Grotto Class Bulletin: April

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Lindsey Crittenden

Apr 14, 2015, 3:16:10 PM4/14/15

Class Bulletin

Welcome to our monthly e-newsletter including tips about writing, our favorite books about writing, what we're reading now, and the latest news about our classes.

Spring classes underway.  Enroll now.  We’ve got terrific new classes in fiction, creative nonfiction and memoir, blogging and tweeting for writers, screenwriting and film, getting work noticed by an agent, and much more.  Classes meet multi-weekly and in one-day and weekend intensives, and all are taught by writers published in the genre they’re teaching.  Scroll down to Note Four or go to  

 Note One: Writing Tips from Our Teachers

From Louise Nayer (Drawing Readers Into Your World: A Memoir Intensive, 2 sessions beginning April 25)

Unless you sprint through life with a tape recorder strapped to your body 24/7, dialogue is created by the author through memory. How do you write believable dialogue? Differentiate your mother’s voice: “I feel ill” from your father’s: “I feel like crap.”  Keep it short. Dialogue doesn’t have to be grammatically correct but does need to capture the quirkiness of the speaker. Use action along with dialogue—tearing up a napkin on your lap to show nervousness. Dialogue makes a scene come alive and reveals something more about a character. Look through old letters of people who have passed away to help “channel” their voices. Listen and take notes for people now in your life. Practice by writing down snippets of conversations while sipping your cappuccino. Dialogue moves the story along, revealing what each character wants. But often, as in life, you have to read between the lines.

Note Two: Our Latest Favorite Book on Writing

From Jenny Bitner (Pushing the Boundaries:  Experiments in Writing, 6 sessions starting April 14; The Detective and the Alien: Using Genre Explorations to Strengthen Your Fiction, 6 sessions beginning April 16; Creating a Writing Habit in 21 Days: A Bootcamp for Your Muse, 2 sessions starting April 26)

From Wired for Story, by Lisa Cron

Cognitive Secret:
Everything we do is goal directed, and our biggest goal is figuring out everyone elses agenda, the better to achieve our own.
Story Secret:
A protagonist without a clear goal has nothing to figure out and nowhere to go.

Starting with the premise that storytelling is a natural part of how we made sense of the world for our survival, this clearly written book helps the writer to construct a story that is more compelling to the readers innate desire for story. If we can understand the way our brains work and what we are looking for in stories, then we can write stories that satisfy the reader. I like Crons emphasis on big-picture issues like theme, finding the point of the story and zeroing in on the protagonists goal. As I read the book, I was working on a memoir, and I felt like I had stepped back a few feet and got some distance on my own writing. To me, that is the mark of a good writing book: it gives you a fresh perspective on your work and gets you to put down the book and start writing again.

Note Three: What We’re Reading Now

From Ethan Watters (Getting Published in Magazines:  A Nonfiction Intensive, 5 sessions starting April 16) 

Every time I read an Erik Larson book, I’m certain that I’ll devote the rest of my writing career to historical non-fiction. He’s just a master at telling a gripping, ripping yarn. Like many great writers, he creates the illusion of effortlessness – the feeling that the damn think just wrote itself. His latest work, Dead Wake, about the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915, is no exception.  In it, Larson switches back and forth between two narratives: that of the Lusitania’s voyage and that of the U-boat that would put her at the bottom of the Irish Sea. The characterization of the two captains is engrossing, but Larson runs into trouble making the various Lusitania passengers we’re introduced to distinct enough to track and care about. If you’re new to Larson, I’d recommend Devil in the White City or (my personal favorite) In the Garden of the Beasts.  Making a piece of writing feel effortless is, of course, exceptionally difficult and Larson’s work is worth studying in depth to see how he’s cut together narratives and timelines to keep the  momentum steaming forward.  

Note Four: Winter Classes & Workshops

Classes are listed in chronological order, by date of first session.  For full descriptions, and to enroll, click on each class or go to

Pushing the Boundaries: Experiments in Writing (with Jenny Bitner)

·         April 14, 2015 - May 19, 2015
6:30 pm - 9:00 pm

·         April 15, 2015 - April 29, 2015
6:30 pm - 9:00 pm

·         April 16, 2015 - April 17, 2015
6:30 pm - 9 pm

   April 16, 2015 - May 21, 2015
6:30 pm - 9 pm

·         April 25, 2015 - May 2, 2015
10:00 am - 1:00 pm

·         April 26, 2015 - May 17, 2015
1:00 pm - 3:30 pm

·         April 27, 2015 - June 15, 2015
6:30 pm - 9:00 pm

·         May 3, 2015
9:00 am - 12:00 pm

·         May 3, 2015
10:00 am - 4:00 pm

Advanced Blogging Workshop (with Meghan Ward) 

·         May 4, 2015 - June 15, 2015
6:30 pm - 9:00 pm

Twitter for Writers (with Susan Ito)

·         May 9, 2015
10:00 am - 12:30 pm

Screen Hikes: A Field Guide to Storytelling in Film (The Good Girl), with David Munro

·         May 16, 2015
10:00 am - 4:00 pm

Said and Unsaid: Dialogue in Fiction and Memoir (with Laurie Ann Doyle)

·         May 17, 2015
10:00 am - 4:00 pm

Nonfiction Storytelling, from Dramatic Beginning to the Twist at the End (with Laura Fraser)

·         May 17, 2015
11:00 am - 5:00 pm

Telling Your Story: Personal Essays for Publication (with Laura Fraser)

·         May 19, 2015 - June 2, 2015
6:30 pm - 9:30 pm

Deplorable Mania: A Poetry Workshop (with Emily Wolahan)

·         May 20, 2015 - June 10, 2015
6:30 pm - 9:30 pm

One Day Intensive: Jumpstart Your Short Story (with Ethel Rohan)

·         May 31, 2015
9:00 am - 12:00 pm

From Pitch to Publication: Get Noticed with Nonfiction articles and Essays (with Alastair Gee)

·         June 6, 2015
10:00 am - 1:00 pm

Note Five:  Hearing from You

What would you like us to include in the Grotto Class Bulletin?  What classes would you like to see offered at the Grotto?  What books about writing have been particularly useful for you?  Send your thoughts/comments/kudos & complaints to Lindsey Crittenden at 
Note Six: Subscribing & unsubscribing
And of course, if you'd like to opt out of the Grotto Class Bulletin, you can always do so at, just click on Edit my membership, and then Unsubscribe.
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