YES.

Hello dear everyone! I want to take a hot second to clash a figurative glass of bubbly (preferably the pink kind) for some great, great news.

This year, I’ll be writing and finishing my memoir at Hugo House as a Made at Hugo Fellow for 2016-2017!! The mornings, afternoons, and evenings at Hugo in the next year will allow me to combine the experiences of the incredible trip I took in June to research my ancestral roots with the thesis I wrote at the University of Idaho, Moscow all about growing up in Hollywood.

Seattle friends, students, and writers of all kinds, I can’t wait to see you on the reg, at the House.

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ps. Celebratory donuts are also allowed… This week, I had four with a little help from an old friend at a favorite spot. So.

Need a Writing BFF?

I split work early yesterday for a sweet date with Greta Gerwig (actress and writer) and Noah Baumbach (writer and director)–one of my absolute favorite writing teams–to see Mistress America this afternoon. It was like seeing old friends.

SPOILER ALERT: The image above–thank you deadline.com–is toward the end of the movie, after Tracy (Lola Kirke’s character) violates a trust in their friendship by writing a beautiful piece of “fiction” based on Brooke, Greta Gerwig’s character. The many ways that Gerwig and Baumbach explore the profound love in female friendship never leaves my eyes dry, and it often reminds me of my girlfriends. SPOILER OVER

I’ve been thinking about close relationships a lot lately as Carolyn and I build this incredible workshop (launches in less than two weeks, y’all!). And the two of us have been considering famous literary matches and writing teams that have produced incredible work. (BTW: Did you hear J.Law and Amy Schumer are finishing up their first script together? And then dancing on pianos to celebrate?) The more I think about my heroes–Virginia Woolf, Amy Poehler, Toni Morrison, and countless others–I can also think of the fellow writers, friends, lovers, family, and spouses that made their writing possible, and better than it would have otherwise been.

Mistress America is, in part, about the connections that make for incredible writing and stories. Nearly anywhere you look in literary history, past or present, I dare you not to find a profound relationship or web of relationships behind beautiful work.

This is why we’re teaching this class. We want to build your community, and ours. We want you to have access to our brains for guidance because we know how important it’s been to have access to writers who’ve come before us. We want you in our inner circle. We know you want in, too.

So pass the word along. Get your friends involved. (We’re still offering that 2-for-$200-each discount for writer friends. To get access to that deal, email us at ck2015workshop@gmail.com.)

Don’t keep writing all by your lonesome. Write with us. Click here.

Literary Friendships

In this week’s newsletter for the The Shape of Story: A Writing Workshop in Craft, Carolyn and I sent out some killer material about literary friendships throughout the ages and prompts to encourage new ones.

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We spent some time thinking about these relationships not only in honor of our own friendship, literary and otherwise, but also because we want to support this phenomenon anyway we can. That’s why we’re offering the 2-for-$200-each special: We want you to foster and grow your literary and writing community along with us. (You can contact me here to find out more about this deal.)

Because lord knows, I don’t know what I’d do without my writer friends to call up for a last minute opinion or edit on a piece that is way too something-it-shouldn’t-be. These relationships are what’s made it possible for me to grow as a writer–and to publish my work.

It so happens that I came across this gem from Alexandra Kleeman and Kathleen Alcott about just such friendships and their benefits.

Here’s a sweet quote I pulled right off the top of the piece that says a whole lot about why these relationships are so important:

Writing can be a lonely profession, but when you meet someone whose mind you trust, whose opinions you adore, and whose brain you’d like to smash into yours until they form a single powerful thinking entity, it’s not so bad. –Alexandra Kleeman

Amen to some hypothetical, theoretical brain-smashing. Have a friend you haven’t brain-smashed with in a while? Get in touch to get started. Or looking to do it more often with some fresh brains? Click here.

It’s all here!

Fall Workshop Inspiration and Discounts Are Here!

We’ve been talking all week with our early subscribers about their writing desires and how this Fall’s Writing Workshop in Craft can get them where they want to be with their craft.

Today, our first of six emails was sent out, filled to the brim with inspiration, writing prompts, and curated readings for the folks who already know how much this class is going to rock. And we want to share it with more of you!

Click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to subscribe for absolutely free writing help and access to discounts we’re only offering to those who sign up.

But! There is one discount we can tell you about…

The full price of the class for 6 weeks of structured craft lessons, individual feedback, and special treats that will expand your knowledge of writing craft and get you pumped: $360. But until August 18, Carolyn and I are offering a

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So if you know you want in, get it while it’s hot. Register here!

Fall’s Writing Craft Workshop is Here

This is the one you’ve been waiting for.

You know where your stories need to go, but you don’t know how to get them there. You have a couple of tools in your back pocket for when you’re stuck, but the more you write, the more your tricks just don’t measure up anymore. You’ve been thinking, “Should I just get an MFA?”

Carolyn and I have been there.

So we went ahead and got MFAs from two different programs. We also have 30 collected years of personal and professional writing and publishing experience and 15 years of friendship between us. We’ve created the class you’re looking for and we can’t wait to share some of the best secrets we’ve learned with you. It’s gonna rock.

Hop on over to our class page to learn more details. If you like what you see, add your email to our list. This will give you access to the special offers, discounts, and treats we’re serving up for early birds.

Registration opens next week, so you have a some time to send us questions, special requests, or flowers. We always love flowers. In the meantime, we’re fine-tuning material to make this the best craft workshop you’ve ever taken. We’ll also be tailoring the class to you, our students, as we go.

So get your writing where you want it.

Get excited with us.

Sign up here.

What Happens in Hillsborough, NH… Gets Posted on the Internet: Planning the Fall Writing Workshop

So I reported a few weeks ago that myself and the lovely Carolyn Silveira were splitting town for Hillsborough, New Hampshire to raise a few glasses of beer, put our feet up, and fire up creativity and lesson planning for this Fall’s creative writing workshop. I’m happy to report we accomplished all of that, and we went hard. There were laughs and creatures of all sorts, hikes and fireworks, berries and libations, and we got down to work.

Here is the beautiful desk and incredible library we had to work from:

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…some of our messy notes shared from either end of the table and taken, of course, in marker:

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And scenes from the adventures that inspired us:

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This week, we’re nailing down our syllabus, picking out just the right online format so you get the most out of our class, and setting dates. More oh so soon….

Truth Time: Why I Love Working with You

Just yesterday, I had the privilege of talking over iced coffee with someone I know is a very special new friend and is also a few steps (and years) ahead of me in creating her own business. She has the experience and the know-how I’m steadily learning about audience and powerful content delivery. Aside from the obvious reasons why it was great to pick her brain a little, a whole lot of unexpected benefits (the best kind of benefits) came from this conversation. I woke up this morning and thought, Why don’t I tell everybody? So here we are.

When our discussion turned to the real, deep down reasons why what we do is essential to who we are, I had a few moments of clarity. But first, a little background. A lot of businesses and companies these days talk about storytelling. It’s a buzz word and a topic even the biggest of corporations realize is essential to reaching their audiences. So that’s pretty convenient for me, because storytelling is that core element of the business I’m building: I believe in it devoutly. And here’s why (you might have heard this a few times before if you love Oprah the way I do): All the pain, struggle, wins, and surprises of my personal and professional life are assets. In this conversation yesterday, I very clearly saw how my stories and experiences give invaluable power to my work. And the same is true for you, CEOs, small biz owners, and entrepreneurs. Our stories add up to an incredible arsenal of what we all have and want so much to give.

The real story of who I am and where I come from, what I want and where I’m going, is not something that has come easy and has not always been clear. And this is true for most of us. Maybe even all of us. My story has been gathered during hours at the library researching family ancestry, long phone calls and kitchen table conversations about deep and long-held desires, and countless pages pounded out in MS Word docs digging up my own memories and turning them, turning them, turning them so I can see them and retell them from every angle (as I’ve been taught to do by a certain Brandon Schrand because that is what an essayist does).

And while I was doing all this researching, talking, and writing that adds up to years, stories emerged. My stories–and you’ll just have to trust me on this–they created the reasons why I want to tell yours. Stories tell us where we’ve been, and they help us know where we want to go. And this isn’t just true of individuals. This is true of everything, and it’s true of your business just as it’s true of mine.

The work of telling a story from any angle: This is my specialty. This is how I’ve spent my 10,000 hours becoming an expert. This is how I love to work for you.

So where are you and your business going? Let’s find out together and write it true, so your right people, your clients, understand without a shadow of a doubt just exactly why they need you.

Behind the Scenes: Fall 2015 Writing Workshop Prep

I’m in New York for much of June with one of the best people in the whole world and we’re cooking up a special treat just for you, dear readers.

We spent some time in McNally Jackson Books last night for inspiration and a few treats…

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… and this morning we drank iced coffee, ate croissant and a fruit bowl, and brainstormed what will be the scaffolding for a thorough, thought-provoking, and inspiring craft workshop this fall.

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There’s much more to come, but we wanted to give you a sneak peak into our notebooks so you can get excited with us.

Next week, we’ll be at a magical, undisclosed location by a lake in New Hampshire hatching more details. Stay tuned!

Spring Writing Workshop Reflections and Praise

These workshops are getting sweeter and sweeter.

This time around, it was all about play. There was collaging, found prose and poems, and we even used dreams and this special book as writing prompts. In four three-hour sessions, these writers produced one complete first draft and/or up to four beginnings for new stories and essays. They presented their work at a final reading at the Prichard Art Gallery, and it was inspiring to hear these diverse styles and stories one after another.

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Here’s what some of these talented young writers had to say about the workshop:

The exercise where we choose important elements of our dream, picked it out in the book of symbols, and then gained inspiration from there was the best part for me. I am extremely happy I took this course. I know I now want to actively pursue writing. Thank you so much! — Mass Market Fiction Writer

I loved the exercises we did involving collage because they help me think in a different way. It feels like an escape but it actually taps into parts of me and my writing that are more intimate and harder to find. I also really loved the exercise we did on the last day, jumping from dreams to images to symbols. I need more workshops, I need more workshops! — Journalist, Poet, and Essayist

The most useful exercise was collaging. Being able to physically manipulate images to reflect your writing and characters brought my story to a new level (it even brought about a story I had no intention of writing). I am absolutely grateful that you shared this with the class and that not only was it a challenge but that it was fun. Great class. You are a great teacher. — Literary Short Fiction Writer

The overwhelming request at the end of the class–and what I feel inspired to tackle next–was to cover more technique, craft, style, form, voice. The scaffolding that makes a piece of writing stand.

Who am I to deny the people what they want? So it’s time to get down and dirty.

I’ll be teaching an online craft workshop online this Fall, and I can’t wait to get you more details. Look out for those coming soon!

Spring Writing Workshop: Collage Makes An Awesome Writing Prompt

When Barthelme said “collage is… one of the central principles of literature [in this century]”, he was talking about collaging sentences and/or found writing. But I figured, why not make visual collage work for writers?

In this season’s writing workshop, the number one thing my students want is freedom from their demons. They want to steer away from the monsters whispering from the dark, damp corners of the mind telling them they’ll never live up to the craft masters. Or maybe that’s just me sometimes.

So my task was to get their hands moving and their attention on their creativity so they could bump their production.

To get them rolling, I turned to a technique I learned from Elizabeth Merrick when I took her writing workshop back in 2008: COLLAGE. I wanted to find a way to let the potential within them loose, but stay focused so they had a clear writing target when they were done with their visual creations. These students of mine are serious: they want to write books and study craft. So I focused them on a few projects, and you, dear reader, can use these prompts at home all on your own.

First, we took about 20 minutes and created covers for the book projects of our dreams. We free wrote for about five minutes describing the project, then used magazines, markers, paint, string, and whatever else was sitting around the writing studio to create the covers for those projects. Here are a couple, including my own.

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“Lost Summer Wonders.” actually has tape on the back of the words, so the author can change the title as the project grows. I loved this idea. Mine, on the other hand, is ready for print as soon as I finish writing the text. Look for it around 2020.

To dig into the craft I knew my students were hungry for, we went deeper. As we explored building character, I gave them a new collage assignment. Limiting the project to one color which felt best suited to the character in mind, fictional or not, we created portraits with the same tools we used for the book covers. Here are a few of the results.

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We used these portraits to kick off a few writing prompts about the characters in the collages as well as their counterpoints, as articulated by Charles Baxter in Burning Down the House.

In tomorrow’s class, we’ll be workshopping some completed, brand new essays these students have written up in just four classes. I can’t wait to get into the nitty gritty with them.

Join us next time! I’m co-teaching an online writing workshop focused exclusively on craft with Carolyn Silveira in the coming months. Stay tuned!