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Master Class Workshops

Four days of close personal guidance in small groups with living masters of their genres. Choose from Fiction, Memoir, Screenwriting, Poetry and others.

MORNING MASTER CLASSES

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

Writing Women’s Lives

Craft  |  Sheila Weller

Sheila is most drawn to tell the stories of exceptional women. Her class is for writers who share this passion. Whether your subject is contemporary or historical, if you want to bring the inner life of a remarkable woman to your pages, this class is for you. The class is equally appropriate for women writing memoirs. Often the difference between successful and unsuccessful memoirs is the strength of the story arc. No matter how interesting the episodes in your subject’s life, they must flow together in a sequence that keeps the reader anxious to know what comes next. Sheila achieves this gracefully in her writing, and will help her students to understand and master the concept.

 

 

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

Sheila Weller is a New York Times bestselling author of Girls Like Us and award-winning magazine journalist. She is the author of five previous books, most recently her 2003 family memoir, Dancing at Ciro’s, which The Washington Post called “a substantial contribution to American social history.” She is the senior contributing editor at Glamour, a contributor to Vanity Fair, and a former contributing editor of New York

She describes the genesis of Girls Like Us: The years just before Kennedy’s election, the Civil Rights movement, the beginning of rock ‘n’ roll, and the approval of the birth-control pill were the most disconsolately boring and strait-laced time to be a little girl in America. It was magical to have come into puberty when all of that changed on a dime. Not only did the music of these three singer-songwriters form the soundtrack of what came next, but they were also women we compared ourselves to—celebrity versions of ourselves. Conflating the biographies with the social history made sense.

Sheila is most drawn to tell the stories of exceptional women. Her class is for writers who share this passion. Whether your subject is contemporary or historical, if you want to bring the inner life of a remarkable woman to your pages, this class is for you.

The Art of Non-Fiction

Non-fiction | with Mark Kurlansky

 

In this four-day class, Mark will work closely with non-fiction writers on issues including:

  • Zeroing in on your topic—finding the fascination that lies hidden in plain sight.
  • Efficient research techniques to find gems of factual reality.
  • Meeting the challenges of nonfiction publishing

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

Mark Kurlansky is a beloved teacher of writing.  In addition to numerous guest lectures at Columbia University School of Journalism, Yale University, Colby College, Grinnell College, the University of Dayton  and various other schools, he has taught a two week creative writing class in Assisi, Italy, a one week intensive non-fiction workshop in Devon, England for the Arvon Foundation, and has guest lectured all over the world on history, writing, environmental issues, and other subjects. 

He is the widely acknowledged master of single-topic nonfiction. His bestsellers Cod, Salt, Milk, and Paper—among his thirty other booksshowed his many devoted readers the overlooked charm of the commonplace.

The New York Times Book Review describes him as “Brilliant… Journalistic skills might be part of a writer’s survival kit, but they infrequently prove to be the foundation for literary success, as they have here. …. Kurlansky has a wonderful ear for the syntax and rhythm of the vernacular… For all the seriousness of Kurlansky’s cultural entanglements, it is nevertheless a delight to experience his sophisticated sense of play and, at times, his outright wicked sense of humor.”

The Power of Words: Writing/Righting Our Lives

Memoir  |  A workshop collaboration with Amy Ferris and Linda Schreyer

Everyone has a story. Every woman, every man. Whether it’s deeply personal or greatly inspired. Whether it’s a long-held secret, or a long-held dream; every one of us has a story we want to tell, share, write about and get down on the page. And most of us don’t know where or how to begin. It’s daunting, it’s scary; the first word, the first sentence; bringing to life the very first paragraph. This workshop is all about igniting those words. One word leads to another word, leads to another word, leads to a sentence or two or three…and leads to a story. Amy Ferris and Linda Schreyer are collaborating on this extraordinary writing workshop dedicated to the irrefutable power of words and story telling; sharing those stories, the one’s we’ve kept hidden, the ones we dare share; the ones we’ve tucked away out fear and shame and humiliation. The ones we’ve imagined and concocted, and yes, dreamed about. The stories that move & shake & rattle the universe – the stories that save our lives, the stories that change the world: those are the very stories we are going to share in this workshop. Amy and Linda will help you unlock the story within you, and they will give you some tools to help you write it. You may very well be strangers when you first come to this master class – but you will be a community of writers by the time you leave. Tell us – what is your story?  

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

Amy Ferris is an author, screenwriter, editor and playwright. Her memoir, Marrying George Clooney: Confessions From A Midlife Crisis debuted theatrically (Off-Broadway) in 2012. Ruth Pennebaker of The New York Times called her memoir “poignant, free-wheeling, cranky and funny.” Amy edited the anthology SHADES OF BLUE, Writers on Depression, Suicide and Feeling Blue (Seal Press) and has contributed to numerous anthologies. In 2018, Amy was honored as one of the 21 Leaders for the 21st Century by Women’s eNews. Amy is currently co-authoring a book for Harper Collins which will be published in the Spring of 2019.

Linda Schreyer is an author, television and screenwriter, writing teacher and music composer. She has a long career as a writer for TV and movies, including over 1,000 hours of serial television for which she received a Writers Guild Award nomination. She has mentored countless writers to completion of their books, taught classes since 1995 and conducted large writing workshops for organizations. Her books include From Cowboy to Mogul to Monster, and Tears and Tequila.

Plot & Character Development

Craft  |  Greg Iles

For writers wrestling with nuanced multidimensional characters in a complex plot structure, this class will be a game changer. Greg will share intimate stories of life-altering moments that led him to fearlessly cast aside merely good prose in favor of the great. He will lead participants not to emulate him, but to delve into their lives to bring out their own unique gems of situation and personality.

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

New York Times #1 bestselling author Greg Iles navigates the line between big commercial thrillers and literature. The Washington Post writes: “Natchez Burning obliterates the artificial distinction between genre and literary fiction with passion, grace and considerable style.” The Times (London) called Natchez Burning “the thriller of the year, of the decade even.” Stephen King said, “Natchez Burning is extraordinarily entertaining and fiendishly suspenseful. I defy you to start it and find a way to put it down . . . This is an amazing work of popular fiction.”

Masters of Modern Fiction

Fiction  |  with Nicholas Delbanco

It is an honor and a privilege to have Nicholas Delbanco return for a third time to conduct a workshop at the Kauai Writers Conference. In this class, he will delve into the unique styles of masters of modern fiction. By analyzing their voices, he will guide his students to develop their own.

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. 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..

Delbanco is the author of twenty-nine books, both fiction and nonfiction. 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.

In The Art of Fiction, John Gardner paraphrases Delbanco, who “remarked that by the age of four one has experienced nearly everything one needs as a writer of fiction: love, pain, loss, boredom, rage, guilt, fear of death.” Yet Delbanco’s recent book, Lastingness, the Art of Old Age, reflects on the qualities that transcend age in the lives of authors. His most recent work of non-fiction, “Curiouser and Curiouser: Essays” continues that exploration, both in personal and in professional terms.
Delbanco has a unique voice. His workshop will focus on helping writers find and refine their own individual voices. He says: “My notion of a failed writing workshop is when everybody comes out replicating the teacher and imitating as closely as possible the great original at the head of the table.” Instead, in his storied career of helping authors, he has found the gift of identifying, honing, and perfecting the individual style of each one.

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 twenty-five 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.

Getting Ready for Publication

Publishing  |  with Andy Ross

This class is for writers who have fiction and creative non-fiction projects at an advanced stage and are ready to take the steps necessary for finding a commercial publisher. We will focus on final editing and polishing the craft elements of your manuscript including character, voice, style, and plot from the perspective of how literary agents and acquisition editors evaluate these elements in the acquisition process.

We will also discuss the steps you must take before submitting your project to agents. We will workshop your query letters and teach you what makes an effective non-fiction book proposal. We will consider strategies for finding the right agent for your project, and how to work with an agent who has decided to represent you. We will discuss the elements of the book contract and how the publisher will work with you before and after publication.  In the process, we will also have a lot to say about the culture and the business of book publishing.

Andy will consult with each participant individually and edit your draft query letters and book proposal overviews.

 

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

Andy Ross opened his literary agency in 2008. Prior to that, he was the owner of the legendary Cody’s Books in Berkeley for 30 years. During that time, he sold more than 10 million books and hosted over 5000 events for some of the world’s greatest authors. In 1989, Cody’s was fire bombed in retaliation for the store featuring Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. This made them the first victim of Islamic terrorism in The United States, which goes to show that bookselling can be a dangerous business. They never stopped selling the book.

Andy’s agency represents books in a wide range of non-fiction genres including: narrative non-fiction, science, journalism, history, popular culture, and current events . They also represent literary, commercial, historical, crime, upmarket women’s fiction, and YA fiction. For non-fiction he looks for writing with a strong voice, robust story arc, and books that tell a big story about culture and society by authors with the authority to write about their subject. In fiction, he likes stories about real people in the real world. No vampires and trolls, thank you very much. He doesn’t represent poetry, science fiction, paranormal, and romance. Andy also works as a freelance editor.

AFTERNOON MASTER CLASSES

4 Days | Monday 11/5 – Thursday 11/8  |  1:30pm to 4:30pm

5-Sense Psychology

Character  |  with Joshua Mohr

This class by Joshua Mohr was the surprise hit of the 2018 Kauai Writers Conference. By the second day, word spread about how good it was, and people were dropping out of classes given by more famous authors to sit in. Josh captivated his audience with his wit and unassuming wisdom. Students said it transformed their whole approach to writing. So many people asked for us to offer this class again that we present it unchanged for 2019.

This seminar will examine how setting might be a useful frame of reference for rendering a character’s inner life, the heartbeats and brainwaves of our main players. For if we’re interested in plumbing the existential depths of our protagonists, perhaps our readers need to traverse the mind and metaphorical heart as a 360 degree location, the setting of the mind.

Camaraderie between reader and main character is vital if we’re to establish a lasting, poignant connection between them. But how do we go about building that? What if we render a character’s consciousness as though it’s a cogent ecosystem for the reader to inhabit?

During the course, students will be led through all five senses – touch, taste, sight, smell, hearing –learning how to translate these perceptions into opportunities to enhance thought process and psychic access on the page. Through in-class reading and writing prompts, students will practice each sense, cementing an understanding on how to bring these techniques straight into your work-in-progress, building dynamic inner lives for your characters, places for your reader to curl up and listen to the whispers of the heart.

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.”

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

Breathing Life into your Novel

Fiction | with Anne Perry & Victoria Zackheim

 

Anne Perry, the author of more than ninety novels, many on the New York Times bestseller list, and Victoria Zackheim, novelist, playwright, and instructor in the UCLA Writers’ Program, are not only dear friends, but they have collaborated on many projects and taught workshops together. Both of them are dedicated to the working with authors to create compelling and marketable plots, and to take those fictional (or fictionalized) characters and give them unique and memorable voices.

This workshop will guide you through the basics of creating your novel. Plot and character development, back story, identifying/developing/portraying character arcs, learning about continuity, conflict, and then resolution. Add to this instruction on outlining the novel, organizing scenes, building tension…and editing.

By the end of this four-day course, you will have the skeleton…and good amount of flesh!…for your novel.

Would you like to pull your readers into a story they cannot resist? This is a good place to start!

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

Anne Perry is an extremely prolific writer. She works at her craft 12 hours a day, six days a week. Death on Blackheath is the twenty-ninth in her Victorian mystery series starring Thomas and Charlotte Pitt. Its first installment, The Cater Street Hangman, was released in 1979. She has also written twenty novels in her William Monk series, set in an earlier period of Victoria’s reign.  In addition to those 49 novels, she also, during those 35 years, wrote five World War I mysteries, two faith-inspired epic fantasy novels that explore the meaning of life, and 11 mystery novellas with Christmas themes, three YA novels featuring time travel, two adult historicals set in late-18th-century France, and another set in the waning stages of the Byzantine Empire.

 
Victoria Zackheim is author of The Bone Weaver and creator/editor of six anthologies, including The Other Woman, which she adapted to the theater. Her play Entangled was based on the memoir of the same name. Victoria wrote Maidstone, a feature film about the IRA prison breakout in Northern Ireland, now under development, and is working with Amber Entertainment and mystery writer Anne Perry on a series based on Perry’s Thomas Pitt series. Victoria wrote the documentary Where Birds Never Sang: The Story of Ravensbrück and Sachsenhausen Concentration Camps, which aired nationwide on PBS. She created Women’s Voices, an event in which five authors present their work and discuss the craft of writing and the life of a writer. She teaches creative nonfiction/essay in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program.

The Art of the Short Story

Short Story | with Richard Bausch

 

The Kauai Writers Conference is honored to have this master of his genre give a class devoted to short story writing. Crafting a short story is a no less demanding task than writing a novel. In some ways it is harder. Characters need to be fully developed and a compelling story arc traversed in just a few pages. Add to that the fact that few short story collections ever make it to the best seller lists, and one might wonder why writers would set their sights on such a daunting task. The answer, as for any art form, is simple: because they are compelled to.

In this small group workshop, Richard will cover such key elements of short story success as the importance of the untold subtext, creating memorable characters with an economy of words, and grabbing and keeping the readers’ imagination. This is a rare opportunity for intimate communication with this true short story genius.

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

In selecting Richard Bausch for the 2012 Rea Prize, the highest honor in short story writing, jurors Stuart Dybek, and Richard Ford wrote:

“Richard Bausch is a shining light in the small group of great American story-writers. His stories, published in many languages and widely anthologized in our own country, bear out the directive that literature should renew our sensuous and emotional lives and foster a new awareness in its readers. Bausch’s stories, solidly, eloquently in the realistic tradition shared by O’Connor (Frank and Flannery).Welty, Cheever and Yates, are ever in search of the heretofore unsayable in human affairs. In doing so, they are incisive, surprising, felicitous, various, often mirthful, and unstintingly about those subjects we can not afford to ignore: matters of life and death, yes; but chiefly matters of life sustained.”

Bringing the Past Alive

Craft | with Whitney Scharer & Priya Parmar

 

This class with Priya and Whitney is an exceptional opportunity for writers of historical fiction to hone their craft. It is designed for writers of this genre at all levels of accomplishment. Historical fiction presents unique challenges. It is neither biography nor pure fiction. Subjects’ lives must be meticulously researched, and the knowledge gained has to inspire rather than merely be reported upon. Achieving a distinctive voice for each character is nowhere more important than in historical fiction. Each must come alive on the page with authenticity, remaining always true to their personality. Both Priya and Whitney will inspire their students with accounts of their fascination in immersing themselves in the lives of real people, and extrapolating narratives as plausible as if they were purely factual.

Historical fiction presents its own challenges of point of view, character development, and story arc. Priya and Whitney each deal with these issues in unique ways. You will learn not merely to imitate them, but to adapt the lessons they have learned to tell your story in the way that rings most true to you and your characters.

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

Priya Parmar is the author of two acclaimed works of historical fiction, Exit the Actress, inspired by Nell Gwyn, an impoverished girl who became the mistress of Charles II, and Vanessa and Her Sister, a story of the Bloomsbury Group from the perspective of Virginia Woolf’s less famous sister Vanessa Bell.

The New York Times Book Review wrote of Vanessa and Her Sister, “Rarely do you encounter a woman who commands as much admiration as does the painter Vanessa Bell in Priya Parmar’s multilayered, subtly shaded novel. . . . Parmar’s fabricated journal is an uncanny success. Its entries, plausible and graceful, are imbued with the same voice that can be found in letters by or about Vanessa. . . . Parmar gives truth and definition to the character of a woman whose nature was as elusive as her influence was profound. She has caught the phantom.”

Whitney Scharer’s first book is due to be published in February, yet she has become one of the most talked-about authors in the publishing world. Her historical novel The Age of Light drew such interest that it was sold at auction for more than a million dollars, arguably the highest price ever for a debut work.

Fellow Kauai Writers Conference faculty member Paula McLain wrote, “Rapturous and razor sharp all at once, The Age of Light fearlessly unzips anything we might know of Lee Miller as model and muse and recasts her as artist, free thinker and architect of a singular and unapologetic life. Whitney Scharer is a stunning new discovery. This novel sparks on every page.”

Your Book into Film

Film | with Ken Sherman

 

Ken has made a career of adapting books for successful films and TV shows. Today with the rise of Netflix, Amazon and others, the opportunities to take your book to the screen are both greater and more complex than ever. In this class, Ken will draw upon a multitude of examples showing what worked, what didn’t, and the reasons—often subtle and non-obvious—for both. He will ask students to provide excerpts from their own writing and examine them in class, focusing on their potential for film and TV and what you can do to improve it.

Topics will include:

  • How to optimize your book for the screen
  • What the studios are looking for
  • Best points of entry for a writer hoping for success in film and TV
  • Successes that came from following rules and from breaking rules

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

Ken Sherman President of Ken Sherman & Associates, a Los Angeles based literary agency. The company was established in 1989, and handles film, television, and book writers, as well as selling film and television rights for books and life-rights.

An agent for more than twenty years, Ken is also a popular and accomplished speaker, having taught and lectured extensively at venues including UCLA, USC, Loyola Marymount University, both in New Orleans and Los Angeles, The Santa Barbara Writers’ conference, the American Film Institute, The San Francisco Writers Conference, The Maui Writers Conference, The University of Oklahoma, Sherwood Oaks Experiment College, The Santa Fe Writers Conference, The Novelists, Inc. Conference in San Diego, The Aspen Institute, the Aspen Summers Words Writers Conference and The Eugene International Film Festival where he just received a lifetime achievement award.

Ken teaches his course, “The Business of Writing for Screen, Television and the Publishing Worlds,” at both USC and UCLA. He also co-taught a screenwriting class for many years at the Eugene International Film Festival. He serves as an Arts and Cultural Affairs Commissioner for the City of West Hollywood, is a founding member of the British Academy of Film and Television/Los Angeles (BAFTA), and is a member of both the Academy of Television Arts and Science and the International Advisory Board of the Christopher Isherwood Foundation.

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