Writing Classes

Memoir in a Year

January 2015-December 2015
22 Class/Workshop Sessions
Thursday Mornings, See Schedule Below
Individual Consultation and Group Writing Sessions
Instructor: Sharon Harrigan
Cost: $1,249

SharonPortraits0055-LWhether you've already written some scenes or chapters or are starting with just an idea, "Memoir in a Year" will help you turn your dramatic real-life events into a compelling story that has the arc of a novel. It takes hard work and courage to record your experiences on the page, and a book-length manuscript poses extra challenges. How do you structure a longer work? How do you capture the people you know and the difficult moments in detail? And how do you keep yourself at the desk writing through it all?

Here's the good news: You don't have to do it alone.

Memoir in a Year is an opportunity to join a writing cohort, study memoir craft and technique, workshop key scenes, measure your progress, meet goals and deadlines, and give and get support for the long slog from plotting to composition to revision and beyond.

This will be an MFA-level class. Class size is limited to 8, and participants must apply for admission. 

Read more: New! Write Your Memoir in 2015

Erika Meitner Instructor: Erika Meitner
Cost: $60 Members | $65 Non-Members
Saturday, October 25, 2014 | 9:00 AM-1:00 PM

Limited to 12 students.

How can we learn to stop worrying about offending readers of our work? In this seminar, we'll explore taboos in poetry and ways to break common writing blocks around difficult subjects. We'll learn about various American rebel poets and poetic movements, and closely read poems by Catullus, Frank O'Hara, Sharon Olds, Denise Duhamel, and others. We'll also create new material using in-class writing exercises around taboo topics. Please bring a draft of a poem about something you consider “taboo.”

Read more: Seminar: How to Break the Rules of Poetry

Deborah Prum SQ Instructor: Deborah Prum
Cost: $60 Members | $65 Non-Members
Saturday, November 8, 2014 | 9:00 AM-1:00 PM

Limited to 12 students.

Do you have ideas you'd love to see in print? Perhaps you'd like to write humorous essays, political commentaries, articles on health, human interest stories, or something else that makes your heart beat a little faster. Participants in this seminar will identify their personal goals for freelance writing and come up with a plan for how to implement these goals. We'll discuss generating ideas, creating a good query letter, using social media efficiently, networking, and self-publishing.

Read more: Seminar: Getting Started with Freelance Writing

Don Fry new Instructor: Don Fry
Cost: $10 Members | $25 Non-Members
Wednesday, November 12, 2014 | 6:00 PM-7:00 PM

Limited to 3 students.

Work with writing coach Don Fry in a three-on-one coaching session. Each writer gets 20 minutes while the other two listen. (The secret is that you learn most by listening to the other two writers' sessions.) We will explore your writing process to help solve your biggest problem. Don does not work with text; writers' problems occur not in the text, but in the process that produced the text.

Read more: Small Group Sessions with Writing Coach Don Fry (November)

ed falco Instructor: Ed Falco
Cost: $60 Members | $65 Non-Members
Saturday, November 15, 2014 | 9:00 AM-1:00 PM

Limited to 12 students.

Writing fiction based on historical events has its own set of rewards, headaches, and responsibilities. We’ll discuss creating characters and developing plots based on historical figures and events. We’ll also talk about the writer’s responsibility to a constructed character and narrative versus the accurate representation of events and people. We won’t be able to solve every problem that arises in our discussions, but with luck we'll learn a thing or two about writing historical fiction.

Read more: Seminar: Writing True Crime Fiction: Narrative, History, and the Elements of Fiction

Jay Varner SQ Instructor: Jay Varner
Cost: $60 Members | $65 Non-Members
Saturday, December 6, 2014 | 1:00 PM-5:00 PM

Limited to 18 students. This seminar will take place in the expanded main event space.

Nonfiction author Philip Gerard says, "We write out of mystery, looking for an answer we don't have, trying to resolve what troubles us, to understand what seems beyond comprehension." Has any quote better encapsulated why we write about our family? Over a few hours, through writing exercises and group discussions about selected reading, we’ll come to understand how to approach what can be one of the trickiest but also one of the most rewarding things in a writer's life: putting your family on the page.

Read more: Seminar: Writing Your Family Story

Christine Stoddard Instructor: Christine Stoddard
Cost: $60 Members | $65 Non-Members
Saturday, December 13, 2014 | 9:00 AM-1:00 PM


Limited to 12 students.

The magic of Virginia lies in its stories, from textbook legends taught across America to neighborhood tales passed down for generations. Do you love Appalachian yarns or have an ancestor worthy of a biography? Bring your nonfiction Virginia story, including any research or drafts you may have. You will have the chance to share your ideas, try out several writing exercises, learn about Virginia history and folklore resources, and receive feedback on any work you've completed thus far.

Read more: Seminar: Writing About Virginia History

Sharon Harrigan Instructor: Sharon Harrigan
Cost: $189 Members | $210 Non-Members
8 Mondays, September 29-November 17, 2014
6:30 PM-9:00 PM


Learn how to turn your experiences into a true story that is as engaging as a novel. Writers in all stages are welcome, whether you are starting with a personal essay or two you’d like to turn into a book, you already have a book manuscript, or you are just starting with an idea. We will talk about the differences between memoir and autobiography and how choosing what not to tell is as important as choosing what to tell. We will do in-class writing prompts and read short passages from memoir masters to illustrate how to solve tricky problems. Each participant will be workshopped twice, with an option to meet individually after class with the instructor on the day of workshop. Previous students are welcome to enroll again. Required text: To Show and To Tell by Phillip Lopate. 

Read more: Your Life as a Story: Writing the Book-Length Memoir

Brendan Wolfe New Instructor: Brendan Wolfe
Cost: $189 Members | $210 Non-Members
8 Saturdays, October 4-November 22, 2014
1:00 PM-3:30 PM

In this workshop, we'll critique student writing in addition to considering a few published selections. The goal will be to move from the chin-strokingly philosophical—"What is a true story?" "Is it memoir or mem-wah?"—to the more practical: "How should this story be told?" "How do I convince my readers to share my passions?" "What parts am I allowed to make up?" All levels are welcome, but be prepared to write!

Read more: Creative Nonfiction Workshop

david ronka new Instructor: David Ronka
Cost: $189 Members | $210 Non-Members
8 Wednesdays, October 1-November 19, 2014
6:30 PM-9:00 PM


Are you a fiction writer looking for guidance and support? Here’s the chance to share your work with other writers as you craft what John Gardner calls the “vivid and continuous fictional dream.” Through class discussion, writing exercises, and close reading of each others’ writing, we’ll explore the writer’s craft, from generating ideas to producing a polished short story. Expect to contribute at least two short stories and brief written responses to your peers’ work.

Read more: Evening Fiction Workshop

Andrew Martin Instructor: Andrew Martin
Cost: $189 Members | $210 Non-Members
8 Wednesdays, October 1-November 19, 2014
1:00 PM-3:30 PM


Limited to 12 students.

This course on writing very short stories will ask some big questions. Like: what makes something a story, anyway? We'll read lots of contemporary flash fiction—pieces that range from a sentence to a couple of pages long—and workshop plenty of our own, too. The class welcomes writers of all experience levels, and, since "flash" often moves in the shadow-land between fiction, poetry, and memoir, writers of all genres will be welcome as well.

Read more: Flash Fiction Workshop (Daytime)

doug nordfors new Instructor: Douglas Nordfors
Cost: $189 Members | $210 Non-Members
8 Wednesdays, October 1-November 19, 2014
6:30 PM-9:00 PM


Starting from the notion that good poets believe that writing and reading are joined at the hip, this class will combine a friendly book-club-like atmosphere discussion of a wide selection of contemporary poets, both well known and not so well known, with in-class writing exercises designed to complement the discussion and to generate poem ideas. Participants will also be invited to bring in contemporary poems they admire, or have questions about, for discussion.

Read more: Contemporary Poets

jennifer niesslein Instructor: Jennifer Niesslein
Cost: $189 Members | $210 Non-Members
8 Wednesdays, October 1-November 19, 2014
1:00 PM-3:30 PM


How do you turn a simply competent piece of prose into work that stands out? Revision! In this class, we'll workshop participants' writing to help each essay or short story reach its greatest potential, as well as read examples of editing in progress. All participants will get written feedback from the workshop leader (a professional editor), and each class will begin with a short discussion of craft and/or markets. Best suited for intermediate and advanced writers; both fiction and nonfiction writers welcome.

Read more: Beyond the Early Drafts: Editing Your Fiction and Nonfiction

John Most color Instructor: John Most
Cost: $189 Members | $210 Non-Members
8 Tuesdays, September 30-November 18, 2014
6:30 PM-9:00 PM


We will read, write, and discuss poems in order to refine what makes our poems poetic. We will look at poems and poets that have influenced our own writing and invent writing experiments built upon rewriting, memories, and diction. This class is designed to be flexible, so what’s best for the class comes first. Students will have the opportunity to meet with the instructor individually as well as receive written responses to their poems. 

Students who enroll in John Most's poetry workshop are also encouraged to sign up for Douglas Nordfors's Contemporary Poets reading class.

Read more: Evening Poetry Workshop

Amie Whittemore Instructor: Amie Whittemore
Cost: $189 Members | $210 Non-Members
8 Thursdays, October 2-November 20, 2014
1:00 PM-3:30 PM


Poets at all levels are encouraged to take this workshop focused on improving your work through reading, writing, and the discussion of poems and poetic craft. We'll use Kim Addonizio's Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within to ground our discussions and foster inspiration. Students will workshop their poems in class and have the opportunity to meet individually with the instructor to discuss their work. Most importantly, this class is designed to respond to your individual goals for your writing. Required text: Ordinary Genius by Kim Addonizio. 

Read more: Daytime Poetry Workshop

Hannah Barnaby Instructor: Hannah Barnaby
Cost: $189 Members | $210 Non-Members
8 Mondays, September 29-November 17, 2014
6:30 PM-9:00 PM


Want to develop your knowledge and understanding of the young adult genre? Want to get your novel off the ground? This course will explore questions of craft as well as current trends in the marketplace—we'll spend half of each session talking about popular YA titles and the other half workshopping each other's first chapters from novels-in-progress. After eight weeks, you’ll have a fully revised first chapter, as well as a deeper understanding of your plot trajectory and ideas for the future of your project. Also open to writers of upper-level middle grade fiction.

Read more: Young Adult Fiction Workshop

Those of you who have been working on drafts of novels have asked for a class that will help you get your book to the finish line. We're happy to announce a new year-long group for experienced writers who have finished at least one full draft of a novel.

This will be an MFA-level class led by novelist Mary Kay Zuravleff, author of three books published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux: Man Alive! (, 2013), The Bowl is Already Broken (2005), and The Frequency of Souls (1996).

Admission to this class will be by application and will be limited to 10 students. The fee is $2,499 for the entire year (beginning in November 2014 and running until October 2015) and will include an individual manuscript consultation with the instructor, copies of 4 novels, and a few other bonuses we're working on but can't announce yet.

Your Novel: Getting to the Final Draft

November 2014-October 2015
20 Class/Workshop Sessions
(Sunday Evening/Monday Mornings, dates below)
Individual Consultation and Group Writing Sessions
Instructor: Mary Kay Zuravleff
Cost: $2,499

Mary Kay Zuravleff StandingIf you've drafted a book, you're already a novelist. Here is your chance to shape that draft into the book that not only matches your vision but also captivates an audience! "Getting to the Final Draft" provides deadlines, compassionate criticism, a community of writers, and master classes on the art and business of revising a novel.

This MFA-Level workshop covers the basics, such as identifying the point of view, structure, and verb tense that best serves your book. Ready to go deeper? You'll also practice bringing characters to life, illuminating the intimate detail, using exposition with finesse, and grabbing the reader by the throat for the read of a lifetime. You'll take apart three published novels, too, to understand how each was constructed. And before it's over, you'll write and rewrite a pitch to deliver to agents!

Class size is limited to 10, and participants must apply for admission.


November 16/17
December 14/15
January 18/19
February 15/16
March 15/16
April 12/13
May 17/18
June TBA (Guest Instructor)
July 12/13
August 16/17
September TBA (Individual Conferences)
October 17-19 (James River Writer's Conference)

Read more: New! Year-Long Class for Novelists

Using well-known published memoirs as models, you'll learn how effective memoirs build scenes with vivid settings, authentic dialogue, and a structure that keeps readers turning the pages. You'll shape your draft using craft elements like voice, imagery, narrative distance, the divided self, the "I" as a character, themes and motifs, and objects that convey emotional truths.

Phase I: The Last Three Thursdays in January
Using published memoirs as models for craft and technique, we will discuss a memoir everyone in the class has read before the first class. The assignment for each class will be to write ten first draft pages. An hour of each class will be studio time (in-class writing), where the instructor will provide prompts and answer questions.

Phase II: First and third Thursday, February-June
Students will be encouraged to write ten pages every two weeks, and will be assigned "writing buddies" to help them stay on track.

Each class session will include:
• A progress check or memoir-specific exercise.
• One hour of studio time (in-class writing, with instructor on hand for questions and guidance).
• Workshopping up to ten pages for half the group, using the work-in-progress method: reading aloud and receiving on-the-spot feedback on big-picture issues.

At the end of this phase (right before the summer break) students will submit to the instructor: the first five pages, a scene the student considers particularly strong or pivotal, and a scene the student is struggling with (up to twenty pages total). Students will meet with the instructor to discuss the book's "backbone" before the summer break. During the summer, students will check in with their "writing buddies" once a week to monitor each other's progress in continuing to write ten pages every two weeks.

Summer break: July and August
Students will keep tabs on each other's work and support each other through their writing buddies.

Phase III: First and third Thursday, September-December
This phase will kick off with a session to help students identify the overall story arc of their book. With that arc in mind, students will continue to write ten pages every two weeks, and half the class will be workshopped every session.