course Schedule

classes ~ workshops ~ retreats 



Elephant Rock retreats, workshops, and classes are truly different. Sometimes, life-changing. We know this, because people tell us. Our goal, whether for retreats, workshop, or remote classes, is for you to breathe life into your writing and rediscover your fierce, original voice. And we believe you're most likely to find that fierce, original voice when you experiment in diverse and devoted creative communities. Our in-person offerings are built on a principle of creating artistically safe, encouraging, inspiring environments that allow for the maximum challenge and, in turn, genuine artistic breakthrough. Our remote classes are modeled on these same principles; we keep our classes deliberately small and use an elegant online platform that allows for video conferencing and real-time dialogue with eye contact and everything. As one student said, "I can't believe it. It's amazing. It's just like being in a physical class, except a class of the very highest caliber." Whether in person or online, all are welcome. Beginners will find a safe haven and experienced writers will be challenged to push through blocks. Read what previous participants have to say here, and then get in touch to sign up! Our offerings tend to fill quickly, and we would love to have you.

September 10 - October 1

Essential Series: beyond what you see: the art of description (remote class)

"It sounds like a simple thing, to say what you see," writes the poet Mark Doty. "But try to find words for the shades of a mottled sassafras leaf, or the reflectivity of a bay on an August morning, or the very beginnings of desire stirring in the gaze of someone looking right into your eyes. . . . " How the writer moves perception to image and finally to written word is at the heart of any literary work. This four-week remote class focuses on the craft and technique of artful, arresting description that will elevate your work in any genre. Monday evenings (September 10, 17, 24, & October 1). Learn more here.

September 20 - october 25

art of the Fractured (remote class)

Fragments. Braids. Juxtaposition. The stories we write don’t have to be linear. Sometimes, the richest, truest version falls onto the page in pieces. In The Art of the Fractured, we will examine how to effectively combine multiple subjects, images, and motifs within a single piece, where the fragmentation amplifies meaning without confusing the reader. We'll study some of the best fragmented and broken essays and stories, then gather our own bits and pieces of things, such as found language and ephemera and other incongruities plus stray ideas, and begin to collage, erase, cut up, and rearrange these items into ... something else. This  six-week remote class meets on Thursday evenings (September 20, 27, October 4, 11, 18, 25). Learn more here.

october 26 - 28

Write for your life (weekend workshop)

Rigorous with a twist, this workshop emphasizes the art and craft of the memoir genre. We will  write and revise with an eye toward the fine craft of illuminating the deeper themes of a life story. The goal? To find the universal music in the story, to strike a resonant chord that pushes past the "me" to the "we."  Writing about your life offers the opportunity for creating clarity, cohesion, and beauty from disparate memories that course beneath the surface of experience. Research has shown that writing literally (meaning on an actual physical level) heals. Writing about past experiences in a particular way can improve your physical health as measured by myriad biomarkers. How cool is that? Very cool. But the trick is the art, and your commitment to it. You will leave with valuable  craft principles and tools to apply long after the workshop is over, as you develop a work in progress or begin a new chapter. All levels welcome. This workshop meets October 26 - 28 (Friday evening and all day Saturday and Sunday). Learn more here

november 5 - december 3

the Visceral Self (remote class)

Join us as we explore embodied writing. Visceral means “relating to the viscera,” or your internal organs. It also means “relating to deep inward feelings rather than to the intellect.” We all have bodies, and when we write through them, we access stories that have been living inside us all along. Writing through the body brings our work more fully alive on the page, gives it a stronger pulse, more breath and electricity. We will follow visceral writing techniques wherever they lead us, including the Big Ones: sex, birth, illness, trauma, pain, recovery, etc. This four-week remote class meets Tuesdays evenings (November 5, 12, 19, December 3). Learn more here

november 15 - 18

Mystery of Yin at Naniboujou lodge (retreat)

Nourish your creativity and outward potential just as the earth's energy begins turning naturally inward. Mystery of Yin is our beloved, women-only retreat for writing and yoga. It is held in a gorgeous natural setting during the depth of autumn on the North Shore of Lake Superior (Grand Marais, Minnesota). Unconventional writing exercises and voyages beyond the “edge of doubt” will bring out surprises on the page. Read more about the creative writing approach here. Daily practice of  yoga and meditation plus delicious, nourishing meals and plenty of time appreciating the beauty of place and the encouragement of inspiring peers will balance and restore you inside and out, bringing you closer to the heart of your writing. And yourself. This three-night retreat is for all genres and levels, even complete beginners. Learn more here

January 8 - 29 (2019) 

Essential Series: beyond where you are: the art of writing Place (remote class)

Acclaimed fiction writer, poet, and essayist Dorothy Allison writes, "Place is not just what your feet are crossing to get to somewhere. Place is feeling, and feeling is something a character expresses. More, it is something the writer puts on the page—articulates with deliberate purpose.... I want a story that is happening in a real place, which means a place that has meaning and that evokes emotions in the person who’s telling me the story. Place is emotion." Learn the essentials of bringing a sense of place fully to life on the page, and maximizing its effect in your writing, no matter your genre. This four-week remotes class meets Tuesday evenings (January 8, 15, 22, 29). Learn more here (link coming soon!). 

january 10 - 31

launch you story: beginning again with beginnings (remote class)

There's no getting around the importance of beginnings, and there is perhaps no better time for us to begin, ourselves, than January, as the year turn new. If this is your year to get writing again, why not start at the beginning, with several strong beginnings on the page? With a great beginning, you can launch the reader into your story, to grab hold of them and not let them go until they reach they end. Great beginnings take on lives of their own. There's a reason opening lines often stay with us longest, and part of that is how much work the writers invest in crafting them. Join us in reading some exceptional beginnings and try your hand at writing four of your own, guided by prompts designed to lead you places you're unlikely to arrive at on your own.  You'll walk away with several strong starts on new pieces. This four-week remote class meets Thursday evenings (January 10, 17, 24, 31). Learn more here (link coming soon!). 

February 5 - 26 

Essential Series: beyond caricature: the art of writing Character (remote class)

Famed fiction writer Ernest Hemingway once said: "A writer should create living people; people, not characters. A character is a caricature." Creating living people on the page, that's no small feat. But if you succeed, according to also-lauded fiction writer William Faulkner, your characters will stand up on their feet and begin to move, and you can do as he did and "trot along behind them with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what they say and do." Sounds like fun, doesn't it? In this class, we'll explore what differentiates living, breathing (possibly morning-breathed) characters from caricatures, and equip you with craft tools to create your own people on the page. This four-week remote class meets Tuesday evenings (February 5, 12, 19, 26). Learn more here (link coming soon!). 

February 7 - March 14

stealing from short story masters (remote class)

Eudora Welty, one of the undeniable masters of the short story form, had this to say about it: "“A short story is confined to one mood, to which everything in the story pertains. Characters, setting, time, events, are all subject to the mood. And you can try more ephemeral, more fleeting things in a story--you can work more by suggestion--than in a novel. Less is resolved, more is suggested, perhaps.” Join us in contemplating what makes a good short story so good, and what we can steal—remember, all the best artists steal—from those gems to polish our own work. This six-week remote class meets Thursday evenings (February 7, 14, 21, 28, March 7, 14). Learn more here (link coming soon!). 

April 2 - May 7 

Reimagining the Personal Essay (remote class)

If you’re doing it right, writing personal essays should terrify you. You should feel so naked on the page, you almost can’t stand it. And despite what you may have heard, using craft to hone personal material isn’t easier than writing fiction. It can even be harder. But the rewards of writing your life and writing it well are extraordinary and transformative. Reimagining the Personal Essay is a searching exploration of a single form. We’re after the stories you think you don’t know how to write (or think you can't or shouldn't). We’ll help you bring those essays to life on the page in a fully realized way. This six-week remote class meets Tuesday evenings (April 2, 9, 16, 23, 30, May 7). Learn more here. 

april 4 - 25

Essential Series: beyond cause and effect: the art of writing Plot  (remote class)

In his brilliant collection, Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction, Charles Baxter writes: "It seems to be in the nature of plots to bring a truth or a desire up to the light, and it has often been the task of those who write fiction to expose elements that are kept secret in a personality, so that the mask over that personality (or any system) falls either temporarily or permanently." No matter the genre you write in—and this class is open to writers of all genres—Baxter's observation holds true. In this class, we'll examine the deeper work plots do, work far more meaningful that constructing a plausible chain of events that move the characters in your story from beginning to middle to end. This four-week remote class meets Thursday evenings (April 4, 11, 18, 25). Learn more here (link coming soon!). 

May 2 - 23

Radical Revision (remote class)

Radical revision means making the deep dives that can radically reshape your work and ultimately reveal the heart of it. In this craft-focused intensive, we’ll make daring choices, upend the stories we thought we wanted to tell, and discover the realer, stranger, more vivid versions lurking beneath them. We’ll examine different methods of revision, then try them out on our own work, and discuss the results. All levels and genres welcome ... but, of course, you'll need at least one or two works in progress to revise during the course.  This four-week remote class meets Thursday evenings (May 2, 9, 16, 23). Learn more here.

June 16 - 21

Summer Solstice at stout's island (retreat)

Join us at magical Stout's Island for the Seventh Annual Elephant Rock Summer Solstice Retreat for Writing and Yoga! At this, our biggest and brightest retreat of the year, you will leap over the edge of doubt, where new things come from, and crack open a space for the unexpected. You will be challenged and inspired … and laugh –  a lot! – while becoming a vessel for creativity. This is your time to break new ground ... on the Island of Happy Days! Inquire soon, this retreat sells out.  Learn more here