I teach writing, primarily at the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto and Stanford Continuing Studies. I also teach and coach one-on-one, and offer intensive editorial consultation.

I am thrilled to have found an ideal space for teaching small, high-quality writing classes in downtown Grass Valley! Here’s a photo of our pilot class in the space:

On this site, you can find information on my teaching philosophy and current classes.  And–since I think the most revealing thing about a writing teacher is the books she loves–a list of my favorite books. I hope you’ll explore those links to learn more about me as a teacher. On this page I will update Yuba Writers’ Workshops current offerings. Currently:

Now Enrolling for JANUARY 2019

For those who want to GET STARTED:

Life Into Literature: Explorations in Memoir

Two spots left.

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 rachel.howard@gmail.com for registration information.

For those who want to GET SERIOUS:

Novel Writing Foundation Workshop

Two spots left.

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 rachel.howard@gmail.com 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 rachel.howard@gmail.com 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 rachel.howard@gmail.com 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.

Student Response

I was beyond fortunate to gather a group of thoughtful, incisive, dauntless students in my Summer 2017 Writing About Spirituality course for Stanford Continuing Studies. Below are their anonymous, unedited, unexpurgated comments on the teaching evaluations, in which the course earned a “5” out of 5:

Rachel Howard went above and beyond my expectations for a professor. She offered her valuable time and insight to every students’ writing submissions. Her feedback was practical and balanced giving both encouragement and constructive input to sharpen our writing skills. Each week’s assignments built upon the previous reading and writing assignments cohesively, taking the student deeper into the subject matter.

Her manner is gracious to the various beliefs of students, creating a safe environment to hone our individual goals. These ten weeks have been worth every moment and dollar invested. I highly recommend this class and this professor.

Rachel was amazing. Thoughtful, articulate and sensitive, she guided all of the participants through their strengths and gave phenomenal feedback on improving. She was always encouraging and was very effective in bringing the class together in a community. She navigated through multiple spiritual traditions deftly and encouraged cross cultural learnings as well. I.will miss Rachel and this class. Its helped me re start my desire to write.

I really enjoyed this course. It allowed me to explore my writing voice and my own spirituality in a safe and tolerant environment. All of the classmates and the instructor were respectful of all the different religious traditions and beliefs, and that was very refreshing in today’s political climate!

Rachel was a very knowledgeable and thoughtful instructor throughout the course. Always well prepared yet open to suggestions for discussion with a keen understanding for what makes writing work and how to improve our in-class pieces. I learned a lot from her comments and suggestions on my work.

Rachel is compassionate and encouraging. Her comments were timely, thorough, and astute. She has great editing skills and a sharp eye. She guides the course with openness and clarity. Her presence on the boards is very human and she shares vulnerabilities while at the same time. It’s poised and curious. I thought she did an excellent job and would be happy to take another course with her and would recommend her highly to others.

Rachel is an incredible instructor. She is kind, knowledgeable, and always willing to go the extra mile to help the students. She is always commenting and giving solid advice to us all. She is amazing is every way and compassionate and insightful. I really enjoyed our interactions and Zoom calls.

This course was fascinating and Rachel was engaging, informative, inclusive and encouraging. I would recommend this course to anyone who is interested in deepening their understand of spirituality. It had a profound impact on me.

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