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 JANUARY 2019

For those who want to GET STARTED:

Life Into Literature: Explorations in Memoir

Six Mon. nights, 6:30-9 p.m., Jan. 21st, 28th, Feb. 4th, 18th and 25th, and March 4th (no class Feb. 11th)

You’ve lived a rich life. You want to share it in writing. Where does your story begin? Where does it end? 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 guided exercises, you’ll learn to write cinematic scenes, craft powerful reflections, identify your richest material, and shape a suspenseful narrative. Our class series includes weekly “homework” to keep you rolling, and ends with a supportive, in-depth workshop of one longer submission (up to 5,000 words). No writing experience necessary, though experienced writers will also benefit.

Enrollment limited to six students.

Course fee: $345

Contact Rachel at for registration information.

For those who want to GET SERIOUS:

Novel Writing Foundation Workshop

Eight Wednesday afternoons, 3 to 5 p.m., February 6th, 13th, 20th, 27th, and March 6th, 13th, 20th, 27th.

There’s no formula to writing a novel. But there are fundamentals of “form and theory” you can master that will help you greatly along the way. In this deeply substantive and supportive class, for writers working on a novel or writers just beginning one, we’ll give your novel-in-progress a firm foundation. Our first four classes will explore your novel’s “implicit promise,” story engine, driving thematic question, character arc, and point of view, with in-class and between-class assignments to help you find your novel’s core. Our final four classes will combine craft instruction with in-depth workshop, with each participant receiving constructive, instructor-guided feedback on their novel’s first 5,000 words. We’ll talk equally about writing theory and writing practice, helping you establish your most productive habits. Most importantly: You’ll learn to read as a writer—with an eye for usable craft—so that you can mine your key models and keep your novel growing. You’ll learn to sidestep many pitfalls so that your novel writing experience can be richer, and your resulting novel far more engaging.

Textbooks: Beginnings, Middles, and Ends, by Nancy Kress. Less, by Andrew Sean Greer, one short novel TBA, and instructor handouts.

Cost: $565

Contact Rachel at for registration information.

For those who want to GET STARTED or GET SERIOUS:

Finding the Universal in the Particular

Friday mornings, 10 a.m.-noon, January 25th, February 8th and 22nd, March 8th and 22nd, May 3rd, 17th, and 31st.

Whether you would like to write memoir, essay, short stories, or first-person reportage, all literary writing is rooted in a daily habit of noticing the “beloved particulars,” then digging inward to discover how those particulars can evoke what we might risk calling “the universal“–archetypal experience that almost any reader can relate to. In this welcoming, highly exploratory course, we will play with nonfiction forms ranging from the lyric to the narrative. Voice, point of view, structure, form—all of the essential, recurring terms of the writing life will be introduced as we discuss works by writers such as Tim O’Brien, Grace Paley, Joan Didion, and David Sedaris, and complete short twice-monthly assignments for feedback. Each student will also draft and workshop a longer piece of writing in our final month. But just as importantly, we will practice really seeing, being open and receptive, “sneaking under the fence of interpretation,” as Deborah Eisenberg calls it, and dropping defenses (especially the defenses we hide from ourselves) to find truths that can show us the transcendent in the particular. After all, as Flannery O’Connor wrote, “Wouldn’t it be better for you to discover a meaning in what you write than to impose one? Nothing you write will lack meaning because the meaning is in you.”

Cost: $565.

Contact Rachel at for registration information.

For those who want to GET STARTED:

Community class offered on a donation basis:

Better Than a Book Club: Reading Chekhov for Our Times

Friday afternoons, noon-1:30 p.m., January 18th, February 22nd, March 22, May 17, and June 14 2019.

Why do so many writers read the stories of Anton Chekhov with near-religious devotion? Writing in late 19th century Russia, a contemporary of Tolstoy, Chekhov invented a new kind of story—the short story that explores irresolvable questions of human experience rather than delivering pat morals. His stories, which can be both hilarious and heartbreaking, cultivate compassion and an awareness of the bittersweet ironies of life’s continual passing. In this “better than a book club,” we’ll read a single Chekhov short story each month, paired with an insightful commentator by Chekhov admirers such as Francine Prose, Robert Hass, and Siddhartha Mukherjee. Discussion will be lead by Rachel Howard, novelist and writing teacher, but with a light touch allowing for all to contribute. You are welcome to attend each session separately, or sign up for all four for a discount. Tea and treats will be served. Please note, we will not hold a session in April. Let’s come together and see how Chekhov might give us the sustenance we need in compassion-challenged times.

Cost: These discussions of Chekhov are being offered as a community class by voluntary donation. Suggested donation: $15-25 per session.

Contact Rachel at for registration information.

Instructor Bio: 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.

One-Day Classes

For those who want to GET SERIOUS:

Paths to Publication: Navigating the Literary Landscape

Flexible scheduling, 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

If you would like to gather a group of five or more for this class, 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.