September Grotto Class Bulletin

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Lindsey Crittenden

Sep 15, 2015, 5:10:48 PM9/15/15
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.

Fall courses are underway!  Sign up now to benefit from terrific new workshops, intensives, and courses in fiction, memoir, screenwriting, podcasting & radio, personal essay, freelancing, poetry, 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 Glen David Gold (Intensive Novel Writing Workshop, 8 sessions starting Wed., Sept. 23):

Is your novel stuck?  Here's a way to move forward.  

Once, 400 pages and three years into a manuscript, I started a scene I couldn't finish. I knew what had to happen for the plot but something was missing.  Turns out that every good scene you write should have something you already know and something that surprises you.  I didn't have a surprise.  Ever since then, I've applied this method: if you've mapped out a story but it feels inert to you, wander to the bookshelf.  Grab a book of non fiction.  Open randomly, find a noun on that page.  Your job is to use that noun as an obstacle.   In my case it was "guillotine."   My character, the protagonist, wouldn't let an informant speak until they'd dealt with the guillotine now in the room.  There is always a metaphorical elephant in the room and you can use chance to find it.  

Note Two: Our Latest Favorite Book on Writing 

From Julia Scheeres (Creative Nonfiction: The First 10 Pages, Sun., Sept. 27; Nonfiction Workshop, 6 sessions starting Thurs., Oct. 8; Memoir In a Nutshell, Sun., Oct. 25): 

With three bestselling memoirs under her belt (The Liar’s Club, Cherry, and Lit), Mary Karr is America’s undisputed queen of memoir. Karr also writes widely on ethics in memoir – famously calling James Frey (A Million Little Pieces) a skunk in the New York Times for jazzing up his story with lies and deceit.

In her new how-to book, The Art of Memoir, Karr writes that "most memoirs fail because of voice.” But this is easy for Karr to say; she’s been exploiting the East Texas twang of her childhood for decades, despite fleeing her hometown as a teenager. But what about those of cursed with bland, Middle American accents? Her edict seems hopelessly unfair. Nevertheless, there are some helpful nuggets here, including ways in which Karr believes memoirists can bend fact to suit art without running afoul of genre police such as herself.

Most of The Art of Memoir is a free-ranging essay on the form. It is not a nuts-and-bolts manual. For basic craft advice, I’d recommend Writing the Memoir, by Judith Barrington or Tell It Slant, by Suzanna Paola and Brenda Miller. That said, Karr is a pleasure to read in any genre. The woman doesn’t know how to write a boring sentence.    

Note Three: What We’re Reading Now

From Audrey Ferber (Fiction Workshop: Writing the Short Story, 6 sessions starting Sat., Oct. 3):

This month’s Grotto Book Group choice is Helen Macdonald’s memoir, H Is for Hawk. Unmoored by the death of her father, Macdonald manages her grief by training a goshawk. Not as weird as it sounds.  She’s been training falcons since she was a kid. But goshawks are pricklier than falcons, “pale-eyed psychopaths, half-Hamlet, half-Lady Macbeth.”   In addition to being a meditation on grief, H Is for Hawk is a trove of falconry facts and delicious vocabulary: imping, jesses, creances, and mutes, the word for falcon poop. The poetic descriptions of English scenery and her hawk’s breath, “…pepper, musk and burned stone.”… haunt with gritty beauty.

In the end, after anti-depressants and the passage of time, Macdonald cleans the raw meat out of her fridge, picks the mute-stained tarps off her floor, and realizes that “hands are for other human hands to hold, not exclusively as perches for hawks.” I was glad she was feeling better, but her writing was so startling, I wasn’t ready to return to ordinary life.

Note Four: Upcoming Classes

Classes are listed in chronological order, by date of first session, for the next six weeks.  For full descriptions and to enroll, click on each class or go to for the complete catalog.

6:30 pm – 9:00 pm

Wednesdays, September 23, 30; October 7, 14


 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm

 Wednesdays, September 23 — November 11


6:30 pm – 9:00 pm

Thursdays, September 24; October 1 and 8


9:00 am – 12:00 noon

Sunday, September 27


Airports, Catacombs and Rooftops: Setting in Fiction and Memoir (with Laurie Ann Doyle)

10:00 am - 4:00 pm (includes break for lunch)
Sunday, September 27
6:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Wednesday, September 30


10:00 am – 12:30 pm

Saturdays, October 3 & 24


1:00 pm – 4:00 pm

Saturdays, October 3, 10, 17, 24; November 7, 14 (no class on Halloween)


10:30 am – 4:30 pm

Sunday, October 4

$200 (includes lunch and wine reception)

6:30 pm -9:00 pm

Sundays, October 4, 11, 18, 25; November 1


6:30 pm – 9:00 pm

Mondays, October 5, 19, 26; November 2, 9, 16 (no class October 12)


6:30 pm – 9:00 pm

Mondays, October 5, 12, 19, 26; November 2 & 9


6:30 pm – 9:00 pm

Thursdays, October 8, 15, 22, 29; November 5, 19 (no class November 12)


6:30 pm – 9:00 pm

Tuesdays, October 20 & 27; November 3


9:00 am – 12:00 noon

Sunday, October 25


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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