Now in Grass Valley:

–Get started writing.

–Or get serious about it.

Multi-week and one-day classes in fiction and nonfiction, taught by a New York Times-acclaimed memoirist and top-rated Stanford Continuing Studies instructor.

All classes at the Alpha Building, 204 Main St. (at Mill), Grass Valley

Members of the pilot Take Your Writing to the Next Level class, fall 2017.

Now Enrolling for FALL 2018

Writing About Spirituality

Eight Monday nights, 6:30-9:00 p.m., September 17th, 24th, October 1st, 8th, 15th, and 29th, and November 5th and 12th (no class October 22nd).

Our spiritual experiences stir our most urgent desire to communicate. We burn to share the questions and convictions that draw us to a reality beyond our limited selves. But how do we work with language to contain the ineffable? How do we write about spirituality without oversimplifying infinite complexities? How can our writing reach those who already share our beliefs and those who don’t? In this course, we will read the work of inspiring spiritual writers representing a wide range of faith traditions, from the essays of Catholic memoirist Mary Karr to the Dharma talks of Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön to the contemplative journals of Muslim poet Kazim Ali. During our first six weeks, we will alternate between “reading weeks,” in which we deeply examine and contemplate our model texts, and “writing weeks,” in which we draft new work. During our final two weeks, each student will workshop a longer essay or spiritual memoir. By reading published spiritual writers closely, we will find new ways to point to a truth beyond language in our own work.

Enrollment limited to eight students.

Course fee: $445

Contact Rachel at for registration information.

Point of View in Fiction, an 8-week Friday afternoon class, 6:30-9:00 p.m., September and October.

Please email Rachel at if you are interested in either of these subjects and wish to save a spot. Full details will be posted by mid-July.

Instructor Bio (for all courses): Rachel Howard teaches creative writing primarily at Stanford Continuing Studies and the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. She is the author of a memoir about her father’s unsolved murder, The Lost Night, which the New York Times praised as “enthralling.” Her novel, The Risk of Us, will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in April. Her fiction and nonfiction has appeared in many publications, including the New York Times’ “Draft” series. She received an MFA in fiction from Warren Wilson College, and later served there as Interim Director of Undergraduate Creative Writing. She has also taught in the MFA program of Saint Mary’s College. She moved to Nevada City in 2014 and is founder and producer of the Yuba Lit reading series.

SUMMER 2018 Multi-Week Classes

For Those Who Want to GET STARTED and Those Who Want to GET SERIOUS:


Learning From the Masters: A Generative Workshop

Eight Mondays, 6:30-9 p.m.; June 25th, and July 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd, and 30th, August 6th and 13th

Draft seven new stories and essays in eight weeks! In this course, we will approach writing the way painters approach their discipline: by first analyzing, then “copying” our forebears. First, each week, we’ll closely read short stories and essays by such diverse (and masterful) writers as Anton Chekhov, Grace Paley, Raymond Carver, Amy Hempel, Lucia Berlin, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Ernest Hemingway, and more. Then, you will draft one “imitation”—an original work that borrows the published writer’s structure—for feedback from your classmates and the instructor. Along the way, you will learn to mine your richest material, make the most of thought-provoking images, and craft endings that resonate. By “imitating” the masters, you will, paradoxically, find your unique voice.

Course fee: $445

Contact Rachel at for registration information.

One-Day Classes

For those who want to GET SERIOUS:

Paths to Publication: Navigating the Literary Landscape

Fall date TBA, by demand

The paths to publication are many—but being a newcomer to the literary world can feel like groping through a dark, dense forest. This info-packed one-day class will give you a map of the publishing landscape. How do you place a short story with a literary journal? What do agents do? What’s a “platform” and why do publishers want you to have one? How is selling a nonfiction book different from selling a novel? How can residencies and conferences be helpful? What are the advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing or “hybrid” publishing?

We’ll answer these questions and many more, and spend hands-on time (online) exploring literary journals and their submissions systems. You’ll take home real examples of successful pitches, cover letters, and query letters, along with pointers on how to learn from rejection, work with constructive feedback, and keep forging your own publishing path.

Course fee: $95

For more information or to register, contact Rachel at



Also, by request, for groups of three or more, I teach online or in-person:


Everything You Need to Move from Middle Stage to Finished Book

This class takes place entirely online, in a video classroom called ZOOM.

Four two-hour sessions, spaced apart at least two weeks.

Cost: $595.

Limited to three committed memoirists; email Rachel at to inquire about arranging a session.

Class description: Are you deep into writing a memoir and tired of having it critiqued in 20-page snippets? Ready to get bigger-picture response to issues like structure and narrative arc, but not quite at the stage when you need a full manuscript review? This is a memoir workshop for writers at that rich but tricky middle stage when piecemeal feedback no longer cuts it.

In this class, limited to three committed students, writers will submit a long section of their memoirs-in-progress—between 75 and 100 pages–along with a projected book outline. Our first session will be dedicated to a comprehensive lecture on big-picture craft concepts for memoir: Setting up the story engine, interplay of scene and reflection, character development, lines of tension, finding the narrative “turn,” and more. In subsequent sessions, we’ll workshop your manuscripts, one writer per week, following a guided process. You’ll learn a wealth about memoir by critiquing fellow workshop members, and benefit from a thorough discussion of your own work. You’ll emerge with a clearer sense of your memoir as a whole, and clear steps for taking it towards completion.

NOTE: This workshop is limited to three members. A firm commitment to reciprocating feedback and attending all sessions is required.

Unsolicited feedback from the previous session’s Monster Memoir Manuscript students:

That you could see the arc and the themes that I thought were there was so gratifying and encouraging to me. Now, no matter how much more work I need to do on this, I feel that I actually have a book with an arc that works here, and that is enough to keep me going for as long as it takes! Rachel, thanks for setting up the questions and the writing and discussion process that brought out so much positive encouragement as well as such thoughtful helpful suggestions. It really worked!


I was really impressed with your comments . . . it’s a huge talent to be able to see the depths of possibility for a story in progress.


I would like to express my gratitude for your support over the past several months. I enjoyed working with you and the group and even though there is still a lot of work ahead before I can call it a book, I am energized and excited to get it done.