How Laguna Writers Workshops Work

Laguna Writers workshops began in a studio apartment on Laguna Street in San Francisco, but are now held in Twin Peaks. We call them workshops, not classes, because there is no homework and no supplies are necessary. You only need to bring a pen and a pad of paper, or whatever it is you like to write on. We have extras if you forget these, so all you really have to bring is yourself. The workshop sessions are eight weeks long, and run from 7:30-10:00 with a short scheduled break; we supply snacks, tea, coffee and a DeLorenzo dessert.

Not manuscript driven. Laguna Writers writing workshops differ from traditional writing groups because they are not manuscript driven and they are multi-genre. Most writer's groups require that someone--or several people in the group--present manuscripts each week for critical feedback. This workshop is based on a different method: the Amherst Writers and Artist method.

Inspiration provided. We start with exercises that loosen us up, make us remember, and help us create characters, utilize sensory detail, write dialogue, and sometimes even create poems. We set aside 15-20 minutes to write several times during the evening, and then if you choose to, you can read your work out loud. No one has to read out loud; anyone may pass at anytime.

Positive feedback only. If you do read your work out loud, we only respond with what we like and what we remember. No critical feedback. Our philosophy is that these writings are fresh, first drafts, and do not benefit from criticism. If the writer knows what's working, he or she can work on that manuscript later and present it to the group at a later date--if he or she chooses to do so. That is the only time the writer will receive critical feedback, balanced with praise. This builds trust and self confidence, and we have seen writers grow immensely from this. It works.

Laguna Writers Workshop Guidelines


1. Writing is an act of communication, and is most interesting when the writer feels free and safe and is given permission to create. Creating stories sometimes requires us to lie, to make things up, to manipulate the truth. Let's agree to help each other to be experimental, to tell stories, and to take creative risks by following these guidelines:

2. We give ourselves permission to write anything we desire, we write freely without worrying about grammar or syntax (that comes later, when we revise), and we keep the hand moving without judging what is coming out. This is a difficult practice!

3. If the prompt includes the word "you," we allow ourselves to inhabit a character outside of ourselves. It's our work, so we can fictionalize anything we want.

4. We consider everything written here as fiction, unless the author decides to tell us otherwise. When offering feedback, we use the terms the narrator or the character rather than you.  We only use the word you when we are addressing the writer directly. This gives the writer some distance from the work, which is helpful when he or she revises. Also, when we respond to the characters or the narrator in the writing, we shouldn't say you because it may not be the writer that is being represented at all.

5. When people read out loud we pay attention and we listen to those writers who have volunteered to read (you can pass at any time, no one has to read), and we tell them only what we like and what we remember. The work is so fresh even the writer may not have had a chance to read it yet, so criticism isn't helpful at this point.

When we respond to what others have read, let's remember to be as specific as possible and refer to the writing itself: the colors, textures, dialogue, anything in the actual writing itself. It's best to avoid analyzing the writing or asking for what could be, might be, was almost there. It's easier than that. Let's agree to separate what we want or what we think from the actual writing itself; we simply respond to what we hear.

6. We agree to sit quietly while others are writing, even if we have already finished. We also agree to sit quietly when people are reading or others are responding to their work.

7. This workshop is designed to help us produce work, which we can revise later and present as a manuscript. If we want feedback on a revised manuscript, we agree to submit copies of it to everyone and allow everyone a week to read it. Those manuscripts will be limited to fifteen pages per submission, or a maximum of three poems. When we gather together again, we will spend about 30-40 minutes offering both praise and recommendations for improvement. If we are using laptops, we agree to do so in a way that won’t distract others.

8. We do not write about others in the group.

9. We keep everything written or said here confidential.

10. We agree to commit to every session and we agree to arrive on time.