December Grotto Class Bulletin

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Lindsey Crittenden

Dec 17, 2015, 5:32:10 PM12/17/15
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.  

Happy holidays!  What better way to start the new year than a class at the Grotto?  Our winter classes are open for registration.  We’ve got terrific one-day intensives in getting grants, memoir in a nutshell, and the personal essay, as well as multi-week workshops in short fiction, memoir, novel, screenwriting, fabulist fiction, and much more.  To learn more and register, scroll down to Note Four or go to  

Congratulations to Grotto student Tom Pyun on his Pushcart Prize nomination! See Note Five for details.

Note One: Writing Tips from Our Teachers

From Julia Scheeres (Memoir in a Nutshell, Sun., Jan 24, and The Story of You: An Introduction to Memoir, 6 weeks beginning Thurs., Feb. 4):

Show, don’t tell.  How many times have creative writing teachers scribbled that comment onto student papers? A jillion times may be an understatement. But what, exactly, does this famous directive mean? 

Generally, it means to write in scene and to engage your full carnality while doing so. We experience the world through our five senses and we also need to employ them on the page. Your writing should brim with physical sensations  – the homey smell of cinnamon rolls baking in the oven, the velvet warmth of a horse’s flank, the cold flare of jealousy you felt when you saw your boyfriend flirting with another girl. Such sensory details allow readers to experience our story at a visceral level, rather than as an abstraction. And the visceral level is where we feel what matters most.

Note Two: What We’re Reading Now 

From Lizette Wanzer (Get the Grant!, Sat., Jan 16, and Maximizing LinkedIn for Writers, Sun., Jan. 17): 

Holly Brown's Don't Try to Find Me wasn’t what I expected, which turned out to be an intriguing surprise.  While I'm not sure why this is shelved under the suspense genre, if you like solid, in-depth, tumultuous family-dynamic novels, you will enjoy this. The pacing is indeed slower than a typical mystery/suspense--but right on point for a Fiction moniker.  While the story revolves around a nightmarish and serious issue, the mother's observations are astute, cynical, and often darkly humorous. You WILL laugh sometimes, even when you feel you shouldn't.  

In terms of its vein and aroma, Don’t Try to Find Me reminded me of We Were the MulvaneysYou think you can tell from this title what the novel will be about, right? I urge you to think again.

Here's the question: Which character truly "doesn't want to be found?" Marley? Or her mother? Hmmmm.

Note Three: Our Latest Favorite Book On Writing

From Lindsey Crittenden (Stealing from the Masters:  Using Existing Models to Craft Your Short Fiction, Sat. & Sun., Jan 23 & 24)

A while ago, stuck on novel structure, I asked around here at the Grotto for any recommendations.  I was desperate.  Formulaic?  Reductive?  I’d take it.  I needed help.  A colleague recommended John Truby’s book The Anatomy of Story.  I used it, dog-eared it, highlighted it, and fill out sheet after sheet answering its questions.  Formulaic, yep.  Reductive, a bit.  But sometimes reduction is helpful — boiling your story down to its essence, so you can see the overall shape and driving energy more clearly. 

Flash forward to this month’s meeting of novel writers here at the Grotto.  While discussing the challenges of finding the right climax (or what Truby would call the Battle), we kept referring back to characters’ weaknesses and needs, as well as the Character Web (how these weaknesses and needs all fit together). We kept referring to Truby.

Fiction 101 teaches us that every character needs a specific desire, and from that desire comes action and conflict.  Cinderella wants to go to the ball.  Evil Stepmother gets in the way.  Fairy godmother intervenes.  Etc. But what Truby emphasizes is that, in addition to desire, every character in your narrative has a need (often unconscious) and a weakness.  While desire is a goal outside of the character, need and weakness stay hidden and are deeply interior.  Following her desire may get your character into hot water, but that’s only Step 1.  Facing her need and weakness will bring about the change at the heart of a successful narrative.  

Note Four: Upcoming Classes

Classes are listed in chronological order, by date of first session, up through the first week of February 2016.  For full descriptions and to enroll, click on each class or go to the complete catalog.

6:30 pm – 9:00 pm

Tuesdays, January 12, 19, 26; February 2, 9, 16, 23; March 1

Course fee: $625 

6:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Tuesdays, January 12, 19, 26
Course fee: $195
6:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Wednesdays, January 13, 20, 27; February 3, 10, 17
Course fee: $395 
10:00 am – 12:30 pm
Saturday, January 16 & Sunday, February 7
Course fee: $190 
11:00 am – 2:00 pm
Sunday, January 17
Course fee: $75 
10:00 am – 1:00 pm
Saturdays, January 23 & 30
Course fee: $150

10:30 am - 4:30 pm (Saturday)

1:30 pm - 4:30 pm (Sunday)

Saturday, January 23 & Sunday, January 24

Course fee:  $225

Writing for Social Change (with Jessica Pishko)

1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Saturday, January 23

6:30 pm -9:00 pm

Sundays, January 24, 31; February 21, 28; March 6 (no meetings Superbowl Sunday & Valentine’s Day) 

Course fee: $325

6:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Mondays, January 25; February 1, 8, 22, 29; March 7, 14, 21 (no class Presidents’ Day) 
Course fee: $540 
10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Saturday, January 30 & Sunday, January 31
Course fee: $285
1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Saturday, January 30 & Saturday, February 20
Course fee: $150  
10:00 am – 2:00 pm
Sunday, January 31
Course fee: $125 
6:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Mondays, February 1, 8, 22, 29; March 7 & 14
Course fee: $395 
6:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Mondays, February 1, 8, 22, 29; March 7 & 14 (no meeting Presidents’ Day)
Course fee: $395  
6:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Tuesdays, February 2, 9, 16, 23; March 1 & 8
Course fee: $395
6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Thursdays, February 4, 11, 18, 25; March 3 & 10 
Course fee: $395
6:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Thursday, February 4
Course fee: $85 
Course fee: $75 

Note Five: Hearing from You

We’re thrilled to announce that Tom Pyun, a student in Laura Fraser’s 2014 Second Draft workshop, has had an essay nominated for a Pushcart Prize.  The essay, “Mothers Always Know,” appeared in Blue Mesa Review.

We’d love to hear your news, as well as any feedback on writing books that have helped you and suggestions for the Class Bulletin.  Send your thoughts/comments/kudos & complaints to Lindsey Crittenden at 

Note Six: Subscribing & unsubscribing

If this is the first time you’ve received this Bulletin, and you didn’t go through the google group, that means you gave us your email contact in a class evaluation.  Please take the time now to officially subscribe to ensure receiving future Bulletins.  Go to  

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.

Thanks for reading!

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