Grace and Frankie—and learn what one of the most successful producers in TV history looks for when she puts together a team of writers. To make this class as real-world as possible, Martha will create breakout groups and give you assignments to work on with fellow participants. Sharpen your pencil, because she’ll this is one brilliant writing workout.

Marta will be joined in this class by her friend, co-facilitator and fellow screenwriter extraordinaire Amy Ferris. Her screenplays include Mr. Wonderful (Directed by Anthony Minghella) and Funny Valentines (Directed by Julie Dash).

black and white photo of Marta Kaufman on set of Grace and Frankie with Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda

A small group workshop | 4 Mornings | 3 hours per day

Marta F. Kauffman​ is an Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning television writer, producer, and showrunner behind the hit series Friends ​and Grace and Frankie.  Kauffman got her big break alongside David Crane with their pilots ​Dream On (1990) and ​The Powers That Be ​(1992) before they co-created Friends. In 2015, Kauffman started her production company, Okay Goodnight, with industry veterans Robbie Tollin and Hannah KS Canter. Their first series, ​Grace and Frankie is Netflix’s longest-running original ever.

Writing with Joy

with Luis Urrea

Luis Urrea exemplifies our quest to bring together gifted writers who are also gifted teachers of writing. His workshops and classes have inspired writers of all levels of accomplishment to write with passion, grace and skill. A distinguished professor of creative writing at University of Illinois Chicago, he describes his approach to teaching:

“Teaching is more than one might think. Yes, skills and ideas.  But with my writing students at UIC, it is about hope, respect and love. I ask of them a generosity and fearlessness. We are loyal to each other. And I am proud to see them publish their work, though a couple are getting more famous than me! That is irritating . One unwritten rule in my workshops is if you are not laughing every time we meet, I have failed. One of my personal rules for teaching that I try to sneak in on students — because they are often a little less starry-eyed than I am — is “fill your pen with love or don’t bother picking it up.”

This is a generative workshop. It is a combination of experience, lecture, and writing time. Luis gives you as many examples and writing prompts as can fit into your time, leaving ample time for writing. We complete writing exercises and share them with each other. Sometimes it might just be an exercise in seeing, but it all to goes into your notebooks. This workshop requires your acceptance of the many gifts of the day. Once you see them, they never stop coming. In some ways, Luis sees writing like a hummingbird that must be welcomed into your garden. Bring lots of pens and pencils.

If you are looking to tap into an inner reservoir of wonder and joy and to write from that level, then this is the class for you.

Luis recommends reading The Hummingbird’s Daughter if you want to understand his underlying thoughts on gifts, grace and trust.

A small group workshop | 4 Mornings | 3 hours per day

Luís Alberto Urrea is the best-selling author of 18 books, including The Devil’s Highwayand The Hummingbird’s Daughter. His latest novel, The House of Broken Angels, was a national bestseller and New York Times Notable Book for 2017. A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, Urrea has won the Lannan Literary Award, the Pacific Rim Kiriyama Prize, an American Book Award, the Christopher Award and an Edgar Award, among other honors. His 2015 collection of short stories, The Water Museum, was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and won an Academy of Arts and Letters award. His novel Into the Beautiful North is a current selection of the NEA’s Big Read program. Urrea’s books have been selected by more than 100 different cities and colleges for community reads programs and he is much in demand as a speaker, lecturer, and teacher. Born in Tijuana to a Mexican father and American mother, Urrea is most recognized as a border writer, though he says, “I am more interested in bridges, not borders.” He lives outside of Chicago and is a distinguished professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Turning Life Into Art

with Christina Baker Kline, Paula McLain & Meg Wolitzer


Christina Baker Kline and Paula McLain are returning to KWC to lead this class again. It was the most popular of all the master classes for the last two years. Attendees came away feeling that their entire approach to writing had been transformed and enriched.

This year, they will be joined by Meg Wolitzer.

The class is a rare opportunity to learn from these remarkable authors. Each will delve deeply into the process by which she draws inspiration for her work from people, places and events in her life. Writing, at its essence, is a process of transmuting one’s life experiences into art. In this class, you will learn unique way each of these renowned writers does this.

It is equally suitable for writers of fiction and memoir. Through dialog and written exercises, each of the teachers will inspire and challenge you to become more conscious and intentional about how you yourself are “turning life into art.”

A group workshop | 3 Mornings | 3.5 hours per day

Christina Baker Kline’s Orphan Train and A Piece of the World are each major international bestsellers.

Paula McLain is author of the New York Times bestselling novels The Paris Wife, Circling the Sun, and Love and Ruin.

Meg Wolitzer is the New York Times–bestselling author of The Interestings, The Uncoupling, The Ten-Year Nap, The Position, The Wife, and Sleepwalking.

Identifying & Overcoming Challenges in Writing Fiction

with Meg Wolitzer and Amanda Eyre Ward


This class is for participants who have a fiction work in progress. It will combine workshop, writing prompts, and mentorship, providing individually focused guidance for each participant. We will delve into your manuscript and discover what it most ideally wants to be and what needs to happen for it to become that.

Each participant should bring a short excerpt from their own writing, a page or two you admire from published work by another author, and a brief written discussion of what you think are the most important problems you need to overcome in your current project.

You will have the chance to get individually tailored feedback on your work, particularly on how to address the challenges that you and the teachers think are most crucial for your work. You will be given individually designed exercises and prompts, and will get feedback on your work from the rest of the class. This class will be intense but, most of all, encouraging. It will allow you to solve those writing problems that are keeping your work from its fullest potential and will gently and insightfully give you the push you need to create your best writing.


A small group workshop | 4 Mornings | 3 hours per day

Meg Wolitzer is the New York Times bestselling author of The InterestingsThe Ten-Year NapThe Wife, and other books. Her latest novel, The Female Persuasion, was named to various Notable and Best Books of 2018 lists, including in The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe AtlanticPeopleGlamour, and Kirkus Reviews. She was the guest editor of The Best American Short Stories 2017, and has also published books for young readers, including To Night Owl From Dogfish, co-written with Holly Goldberg Sloan. Wolitzer is currently a faculty member in the Stony Brook Southampton MFA program, where she co-directs BookEnds, a one-year, non-credit intensive in the novel. The recent, critically-acclaimed film based on her novel The Wife starred Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce.

Amanda Eyre Ward is the author of Sleep Toward Heaven, How to be Lost, Forgive Me, Close Your Eyes, The Same Sky, and the short story collection Love Stories in this Town. Her work has been optioned for film and television and published in fifteen countries. The Same Sky is a beautiful and heartrending novel about motherhood, resilience, and faith. Amanda spent a year visiting shelters in Texas and California, meeting immigrant children and hearing their stories. The Same Sky is a ripped-from-the-headlines story of two families on both sides of the American border. Her latest novel, The Jetsetters, has received rave reviews. Amanda’s work has garnered many accolades, including the Violet Crown Book Award (Sleep Toward Heaven), a Target Bookmarked Pick (How to Be Lost and The Same Sky), and a Kirkus Best Book Pick (Close Your Eyes). 

Beginning a novel

with Richard Russo

Richard Russo’s master class at the Kauai Writers Conference is for writers beginning or at the early stages of a work of fiction. It aims to help you with the all-important questions of framing, subject matter, both superficial and deep, and finding a narrative structure best suited for the story you want to tell. Taking a hard look at these topics at the beginning of a novel can make the difference between a sharply focused and engrossing story and one which never finds its footing.

Richard says: Beginning a new work of fiction can be a bit like waking up in the dark. Where in the world (literally) are you? Is it a big place or a small one? What is its shape? What are its dimensions? If nothing else, answering these questions relieves anxiety.

So, how do writers recognize what they’re working on? What are the tell-tale signs that it might be long form fiction? Which storytelling elements naturally result in length? Which are more likely to result in fiction that’s more contained? Is it important to know what you’re working on from the start? If not at the beginning, at what point should writers know with some degree of certainty what the thing is?   When should you start to worry if you don’t? And how can you tell whether you are, by temperament, a novelist or a short-story writer?

Students will be asked to submit five pages of fiction, preferably from (or near) the beginning of something – a story, a novel or (better yet) something that might be either.


A small group workshop | 4 Mornings | 3 hours per day

Richard Russo is the Pulitzer Prize winning author of widely acclaimed novels, short stories, and screenplays. He is also a wildly popular teacher, having taught creative writing at Penn State University at Altoona, the University of Southern Illinois, Iowa Writer’s Workshop, and Colby College in Waterville, Maine. His 2001 novel Empire Falls received the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. He has written seven other novels, a collection of short stories, and a memoir (Elsewhere). His short story “Horseman” was published in The Best American Short Stories 2007 edited by Stephen King and Heidi Pitlor.

Russo co-wrote the film Twilight with the director Robert Benton. Benton adapted Russo’s Nobody’s Fool as a film of the same title, starring Paul Newman, which he also directed. Russo wrote the teleplay for the HBO multiple award-winning adaptation of Empire Falls, the screenplay for the 2005 film Ice Harvest, and the screenplay for the 2005 Niall Johnson film Keeping Mum, which starred Rowan Atkinson. In 2017 he received France’s Grand Prix de Littérature Américaine.

Poets and Writers, in their extensive 2016 profile of Russo, wrote “He has become a statesman of American letters. He is revered for writing fiction set against the backdrop of declining mill towns while consistently drawing hilarity from his characters’ pathos; his wonderfully unhurried novels brim with wry humor and ruminative protagonists. The Washington Post has called Russo “the patron saint of small-town fiction.”


with Adrienne Brodeur


Adrienne Brodeur is the author of Wild Game, Amazon’s #1 best memoir of 2019. This class is a rare opportunity to spend four days with Adrienne and get her direct guidance on your own memoir. She will share her account of the challenges she faced putting her deeply personal—and even shocking—story on the page.

Nearly everyone writing a memoir comes face to face with the question: do I dare write about that? What will my mother, my children, my spouse think? The reality is that the things we most fear to write are often what people most want to read. Adrienne will help you decide how to turn your own intimate and perhaps painful issues into literature, into captivating prose that people are compelled to read, and into a book they will want to own.


A small group workshop | 4 Mornings | 3 hours per day

Adrienne Brodeur is the author of Wild Game, Amazon’s #1 best memoir of 2019.

“Exquisite and harrowing…. [Wild Game] is so gorgeously written and deeply insightful, and with a line of narrative tension that never slacks, from the first page to the last, that it’s one you’ll likely read in a single, delicious sitting.”  — The New York Times


The Art and Business of Getting Published: Traditional, Indie, and Everything in Between

with Jeff Kleinman & Regina Brooks


In this comprehensive masterclass, you’ll learn not just the foundational principles of getting a book published, but you’ll also gain expert insight into the changing landscape of the publishing industry, and how you can navigate your own path toward success. Learn what it takes to capture the attention of a New York publisher or literary agent, plus when self-publishing might be best suited for your content or business goals.

This masterclass will cover:

  • How to evaluate the commercial potential of your project and what it takes to appeal to a mainstream publisher or literary agent—plus how to use databases and online tools to identify the right home for your work.
  • What professional submission materials look like. Your query letter should be short and sweet and pack a punch. Learn what it means to sell your story, and how to avoid problems that plague (and sabotage) authors.
  • Query letter and pitch session workshop. Hone your query letter and work on your book’s one-sentence description.
  • When a literary agent is necessary or desirable. You’ll learn about what  the  role of today’s literary agent looks like and how it is evolving, what standard agenting practices are, how to evaluate the ideal agent for your work, and how to practice proper author etiquette within the agent-author relationship.
  • The author platform dilemma. Not too far into your publishing journey, you’ll hear agents and editors talk about platform. You’ll learn what an author platform is, when it’s necessary for mainstream publication, why it’s often necessary to have one to get published. You’ll also get tips on how to be a good “literary citizen,” which can be comparable to a platform. There aren’t easy answers, but you’ll learn what industry expectations are, and how data and meta tags have created new opportunities for content rich creators.
  • How publishers market books (or not) and the role that authors play as publishing partners for sales success.
  • You’ll also learn how to evaluate if your content is ideal for a book format or another medium such as podcast, course, or documentary.

At the end of the class, you’ll have a comprehensive, business understanding of the book publishing industry and an author’s place in the ecosystem of agents, publishers, and retailers. You’ll gain a deep understanding of the commercial publishing business model, and how you can approach the process with the right expectations and mindset.



A small group workshop | 4 Mornings | 3 hours per day

Jeff Kleinman is a literary agent and founding partner of Folio Literary Management, LLC, one of the most influential literary agencies in the U.S.
As an agent, Jeff feels privileged to have the chance to learn a great variety of new subjects, meet an extraordinary range of people, and feel, at the end of the day, that he’s helped to build something – a wonderful book, perhaps, or an author’s career. Books of his clients include the bestsellers The Art of Racing in the Rain (Garth Stein), The Snow Child (a Pulitzer finalist; Eowyn Ivey), Widow of the South (Robert Hicks), and Mockingbird (Charles Shields), among many others.
Regina Brooks  is the founder and president of Serendipity Literary Agency LLC in New York. Her agency is the largest African American owned agency in the country and has represented and established a diverse base of award-winning clients in adult and young adult fiction, nonfiction, and children’s literature. Her authors have appeared in USA TODAY, NY TIMES, and the Washington Post, as well as on Oprah, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, MSBNC, TV ONE, BET, and a host of others.

The Way of Character – How to write people that audiences and readers will remember

with Jeff Arch


A master class in creating unforgettable characters. There are no secrets, there are no tricks, there is only the creation, from the ground up, of authentic human beings that readers will identify with, and follow from the very first pages all the way through to the final fade.  Whether it’s a novel, a screenplay or stage play, stories are about people—people who want things, who go after them, who succeed and fail—not because of outside circumstances, but because of how your characters respond to them, and continue going forward, no matter what. Because it’s the “no matter what” that makes us who we are, and makes or breaks every great story. In real life, and on the page. That’s what authenticity is about, and that’s what’s common to every great story.

A small group workshop | 4 Mornings | 3 hours per day

Jeff Arch was teaching high school English when his spec script for Sleepless In Seattle sold in 1990. The screenplay was nominated for Academy, Writers Guild of America, and BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) awards. Arch’s life has never been the same. He has written for many Hollywood studios and producers and directors, including Penny Marshall, Ron Howard and Barry Levinson. He has just released his first novel, Attachments, with widespread acclaim.
Arch has taught at seminars and conferences all over the US and abroad. He encourages aspiring writers not to mimic hits or write to trends, but to to mine their own life experiences for unique material. He and his wife live in Southern California and Maine, depending on the weather.



Revision and Improvement

with Nicholas Delbanco


It is an honor and a privilege to have Nicholas Delbanco conduct a workshop at the Kauai Writers Conference. He’s served as both chairman of the fiction panel of the National Book Awards and as a judge for, among other contests, the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award in Fiction.

In this master class, Delbanco will help a maximum of twenty writers discover the key improvements their works-in-progress need. Each student will be invited to submit an excerpt. Delbanco will read them in advance and then spend time on each one in class, analyzing, dissecting, and coming up with a penetrating analysis of where it succeeds or fails to communicate the writer’s deep intention. Each student will come away with a detailed strategy for revision and improvement to achieve the work’s true potential.

Delbanco is the author of thirty-one books, both fiction and nonfiction, most recently WHY WRITING MATTERS, in which he distills a lifetime’s experience of teaching writing. He was the founding director of the Bennington Writing Workshops and served for many years as head of the esteemed creative writing program at University of Michigan. There he was director of the Hopwood Awards Program, the oldest and best known series of writing prizes in the academy.

John Updike said Delbanco “wrestles with the abundance of his gifts as a novelist the way other men wrestle with their deficiencies.” He is a writer that other writers, including many of the most celebrated, look up to and have sought out for advice.

We think this class is the literary equivalent of having Chopin give you a piano lesson. Over his distinguished career, he has helped many hundreds of writers in all stages of their careers, from absolute beginners to established authors seeking to top The NY Times bestseller list.

We can promise that those fortunate enough to find a spot in Delbanco’s workshop will find it a seminal event in their writing careers.

A small group workshop | 4 Mornings | 3 hours per day

Nicholas Delbanco has published thirty-one books of fiction and non-fiction. His most recent novels are The Count of Concord and Spring and Fall; his most recent works of non-fiction are The Countess of Stanlein Restored and The Lost Suitcase: Reflections on the Literary Life. As editor he has compiled the work of, among others, John Gardner and Bernard Malamud.

Nicholas has served as Chair of the Fiction Panel for the National Book Awards. He’s The Robert Frost Distinguished University Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Michigan and heads the MFA Program as well as the Hopwood Awards Program. He  received a Guggenheim Fellowship and, twice, a National Endowment for the Arts Writing Fellowship. His teaching text for McGraw-Hill is entitled Literature: Craft and Voice, and he edited a three-volume Introduction to Literature with Alan Cheuse. in 2004 he published The Sincerest Form: Writiing Fiction by Imitation. His new non-fiction book, Lastingness: The Art of Old Age was published by Grand Central Publishing in 2011.


4 Days | Monday 11/7 – Thursday 11/10  2022   |  1:30pm to 4:30pm

Writing Scenes for the Screen

with David Paul Kirkpatrick


Director John Ford said that it’s critical to have 5 great scenes in any movie. Kirkpatrick built his career working with writers creating 5 memorable, scenes in their screenplays. In this workshop, you will not only learn how to conceptualize and write the scenes, but your fellow participants will be “getting those scenes on their feet” and acting them out together in scene labs. Part of learning scene is playing all the parts. When you leave this workshop, Kirkpatrick’s intent is to equip you with the secret sauce in scene-making that will make your script irresistible and producible.

black and white photo of David Kirkpatrick working on a scene with Sally Field and Kevin Kline in the comedy Soapdish

A small group workshop | 4 Afternoons | 3 hours per day

Most notably, David Kirkpatrick, was the President of Paramount Pictures and the Production President of Walt Disney Studios. He started as a screenwriter, selling his first script to Paramount at 16. He became story editor at Paramount at 25 where he managed thousands of screenplays.  Over his long career, David has worked on over 200 motion pictures starting with ideas and seeing them through to successful production, marketing, and distribution. He has worked on such recognizable global franchises as Indiana Jones, and Star Trek.  He has developed countless Academy Award winning movies including Ordinary People, Elephant Man, Witness, Terms of Endearment, and Forest Gump.

The Way of the Writer

with Charles Johnson


In this four day class, Charles will offer the most important and useful lessons he has learned from a lifetime of writing and teaching others to write.

He’ll start with basics such as word choice, sentence structure, and narrative voice, then delve into the mechanics of scene, dialogue, plot and storytelling, and explore the larger questions at stake for the serious writer. What separates literature from industrial fiction? What lies at the heart of the creative impulse? How does one navigate the literary world?

The class will combine workshop, discussion, and exercises all chosen to provide the most fundamental improvement in the craft of each participant fortunate enough to find a place in it. The Kauai Writers Conference is honored and grateful to Charles for teaching this course.


A small group workshop | 4 Afternoons | 3 hours per day

Charles Johnson is a National Book Award winner and an acclaimed teacher of writing. His book,
The Way of the Writer: Reflections on the Art and Craft of Storytelling, has been praised by some of our most eminent writers as the best book written on the subject:

“If you’re looking to learn to tell stories in written form, look no further. This book is as accessible as it is profound, lively, practical, and full of earned wisdom. I was a student of Charles Johnson’s, and can vouch for the power and value of his teaching. There are plenty of craft books available out there, but this is the only one I know of that is–and I don’t think I’m exaggerating–indispensable.”  — David Guterson, author of Snow Falling on Cedars.


“Those of us who put pen to paper for a living have known of Charles Johnson for a very long time. He is one of America’s greatest literary treasures. He is a skilled wordsmith, superb craftsman, master of understatement, philosopher, cartoonist, and deeply talented novelist whose 1991 novel Middle Passage, (which won the National Book Award for fiction) predates the current surfeit of Underground Railroad novels by a good two decades. Like the great Ralph Ellison to whom he is often compared, he will forever cast a long shadow over us who follow in his wake. Here he graciously opens up the treasure chest of writing secrets and philosophy for those of us who seek to kneel at the tree of learning, told by a man who has kissed the black stone of literary excellence.”  — James McBride, National Book Award-winning author of The Good Lord Bird and The Color of Water.

Dialogue: The art of putting words in someone else’s mouth​

with Joshua Mohr


How many times have we heard the aged expression, “We’ll see what she says about that!” There’s anticipation in hearing someone express themselves, and the same is true of fiction and creative nonfiction writing: our characters need to speak, voice their opinions, woes, aspirations, biases, phobias, regrets.  “We can write lovely exposition,” says instructor Joshua Mohr, “but readers need to hear what our characters sound like, what their preoccupations are. That way they can sculpt their own conclusions about them.” 

In this course, students will work on many in-class exercises to hone their ear for dialogue. “We’ll work on giving each character a nuanced voice,” says Josh. “We’ll select the right words to push the plot forward, generate subtext, strip our dialogue down to its meaty essentials; when each line of dialogue bolsters the story, we’ll have established a connection between character and reader.” Throughout the course, students will be exposed to a great array of dialogue, from traditional novel and short story examples, to memoir, to playwriting and screenwriting.  “The larger net we cast,” Josh says, “the better chance we’ll land an example that resonates for each student.”


A small group workshop | 4 Afternoons | 3 hours per day

Joshua Mohr is the author of the novels “Termite Parade,” an Editors’ Choice on The New York Times Best Seller List, and “Some Things that Meant the World to Me,” one of O Magazine’s Top 10 reads of 2009 and a SF Chronicle best-seller. His most recent novel is “Damascus” about which the New York Times said:

“The author’s jaunty voice [is] Beat-poet cool…Mohr nails the atmosphere of a San Francisco still breathing in the smoke that lingers from the days of Jim Jones and Dan White, a time when passionate ideologies and personal dysfunction intermingled and combusted.”  — New York Times

Mohr teaches in the MFA program at the University of San Francisco and Stanford University’s creative writing program.

STORYquest: the Writer, the Hero, the Journey

with Laura Lentz


Stories are as old as cave drawings and as new as a story inside of you burning to find the page. Joseph Campbell and Christopher Vogler have written about the Hero’s Journey and the critical stages of story to explore to make a story come alive.

All of story – the big event, the obstacles, hitting rock bottom and the long journey home to self – all of these stages matter, including the angels and mentors we meet along the way.

Laura Lentz – author of the writing workbook STORYquest, the Writer, the Hero, the Journey, has turned the stages of storytelling into unique writing prompts with examples out of four books of award-winning literature. Laura’s popular online & Kauai class is now a master class at the Kauai Writers Conference, where writers will explore six of the twelve critical stages of storytelling.

This is an ideal class to structure your story and explore elements critical to move a story along. For memoirists, fiction writers and poets.

A small group workshop | 4 Afternoons | 3 hours per day

Laura Lentz is a master writing teacher, author and developmental editor. She has taught themed creative writing workshops for over a decade to artists all over the world in intimate online groups and on Kauai’s north shore.

Her workbook Story-Quest, Make your story a Hero’s Journey is workbook for writers to guide them through the twelve stages of the Hero’s Journey by offering sequential writing prompts and literary examples for each stage of the hero’s journey out of best selling memoirs and poetry. Laura helps writers expand their body of work by offering challenging and thought-provoking exercises inspired by poetry, science, music and excerpts from literature.

Laura is also co-founder of Literati Academy, a community and school to support, encourage and assist writers in all creative endeavors. Laura is known for her Sex on the Page writing workshop, Ancestors and Epigenetics and her annual Poetry Room, which teaches writers how to use poetic form in all writing. Laura is also the founder of the bi-annual Speak, Kauai spoken word performances on Hawaii that showcase writers from all over the world to sold out audiences, live streams and standing ovations.

Scene Making: The Essence of Storytelling

with Elizabeth Stark & Ellen Sussman


A dramatic scene takes hold of a reader and insists: Pay attention. Live here. Engage fully. Great scenes make the reader lean into the story, refuse to put down the book, dream the tale we put on the page. We know this and yet developing the images and ideas of our stories into wonderful, fleshed-out, vivid scenes challenges all of us. This Master Class will explore what “show, don’t tell” really means in the books we love — and in our own writing. We’ll aim to create unforgettable scenes that pull our readers into the story and don’t let go.

We’ll examine all of the elements that go into great scene-making: gripping narrative, revealing inner thoughts, sensory detail, pitch-perfect dialogue, great back-story, flawless prose. Does the setting serve your story? Have you chosen the right point of view? Is there dramatic action that moves your story forward? We’ll use in-class exercises in order to explore the many ways in which we can make a scene come alive on the page.

If we are socialized not to “make a scene,” how do we do just that? Push your characters over the edge, make things happen, get out of the habit of keeping quiet! Fiction is not life, but a heightened version of life. Same with narrative non-fiction. Get to the heart of your story and let it beat, loud and hard and with great force.

A small group workshop | 4 Afternoons | 3 hours per day

Ellen Sussman is the New York Times bestselling author of four novels, A Wedding in Provence, The Paradise Guest House, French Lessons, and On a Night Like This. She is the editor of two critically acclaimed anthologies, Bad Girls: 26 Writers Misbehave and Dirty Words: A Literary Encyclopedia of Sex. She teaches through Stanford Continuing Studies and in private classes and she is the co-founder and co-director of Sonoma County Writers Camp.

Elizabeth Stark is the host of Story Makers Podcast, and author of the novel Shy Girl (FSG, Seal Press), finalist for the Ferro-Grumely and Lambda Literary Awards. A feature film she produced, Lost in the Middle, won Best Feature at the 2019 Broad Humor Film Festival and was a Festival Favorite at Cinema Diverse in Palm Springs. She co-directed and co-wrote several films, including FtF: Female to Femme, a creative documentary and Little Mutinies, a short (both distributed by Frameline). She earned an M.F.A. from Columbia University in Creative Writing and has taught at the Pratt Institute, UCSC, St. Mary’s, where she was the visiting distinguished writer, and elsewhere. She currently co-directs and teaches at Book Writing World and Sonoma County Writers Camp.

Inside the World of Publishing

with Lisa Sharkey


Are you fantasizing about becoming a published author? How does your vision of what it takes to get published compare to the reality of what’s available to you? Lisa Sharkey, senior vice president and director of creative development at HarperColllins Publishers will teach a master class in how to go from concept  to book shelf. Students will learn the ins and outs of what makes a book sell, how to identify the right pathway to success, and the latest trends in publishing avenues. Lisa is known for her out of the box thinking and has been behind the publication of more than 50 New York Times bestsellers. The books she has acquired and published have sold millions of copies all over the world. Prior to her career and book publishing, Lisa was a television news journalist and has won two Emmy awards, a Peabody Award, and a Dupont award for her journalism.

A small group workshop | 4 Afternoons | 3 hours per day

Lisa Sharkey, SVP and Director of Creative Development at Harper Collins Publishers, was recently described by one of her authors, number one bestseller Congressman Jamie Raskin as a “clairvoyant publishing wizard”. Following more than two decades producing, writing and developing Emmy award-winning network and syndicated television news, Lisa made the switch into books because of her love for literature, storytelling, and going deep.

Sharkey is a champion of powerful, poignant, and persuasive storytelling. More than 75 of the books she has published have become New York Times bestsellers, selling millions of copies in multiple languages across the globe over the past 15 years. Her authors have accomplished extraordinary things and changed the world by telling their stories. Sharkey publishes books in the categories of politics, journalism, true crime, music, sports, medicine, self-help, cooking, mindfulness, science, religion, military life, and inspirational memoir. Sharkey is a mother of three, a yoga teacher, and a mentor of military veterans who are transitioning into civilian life.

She lives in one of New York’s first ever eco houses that she designed along with her architect husband who co-authored their book Dreaming Green.

Cutting and Polishing: Turning your good manuscript into a great book

with Elizabeth Rosner

You’ve completed a draft, or nearly so. You think it’s good. But is it the best it can be? Is it enough of a gem to stand out in today’s crowded marketplace? What can you do to transform your manuscript from adequate to extraordinary? That is the topic of this unique class.

In Elizabeth Rosner’s three-decade career as a teacher and nationally bestselling author, she has worked with hundreds of writers in revising and refining drafts and turning them into successful books. She has not won the Pulitzer for her writing (at least so far), but if there were one for teaching, we think she would be a top candidate. And a multitude of her grateful students share this opinion. She is truly an exceptional teacher.

Elizabeth will invite you to share excerpts, both those that you think are excellent, and others that you aren’t sure about. She will skillfully dissect them, finding what makes the great parts great and where the less-than-great parts are missing the mark.

She will help you to identify what truly works in your manuscript. The originality of your voice. The depth of your characters. The power of your story arc. The fluency and cleanliness of your prose. Then, with her exceptional gift for gently yet accurately guiding writers, she will help you understand where these strengths shine brightly, and where they don’t.

Writers sometimes dread the process of revision. “I gave it my best shot,” they tell themselves. “I’d rather move on to another book now.” And their book languishes unpublished, or if it is published, not widely read. Elizabeth’s inspirational teaching has helped many to bring the same joyful creative energy to the revision process that compelled them to write the book in the first place.

We enthusiastically recommend this class for writers who have a completed or nearly completed manuscript in any genre—fiction, memoir, non-fiction, short story or other—who have the courage to recognize that their creation is not quite the masterpiece they want it to be, and the determination to bring it to its true potential.


A small group workshop | 4 Afternoons | 3 hours per day

Elizabeth Rosner is a bestselling novelist, poet, and essayist living in Berkeley, California. Her most recent book, SURVIVOR CAFÉ: The Legacy of Trauma and the Labyrinth of Memory, was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered and in The New York Times; it was a finalist for a National Jewish Book Award and named one of the Best Books of 2017 by the San Francisco Chronicle. Her third novel, ELECTRIC CITY, was included among the Best Books of 2014 by National Public Radio. Her poetry collection, GRAVITY, was also published in 2014. THE SPEED OF LIGHT, Rosner’s acclaimed debut novel in 2001, was translated into nine languages. Short-listed for the prestigious Prix Femina, the book won several literary prizes in both the US and Europe, including the Prix France Bleu Gironde; the Great Lakes Colleges Award for New Fiction; and Hadassah Magazine’s Ribalow Prize, judged by Elie Wiesel. BLUE NUDE, her second novel, was selected as one of the Best Books of 2006 by the SF Chronicle. Rosner’s essays have appeared in the NY Times Magazine, Elle, the Forward, and numerous anthologies. Her book reviews appear frequently in the SF Chronicle. A graduate of Stanford University, the University of California at Irvine, and the University of Queensland in Australia, Elizabeth has been teaching writing workshops and lecturing internationally for three decades. She also coaches writers privately.

Screenwriting: What works, what doesn’t, and why

with Dale Launer


Screenwriting is a very different craft from novel writing. Fiction writers wanting to transition to screenwriters tend to forget that the primary impact of film is visual. Literature seeks to evoke visual image in the mind of the reader, but film does so directly. Dialog and description play supporting roles in film; visual image is the star.

Perhaps Dale’s unflagging awareness of the comedic impact of image is the key to what makes his films so funny. He admits that it is very difficult to define what works in comedy, and even harder to teach it. But he promises to try.

The route from ideas in the comedy writer’s head to finished scenes in a film is often circuitous. Dale’s stories about his road trip through Mississippi and Alabama he undertook as research for My Cousin Vinny are hilarious. He can tell about his real life introductions to grits, small town judges who wanted to avoid being described as unsophisticated, and getting stuck in the southern mud. And he will describe his battles with studio heads, directors and actors to portray what originally made him laugh in these experiences.

There will also very likely be one or two unannounced special guests dropping in to co-teach with Dale. But his leadership of the class is more than reason enough to enroll.



A small group workshop | 4 Afternoons | 3 hours per day

Dale Launer, the writer of some of the funniest movies ever made, is coming to the next KWC to teach a master class on screenwriting. Dale wrote and produced My Cousin Vinny. If you haven’t seen it, we envy you. If you’ve only seen it a couple of times, see it again. It’s no surprise that Marissa Tomei won the oscar for this role.

Dale also wrote Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, another comedic gem, starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine, directed by Frank Oz, and Ruthless People, with Danny DeVito and Bette Midler.

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