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.

WINTER 2018 Multi-Week Classes

For those who want to GET STARTED:

Life Into Literature: Explorations in Memoir Writing

Five Thursdays, 6:30-9 p.m.: February 1st, 8th, 15th, and 22nd and March 1st 

You’ve lived a rich life. You want to share it in writing. Where does the story begin? Where does it end? And how do you make your life a page-turner?

In these classes with New York Times acclaimed memoirist Rachel Howard, you’ll learn how to shape compelling, meaningful stories out of the mass of experience. Discussing carefully chosen memoir readings by Jo Ann Beard, Alexandra Fuller, and others, and completing a series of guided exercises, you’ll learn to write cinematic scenes, craft powerful passages of reflection, identify your richest material, and shape an engaging narrative. Our class series includes weekly “homework” to start you off and keep you rolling, and ends with an in-depth workshop of one longer submission (up to 15 pages). No writing experience necessary, though experienced writers will also benefit. Class limited to six participants.

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 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.

Course fee: $295

Life Into Literature is now full, but you may contact Rachel at to be placed on the wait list. Other classes starting in March and April have space available; please read on below!


SPRING 2018 Multi-Week Classes

For those who want to GET STARTED:

Build Your Personal Writing Habit

Six Fridays, 10 a.m.-noon, plus daily writing prompts via email. April 6th, 13th, 20th, 27th, and May 4th and 11th.

Write every day, with feedback and support all along the way. Each student in this class (limited to eight) will receive a carefully selected emailed writing prompt every morning, then send the results to the instructor for immediate feedback. On Friday mornings, we’ll gather for each writer to share her favorite results of the week and receive deeper group response. This is the perfect class to wake up your writing muscles, discover how good writing a little bit every day can feel, and explore your natural writing strengths. You’ll end it with a personal writing practice that goes beyond “morning pages” and teaches you new skills while keeping your imagination uninhibited.

Course fee: $350

To register, email Rachel at Class strictly limited to eight participants.


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.; March 5th, 12th, 19th, and April 2nd, 5th, 16th, 23rd, and 30th (no class March 26th)

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 Ian Frazier, Grace Paley, Harry Crews, Dinty W. Moore, Lydia Yuknavitch, Raymond Carver, and Lorrie Moore. 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 both those who want to GET STARTED and those who want to GET SERIOUS:

Give Your Book a Narrative Engine

Saturday, March 17th, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

Why do some memoirs and novels take off from the first page, while others stall out before the end of chapter one? More importantly: How can you make sure the story you’re writing gets all the necessary gears lined up on those all-important first five pages?

In this combination craft lecture and trouble-shooting workshop, you’ll learn the three Cs of narrative engine: Character, Conflict, and Clock. What’s clock, you say? Glad you asked. It’s a simple but elusive element that’s crucial to your story’s drive—but many memoir writers don’t realize their pages are missing it. Character and conflict are also more complex than they first appear. Drawing from the teachings of novelist David Haynes and Lisa Cron’s excellent book Wired for Story, this class will demystify all three Cs, then lead you through exercises and instructor feedback to identify Character, Conflict, and Clock in your narrative. Does your character have a compelling inner issue? Is your conflict harnessed to a theme that makes it meaningful? You’ll leave this class with the major story elements of your memoir clarified, and your narrative engine ready to rev.

Course fee: $60

For more information or to register, contact Rachel at


For those who want to GET SERIOUS:

Three-D Writing: How to Go from “Flat” to “Wow”

Saturday, March 3rd, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

Flat” writing hands off lifeless information in a two-dimensional exchange between reader and writer. Three-dimensional writing places the reader in a charged space of heightened experience, renewed perspective, and active meaning-making. How is that three-dimensionality created, and what do you do when you find your language stuck in 2-D? This combination lecture and workshop for writers of fiction and literary nonfiction examines specific strategies for three-dimensionality drawn from contemporary writers like Sheila Heti, Jo Ann Beard, and Jenny Offill, and classics by Marguerite Duras and Bruno Schulz. We will try out new techniques and tricks—but ultimately what you will achieve is a shift in consciousness that will help make your writing spacious and transporting.

Course fee: $60

For more information or to register, contact Rachel at



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


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.