Saturday Workshop: Tricks & Treats of Genre Writing

Feral cat, looming cheese curd, night

October is an important month. There’s Halloween, Oktoberfest, both National Pizza and Pretzel Month (not to be confused with National Soft Pretzel Month which, as we all know, is in April), National Kick Butt Day (which, sadly, seems more about kicking bad habits and not about, you know, kicking actual butts), and who can forget National Feral Cat Day which follows closely on the heels of National Cheese Curd Day, and how October has the wonderful internal contradiction of being both National Caramel Month and National Dental Hygiene Month, and then there’s the classic National Transfer Money to Your Daughter Day, and National Writing Day on the 20th and National Bologna Day on the 24th and…

What was I talking about?

Right, well, now there’s another important holiday: National Come to a Saturday Morning Creative Writing Workshop Day. We have the perfect choice, too, as Jayme Cook dives into genre writing and offers strategies and activities for building suspense, developing mood, and creeping out an audience.

  • What & Who: Tricks & Treats of Genre Writing, with Jayme Cook
  • When: Saturday, October 13th from 10:00AM to 12:00PM
  • Where: GCC Main Campus, Room LA-141
  • Why: Because the day before was National Pulled Pork Day and you need to work off some calories.

Saturday Workshop: Who Are Your Characters?

Aaaaaaand, we’re back for the 2018-2019 academic year. If you’re a newly-subscribed follower of the blog, welcome! If you’ve been with us for a while, welcome back! If you have no idea why you’re on this page or receiving an email notification, consider our meeting destiny/fate/true love and be welcome too. For our first event of the year, Jeff Sanger is going to put on a free Saturday workshop. Description and details below. Hope to see you there!

Certainly, you have an idea who your story is about, but do you know what your protagonist’s favorite color is? If they were sentenced to death, what would they order for their last meal? Trivial considerations? Perhaps. But the better you, the author, know your characters, the more fully they come through on the page for your reader. And readers across all genres love vivid characters. But how do you learn more about your characters? Can your characters be further revealed to you as you write about them? Many writers believe they can.

Even if you know your characters well, the other challenge, of course, is delivering this information to your audience, making sure they understand who your characters really are. Page after page of exposition (telling) about your characters typically leads to a disinterested audience that puts the story down unfinished, that outcome every writer fears. How do you show your readers who your characters are?

Visit our characterization themed Saturday workshop to implement some proven techniques to learn more about your characters and bring them to life on the page.

  • What & Who: Who Are Your Characters?, with Jeff Sanger
  • When: Saturday, September 8th from 10:00AM to 12:00PM
  • Where: GCC Main Campus, Room LA-141
  • Why: Power! Unlimited power!

Saturday Workshop: Using the Dramatic Arc

You’ve got a story to tell! You know what you want the audience to take away from your work. The question is, how do you keep them engaged along the way? Whether you’re writing a short story, a novel, or even a play, tightening up your plot using the dramatic arc as a guide can lead to greater reader engagement with your work. In this workshop we’ll learn about how the dramatic arc works and how you can use this knowledge to create a riveting plot in any work of fiction.

  • What & Who: Using the Dramatic Arc – How to Keep Your Audience on the Edge of Their Seats, with Jeff Sanger
  • When: Saturday, April 14th from 9:30AM to 11:30AM
  • Where: GCC Main Campus, Room LA-141
  • Why: Kittens

Saturday Workshop: Bringing Order to Chaos

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live,” Joan Didion begins in her seminal essay, “The White Album.” The essay explores a time in her life in which stories no longer make any sense. What happens when our stories stop making sense, when the narratives we carry, the experiences we’ve had, no longer feel like they’re enough? We do live in a world of chaos, lives of chaos, and if you’re anything like me that chaos can reflect on the page in a way which can seem confusing and daunting, lacking any structure and coherence.

Is it possible to bring order to the chaos, make it work on the page? Let’s take a look at some authors who have struggled with this very dilemma, have struggled during difficult times to stay afloat and have turned their personal, emotional, and external chaos into beautiful and moving collages that tell a story that moves beyond a single threaded narrative. Let’s explore our own scattered materials and see if we can find where the pieces fit on the page.

As always, our Saturday workshops are free and open to the public. Homemade pastries baked at a grocery store completely unaffiliated with GCC will be provided. Probably.

  • What & Who: Bringing Order to Chaos, with David Martinez
  • When: Saturday, March 3rd from 9:30AM to 11:30AM
  • Where: GCC Main Campus, Room LA-141
  • Why: Because who doesn’t want to birth a dancing star?


Binational Arts Residency, Desert Nights, & Other Events

As you head into the weekend and begin making plans for your writing and arts endeavors, remember that February brings a wonderful series of arts events that range from Phoenix to Tucson to the US/Mexico border. View the BNAR press release and head to for more information about these central and southern Arizona events, and about other opportunities to participate.

Remember, too, that our friends at ASU’s Piper Center are hosting their annual Desert Nights, Rising Stars Conference in two weeks, from February 22nd through February 24th.

And, don’t forget about GCC’s own local workshop tomorrow, February 10th! Jayme Cook will talk about writing endings.



Saturday Workshop: How to Make the Fat Lady Sing

Goodbyes are always hard, but never as much as when you’re stuck trying to write the perfect ending. Whether a short story, poem, news article, or essay, that satisfying ending can seem ever-elusive. You can’t always kill off your main character, right? Right? Come join us in exploring methods of closing your creative pieces with clever, captivating, and gratifying endings that do not involve character suicide and can easily be adapted to suit your unique writing style. Take home a few writing “hacks” that will help you break through the final chapter jitters and end your piece with panache.

As always, our Saturday workshops are free and open to the public. Entirely unimpressive refreshments might be provided, but you’ll need to serve yourself.

  • What & Who: How to Make the Fat Lady Sing: Strategies for Creative Endings, with Jayme Cook.
  • When: Saturday, February 10th from 9:30AM to 11:30AM
  • Where: GCC Main Campus, Room LA-141
  • Why: Because if the curtain won’t close on its own, sometimes you have to cut the strings.

Witness Writing Workshop Tomorrow!

As Loverboy proudly declared in 1981, “Everybody’s working for the weekend.” Well, with Friday here, the weekend has arrived, so you can officially stop working. It’s true. Stop, right now.


Now, as all of you get to planning your sleep cycles and recreational activities and Netflix binging, leave room for tomorrow’s free creative writing workshop here at GCC.

Enjoy the weekend, and see you tomorrow!

Saturday Workshop: What the Writer Sees, Workshop of Witness

  • What & Who: Workshop of Witness, with Kimberly Williams
  • When: Saturday, November 4th from 9:30AM to 11:30AM
  • Where: GCC Main Campus, Room LA-141
  • Why: Troubling times call for writers to witness, record, and bring perspective and levity.

If you are a thoughtful person (and most writers are), you might find yourself struggling with the contemporary moment we find ourselves in. As a world, we struggle with terrorism, poverty, unstable politics, and famine, just to name a few of our challenges. As a country, we also struggle with terrorism, poverty, deeply embedded racism, immigration issues, and an government which feels unstable to many. What do we do in the face of all of this? How do we face it with our pens, our keyboards, and our words?

This workshop will do the following:

  • Help define what witness writing is – as a subgenre.
  • Look at the history of Witness Writing
  • Help define what types of writing witness writing includes.

We will also consider these questions in the workshop:

  • How do writers respond to the troubling times which surround us?
  • What is a writer’s responsibility toward the world around him in the midst of troubling times?
  • How do we approach some of these gigantic and overwhelming events in the face of a media which makes them even larger?

If you find yourself trying to articulate responses to even one of these issues, or another global, national, or local issue that’s on your mind, bring that issue with you – even bring a newspaper clipping or article if you wish. Come with what’s on your mind, and we’ll think about how to approach and write about these topics together.

Interested in delving deeper? Looking ahead to Spring 2018, Kimberly Williams will be teaching an entire course on the writer as witness, using multiple genres as a way of witnessing the world around us. Get a taste of the class by attending the Saturday workshop on November 4th, and then Register for Spring: CRW202, Section 28149, Online.


Saturday Workshop: Travel Writing With Renee Rivers


  • What & Who: Travel Writing Workshop conducted by Renee Rivers
  • When: Saturday, October 14th from 9:30AM to 11:30AM
  • Where: GCC Main, Room LA-141
  • Why: I mean, read the post. This sounds amazing!

Travel Writing is an area of writing that is open to everyone. Given the upsurge in travel and online publication possibilities with multiple audiences, travel writing opportunities abound.  Once the parlance of colonial adventurers and conquerors, this art form has been rightfully infiltrated by genre- and boundary-busting creatives, inter-cultural sojourners, and reflective writers to produce a flurry of stories that not only transport readers into other places and cultures, but in which any reader can find themselves whether they travel or not.

Some of today’s most sumptuous and widely read travel writing seeks to situate the individual at the center of the narrative and defines travel in wide-open ways. When travel asks us to show up and interact with new places, peoples and cultures, we are often challenged to understand our inner world in terms of the outer.

And that’s where story magic happens.

Photo: Renee Rivers, Selfie, Lhasa, Tibet, 2014.

You x place x culture x your interests x your memories x some kind of new insight is where the intersection of exciting new travel narratives emerge. Consider how a story may come to life after visiting a neighborhood ethnic market triggers a childhood memory, or how a grandparent’s journal takes you on a search for cousins across the country, or how sensuous food can transport you into the realm of imaginary travel, or how your college engineering notebooks inspire a trip to university archives or another country to research the science and history of aeronautics, or even how a family vacation may have gone hilariously wrong.

These ideas represent a tiny peephole into the rich and ready domain of travel writing available to writers of all backgrounds today.

In this workshop you will participate in:

  • exposure to many exciting expressions of travel writing
  • creative ways to access authors and practitioners of this craft
  • travel writing exercises meant to center you, your interests, and travel or every day experiences into a trip-tick for continued writing practices
  • reflective writing that explores where your internal and external travels may take you
  • finding travel writing and travel writing markets for your writing
  • mapping out story ideas and how to craft them for potential markets

Photo: in Phoenix, by Frankie Wheeler, North Mountain.

Renee G. Rivers’ interests can find her behind an acetylene torch, shooing urban chickens from her kitchen or traveling to remote locales.

She holds an M.A. in English from SUNY Brockport, a B.S. in Special Education, and B.A. in German via the Goethe-InstitutMuenchen.

Renee’s stories have appeared in: PBS Filmmaker Jillian Robinson’s Change Your Life Through Travel, Canyon Voices, and The Feminist Wire and have won international awards from SouthWest Writers and Tin House.

Renee currently writes about teaching in remote Alaskan villages, taking her father in a wheelchair to Mount Everest, and teaches First-Year Composition and Travel Writing at Arizona State University at the West Campus.

Saturday Workshop: How To Make Your Writing MOVE

Creative Writing is one of those “good news/bad news” situations.  The good news is that every writing tool you know and use can help make a story or poem or novel “move” more.  The bad news is that every writing tool you know and use can ALSO make the movement and momentum of a story or poem or novel simply shudder limply and grind quite unmajestically to a stop.

All your writing tools, by definition, slow your writing down – because, by definition, they all use up the reader’s time and space and energy and attention. How you choose to manage that movement and momentum (ultimately your readers’ time and attention) are the keys to a better literary piece.

Explore how to establish and maintain movement and momentum in your writing to your advantage.  In this workshop you’ll be exposed to several writing techniques that improve motion and momentum, and do a few short writing exercises yourself to get the feel for how a few of these techniques  work and/or “fit” your writing (time permitting). Much of the focus for this workshop is on dialogue and description.


This workshop is free and open to the public. Breakfast pastries will be provided, but bring your own caffeine!

  • What & Who: Creative writing workshop, “How To Make Your Writing MOVE” will be conducted by Gary Lawrence, short story author and creative writing instructor.
  • When: Saturday, September 9th from 9:30AM to 11:30AM.
  • Where: GCC Main, Room LA-141.
  • Why: Because you REALLY don’t have anything better to do.

Gary Lawrence teaches composition and creative writing for GCC and Cochise College.  He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. He published an anthology of short stories in 2013 called Baffled. Gary has given several workshops at GCC before, with topics ranging from “Time in Fiction” to “Short Story Sequences” to “Writing Style.” Most recently Gary has published fiction and CNF  short stories in Canyon Voices (ASU West’s Literary Ezine) and Cochise College’s Mirage.   Gary currently lives in Sierra Vista and teaches CRW170/270 online for GCC.