Hello Writing Salon,
I just finished Fiction Gym Workshop with Cary Groner, and I could not be more satisfied with Cary as a teacher or with my overall experience in the course. In class, Cary is a calm, kind, intelligent – I’ll go ahead and say wise – presence. He gives excellent feedback, and his praise is meaningful because he is unafraid to tell student writers when a piece of work isn’t there yet (better, he can explain why). He’s drily funny. It’s telling that a couple students in our group were taking the class for a second time.
The workshop itself is thoughtfully organized. Each week is devoted to a specific aspect of craft, with excellent readings that support the lesson. There’s also a writing exercise that is tailored to the topic at hand but also open enough that you feel you’re working on real stories, not just prompts designed to get your juices flowing in an amateurish way. I spent some time looking for a writing course that was suitable for savvy beginners – the kind of people who aspire to take their fiction seriously someday, and want the kind of rigorous, supportive, specific instruction that will really help them get there.
I agree with the student who said that Cary’s course appears to pack as many of the beneficial aspects of an MFA program as possible into a nine-week course. It was just what I needed. I’ll be back for the continuation class later this fall.
-Katherine S., Berkeley CA
Here is a review of Cary Groner’s fiction writing class for your web site. It’s fine to use my full name.
Cary’s class was an amazing opportunity for me – and would be for anyone who’s serious about learning the craft of writing. He creates thoughtful lessons that dig deep into concepts like characterization, dialogue and point of view. He also assigns published stories that demonstrate different approaches to craft issues. I learned a lot from the broad range of writers we read, from Chekhov to contemporary Pakistani fiction. And most importantly, Cary’s a great critic! He gives insightful feedback that gets to the heart of students’ writing. He doesn’t hijack stories or tell you what to write – he helps you figure out how to realize your own goals for each piece. He also guides class discussions carefully to encourage students to give each other respectful and useful critiques.
Rigorous, intelligently structured, and rich in craft and critique, Cary Groner’s fiction workshop is a standout. Cary gave us a solid grounding in the techniques of writing fiction along with writing assignments in which to practice the technique at hand. He also introduced us to a trove of superb stories and essays carefully chosen to illustrate the masterful use of each technique we studied.
Cary is an engaging and inspiring teacher, generous with his knowledge and his time. We came away each week energized by the craft we learned and ready to try it out in our fiction.
This class was my first experience with workshopping fiction. I was grateful for the constructive and thoughtful environment Cary maintained. The critiques of the other students were extremely useful to me. All of us also benefited from Cary’s expert feedback–which is itself worth the price of this class.
Joanne T., San Rafael CA
To whom it may concern,
I am writing this unsolicited letter of recommendation for Cary Groner. I recently finished a creative writing course at ‘The Writing Salon’ in Berkeley and Cary was the instructor for the course. The class meetings were 21/2 hours, one evening a week, for 9 weeks and Cary supplemented small class instruction through email communication and by providing resources on line.
I had not taken a creative writing course since my undergraduate degree program over twenty years ago. I was hesitant to take the course, fearing that it would either be amateurish and a disappointment or focused on professional development for writers more skilled and experienced than me. Cary did an excellent job of creating a rigorous course that exceeded my expectations and was well worth the money I invested. He did several things that I appreciated: he respected the class members and treated us as peers; he set high standards by providing excellent examples of classic and current literature; he was flexible and responsive to the needs of the group; and he gave thorough, balanced, personalized, and helpful criticism that improved every class members’ writing skills by the end of the course.
I would highly recommend Cary. He helped me grow in confidence and skill and renewed my love of writing.
Cary Groner was a wonderful teacher: patient, organized, and encouraging. Although I’ve been writing quite a while and have had a little bit of publishing success (children’s fiction) there were still things I didn’t know about structure and point of view and motivation, conflict and suspense. If I’d succeeded with any of these elements in the past, it was due to in part by chance. Cary’s class has made me a more conscious writer relying less on instinct and more on mindful decisions. I am able to see more clearly where my short fiction is missing the mark. I hope to continue with the Writing Salon in the fall and it would be wonderful to have Cary as my teacher again. I know he has so much more to offer.
–Karen E., Berkeley, Calif.
I highly recommend taking a course from Cary. His approach is to pack as many components of an MFA program into a nine week class as possible. The class is well organized and demanding. If you believe, as I do, that it is necessary to “know the rules in order to break them,” then Cary’s class is the one for you. In workshop, he is skilled at noticing the gaps in stories and then introducing the literary strategies to fill them—which is not to say that he is opposed to unconventional techniques, but that he feels students should be aware of and have many useful tools in their arsenal in order to improve their craft.
–Avery M., Berkeley, Calif.
Cary Groner brought an infectious spirit of professionalism and hard work to this class which helped bring out an impressive set of short stories from the students. His sophisticated leadership in discussions of the essays on writing and of the published stories which he selected for his class, and of the stories written by the students in this class, developed awareness of fine points of diction, point of view, dialog, tone and conflict.
–Ed O., Kensington, Calif.
I have taken two classes with Cary and each time I have left as a better writer. He structures his class so that writers gain expert models, windows through which to analyze their craft, and a lot of feedback. Cary finds the perfect balance of support and challenge so that you feel inspired and able to improve. I am very grateful to all that I have learned from Cary’s classes and look forward to taking another class with him soon. –Katherine S., Oakland, CA
In case you need more testimonials for Cary Groner, here’s mine, I very much enjoyed my first Writing Salon class, thank you!
I heartily recommend studying fiction writing with Cary Groner. I just finished his Fiction Workshop and am gladly signing up for his Fiction Continuation workshop. He combines sensitive, keen perception with rigorous and refreshing, professional high standards, a combination that feels pretty rare among fiction teachers. Workshop writing classes rely on fellow students to be successful, but Cary had a way of quietly raising the bar, encouraging the most thoughtful and considered feedback. In my class, as in another reviewer’s, several of the students had already taken classes with him before, which also said a lot about his teaching talents.
– Emily T.