Classes

Laurie R. King - Five Things I've Learned About How Characters Come to Life (Virtual Class)

Saturday, January 30, 2021 - 1:00pm


Saturday, January 30th • Virtual

Live • 1:00-3:00pm PT• $60


Five Things I’ve Learned online classes connect you with creative leaders and thinkers eager to share the lessons of their own experience. Classes take place live, online, with an on-demand video archive so that you can easily view again whenever and wherever you like.


Discover the five things I’ve learned about creating memorable characters who come to life for my readers.

Fiction is characters.

Oh, sure, we love an exotic setting and research that puts us there and a plot so clever we never saw the twists coming—but without the characters who walk through that scrupulously researched setting and perform that series of intricately choreographed acts, those other elements are an empty stage, waiting for actors to emerge from the wings.

I’ve been a published writer for nearly thirty years. More than 12,000 pages of hardback fiction have come out under my name, hitting the New York Times list, winning a lot of prizes, finding their way into a number of languages and bringing together a community of fans. Every one of those stories, from 650-word flash-fiction tale to 115,000-word novel, succeeds or fails because of the characters who inhabit its pages.

So how do we, as writers, create these people? How do we use the 26 letters of the English language to summon up living, breathing beings—characters so memorable that readers cry with their sorrows and celebrate their victories, find courage and inspiration from them, and change their lives because of the words on the page? How do we shape characters that, when a book is over, the reader continues to feel them, wondering about their lives, speculating and daydreaming as if they were real?

Creation is magic—but it is also craft, a long series of deliberate choices and experiments which are the focus of this workshop.

In this two-hour class, we will look at what goes into building a character who feels real: What kind of research do I need to do? What does he look like, how does she speak, where are they from? What has made this person a villain and that one a hero, and how much of their backstory do I need to know—more than that, how much does my reader need?

And then, once I have made these myriad decisions to build three-dimensional characters, how do I use them?  What brings a character to life on the page, and makes the reader care what happens next?

Join me, as I explore how creation is done and how characters come to life.

Laurie R. King is the New York Times bestselling author of 22 novels and other works, including the Mary Russell-Sherlock Holmes stories (from The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, named one of the 20th century’s best crime novels by the IMBA, to 2015’s Dreaming Spies). She has won or been nominated for an alphabet of prizes from Agatha to Wolfe, been chosen as guest of honor at several crime conventions, and has both an Edgar and Creasey and an honorary doctorate in theology.

Cara Black - Five Things I've Learned About Crafting a Sense of Place (Online Class)

Sunday, April 11, 2021 - 1:00pm


Sunday, April 11th • Online

Live • 1:00-3:00pm PT• $60


Five Things I’ve Learned online classes connect you with creative leaders and thinkers eager to share the lessons of their own experience. Classes take place live, online, with an on-demand video archive so that you can easily view again whenever and wherever you like.


Discover the five things I’ve learned about the focal point of all great writing: Location. Location, Location.

How do the most successful writers so effectively transport their readers to another era, to another planet, to Timbuktu, or to a dark, rainy Paris street during World War II? To date, I’ve written nineteen books in the Private Investigator Aimée Leduc series and a historical standalone, Three Hours in Paris. In the process, I’ve thought a great deal about how a strong sense of place can immediately engage a story’s readers and how essentially location establishes a story’s themes and characters, shapes its plot, and determines the narrative’s possibilities.

I live in San Francisco, but each of my Aimée Leduc mysteries are set in Paris. In part because I work so hard to establish an authentic sense of that wonderful city, I’ve been fortunate to be recognized for my writing. I’ve received multiple nominations for the Anthony and Macavity Awards, a Washington Post Book World Book of the Year citation, the Médaille de la Ville de Paris—the Paris City Medal, which is awarded in recognition of contribution to international culture—and invitations to be the Guest of Honor at conferences such as the Paris Polar Crime Festival and Left Coast Crime. I also know that my writing travels: With more than 400,000 books in print, the Aimée Leduc series has been translated into German, Norwegian, Japanese, French, Spanish, Italian, and Hebrew.

In this online class, I’ll share the five things I’ve found most essential to my own ability to establish a strong sense of place, no matter the subject or location. A good part of creating a vivid sense of place is linked to preparation: Each time I return to Paris I make a point of entrenching myself in a different part of the city, learning its secret history. I’ve posed as a journalist to sneak into closed areas, trained at a firing range with real Paris flics, gotten locked in a bathroom at the Victor Hugo museum, and even gone down into the sewers with the rats so that my heroine Aimée can complete the same journey in a way that feels genuine and authentic to my readers.

I’m hoping to share a couple of these wonderful stories with you, but our time together will focus on some other essential strategies you can employ to make the settings in your stories come alive for your readers. I’ll share the ways I research a location before I sit down to write — what I first need to understand about a place before I can even begin a draft, the kinds of details I search for to make things vivid for my readers, and how later I focus my research once writing is underway. I’ll share how I invoke the five senses to bring key details to life in my writing; and the ways I use emotions and feelings to deepen, contrast, or complement the story’s essential elements. I’ll also share my thoughts about what I call “writer’s immersion,” and how this technique helps me uncover the most important, most telling details that keep my story moving forward.

It’s a lot to cover in a single sitting, but I’m confident you’ll find our time together worthwhile. When our class has concluded, you’ll know what it’s taken me a long time to discover for myself about the ways that a strong sense of place establishes everything else in a story. If you’re a writer, the things I’ve learned are sure to help you to compose your own more effective narratives no matter your subject or style—in fiction, non-fiction, memoir, or travel essay.

A strong sense of place anchors readers and draws them into the story. If you’re a reader, this class will give you a behind-the-scenes, personal glimpse at the ways my mysteries are crafted and assembled.

I hope you’ll join me.

Cara Black is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of nineteen books in the Private Investigator Aimée Leduc series, which is set in Paris. Cara has received multiple nominations for the Anthony and Macavity Awards, a Washington Post Book World Book of the Year citation, the Médaille de la Ville de Paris—the Paris City Medal, which is awarded in recognition of contribution to international culture—and invitations to be the Guest of Honor at conferences such as the Paris Polar Crime Festival and Left Coast Crime. With more than 400,000 books in print, the Aimée Leduc series has been translated into German, Norwegian, Japanese, French, Spanish, Italian, and Hebrew.

Isabel Allende - Five Things I've Learned About Writing Fiction (Online Class)

Sunday, March 28, 2021 - 1:00pm


Sunday, March 28th • Online

Live • 1:00-2:30pm PT• $60


Five Things I’ve Learned online classes connect you with creative leaders and thinkers eager to share the lessons of their own experience. Classes take place live, online, with an on-demand video archive so that you can easily view again whenever and wherever you like.
 

Discover your voice and the work you were born to create with one of the most widely read authors in the world.

I have written twenty-six books, eighteen of which are novels. I can say without bragging too much that I have some experience in this strange craft of writing. In this class, I will talk about the most important lessons I’ve learned about fiction writing in the last forty years.

First, I’ll discuss the distinctive characteristics and requirements of some literary genres, such as historical fiction, the crime novel, and young adult fiction.

Then, I’ll talk about my way of shaping a plot, which probably differs from the standard norm, but it has worked for me.

Next is research: What’s the best way to find the information needed to write your book? How do you use the information without overwhelming the story? Research is essential, but it shouldn’t be too obvious. When is it time to stop researching and start writing?

I’ll also discuss the challenges of creating characters that are believable, three-dimensional and complex, like real people.  Characters move the plot and sooner or later they have to talk, so I’ll discuss the role of dialogue in my fiction, when and how I use it.

For me, a sense of place is essential in a novel. I’ll talk about how I bring a place to life in my writing.

And finally, we will talk about the very act of writing: How do you instill discipline in your schedule? What should you do when you get stuck? How do you kill off characters you love? And how do you know when you’re done?

I’ll be joined for part of this journey by a trusted travel companion and my beloved friend, the writer and editor Don George, who will be asking me some of the questions that you submit in advance of the class.

I am passionate about fiction writing, and it’s my honor to share my experience with other writers, wherever they are in their own writing journey. Maybe I can help you a little to discover your voice and to write the work you were born to create.

I hope you’ll join me!

Isabel Allende is one of the most widely read authors in the world, having sold more than 75 million books. Chilean born in Peru, Isabel won worldwide acclaim in 1982 with the publication of her first novel, The House of the Spirits, which began as a letter to her dying grandfather. Since then, she has authored more than twenty-five bestselling and critically acclaimed books, including Of Love and Shadows, Eva Luna, Daughter of Fortune, Island Beneath the Sea, Paula, The Japanese Lover, and A Long Petal of the Sea. Her work has been translated into more than forty-two languages. Her books entertain and educate readers by interweaving imaginative stories with significant historical events.

In addition to her work as a writer, Isabel devotes much of her time to human rights causes. In 1996, following the death of her daughter Paula, she established a charitable foundation in her honor, which has awarded grants to more than 100 nonprofits worldwide, delivering life-changing care to thousands of women and girls. More than 8 million have watched her TED Talks on leading a passionate life. She has received fifteen honorary doctorates, including one from Harvard University, was inducted into the California Hall of Fame, received the PEN Center Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Anisfield-Wolf Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2014, President Barack Obama awarded Allende the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, and in 2018 she received the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation. She lives in California. Find more at isabelallende.com.

 

Elizabeth Lesser - Five Things I've Learned About How the Hero’s Journey Changes When Women Are the Storytellers (Online Class)

Saturday, March 13, 2021 - 1:00pm

Saturday, March 13th • Online

Live • 1:00pm-3:00pm PT • $60


Five Things I’ve Learned online classes connect you with creative leaders and thinkers eager to share the lessons of their own experience. Classes take place live, online, with an on-demand video archive so that you can easily view again whenever and wherever you like.
 

Discover the five things I’ve learned about what happens when women trust their instincts, dignify their values, and speak their truths — values and truths that redefine what it means to be a hero.

Humans are storytellers. That’s how we learn, create culture, and determine shared values. I’ve been a story lover, story creator, and story gatherer throughout my life — as a voracious book-reader and movie-watcher, an author, and a curator of conferences. As a student of history and mythology, I know that most of humankind’s origin stories, hero’s tales, novels, and films have been created by men. Embedded in those stories are the beliefs we live by — beliefs about women and men, power and war, sex and love. There’s much to enjoy in the old stories and hero’s adventure tales. But even as a young girl I longed for stories I could relate to. Where were the tales that celebrated the experiences and dreams and visions of women? Why were women painted as fickle and weak — second in creation yet first to sin? Why were men described as white knights with superior minds and values? And why were men always the heroes?

For more than twenty years I have been organizing conferences for women that question and defy our culture’s prevailing definition of what it means to be a hero. I’ve come to see that it’s up to us to tell new stories that balance out millennia of one-sided storytelling. And I’m not talking about Wonder Woman or other outdated shoot-‘em-up tales of winners and losers. I’m interested in stories—on the page and in our real lives—that celebrate a different kind of hero. I’m ready for women to dignify some of our best qualities and give muscle and clout to leaders and creators who value caretaking, champion compassion, and choose communication over vengeance and violence. We all can conjure, tell, and teach these new stories. We can live them out in our own lives. This class (open to everyone), is based on my new book Cassandra Speaks: When Women Are the Storytellers, the Human Story Changes.

During our time together we’ll:

  1. Dig deep for our truest voice.
  2. Explore what it means to do power differently—at home, at work, in the world.
  3. Learn some ways to overcome the imposter syndrome.
  4. Practice what I call the “Do No Harm and Take No Shit” meditation.
  5. Map next steps on our own hero’s journey.

Throughout the class there will be time to ask questions and to engage in meditation and writing exercises.

I hope you will join me.

Elizabeth Lesser is a bestselling author and the cofounder of Omega Institute, the renowned conference and retreat center located in Rhinebeck, New York. Elizabeth’s first book, The Seeker’s Guide, chronicles her years at Omega and distills lessons learned into a potent guide for growth and healing. Her New York Times bestselling book, Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow, has sold more than 300,000 copies and has been translated into 20 languages. Marrow: Love, Loss and What Matters Most is a memoir about herself and her younger sister, Maggie, and the process they went through when Elizabeth was the donor for Maggie’s bone marrow transplant. Her newest book, Cassandra Speaks, explores what happens to our culture's values and priorities when women's voices, stories, and experiences are trusted, respected, and followed.

Elizabeth is one of Oprah Winfrey's SuperSoul 100, a collection of one hundred leaders who are using their voices and talent to elevate humanity. Today, besides writing and her work at Omega Institute, she lends her time to social and environmental causes, and is an avid walker, cook, and gardener. She and her family live in New York’s Hudson River Valley.

 

Pico Iyer - Five Things I've Learned About the Art of Stillness (Online Class)

Saturday, March 27, 2021 - 3:00pm

Saturday, March 27th • Online

Live • 3:00pm-5:00pm PT• $60


Five Things I’ve Learned online classes connect you with creative leaders and thinkers eager to share the lessons of their own experience. Classes take place live, online, with an on-demand video archive so that you can easily view again whenever and wherever you like.

 

Discover the five things I’ve learned about opening up space in our heads, and in our days.

Long before the global pandemic, our lives were spinning out of control. More data and distraction than we knew what to do with. Less time to take care of anything essential. A post-human pace that we could survive only by not being quite human.

As we prepare to return to something like normal, will we find ways to live at a saner pace, with things more in balance? What might help us keep both calm and clarity alive? More and more people these days turn to meditation, or yoga, to qigong or mindful eating. But even for those not ready for a formal practice, there’s something gained—this strange season has reminded us—in stepping back from the rush, in taking a break, in going for a walk or losing yourself in a book, if only so as to remind yourself of what matters most and how to remain close to what truly sustains us.

Drawing upon 30 years of going on retreat (more than 90 times), 33 years of trying to live simply in Japan and 46 years of talking to the Dalai Lama, I’d like to share five things I think I know about opening up space in our heads and our days so that our moments feel unhurried and we can best deal with all life throws at us.

This class will call upon viewer suggestions, on personal experience, and on the wisdom of the ages to try to offer concrete, practical tips that anyone can use to try to restore depth and intimacy to her life and to build up what is ultimately our most essential resource: an inner savings-account.

I hope you will join us.

Pico Iyer is the author of 15 books, including a long meditation on the Dalai Lama (The Open Road), an exploration of our accelerating world (The Global Soul), and a reflection on mortality and impermanence (Autumn Light). His TED Book The Art of Stillness was followed by a talk for TED, and his four talks on the TED stage have drawn more than 11 million views so far.

 

Brooke Warner - Five Things I've Learned About Giving Voice to What Matters in the New Year (Virtual Class)

Saturday, January 16, 2021 - 1:00pm

 

Saturday, January 16th • Virtual

Live • 1:00-2:30pm PT• $40


Five Things I’ve Learned online classes connect you with creative leaders and thinkers eager to share the lessons of their own experience. Classes take place live, online, with an on-demand video archive so that you can easily view again whenever and wherever you like.

 

Discover the five things I’ve learned about putting out the message you most want to share in the new year.

Based on my popular book, Write On, Sisters!, this 90-minute workshop supports and inspires writers (and aspiring writers) to think about the five things they want to give voice to in the new year.

As we emerge into 2021, many of us will be looking back at the many challenges and necessary resilience of 2020. This will be an important moment to consider how we can give voice to what matters—what messages, ideas, and impact we want our writing to center around and what we want or need to deliver in 2021.

As a writing coach, publisher of She Writes Press, and cohost of the Write-minded podcast, I’ve has spent the past 20+ years supporting authors to birth their ideas, to hone their messages, and to boldly give voice to their stories. What story or message in you is ready to take form, or to be set free? What is one action you will take in 2021 that will lead you toward a new growth edge of telling or sharing your story, or becoming a thought leader? What obstacles have been in your way that need to be cleared in order for you to emerge into 2021 ready to give voice to what matters? How will you harness the energy of this inspiring force and move from intention to action?

This class will support writers and authors to step into their big, bold dreams. If ever there were a time to do this, it’s now. Come ready to be both challenged and supported around elevating your voice—whether that’s through writing, publishing, or amplifying.

Brooke Warner is the publisher of She Writes Press and SparkPress, president of Warner Coaching Inc., and author of Write On, Sisters!, Green-Light Your Book, What’s Your Book?, and three books on memoir. Brooke is a TEDx speaker, cohost of the weekly writing podcast “Write-minded,” and the former executive editor of Seal Press. She is the former Chairperson of the Independent Book Publishers Association and sits on the boards of the Bay Area Book Festival and the National Association of Memoir Writers. She writes a monthly column for Publishers Weekly.

Online Class: Art History with Kerrin Meis - Timeless Tunisia (via Zoom)

Saturday, March 13, 2021 - 1:00pm to 3:00pm


Two Saturdays: March 13th and 20th, 2021

Hosted via Zoom • Live • 1:00-3:00pm PT • $80


Join art historian Kerrin Meis on a virtual tour of this tiny jewel of the Maghreb. Across from Italy on the northern shores of Africa—sandwiched between the Mediterranean and the Sahara desert—Tunisia, for centuries, was the center of the world’s evolving history. For over 600 years Romans traveled through it, preceded by the Phoenicians and followed by the Byzantines, Arabs, Ottomans, and the French—all of whom left visible and fascinating marks. Through brilliant slides and informed commentary, discover the remains of these cultures: the world’s finest Roman mosaics, the site of ancient Carthage, underground villas, and the spectacular amphitheatre at el Djem. Marvel at lush oases, fortified granaries, hilltop Berber villages, and some of the scenery that so enchanted the directors of Star Wars and The English Patient. Tunisia is especially rich in Islamic architecture: the great mosque at Kairouan, the medina of Tunis, and more. The Arab Spring was most successful in Tunisia, making it an excellent country to visit.

Kerrin Meis taught art history at SFSU for ten years and has led study tours in Europe. Her Book Passage classes have been favorites for years.

 

Online Class: Art History with Kerrin Meis - The Battle Between Cross and Crescent: The Danube (via Zoom)

Saturday, February 27, 2021 - 1:00pm to 3:00pm


Two Saturdays: February 27th and March 6th, 2021

Hosted via Zoom • Live • 1:00-3:00pm PT • $80


Visitors to cities on the Danube are captivated by their architecture, music, and ambience. Not always peaceful, there were periods beginning with the Battle of Mohacs that brought the Hungarian Kingdom under Ottoman rule: the Siege of Vienna by Suleyman the Magnificent in 1526, and another siege by Kara Mustapha in 1623. (Ottoman occupation introduced paprika, coffee houses, and bath houses.) We will meet the major actors in this drama from Alexander the Great, the Romans, and others, and learn what was so important about the Danube that flows from the Black Forest in Germany to the Black Sea. We visit Passau, Linz, Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, Belgrade, and a few surprises.

Kerrin Meis taught art history at SFSU for ten years and has led study tours in Europe. Her Book Passage classes have been favorites for years.

 

Online Class: Art History with Kerrin Meis - Discover Jordan Beyond Petra (via Zoom)

Saturday, February 13, 2021 - 1:00pm to 3:00pm


Two Saturdays: February 13th and 20th, 2021

Hosted via Zoom • Live • 1:00-3:00pm PT • $80


The Nabatean city of Petra is indeed worth a trip to Jordan, but let's not miss the country's other spectacular sights. Our virtual journey takes us to Umayyad caliphs' desert castles with astonishing frescoes; the huge, well-preserved Roman city of Jerash; Mount Nebo and the city of Madaba, famous for its map of the Near East; and a score of other treasures such as Umm ar Rasas, where the floors of Byzantine era St. Stephen and other churches are covered with perhaps the best mosaics extant. We will visit the ancient city of Philadelphia—now Amman—its citadel, great temple, and museum. A day in the ancient city of al Salt with its lovely Ottoman architecture, and a night in a Bedouin camp in Wadi Rum, complete this fascinating experience—unless we have the urge to spend a day on the beach of Aqaba or bobbing about on the Dead Sea. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan welcomes us! 

Kerrin Meis taught art history at SFSU for ten years and has led study tours in Europe. Her Book Passage classes have been favorites for years.

 

Virtual Class: Art History with Kerrin Meis - The Aesthetic Movement: The Cult of Beauty Revisited (via Zoom)

Saturday, January 30, 2021 - 1:00pm to 3:00pm

Two Saturdays: January 30 and February 6, 2021

Hosted via Zoom • Live • 1:00-3:00pm PT • $80


In their operetta Patience, Gilbert and Sullivan skewered the Aesthetic movement—the anti-industrial stance adopted by a talented and opinionated group of artists, poets, and architects that had an enormous impact on painting, architecture, interior design, and dress. Closely related to the Arts and Crafts movement, Aestheticism attempted to redefine the relationship between "Fine Arts" and design. An exhibit in 2012, originated by the Victoria and Albert Museum, celebrated the creations of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, James McNeill Whistler, Burne-Jones, Godwin, William Morris, and a host of others. Let's educate ourselves about the philosophy, interaction, and production of these creative geniuses. We look at paintings, sculpture, furniture, household objects, and houses—and read some poetry.

Kerrin Meis taught art history at SFSU for ten years and has led study tours in Europe. Her Book Passage classes have been favorites for years.

 

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