One day workshop in Lafayette, CA

 Students in the workshop space at the end of another long, inspiring workshop.

Students in the workshop space at the end of another long, inspiring workshop.


Over the course of the one-day intensive at her home in either Lafayette, California or southwestern New Hampshire (the closest town is Bennington, NH), longtime journalist and essayist Joyce Maynard will examine the form of the short first-person essay, beginning with a look at the form -- identifying the purpose of an essay and the components of a successful and authentic piece of personal nonfiction. She will explore the differences in approach between writing a short and self contained personal essay and the task of embarking on a longer work of memoir. Fiction writers interested in working on issues of craft, language, pace and character, are also welcome, and will find plenty that will help their work as well.

Joyce will work with a sample of each student’s writing, workshopping it in front of the group with a detailed analysis of its structure and execution. (The group will consider both the overarching shape and conception of the essay, the author’s “point of entry”, and a close, line-by-line look at the ways choice of language, tone, structure, voice and detail support or undercut his or her intent.)

Participation of group members will be encouraged, though emphasis will be on the instructor’s observations and suggestions. While each participant in the course is likely to take particular interest in the portion of the workshop dedicated to his or her own work, the goal is to focus on how the concerns raised by each piece of work are likely to inform and assist every other member of the group, in his or her own work.

The workshop will conclude with a realistic look at the marketplace — the process of finding an audience for one’s first person narrative work. Time will be made, throughout the day, for questions and observations of the group.


All participants will be asked to submit a manuscript — typewritten, double spaced, hard copy — of no more than 2,500 words. Manuscript must be received within one week of the workshop meeting date, so Joyce can have time to read and study your work. You’ll also be asked to send your piece and a photo by email to Melissa Vincel, Workshop Coordinator, who will post those items on a secure site. This way, your fellow writers will be able to be familiar with your voice and face before the actual workshop. You will receive the secure-website address and password, once you are registered. 

Your manuscript can be either a free-standing personal essay or a chapter or excerpt from a longer work. All members of the workshop will be asked to read their fellow writers’ work, so that the actual workshop time will be free for critiques and discussion. 

Meet at 8:30 a.m. on the day of the workshop for coffee and croissants, with a firm starting time of 9:00 a.m. After a break for a simple, healthy lunch, the group works through the afternoon (with crucial breaks for coffee, tea and chocolate) until 6 or 7 p.m. If you are in New Hampshire, end with a light dinner, drink and dip in the lake at sunset.  

Over the course of the day, each person's writing will be individually workshopped. Other topics covered will concern both issues of craft and more global questions, such as identifying one's themes; creating a structure; the relationship between memoir and history; locating one's voice; the ethics and personal issues associated with telling stories from our own lives; and the writing process itself. (This includes the terror of NOT writing, and the many impediments we throw in our way to keep us from telling our stories.)

NEXT SESSION: Sept. 15, 2018  FULL, email for waiting list

WHERE: NEW HAMPSHIRE (closest town is Bennington, NH...not Bennington, VT)


COST: $485, includes lunch.

APPLY: Tell us what you want to work on, where you are at in your writing life, and provide a sample if you have one (500 words or less). Send your inquiry to Melissa Vincel, Workshop Coordinator.



"Today's workshop was one of the richest and most fun times I've ever had. Even though it was by the clock a long day, it felt so quick and refreshing. It was a privilege to spend time with such a talented and authentic group of women. A special thanks to you, Joyce, for creating the arc of the day so beautifully, and with such astuteness and generosity. Thanks again."  (Lorrie Goldin, San Anselmo, California)

"Words cannot describe my first writing workshop. I was moved by each one of your life stories, and they evoked in me, some kind of parallel story-telling. Thank you, Joyce, for creating a beautiful writing workshop."  (Vijaya Nagaran, Berkeley, California)

"I learned (and re-learned) so much from you at the workshop. Your ability to tune right into the heart of the matter was amazing and appreciated. Your workshop has prompted me and given me permission to write my truth in memoir form about my childhood and life My tears shocked myself... but at this point in my life, I just accepted them... you (and others) touched my heart... and I responded." (Mickey Fernandez, Santa Rosa, California)

"It was fabulous! The next morning I bolted awake at 5:40 a.m., rolled out of bed, tip-toed to the computer and began editing my piece. That to me is the mark of a good workshop! Thanks to all for the feedback, and to Joyce especially for bringing together all these fabulous women, then feeding, nurturing, and mentoring us. Truly a holy day."  (Alicia Rouverol, Santa Rosa, California)

"I've taken two weekend seminars from Joyce. I found her to be one of the most unusual, talented, and amazing people that I have ever met. Her wit and sense of humor make her one of the funniest people I've ever met as well. One of the qualities that is so endearing is that she is unassuming--she is not remotely arrogant, and she is very, very kind.

When she teaches it is like watching a work of art under construction. One time last fall as I watched her take us through writing a story spontaneously, I kept thinking that the whole scene could have been set to a Mozart piece. Pure poetry in motion, to use a trite phrase, which by the way, Joyce hates.

She has an unparalleled talent at showing us, as aspiring writers, how to access the emotions that underlie the things about which we are writing.

She reminds us to tell our stories, but to do that we have to KNOW our stories. She taught us that telling our stories is practically a birthright, because our stories are so profoundly ours, and no one can alter that-no matter how powerful they are.

The weekend classes that I took were total emotional tour de forces because almost everyone who writes a personal essay writes about something devastating in their life. Joyce is so gifted at orchestrating the class through the emotions that I kept wondering if she had a degree in counseling.

There is so much good energy and such a tremendous and unforced joie de vivre in Joyce. Anyone who has an opportunity to take a class from Joyce should take it. I can't imagine that it could be replicated anywhere.

— Roxanne Kontzer, San Jose, California