Master Class Workshops

Four days of close personal guidance in small groups. Choose from Fiction, Memoir, Poetry, Screenwriting, Nonfiction, Publishing and more.


4 Days | Monday 11/11 – Thursday 11/14  2024 |  9:00am to 12:00

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.

Turning Life Into Art

with Christina Baker Kline, Paula McLain & Meg Wolitzer


Turning Life into Art has been our most popular class for several years. Over the course of the class, students will develop a piece of writing that they will share in a smaller group, guided by one of the instructors, with individual workshop-style feedback for each participant. We will reunite during the final class to discuss lessons learned and next steps.

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 the 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 | 4 Mornings | 3 hours per day

Christina Baker Kline’s The Exiles, 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.

The Hero’s Journey in Fiction and Film

with Christopher Vogler


Christopher Vogler is arguably the most important story consultant to major studios over the last several decades. His interpretation of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces became the essential guide to the structure of countless films. At Disney, for example, his ideas were key to the story arc of classics like The Lion King and Finding Nemo.

In this class, Vogler will dive into the deep heart of the hero’s journey. What are its components? Why does it work so universally in stories of diverse genres, times and places? How can you use this concept to tell your own story in a way that readers or audiences will find spellbinding? Through Vogler’s inspired approach to storytelling, participants will discover the role of the hero’s journey in their stories and, perhaps, in their own lives.

We’re proud to offer this class. It has the potential to fundamentally transform your work and your understanding of the purpose of storytelling. It is equally applicable to writers of fiction, memoir, and screenplay. If desired, participants may submit excerpts from their work for Vogler to analyze in class.



Here is a good analysis of Christopher Vogler’s concepts in a preface he wrote to Myth and the Movies:

A group workshop | 4 Mornings | 3 hours per day

Christopher Vogler is a staple in film classes the world over, Vogler’s influential guide, The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers,  tracks the hero’s path from trials to triumph, a flexible template that has stood the test of time. “Stories are resilient and seem to be adapting to a new age and new realities with the help of writers who are always looking for unexpected ways to put together the elemental pieces,” Vogler says.

Vogler has worked for Disney, Fox and Warner Brothers and was instrumental in developing some of their most iconic films.

Advanced Narrative Design | Keeping Readers Hooked

with Jean Kwok


This will be an advanced version of the class that Jean Kwok offered last year. It will be suitable for both previous and new students. Her existing and previous students may register for it at this time.

Students who have not yet taken a class by Jean are asked to submit a 3 to 5 page excerpt from their writing to info@kauaiwritersconference.com. Jean will review these before inviting those students to register. This is a class for writers who are serious about publishing a novel with a traditional publisher and building a successful career as a professional author. If you have been rejected by gatekeepers like agents and editors, this class offers ways of strengthening your manuscript. Only writers who are open to questioning, breaking apart and restructuring their existing work should apply. If you are writing for self-fulfillment or as a hobby, this is not the right class for you. There are a limited number of spaces available for this advanced class

Jean Kwok’s novels consistently hit the sweet spot between literary and commercial fiction. Her award-winning books are taught in schools around the world while hitting the New York Times and international bestseller lists. She often uses material from her own life, transforming sometimes painful experiences into art, and is living her dream of being a full-time, successful author. A gifted, encouraging, and experienced teacher, she is now ready to share her secrets with you in this rare opportunity. She writes:

We’ve all been there. You have a pile of carefully polished pages, yet they don’t seem to cohere. Or you have a sprawling monster of a novel that resists any attempt to tame it. Or maybe it’s always been your dream to write a novel but you have no idea how to get started. We all love to move commas around but often, our work needs larger structural changes to make it as compelling and powerful as possible.

This is a class that looks at different ways to plot and structure a novel, including treatment of character development, themes, setting, voice, and point of view. You don’t need to have a draft of a novel to attend. Rather, the course is a combination of lectures and generative writing time.

 Our ultimate goal is to help you find a stronger structure for your novel that could lead to publication.


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

Jean Kwok is the award-winning, NYT and international bestselling author of The Leftover Woman, Searching for Sylvie Lee, Girl in Translation and Mambo in Chinatown. Her work has been published in more than twenty countries and taught in schools across the world. She was one of twelve contemporary authors asked by the Agatha Christie estate to write an original, authorized Miss Marple story. All of her novels are in development for film and television. The Leftover Woman was a Good Morning America Book Club Buzz Pick, CBS New York Book Club Top 3 Pick, Book of the Month Pick, and a LibraryReads Top 10 Pick selected by library staff across America. An instant New York Times bestseller, Searching for Sylvie Lee was chosen for the Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club. She has appeared on The Today Show and Good Morning America, and spoken at many schools and venues including Harvard, Columbia and Talks at Google. A television documentary was filmed about Jean and her work. She divides her time between the Netherlands and New York City.

How to Write a Great Short Story:
Cultivating Empathy, Voice, and Character in Short Fiction (Morning)

with Lauren Groff & Heidi Pitlor


Join the guest editor and series editor of the 2024 volume of perennial bestseller, The Best American Short Stories, for a rare look inside a beloved American genre. Short stories are often the chosen form of new fiction writers. Increasingly, film scouts and content providers are looking to short stories for potential adaptation and publication. Mastering the short form may be your goal, or may be a useful skill in learning to write and revise novels. Groff and Pitlor discuss what they looked for when choosing The Best American Short Stories, and what all writers can learn from this.

Through discussion, generative exercises, close study of successful short stories, and question and answer sessions, Groff and Pitlor will guide you toward seeing your own and others’ fiction in a new way. They’ll discuss structure, point of view, narrative distance, characterization, as well as learning to cultivate your individual process and voice as a writer. Every piece you write is different, and must be approached in a different way. Learning to master one story is a great way to learn about your own process as a writer.


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

Lauren Groff is the guest editor of this year’s The Best American Short Stories, collaborating with editor Heidi Pitlor

She is a three-time National Book Award finalist and The New York Times–bestselling author of the novels The Monsters of TempletonArcadiaFates and Furies, Matrix, and The Vaster Wilds, and the celebrated short story collections Delicate Edible Birds and Florida. She has won The Story Prize, the ABA Indies’ Choice Award, France’s Grand Prix de l’Héroïne, and the Joyce Carol Oates Prize, and has been a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her work regularly appears in The New YorkerThe Atlantic, and elsewhere. Her work has been translated into thirty-six languages. She lives in Gainesville, Florida.

Heidi Pitlor has been the series editor of the annual bestselling anthology The Best American Short Stories since 2007. Before that, she was a senior editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for ten years. In 2022, she founded Heidi Pitlor Editorial, a small freelance firm that provides editorial services to agents, editors, and published writers. Of HPE, MacArthur “genius” grant recipient and Pulitzer Prize finalist Karen Russell said, “Heidi Pitlor is one of the kindest and keenest editors I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with and her notes have been invaluable to me.” She has worked with Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, Cheryl Strayed, Min Jin Lee, Anthony Doerr, Rainbow Rowell, Jesmyn Ward, and many other writers.

Heidi is the author of the novels The Birthdays, The Daylight Marriage, which was optioned for film, and Impersonation, of which Good Morning America said, “[it] highlights what’s important in life, parenthood, and ambition in this compulsively readable story.”

Defining Your Author Brand

with Lisa Sharkey


Many people have wonderful ideas for their books. But one thing most author hopefuls don’t have is the awareness that every book and every author is a brand. In this class you’ll come to realize that as important as it is to write a great book, it’s equally important to figure out who is going to read your book and where are you going to find your readers?

Lisa Sharkey, senior vice president and director of creative development at HarperCollins for more than 16 years, has helped hundreds of authors hone brand-building skills to grow their audience in both fiction and non-fiction book publishing.

What’s the right social media vertical for you?
How do you generate buzz about your book even before you have sold it?

Should you write the whole book first or should you focus as much on growing your audience as finishing your pages? What kinds of posts attract the most attention from your existing audience, and which posts will introduce you to new audiences who haven’t even heard about you yet?

In addition to publishing dozens of New York Times, bestsellers, Lisa oversaw the creation of a social media marketing programming at HarperCollins with more than 33 million views in just a few short years and has deep knowledge of how to position authors for maximum exposure.

The course will also include one on one attention in front of the class for each attendee as we structure their brand development and help them frame their author platform and profile for maximum exposure.

A small group workshop | 4 Mornings | 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.

Guiding a Poem to an Ending

with Billy Collins

This opportunity to study with “America’s most popular poet,” will be limited to twelve participants.
You can spot a Billy Collins poem immediately. The amiable voice, the light touch, the sudden turn at the end. He “puts the ‘fun’ back in profundity,” says poet Alice Fulton. In his own words, his poems tend to “begin in Kansas and end in Oz.”

This workshop will focus on the poem’s transit from its beginning, through its middle to the end–so not to leave anything out. We will observe how a poem launches itself, how it finds reasons to continue to flow, and how it finally discovers a place to settle at the end. We will also examine a number of verbal maneuvers that can brighten a poem and even liberate it from itself, much to everyone’s surprise and delight!

Billy asks that people who took this class last year not register for it again this year.

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

Billy Collins’s level of fame is almost unprecedented in the world of contemporary poetry. He served two terms as the US poet laureate, from 2001-2003, was New York State poet laureate from 2004-2006, and is a regular guest on National Public Radio programs. In 2002 Collins was asked to write a poem commemorating the first anniversary of the fall of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on September 11. The reading was in front of a joint session of Congress held outside of Washington, DC.

Dubbed “the most popular poet in America” by Bruce Weber in the New York Times, Billy Collins is famous for conversational, witty poems that welcome readers with humor but often slip into quirky, tender, or profound observation on the everyday, reading and writing, and poetry itself. He has taught at Columbia University, Sarah Lawrence, and Lehman College, City University of New York, where he is a Distinguished Professor.

Writing for Series Comedy

with Marta F. Kauffman & Amy Ferris

Marta Kauffman was scheduled to teach this class in 2022. She wasn’t able to come and presented a virtual version instead.  We’re delighted that she and Amy will be here this year to teach it in person.

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, Marta will create breakout groups and give you assignments to work on with fellow participants. Sharpen your pencil, because 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).

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.

Write On: Achieving Successful Publication

with Ryan Harbage​


As an agent, I read thousands of queries a year. And hundreds of manuscripts. Few query letters are compelling. And when considering manuscripts, most of the time I know if I will want to offer to represent someone within the first few pages. How can a writer get to a yes?
In this course we will analyze a successful query letter,  and workshop your title, query letter, and the first three pages of your manuscript. We will discuss the early stages of the publishing process, including querying and negotiating an agency agreement.

This class will be especially useful for anyone planning one-on-one sessions with agents or publishers later during the conference. Ryan’s guidance will help you polish your presentation to maximize the chances that the agent or publisher will be intrigued, will request a full manuscript, and take you on as a client.

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

Ryan Harbage was an editor at Simon & Schuster where he helped create and launch a new imprint, Simon Spotlight Entertainment (now Gallery Books). He also worked as an editor for Little, Brown & Company as well as Penguin Random House.

He founded The Fischer-Harbage Agency in January, 2007 and has placed books for five #1 New York Times bestselling authors. Ryan’s most lauded clients include Karim Dimechkie, Jen Doll, Miranda Esmonde-White, Thomas Healy, Alicia Menendez, Melissa Harris-Perry, Janet Mock, Taylor Plimpton, Rob Roberge, Robbie Robertson, Susan Shapiro, J. Ryan Stradal, and Jackson Taylor.

For many years, Ryan taught courses on writing book proposals and fiction at The New School University’s MFA Program, Pratt, and Mediabistro.

Pens Up, Fears Down!

with Sadeqa Johnson

Do you have a novel inside of you but that tiny voice of self-doubt keeps getting in your way? Creativity belongs to everyone. Whether you have a partial draft, or bits and scraps of an idea, this class is designed to help you dive deeper and unravel the guts of your story. Whether your desire is to increase the stakes, strengthen your plot line, add layers and textures to your manuscript or simply get a stronger handle on craft — this workshop is for you.

In an intimate safe space, we will take a deep dive and explore timeless tips of the trade in character development, plot, and story structure. From conception to finishing strong, and all the threading in between, we will make space for your muse as we put pen to page. Come ready to set an intention for your novel and create a focus wheel to support all that you hope to pour into this draft.

Join Sadeqa Johnson as we push past the obstacles blocking your creative path and unleash the novel inside of you.

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

Sadeqa Johnson, a former public relations manager, spent several years working with well-known authors such as J.K. Rowling, Amy Tan and Bishop T.D. Jakes before becoming an author herself. She is a New York Times Bestselling author of five novels and the recipient of the National Book Club Award for fiction, the Phillis Wheatley Award and the USA Best Book Award for best fiction.

Her most recent novel, The House of Eve was an instant New York Times Best Seller, selected by Reese’s Book Club as the February 2023 pick and a 2023 Goodreads Choice Award finalist for historical fiction. Her previous novel, Yellow Wife, was named by Oprah Magazine as “27 of 2021 Most Anticipated Winter Historical Fiction books.” Yellow Wife was also a 2021 Goodreads Choice Award finalist for historical fiction, a 2022 Hurston/Wright Foundation Legacy finalist, a BCALA Literary Honoree, the Library of Virginia’s Literary People’s Choice Award winner, and a Barnes & Noble book club pick in paperback. Johnson teaches in the MFA program at Drexel University.

Unputdownable: Techniques for Crafting a Page-turning Read

with Ruth Ware

Ruth Ware is a master of the psychological thriller. She is often called the modern-day Agatha Christie. Her novels have sold many millions of copies worldwide and have frequently topped the NY Times bestseller list. We’re “thrilled” that she’ll offer this class on how she manages to craft prose that is widely regarded as “unputdownable.”

Ruth will cover topics including creating plot, tension and pace with a focus on the perfect hook, using suspense and narrative questions to lead the reader through a page-turning read. The central question of the class: how do you write something people find unputdownable? She will focus on crime and psychological thriller, but with reference to other strong, hooky reads so that the class will be applicable to people writing all genres.

Here’s Ruth’s outline of the four days’ topics:

  • The first session will be focused on “the hook”, looking at books with a strong recognizable hook and how you can brainstorm out from that into a larger plot, as well as identifying the hook in your own novel – and why that’s important.
  • The second session focus on plotting, working outwards from basics like the three-act structure to plotting techniques like the snowflake and the diamond, as well as looking at how those techniques apply to pantsers or part-pantsers like myself.
  • The third session will look at narrative questions and using those to create suspense, with a discussion of twists and  reveals and how those differ.
  • The fourth session will be a nuts-and-bolts dive into setting, atmosphere and text-level ways to immerse your reader into your story.

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

Ruth Ware grew up in Lewes, in Sussex. After graduating from Manchester University she moved to Paris, before settling in North London.

She worked as a waitress, a bookseller, a teacher of English as a foreign language and a press officer, before settling down as a full-time writer. She now lives with her family in Sussex, on the south coast of England.

She is the #1 New York Times-bestselling author of In a Dark, Dark WoodThe Woman in Cabin 10, and The Lying Game. Ruth’s books have also won or been nominated for various awards: In a Dark, Dark Wood won NPR best book of 2015 and RT Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best Suspense Novel; The Woman in Cabin 10 was nominated for the 2016 Goodreads Choice Awards, Best Mystery & Thriller; One by One, was shortlisted for the 2021 Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award at the Crime Writers Association Awards; and The It Girl was shortlisted for the 2023 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year.

Her books have been published in over 40 territories. Ruth’s new mystery thriller, One Perfect Couple, will be released in summer 2024.


4 Days | Monday 11/11 – Thursday 11/14 2024 |  1:30 to 4:30pm

The Art of Subtext

with Joshua Mohr


Grace Paley once famously observed that a writer has written One Story when she’s written Two Stories–both the literal action and the subtextual action. As storytellers, we need to dote on both planes of the narrative evenly, but how, exactly, do we accomplish that feat?


To complicate that question, which way should authors attempt to build: from the literal action down, or up from the subtext? The answer, of course, is that we need to master working in both directions. 

In this course, we’ll dive into specific techniques to make sure our subtexts buzz with vibrant life. Via reading and critiquing published fiction and nonfiction and in-class writing exercises, students will leave our time together with a robust understanding of subtext so their art functions at an optimal level.​


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.

Lessons from Historical Fiction

Priya Parmar


This class is an exceptional opportunity both for writers of historical fiction to hone their craft, and for writers of other genres to apply the insights from historical fiction to bring verisimilitude to their own characters. It is designed for writers 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. Priya and Jane 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 deals with these issues in a unique way. You will learn not merely to imitate Priya, but to adapt the lessons she  has 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’s novel, Vanessa and Her Sister was recently chosen as a New York Times Book Review ‘Editor’s Choice’ selection, an Entertainment Weekly ‘Must List’ pick, a People Magazine ‘Book of the Week’, and as an editor’s pick for: O Magazine, Oprah.com, Vanity Fair, Elle Magazine, New York Magazine, Christian Science Monitor, US Weekly and USA Today and Priya was chosen for the Barnes and Noble ‘Discover Great New Writers’ 2015 program. She is the author of one previous novel, Exit the Actress. Priya is also the co-author of the wildly successful musical Sylvia, which debuted last year at London’s Old Vic theater. Priya divides her time between Kauai and London.

Crafting a Breakout Debut Novel:
Winning the hearts of readers and publishers

with John Searles


People think breaking into the publishing world is very tough for a first time novelist, but actually agents, publishers and readers are hungry for new voices. In fact, a debut novelist has an easier time than someone whose first novel didn’t earn back the advance paid by the publisher.

This will be a class that is equally about the craft of writing and the business of writing.

Upon the 2001 publication of John Searles’s  first novel, the critically acclaimed Boy Still Missing, Time named him a “Person to Watch” and the New York Daily News named him a “New Yorker to Watch.”

In this class, you’ll learn from a writer who achieved it what it really took to have a successful debut novel. John will cover such things as finding the essence of your most authentic and winning voice, crafting characters that people will care deeply about, creating a story arc that compels people to keep reading. Then he’ll share little-known but crucial elements of finding and working with an agent and developing a relationship with your publisher that will motivate them to invest in promoting your book.


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

John Searles is a New York Times bestselling and award-winning writer. His books are published in over a dozen languages and have been voted best of the year or top picks by Boston Globe, Entertainment Weekly, Salon and the American Library Association. The film adaptation of his novel, Strange But True, is currently streaming on Amazon Prime with an-all-star ensemble cast including Brian Cox (Succession), Amy Ryan (Only Murders In The Building), Nick Robinson and Margaret Qualley (Maid), Greg Kinnear and Blythe Danner. John’s recently published novel, Her Last Affair, was praised as “delightfully creepy” by People, “a tense, intricately woven tale of heartbreak, retribution and redemption” by Publishers Weekly and “a twisted thriller that explores despair and loneliness with cinematic flair” by Kirkus. For more than 20 years, John was the Books Editor of Cosmopolitan magazine. He appears frequently on NBC’s Today show as well having appeared on CBS This Morning, CNN, NPR’s Fresh Air and other national shows to discuss his books as well as his favorite reading recommendations.


Giving Your Work “A Certain Shape”

with Jess Walter


“I used to think when I was younger and writing that each idea had a certain shape …” — Anne Carson 

From short stories to films to epic novels, we’ll discuss and explore ways to give your fictional stories an elegant and satisfying structure, and to think beyond plot and “what happens” in your work. What are the most pleasing shapes for stories? How does the beginning foretell the end? What can we use from different genres to enliven our own? And how can we animate a story that feels dead in the water?

We will also create a new story, using a very short fiction-writing assignment that can help you when you find yourself stuck on longer pieces. And you’ll get to ask questions of the Structural Mechanic, who can help figure out that awful scraping sound in your novel’s plot, or why your story is so slow to accelerate.

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

Jess Walter is the author of ten books, most recently the story collection The Angel of Rome and the best-selling novels The Cold Millions and Beautiful RuinsThe Zero, finalist for the National Book Award; and Citizen Vince, winner of the Edgar Award. His work has been published in 34 languages and his short fiction has appeared three times in Best American Short Stories.


The Art of Suspense

with Chris Pavone


Mystery, thriller, espionage, domestic, cozy, noir, psychological suspense, police procedural . . . the subcategories and niches of suspense fiction not only dominate bestseller lists but also attract many of today’s most accomplished literary talents. This class examines the challenges and opportunities of working in these overlapping spaces, focusing on plot, pacing, reveals, and twists. We will discuss the merits and pitfalls of high-concept novels; the role of factual research and the realism continuum; the importance of specificity of place; the uses and overuses of outlines; the magnitude of beginnings and endings; the centrality of the pitch; and the essentials of joining the crime-fiction community.

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

Chris Pavone is the author of five international thrillers, beginning with The Expats in 2012 and most recently the instant bestseller Two Nights in Lisbon. His novels have appeared on the bestseller lists of the New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and IndieNext; have won both the Edgar and Anthony awards, and have been shortlisted for the Strand, Macavity, Thriller, and L.A. Times Book Prize; are in development for feature and series; and have been translated into two dozen languages. Chris grew up in Brooklyn, graduated from Cornell, and spent the first half of his career working in book publishing in positions ranging from copy editor at Doubleday and managing editor of the Lyons Press to executive editor at Clarkson Potter and deputy publisher at Workman. He lives in New York City.

The Writer’s Voice

with Tom Perrotta


Some writers have an unmistakable signature—Joan Didion’s cool detachment, James Baldwin’s oscillation between sadness and anger, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s enchanting lushness, David Sedaris’s unshakeable insistence on the absurdity of life. Other writers are a little subtler in announcing themselves—Alice Munro, Willa Cather, Chekhov, to name a few—but no less distinctive once we get to know them.  

Where do these remarkable voices come from? Parts of it must be the product of a writer’s conscious choices—style, tone, esthetic vision, etc.. But other elements are biographically determined—a writer’s race and gender and sexual orientation, the place where they come from, the history they live through. And then beyond that, there’s some kind of artistic alchemy that weaves all these unruly elements together to form a single literary personality.

In this master class, we’ll take a look at some writers with distinctive voices, and try to figure out what makes them unique. We’ll also do some in-class exercises to try to unlock and refine the individuality of our own voices.

In addition, we’ll have a daily workshop, in which we’ll read and critique one another’s work, keeping our focus on the centrality of the writer’s voice while also considering other elements that make for effective writing.  It’s my hope that the class will inspire each of us to sound a little more like ourselves, and a little less like everyone else.

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

Tom Perrotta is the bestselling author of ten works of fiction, including Election and Little Children, both of which were made into Oscar-nominated films, and The Leftovers, which was adapted into a critically acclaimed, Peabody Award-winning HBO series. His other books include Bad Haircut , The Wishbones , Joe College, The Abstinence Teacher, Nine Inches, Mrs. Fletcher, and his newest, Tracy Flick Can’t Win (Scribner, 2022). His work has been translated into a multitude of languages. Perrotta grew up in New Jersey and lives outside of Boston.

Using Structure and Point of View to Engage Readers

with Mary Beth Keane


If you have tried writing fiction then you know that having a good idea is only the very first step in writing a good novel. Once you have your great idea for a story, you immediately have a much bigger problem: how to tell it?

So much of writing fiction comes down to making decisions about structure and point of view. Will the novel cover forty years or four days? Will you tell it linearly? Or will you jump back and forth in time? And from which character’s perspective should a story be told? Even within those choices there are more choices! First person or third person? Should it be told from a distant bird’s eye view or is the story you want to tell more resonant from an interior stream-of-consciousness perspective? And if you think it should be a combination of these strategies, how do you choose when to move back and forth between?

This is a class that looks at different ways to plot and structure a novel. You don’t need to have a draft of a novel to attend. Rather, the course is a combination of lectures and generative writing time.

Each participant should bring a short excerpt from their own fiction and/or a brief synopsis of their novel-in-progress (up to 4 pages.) I will ask you to share these with our workshop so that we’re all familiar with the baseline story and the stakes. We will also be creating new work in class that will then be discussed together.

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

Mary Beth Keane attended Barnard College and the University of Virginia, where she received an MFA. She was awarded a John S. Guggenheim fellowship for fiction writing, and has received citations from the National Book Foundation, PEN America, and the Hemingway Society. She is the author of The Half Moon, The Walking PeopleFever, and Ask Again, Yes, which spent eight weeks on the New York Times Best Seller List. To date, Ask Again, Yes has been translated into twenty-two languages.

Writing Poetry Differently

with Marie Howe


The poet Stanley Kunitz once cautioned us against clichés of speech, but he went on to caution us against clichés of thought and feeling as well. What are clichés of thought and feeling? What are ours? How do we undermine, and revise thought habits, feeling habits, and composition habits so that writing (and revision) can become a way of discovering the new? Come prepared to get a little lost. Come ready to generate a lot of writing. Come ready to destroy what you might have had in mind so that you might have an experience you did not anticipate. This workshop will be mostly generative and celebrative with some occasional critique offered by the leader that might be helpful to everyone.

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

Marie Howe is the author of four volumes of poetry: Magdalene: Poems (W.W. Norton, 2017); The Kingdom of Ordinary Time (W.W. Norton, 2009); What the Living Do (1997); and The Good Thief (1988). She is also the co-editor of a book of essays, In the Company of My Solitude: American Writing from the AIDS Pandemic (1994). From 2012-2014, she served as the Poet Laureate of New York State. She is the poet in residence at The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, and a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

“Marie Howe’s poetry is luminous, intense, and eloquent, rooted in an abundant inner life. Her long, deep-breathing lines address the mysteries of flesh and spirit, in terms accessible only to a woman who is very much of our time and yet still in touch with the sacred.” —Stanley Kunitz

The Art of 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 Afternoons | 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.”

Living As A Writer Means Words on the Page

with Amanda Eyre Ward


What does it mean to live as a writer? Grab your coffee or tea and get a taste of the writing life by putting words on paper every single day in this advanced, hands-on seminar with New York Times-bestselling novelist and nonfiction writer, Amanda Eyre Ward.

Drawing on prompts, exercises, narrative strategies and questions that have inspired her eleven books of fiction and nonfiction, Amanda will begin each class with a targeted exercise and time to write, followed by a craft discussion. Class members will then share what they have produced and have time to ask specific questions.

How do we begin? How do we understand our brain and what it is capable of each day? What about writer’s block? Can we understand a character so well that we know when we have taken a wrong turn? Should we write what we know, what terrifies us, or both?

Join Amanda in living as a working writer each day. After this class, you will return home with a renewed sense of creative inspiration, a tool box of tricks to inspire your best writing, and new pages.

Bring your computer, pencil, or pen!

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

Amanda Eyre Ward is the author of The Jetsetters, The Lifeguards, 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.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). 

Her newest novel Lovers and Liars will be released in May by Ballantine Books.

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