I just wanted to tell you how great Jess’ short story class was yesterday. It was exactly what I was looking for! We talked about the differences in content and structure in short stories vs the novel. We discussed how novel focus more on emotion and character and short stories focus more on theme and plot. We talked about how every character in the short story somehow expressed the theme or relates to the theme in a different way. We talked about keeping our characters limited to 3-4. And we discussed how the plotting is different in the short story as well. It sort of all came together for me. Now I just have to write it! (The easy part right?).
We also workshopped the stories we’re working on then worked through the seven basic questions as they apply to our stories. We even talked about the history of the short story.
Anyway, I highly recommend this class and Jess as an instructor.
I always feel more creatively motivated when I take classes from her. She is also very adept at interweaving positive feedback with what we need to improve on in our work. That, at least for me, is really important, especially as a beginning writer. She knows her stuff and she knows how to explain it well. So hats off to Jess and the short story class! (And the other classes she teaches, such as her Historical Fiction class). I hope it’s offered again.
Jess’s Works-in-Progress class actually surpassed expectations. It was a really good group with some great discussions. Jess brought in good material that provoked the discussions (and differing opinions).
What I liked best was the opportunity to talk about current challenges in our writing projects. We all got “air time,” when we could talk about what was frustrating or interesting us in what we were doing. It’s the kind of discussion that is hard to find, with real back-and-forth and the opportunity to ask questions about all the “rules” of writing. Jess was really really good at getting us all going.
We also had a couple of “craft” discussions where Jess brought in samples of writing (“beginnings” and some short stories), and the discussions were much more interesting than I expected.
Jess was very good at getting us to hone in on what we are actually trying to do. She asks a questions and listens very carefully to the answer. She is friendly and informal–has a great sense of humor. I got what I needed to take my next steps on my writing project, where I was somewhat stuck. By next steps I mean both ideas on what it needed, and some motivation!
I think the Writing Salon is a great organization/institution. I don’t know what the Bay Area would do without it, because for people not affiliated with a university it’s such a great resource.
I have just returned from Jess Well’s one-day course on Writing the Historical Novel. I would like to praise it highly.
The organization was very good. We dealt with theme, characterization, place, and the art of researching; the numbered points made it easy to follow.
I liked the fact that we looked at an actual example of historical fiction, Andrea Barrett’s story about the great Swedish scientist Linnaeus called “The English Pupil.” Jess had many perceptive comments about it, using it as an example of how to use theme.
Jess excelled at analyzing and solving challenges having to do with people’s projects. She had to think very fast on her feet and did. She also continued to chat about our projects over lunch when, goodness knows, she must have been quite tired.
I might add that she showed grace under pressure. During the first part of the class, we were nearly deafened by the roar of tree work going on outside and the grinding of a giant chipper. She kept on unperturbed and took care that we could hear her.
I hope to take her course on the Short Story when it is next offered.
Dr. Ruth A. Hanham
I just attended Jess Wells’ historical fiction writing workshop and I
just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed it. Even though it was
just a day, Jess packed a huge amount of useful and helpful
information but more than that, she really encouraged the class to
think about how to structure our work regardless of whether someone
was 200 pages into a manuscript or, like me, still at the ‘thinking
about it’ stage. She also encouraged us to share our thoughts to help
each other overcome obstacles we might be facing in developing our
stories. Unfortunately, I’m just visiting San Francisco but if I was
here for any length of time, I wouldn’t hesitate to sign up for
another class with Jess or another teacher.
Re: Writing with a Full-Time Job (1-day workhop)
I thought Jess did a fantastic job in a short time of: covering many aspects of procrastination in writing, getting to talk directly to each student’s individual concerns/issues (several times, and we all learned from this), covering issues of how we waste time, why we might be afraid to write and how to overcome. She threw in inspirational quotes and kept informing us all through lunch, which if she’s not paid for that time,I feel is above and beyond. It must have been a long day for her. She seemed extremely well informed of multiple writing styles and writer’s issues, plus had had excellent listening skills to touch each budding writer personally. The class really gave me some ideas on how to move forward with more writing in my life. I am a pruner who brings out the beauty in trees that just need a little attention to shine. I feel Jess did the same for our writer’s group. She quickly found and encouraged our specialties/special interests. Thank you for offering the class! Thanks for snacks and tea, made my first time visit feel like I had entered one big family of writers.
Re: Writing While Working a Full-Time Job
I have never felt so energized after a class before. Strike that. I have never felt energized with such a sense of direction before. Though I often come away from a writing class with a great deal of excitement and fresh enthusiasm about my writing dreams, the energy often fizzles and I get little accomplished. Now, I have a plan to help my writing dreams come true. It’s only been a few days, but I have already stuck to that plan. I have the satisfaction of actually getting writing done for a change. Additionally, I’m really happy with the writing I’m producing.
I enjoyed Jess’ relaxed and casual, but passionate nature and her ability to be tough and honest with us about prioritizing writing over other things in life (even going to the gym! even walking your dogs! even cleaning your house!) Her story about writing in the storage room at 4 am wrapped up in the mummy bag was inspiring. She’s really been through all of this before and has made it work. With 13 books and a successful day-career under her belt, she is definitely a qualified instructor.
I thought that the workshop was full of practical suggestions, tips, and practices. The only exception is when we talked about countering fear of writing. That part didn’t seem so practical; there weren’t many concrete ideas for what to do to move past your fear. It was more inspirational, with a focus on quotes. I didn’t mind it though, because that isn’t as big of an issue for me right now. My big issue was overcoming procrastination and making time for writing. My favorite parts were when we talked about brainwaves and when we talked about giving your writing life structure (discipline, deadlines, etc). These two sections were transformative for me. One crucial question was, when is the best time of day for you to write? I learned about following your natural creative rhythms and giving your writing life the same importance as other areas of your life. More importance, perhaps. It taught me how I can schedule my life around my writing, without quitting my job.
Administratively, I was really happy to have been able to register at 11:45 the night before and still make it in to the class. I got all the necessary emails in time and Jess was very accommodating the day of, even though I don’t think she was expecting me. I also enjoy the one-day Saturday classes. I often find that a 5-week evening class is too much of a commitment for me, and the one-day intensive workshops are perfect for my life and learning styles. Also, Jess told us about some of the other classes she offered. All of them sounded good, but I was particularly interested in the one about creating credible worlds.
Okay. There you have a novel about the class. Does this count as my writing time for the day? 😉
I just wanted to tell you what a wonderful experience I had at Jess Wells’s short story workshop this past weekend! Jess gave insightful and concrete suggestions–I really feel prepared to move forward with my writing project thanks to her help. She was very engaging, passionate, and inspiring as well. Many thanks to Jess and the Writing Salon!
This class exceeded my expectations. Jess is an excellent teacher. She’s funny, empathetic and to
the point. She conveyed a lot of information, but didn’t just lecture. She asked excellent
questions that prompted realizations and thoughtful responses from the attendees. I was so pumped
up from the workshop that I came home and wrote for three hours.
Your website is easy to use and the directions were clear. Strawberry Creek Design Center is
lovely; the classroom was comfortable and I appreciated the on-hand coffee and treats.
I am looking forward to taking another class.
This class was terrific. For someone with a work in progress, it was right on point, zeroing in on the issues that plague anyone trying to write a novel. I think everyone there left feeling they were taking a brand new look at their work. She was organized but flexible with the time so that it was a truly interactive class with everyone able to discuss their own projects. That’s a lot to accomplish in one day. I highly recommend it.