Past Workshops

Plan Your Novel Like A Pro: A Writing Workshop


Facilitated by Beth Barany

 10:00 am – 1:00 pm

Saturday, October 5

Synergy Medical Fitness Center

3421 Villa Lane in Napa

2nd Floor

It’s your dream to be a novelist, to touch readers’ hearts and minds, to excite and wow them, to transport them. And to build a career with your books.

But you don’t know where to begin. Starting is hard.

Things like creating an outline, scenes, or plot may be confusing, strange, or no fun at all.

Perhaps crafting compelling three-dimensional characters stumps you.

Or maybe you’ve been stuck in the middle of writing your first novel (or fifth) for way too long.

That’s hard.

Beth Barany knows. As a working novelist, she’s been there many, many times.

But there is hope.

 In this hands-on workshop, Beth will help you brainstorm the steps to create your novel—from character development to plot structure to story themes and world building—so you can start writing your novel with clarity and confidence.

Together, we will do bite-sized exercises to help you stretch your imagination and get excited about the writing process.

An award-winning novelist, Beth’s young adult fantasy novel Henrietta The Dragon Slayer, the first in a trilogy, won the 2012 California Indie Author award and this book was also a finalist in the Hollywood Book Festival that same year. She’s also the author of 5 paranormal romances in the Touchstone Series and will release a science fiction mystery quartet in the coming year.

We encourage pre-payment to hold your spot. For more information, or to register with pre-payment, please contact workshop coordinator, Sarita Lopez at (707-508-9845)

Workshop registration fee is $25 for members of Napa Valley Writers, and $45 for non-members.


How to Write a Page Turner
with Jordan Rosenfeld

Event date:
Saturday, June 1, 2019 – 4:00pm
Event address:
964 Pearl Street
Napa, CA 94559

Every author wants to write a story that grabs a reader from page one, hooks them, and doesn’t let them go until it’s early in the morning; that quality that best describes this type of craft is tension. Written by a proven instructor of the craft, How to Write a Page-Turner is the only craft book to that cover just tension and suspense-from every conceivable angle.

Infuse Your Fiction with the Powerful Tug of Tension!

Tension is the heart of conflict, the backbone of uncertainty, the hallmark of danger. It keeps readers guessing and characters on their toes. When you’ve got tension in place, stories leave readers breathless and wanting more. When it’s missing, scenes feel inconsequential, plots drag, and characters meander.

Learning the craft of writing can sometimes feel like a paint by numbers approach–connect compelling character A to plot event B. To avoid writing that’s formulaic, predictable, and slow, How to Write a Page Turner will help you sew the threads of tension tight for an unforgettable story. You’ll learn how to:

  • Recognize the essential tension elements of danger, conflict, uncertainty, and withholding, and add them to your fiction

  • Create levels of tension in your characters through flaws, dialogue, power struggles, and more

  • Build tension at energetic markers throughout the plot

  • Use intimate imagery, strong sentences, and well-chosen words to build tension in exposition

While this book walks you through the key areas that need tension building, from character to plot, it also delves deeper, analyzing exceptional examples from contemporary fiction’s most gripping page-turners. So as you dive into the inner conflicts of a character’s deepest psyche, to the mechanics of how you reveal information to the reader, you’ll also discover how to craft a story your readers can’t put down!

Jordan Rosenfeld is author of Writing the Intimate CharacterWriting Deep Scenes (with Martha Alderson), A Writer’s Guide to Persistence, Make a SceneCrafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time, all Writer’s Digest books, as well as Write Free: Attracting the Creative Life (BeijaFlor Press, with Rebecca Lawton) and the novels Women in Red (Booktrope), Forged in Grace, and Night Oracle.She is a former contributing editor to Writer’s Digest magazine and her many publications include The AtlanticMental Floss, the New York Times, Publisher’s WeeklySalon, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Washington Post, The Writer magazine and many more. Her book commentaries have been featured on NPR-Affiliate KQED’s radio magazine, “The California Report.” Jordan won an NEA chairman’s grant for the radio program she created and hosted, “Word by Word: Conversations with Writers” on KRCB radio, in 2004, where she interviewed such writers as TC Boyle, Louise Erdrich, Aimee Bloom and more (it continues under a new host). Jordan holds an MFA in creative writing and literature from Bennington College, and has worked as an editor and writing coach for more than 15 years through her business “Write Livelihood.” She considers herself the “Writer’s Cheerleader”-always pushing her students and clients to find joy in their work and keep at it. She also edits for Writer’s Digest’s editing and critique service, Second Draft.



Wednesdays 6:00 – 9:00 PM Spring 2018

Want to take your writing to the next level? What to learn how to write excellent poetry from a contemporary poet? Then, sign up for English 203: Poetry Workshop taught by Iris Jamahl Dunkle. • Learn the fine craft of reading and writing poetry.
• Meet in a workshop environment and develop a community of writers.
• Get inspired by reading contemporary poems.
• Try new forms and get inspired with weekly writing prompts.

Iris Jamahl Dunkle is the current Poet Laureate of Sonoma County. She has published three collections of poetry: Gold Passage (2013), There’s a Ghost in this Machine of Air (2015) and Interrupted Geographies (2017). For more information about her work, visit:

PLEASE NOTE: This course has a pre-req: ENGL 200: Introduction to Creative Writing. However, any student who has written poetry before and would like to enroll can by contacting the Counseling department and submitting a challenge (3 poems).

NAPA VALLEY COLLEGE For more information contact: Iris Jamahl Dunkle |



Workshop: The First Page

How to write a first page that hooks the reader 

Saturday, May 12;  1-4 p.m.



The Story You Have to Tell: A Writing Workshop

Facilitated by Melissa Cistaro

8:30: Networking and sign-in

 Workshop time: 9 a.m. – noon

Saturday, September 16

Synergy Medical Fitness Center

3421 Villa Lane in Napa.

How do we find the courage to craft our narrative truths?

Sometimes we embed those truths into our fictional stories, poems and essays. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, mining the emotional landscape of a story gives it power.

Through writing exercises, reading, and discussion, we will explore how we can be more effective storytellers. We will look at examples from writer’s like Dani Shapiro, Sandra Cisnero’s, Darrin Strauss, and Tim O’Brien.

Come prepared with a brief paragraph about the story you need to tell.

Melissa Cistaro is the author of the memoir PIECES OF MY MOTHER (winner of the ‘Best Nonfiction Book of 2105’ selected by The Northern California Independent Booksellers Association).


Napa Valley Writers

Presents a workshop

Get Intimate With Your Character:

Master Point of View for Dazzling Character Development

By Jordan Rosenfeld

When:   March 25th, 2017 from 9 a.m. until Noon

(Registration @ 8:30 a.m.)

Where:  Synergy Center, 3421 Villa Lane, Napa, Ca 94553

(2nd Floor Conference Room #1)

Those books you can’t put down until your eyelids are sandy and your brain is buzzing at two a.m.—what makes them compelling? Unforgettable, singular characters. The way you allow readers to engage with characters in this deeply intimate way is through mastery of Point of View (POV), which is both the lens through which you reveal the story, and the intimacy through which you plant the reader right inside the character’s very skin. In this 3 hour workshop, Jordan Rosenfeld will discuss key character cues and the emotional layers of each point of view for masterful character development and take you through a series of fun exercises to stretch your character building chops.

Jordan will discuss how to:

  • Unlock the essentials of each POV.
  • Identify and use perceptual, sensory and other “cues” to reveal character.
  • Master “intimacy”—how close or distant your reader is from the character.
  • Notice when you are POV jumping and learn to correct this.
  •      Demystify character development.

Jordan E. Rosenfeld is the author of five books on writing and three novels. Her newest book is Writing the Intimate Character: Create Unique, Compelling Characters Through Mastery of Point of View, as well as A Writer’s Guide to Persistence, Writing Deep Scenes (with Martha Alderson), Make a Scene, and with Rebecca Lawton, Write Free: Attracting the Creative Life. Jordan’s freelance work has been published in such places as: The Atlantic, The New York Times, New York Magazine, Scientific American, and many more. @JordanRosenfeld.

Workshop Fees:

NVW Members: $25*


Napa Valley Writers Club Workshop

10/29/2016  9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.


Word Painting:

The Power of Vivid Description

Presented by Amber Lea Starfire

We all know good description when we read it — a writer so skillfully paints a portrait of a character, a place, or a situation that we find ourselves immersed in thestory. The real world fades away as, in our imaginations, we smell the oiled leather of our protagonist’s saddle and feel his thirst as he licks his cracked, parched lips; we see the desert stretched before us, watch heat waves rise in bright undulations from amber sands; we hear the soft plod of the horse’s hooves as they sink into the sand; and we root for our hero to find that water hole we know must be there if he is to survive. No matter that we’ve read this plot many times before: this scene, this dialog, this character are vivid and pull us into the author’s narrative dream.

The scenario I’ve just related describes a fictional scene, but successful creative writing, including fiction, memoir, essay, and historical accounts, all use the same descriptive techniques. Whatever you know about description now, during this three-hour workshop, you will be encouraged to approach the art of description with curiosity, an open mind, and a willingness to dig deeper into your writing craft to discover the power of vivid description.

During the workshop, you will:

  • Gain an understanding of what makes description effective — or not.
  • Discover the elements of successful, vivid description.
  • Learn the magic of precise concrete details.
  • Learn how to use description to move your story forward.
  • Understand how to incorporate sensory information in descriptions of place, scene and character.
  • Understand how description affects atmosphere, mood, & tone.
  • Take away tips and exercises you can use to help improve description in your current or next writing project.

Amber Lea Starfire is an author, editor, and creative writing teacher whose passion is helping others tell their stories. Her most recent books include Not the Mother I Remember: A Memoir — finalist for both the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards and the 2013-2014 Sarton Women’s Literary Awards — and Week by Week: A Year’s Worth of Journaling Prompts & Meditations. Amber is also co-editor of the award-winning anthology, Times They Were A-Changing: Women Remember the ’60s & ’70s, and her creative nonfiction and poetry have appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from University of San Francisco and an MA in Education from Stanford University. She has a writing and publishing-oriented online classes website and blog at When she’s not writing or teaching, Amber enjoys the wine, weather, and cycling in the beautiful Napa Valley.


Brian Larsen

Screenwriting Workshop

Be a Storyteller: How to do a pitch, outline and script.

Write better action, snappier dialogue and more.

Brian Larson

Brian Larsen has written Star Wars episodes at Skywalker Ranch, has degrees from Dartmouth, U.C.Davis and UCLA (MFA in Screenwriting) and has also worked in law, web development and venture capital. He currently teaches English at Napa Valley College and is working on an action-adventure novel with planned multiple volumes and adaptation to film.

Brian graduated from Dartmouth College with a BA in history and then went on to work a series of ostensibly desirable jobs in corporate law, equity research, web development and venture capital before finally conceding that he was miserable. At the recurrent behest of his mother, he attended a night-school creative writing class offered through the Stanford Continuing Studies program, and it changed his life forever.

Within two years, he graduated from UC Davis with an MA in Creative Writing. Following Davis, he attended UCLA and earned an MFA in screenwriting, winning multiple contests and awards, including the program’s annual Showcase Event as well as a Writer’s Arc Scholarship.

Following UCLA, Larsen hung out his shingle as a professional writer, first working at Skywalker Ranch writing episodes of Star Wars the Clone Wars directly with George Lucas and a small band of merry writers/developers. Following that, he codeveloped a feature-length script with a major Hollywood production company and then developed and pitched an episodic TV crime drama to multiple cable networks.

More recently, he is finishing up the first novel in a multivolume action-adventure series that he will also adapt for screen and other media. In his spare time, he teaches English at Napa Valley College, plays piano (poorly), and dotes on his two young children.

Topics To Uncover

The day’s seminar will begin with a discussion of the nature of storytelling and then expand into a conversation about the storyteller’s principle modes of manipulation—-the ability to alter time, information, conflict and emotion.

Following that, we will explore how to transform your idea(s) into a pitch, outline, and script. We will introduce fundamental concepts of story structure, including industry expectations, the hero myth, and the Great 8.

Next, we will discuss the nuts and bolts of the writer’s job, including how to write better action, how to write snappier dialogue, and how to please your reader without writing a word.

In closing, we will explore the day-to-day life of a professional working writer, including how to get noticed, how to get represented, how to get read, and how to get paid.

Saturday, April 30, 9:00 a.m. to noon

Synergy/Wellness Center, 3421 Villa Ln., Napa


OCTOBER 17, 2015


Creating Poetry with Gary Silva:

Prompting Memories and Writing Narrative/Descriptive Poetry

UntitledGary Silva has an M.A. in literature and poetry and an M.F.A. from U.C. Irvine. Napa County Poet Laureate from 2008-2010, he taught at Napa Valley College for 18 years. Published in many literary magazines, his published anthologies are: Elemental Tanka, The Back-Up Café, and Photograph of a Nude.

Saturday, October 17, 2015 9:00 a.m. to noon

Gasser Foundation, 433 Soscol Ave.

(Gasser Conference Room)

$30 for CWC members and students, $45 for non-members


held on August 29, 2015


Plot and Character Development

ZACKHEIM_-_Dodd-210Victoria Zackheim is an educator, author, and frequent speaker. She is the author of Bone Weaver and editor of six anthologies: The Other Women, For Keeps, The Face in the Mirror, Exit Laughing, and Faith: Essays from Believers, Agnostics, and Atheists.

An expert in fiction and non-fiction writing as well as an instructor in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, she adapted her first anthology into a play that will have dozens of simultaneous staged readings at theaters and libraries across the United States on November 9th. In our workshop, Victoria guided attendees through the exciting and creative process of developing characters, with an emphasis on back story and voice, and the elements that add up to a compelling and believable plot.

Saturday, August 29, 9 am – noon. First Five Office, 5 Financial Plaza, Napa.

#30, for California Writers Club members, $45, non-members.  Please contact Lenore Hirsch for questions and to register ahead of time: