- What is the Writing Salon?
The Writing Salon is a school of creative writing for adults (ages 18 and up). We offer small classes (of 6 to 13 students), held in comfortable, colorful, living room-like settings, complete with fresh-brewed coffee, tea and munchies. We are a big enough organization to offer a wide selection of classes and teachers, but small enough to ensure intimacy and individual attention. Our 5 to 10-week courses and one-day workshops include classes in every genre: poetry, fiction, nonfiction, journalism, creative nonfiction (personal essays & memoirs, travel writing, food writing, experimental prose), screenwriting, playwriting, how to get published, how to market your writing, etc.
If you’re a beginning writer, we’ll help you to lay the groundwork in basic craft. If you’re an intermediate to advanced writer, we’ll help you to move up to the next level. If you’re feeling rusty or blocked, this is where you can come to oil your gears and unlock pent-up creativity.
We believe that taking a creative writing class isn’t just about learning the nuts and bolts of craft. It’s also about renewing your motivation, your discipline and your commitment to writing. It’s also about having some fun as you learn to unleash more of your simmering creativity and imagination! Our courses are not dry, droning lectures; they are hands-on — you will write, not just think about writing — and you will engage in lots of discussion, interaction, laughter and GOOD ENERGY.
We invite writers at all levels of experience to come learn new skills and improve (or revive) old ones. We also encourage you to think of the Writing Salon as a resource for making connections, finding support and building community with other writers — in short, a place where you can go to strengthen not only your writing but your writing life. You can follow us, for news and announcements, on our FACEBOOK page and/or TWITTER, too!
- What makes the Writing Salon unique?
There’s no other organization quite like it in the Bay Area. You can find writing classes primarily at colleges and universities, or taught privately by individuals, but the Writing Salon is unusual in that it is a full-fledged, formal, year-round program (four 9 to 10-week sessions a year) that offers a wide array of on-site (and some online) classes in every genre, taught by a wide variety of teachers. Some of our instructors teach “core” classes on a regular basis (ie. basic fiction, poetry, screenwriting, playwriting, memoirs, etc.). Others teach classes that are offered only occasionally, on a rotating basis, in order to spice up the core curriculum (ie. food writing, erotica writing, writing for children, tips for bloggers, writing about video games, overcoming writer’s block, etc.).
- Who runs the Writing Salon?
The Writing Salon is owned and run by Jane Underwood, a writer/teacher who has an MFA in creative writing. She founded the Writing Salon in January of 1999. For the first four years the WS offered five or six classes taught by Jane and a half dozen other teachers, out of her cottage in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights neighborhood. In 2003, she expanded the Writing Salon to include a second classroom in Berkeley. In 2008 she moved the San Francisco Writing Salon classroom from her cottage to its current location in the Mission District (at Bryant Square Lofts, formerly known as the Mill Building, which was originally constructed in 1879 as a woolen mill and converted into live/work lofts for artists and arts-related businesses in 1998).
As soon as the Writing Salon opened its doors in 1999, a steady stream of enthusiastic and talented writers and would-be writers rushed in to fill the vacuum. This continued even during the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009! Today the Writing Salon offers more than 30 classes every session, taught by a rotating staff of more than two dozen teachers. In addition to running the Writing Salon, Jane teaches the “Daily Write Round Robin” class, the “I Want to Write BUT…” class, and occasional “Sunday Salon Write-a-Thons.” She also hosts the Saturday Night Writer’s Special reading series, and blogs at Writing Salon Mistress Muses.
- Who teaches your classes?
Our classes are taught by a wide spectrum of excellent teachers, all of whom are professional writers themselves, and each of whom specializes in one or more genres of creative writing. Dozens of different writers have taught here over the years. Some teach almost every session, others come and go depending on the demand for their particular class. For example, our fiction writing teachers teach every session, whereas our food writing or children’s book writing teachers may teach less often. At the end of every course description there is a short TEACHER BIO.
- I’m interested in teaching at the Writing Salon. How do I go about applying for a job?
From Jane Underwood (owner):
First of all, let me say that I (and all our students) truly appreciate your interest and would love to hear from you.
Please send a brief (informal) email to firstname.lastname@example.org, in which you tell me what class(es) you would like to teach, where you would like to teach (Berkeley or SF), and your qualifications: educational background, experience as a teacher, credentials as a writer. Let me know if you are currently teaching writing classes elsewhere — through other organizations, schools, or privately.
If you have course descriptions for classes you’re teaching now or have taught in the past, send those along. Or if you’d really like to impress me, send a description for the class you’d like to teach here, modeled after the content, length and style of the course descriptions already on our website. I pay a great deal of attention to how people write their course descriptions (and to whether they heed my request to model it after the descriptions already on our site).
I will respond to your email, and we will go from there. Please keep in mind that I run the Writing Salon by myself, so I may not respond immediately, especially if I have just finished doing the schedule for the current session.
- I have questions about registering for a class. How do I sign up? What is the cost? Etc.
Please click on this link: “Registration Q & A,” which is also in the sidebar.
- Who attends your classes?
People of all ilks and persuasions. Some aspire to write professionally — or already do but are honing or expanding their skills. Others want to write because they see it as an enjoyable spare-time activity that is mentally stimulating, emotionally therapeutic, spiritually enlightening, socially pleasurable…or just plain fun.
People have told us that they take our classes for one or more of the following reasons: 1) love of the creative process, 2) self-improvement and empowerment, 3) personal growth, 4) professional growth, 5) community with other writers, 6) learning for the sake of learning, and 7) you fill-in-the-blank!
Our clients are a reflection of the Bay Area: a multicultural, multi-ethnic, multi-sexual cross section of word lovers, ranging in age from 18 to 80 (mostly mid-twenties to mid-fifties). We’ve had plumbers, dancers, doctors, artists, and waitresses take our classes. We’ve welcomed business executives, entrepreneurs, dot.com’ers, computer nerds, housewives, househusbands, and belly dancers. In short, pretty much every kind of person under the sun has been here — so you don’t need to worry about “fitting in.” You will.
- How many people are in a class?
A minimum of six and a maximum of thirteen. Very different from 20 or 25 or more!
- What kinds of classes do you offer?
1. Introductory creative writing courses, such as “Introduction to Creative Writing” and “Exploring Your Writer’s Voice”
2. Classes that focus on basic “core” genres: fiction (short stories & novels), poetry, creative nonfiction (personal essays & memoirs), screenwriting, playwriting, journalism (freelance magazine writing)
3. Classes that focus on specific sub-genres (ie. travel writing, humor writing, children’s book writing, food writing, and erotica)
4. Classes that delve into one specific element of craft (ie. character, plot, dialog, setting, point of view, show don’t tell, etc.)
5. Classes about marketing and publishing (how to find an agent, how and where to submit your work, self-publishing, how to write a book proposal, etc.)
6. Classes to help you bust through writer’s block and/or develop a stronger, more disciplined writing practice
- When are your classes held?
We have four nine-week sessions a year: Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall. Within each nine-week session, we offer a mix of five and nine-week classes that meet once a week, mostly in the evenings from 7 to 9:30 p.m., occasionally on Saturdays during the day. We also offer one-day Saturday workshops, as well as a few 6-month “continuation” classes that meet only once a month but also have email interaction in-between.
- Where are your classes held?
We have one classroom in San Francisco and one in Berkeley. See sidebar for addresses/directions.
- Any chance you’ll ever offer classes in the North Bay, up the Peninsula…or even beyond, like maybe in Kansas or Connecticut or Washington? Or how about LA or San Diego?
No, so sorry, we know the Writing Salon is cool, but we are content as we are, with no plans to become either an empire or a franchise.
- Do you offer any online classes?
The closest thing we have to that right now is the “Daily Write Round Robin.” Our 6-month “continuation” classes (the classes that meet once a month for six months) also have an online component between the monthly meetings.
We might add more online classes in the future (we periodically get emails from former students who have moved out of the Bay Area, begging us to do this!) but our primary commitment is to offering (and nurturing) the visceral, dynamic, energetic classes that come about only when a group of people gather together in person. It makes for much more lively class discussions and feedback, and encourages people to connect in ways that they can’t, online. It also allows us to eat yummy snacks during the breaks.
- How are your classes structured?
There’s not one answer to this question. Every teacher has a unique teaching style. In general, though, our classes emphasize hands-on participation (in-class writing exercises, discussions), as well as “lectures” (but not boring or dry!) from the teachers. Don’t expect to simply sit, listen, and take notes. We encourage learning by doing.
Our teachers construct classes around writing exercises or short assignments done in and out of class, reading assignments, in-class discussions, and “workshopping” of longer pieces (in some classes, not all). Some instructors create a tightly structured syllabus that adheres to specific weekly lessons and assignments. Other instructors opt for a more “organic” and spontaneous approach, allowing class lessons and discussions to stem from questions and observations that arise as your writings are shared and critiqued in class.
Many of our classes are designed to be taken more than once, especially the 6-month classes and sometimes the 9-week classes. For example, we have lots of Writing Salon “regulars” who repeat our “workshopping” classes on an ongoing basis.
- How do I know which class(es) would be right for me?
Most of our classes are designed to accommodate writers at different levels of experience. It’s not as if ONLY beginners take certain classes, and ONLY intermediate writers take certain classes, and ONLY advanced writers take certain other classes. For one thing, we have no way to determine who fits into those highly subjective categories. For another thing, we have found that classes with member who have varied writing backgrounds and experience make for a much more interesting and dynamic experience. So unless a course description says that a specific prerequisite is required, you can take it. Bottom line: Follow your instincts. If you feel irresistibly drawn to the course description, then go for it. Or if you can’t decide between the ones you’ve narrowed it down to, give Jane at call at 415.609.2468. She’ll help you figure out what the best choice for you would be.
- What should I bring to the first class?
Pen and paper. Or a laptop, provided your battery is charged; we don’t have an abundance of electrical outlets. If your teacher wants you to do or bring anything special for the first class, he or she will let you know via email, but usually all you need for the first class is something to write on.
- Is there a lunch break during the one-day Saturday workshops?
Yes. The time and length varies slightly, according to the class and teacher, but usually the break is about an hour. Both our classrooms are located close to cafes (in Berkeley, there’s a cafe at Strawberry Creek Design Center; in SF, there are two or three cafes within a short walking distance).