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Writing Workshops

I offer online writing workshops in creative nonfiction, poetry, and hybrid forms. As someone with extensive teaching and workshop experience (oh, the MFA days!), and as an interdisciplinary artist who writes and publishes across the genres, I am very excited to give back to the literary community through reasonably priced, online, craft-focused programs. Please note that I tend to use "class" or "course" and "workshop" interchangeably. My offerings include both workshopping elements with peers and more formal elements of instruction such as craft talks, visiting writers, reading published work by established writers, and engaging in stimulating dialogue about what we can “borrow.” Unlike most workshops, you are NOT required to read the work of your peers; however, if you are interested in exchanging work with your peers with the intention of providing written feedback, I’m happy to help facilitate. 

All courses include lessons on craft; weekly advice, insights, and tips; thoughtfully chosen reading selections; unique prompts for generating and revising work; in-class writing warm-ups; opportunities to share your works-in-progress, and in-class oral feedback from myself and your peers. The goal of each course offering is for you to leave with not only a solid draft of an essay-length piece, but multiple “seedling” pieces that can take root and grow long after the series has ended. 

At this time, all courses are held on Zoom. High-speed internet and experience with Zoom are required for participation. I do not use Google Docs, Slack, or other accompanying platforms. 

Once a year, I also organize a low-cost, invitation-only workshop where previous students can workshop works-in-progress and receive live feedback from myself and fellow writers. These are typically 4-6 weeks, occur during late summer, and are intended for those writers who love group interaction and are skilled at offering both verbal and written feedback. 

*Refund policy: I understand that emergencies, illness, and change of plans occur. If you need to cancel your participation, I offer full refunds up to 72 hours before the start date. After that, I can only offer transfers (meaning, you can give your paid spot to someone else). If, for some unforeseen reason, I must cancel a workshop series or individual session, you will be refunded immediately. If you feel you have a unique reason for a refund that falls outside of the above, let me know. My courses are currently priced with kindness in mind (roughly $32 a week) and are considerably less expensive than most online offerings. I put in many unpaid hours outside of our meeting times. Please help me keep my offerings low-cost by doing your best not to cancel. 

To register, email me at or through my contact page. 

Please view disclaimer at bottom of page before registering. 

Upcoming 2024 Course Offerings 

Show Me the Moment: An Introduction to the Personal Essay 

Saturdays 12-1:30 p.m. Pacific Time;  01/06 to 02/17     

Limited to 10 participants 

Early bird registration opens October 31st;  $180     

After 11/30 the cost is $220

A 6-week generative, craft-focused, reading-focused course that includes 5 live Zoom sessions and written feedback from you instructor on your final piece. 

Description: Show me the moment in your kitchen with your mother that Sunday in ’96. Show me the deer that leaped out of the way just in time on the night you were driving home from the hospital. Show me which of your belongings you chose when you evacuated the burning mountain. Show me the late shift at Denny’s in Barstow. Show me the transformative moments, the quieter moments, the ones that you didn’t remember until just now. 

Poets, journal-keepers, newer prose writers, experimenters, dabblers with goals—this six-week course is for you. Let’s talk about moments: the ones we should mine, the ones that connect to other moments to build a scene. Let’s connect scenes to build a draft. Let’s see what rises to the surface. This class will serve as both primer and refresher on the art of the personal essay, provide writing time and gentle, collaborative feedback you can actually use. Make connections with other writers and deepen your commitment to the craft. 

Examples of what we’ll cover and who we’ll read: Key terms involved with creative nonfiction; using the senses to show moments and connect moments to build scenes; working with memory; word choice and creating dominant impressions; restraint and humor; creating layered metaphors; the basics of narrative and memoir. Ross Gay, Jo Ann Beard, David Sedaris, Jericho Parms, Paisley Rekdal, A. Papatya Bucak, Jerald Walker, Jose Antonio Rodriguez, Amanda Gaines, Sandra Cisneros, Amy Tan, Shruti Swamy, and others. 

Nitty gritty: Expect to spend 2 hours a week reading published CNF and at least 2 hours per week responding to generative prompts. During later weeks, the reading will lessen, and time will be devoted to developing a shorter piece of writing into a 1,000-1,500-word essay. You will receive light edits and summative feedback from me on your final piece within 14 days of our final meeting. 

90-minute Zoom meeting dates: 01/13; 01/20; 01/27; 02/3; 02/10; 03/02

*Please note that our final meeting will likely be 2-3 hours (but you don't have to stay that long!)




A Beautiful Tangle: Writing Poetry and CNF About Family 

Saturdays 12-1:30 p.m. Pacific Time; 7/13/24 to 8/24/24  

Limited to 10 participants 

A 6-week generative, craft-focused, reading-focused retreat style course that includes 4 live Zoom sessions, visiting writers, and feedback from your instructor on your final piece. 

Poets, prose writers, creative writers of every stripe—if you were born into this world (or egg hatched or spontaneously formed from stardust) this retreat style course is for you. All of us are the sums of nurture plus nature; as much as we may not want to admit it, we are largely who we are because of the folks we were brought up by, whether these people were always around, came and went, or went and never came back. Presence defines us as much as absence. Because of these reasons, when we explore ourselves on the page, it is almost impossible to avoid writing about family (and we shouldn’t have to avoid it).  Mothers, fathers, partners, siblings, stepfamily, immediate family, furry family, chosen family, adopted family, ancestors, the living and dead. How do we write them into our stories? How do we do it ethically, honestly, compassionately, engagingly? In A Beautiful Tangle participants will learn different approaches from established writers, receive support from each other and from me, and come out on the other side with both poetry and prose about family, whatever that might look like for each individual. 

Examples of what we’ll cover and who we’ll read: four weeks of poetry and four weeks of prose; using humor and restraint; writing honestly but compassionately; writing the fragmented, lyrical, or hybrid family story; writing about parenting and having parents; writing about estrangement and reunification; sibling rivalry; fact checking and research; talking to your family about what you’re writing (if you choose to); deciding which stories are yours to tell; —and more! Jennifer K. Sweeney, Todd Kaneko, Lynne Thompson, Nathan McClaine, Jonathan Maule, Sue William Silverman, Sallie Tisdale, Jerald Walker, Mary Karr, David Sedaris, Paisley Rekdal, Sabrina Orah Mark, Shruti Swamy, Jose Antonio Rodriguez, and others. 

Nitty Gritty: What makes this offering a “retreat” is that you can really decide how involved you’d like to be. Every week, you’ll receive one email from me that includes a few prompts to choose from, some suggested reading links or PDFs, and a written or video craft talk. Approximately every other week there will be a 90-minute recommended meeting. Three of these meetings will include visiting writers who will read their work about family and answer your questions. As needed, I will add optional group “office hours” for those wanting additional support. The experience will end with an opportunity to share something you’ve written during the retreat at our final meeting. You will receive comprehensive line edits and summative feedback from me on your final piece (10 pages of poetry or 10 pages of prose or a mix of the two) within 14 days of our final meeting. 

90-minute Zoom meeting dates: TBA

*Please note that some meetings may go up to 30 minutes longer when we have visiting writers. 


The Art of the Personal Essay for Intermediate CNF Writers 


Limited to 10 participants 

A 6-week generative, craft-focused, reading-focused course that includes 5 live Zoom sessions. Completion of "Show Me the Moment" or other workshop experience highly encouraged. 

Intermediate CNF writers, this six-week course is for you. Let’s do the work of taking our conception of the personal essay to a deeper level. Let’s open doors and the doors behind the doors, understanding that the personal essay asks questions, reflects, leads to no clear answers, only glimmers of insight. The personal essay is rooted in place and time and voice and yet is also ephemeral in nature, calling upon the best of poetry, storytelling, and documenting. It starts with the self and expands outwards, making the personal universal. It rings the highest bell of literary tradition but constantly seeks to reinvent, subvert, and open the door to new ways of thinking and being. And above all, personal essays are friendly and candid and often funny. 

Examples of what we’ll cover and who’ll read: developing metaphor; memoir; playing with form (lyric, hermit crab, braided, non-linear structures, hybridity); incorporating science and research; literary journalism including immersive storytelling. Lia Purpura, Zadie Smith, Jericho Parms, John Jeremiah Sullivan, Sue William Silverman, Jerald Walker, Maggie Nelson, Esme Weijun Wang, Sallie Tisdale, Annie Dillard, Ryan Van Meter, Gabriel Thompson, Terese Marie Mailhot, and others.  

Nitty gritty: This course is intended for those who already write CNF. Expect to spend 2 hours per week reading published CNF and at least 2 hours per week writing, with more intensive writing during weeks 6-8 but less reading. 



What previous students are saying about my course offerings: 

"Lauren leads her workshops with such a spirit of support and curiosity. The structure she provides for the course paves the way for generative creative work. It was so valuable to have her eyes on my writing—her feedback was keen and insightful!" --Marin Smith, editor of Abraxis Review 


"I really enjoyed Lauren's class and learned so much from her approach to reading and writing personal essays. Her insights were so thoughtful, clear, and revelatory. I came away from the workshop with renewed excitement, lots of inspiration and ideas." --Kuhu Joshi, poet 


"Taking Lauren Henley’s workshop “Show Me the Moment” was the best decision I have made in a long time. Her approach is inspiring and gentle, with an emphasis on getting her students to support each other by learning how to give effective feedback. This was my first introduction to the Creative Nonfiction genre, and I feel I have found my home. The literary essays Lauren introduced to us have given me a whole new set of contemporary authors to soak up, as well as new directions and forms to pursue. If you are new to writing, just coming back to it, or have years of experience under your belt, Lauren is sure to spark new life into your endeavors." --Melissa Jordan Willis, artist and creator of Motherland: Survival in the Real World


*Disclaimer: There are many, many workshops out there. The diversity of workshop offerings, leaders, formats, financial investments, and intentions is incredible. That being said, I would highly recommend doing your homework and finding the right workshop for you. This workshop is focused on the pursuit of defining and refining one's craft; it is not a theory-based course. We are also not here to write autobiography-length works (though you may be inspired to do so after the course). Other things to note: I choose reading selections based off of the quality of the work. I do not typically give trigger warnings unless the reading material includes extreme violence or sexual assault (and currently there is nothing on my reading that includes either of those). Absolutely everyone is welcome in my workshops regardless or race, ethnicity, socio economic status, physical ability, sexual orientation, gender, political affiliation, or any other markers of identity. I only require that you are respectful of everyone's right to be here and to tell their story. For our online meetings, please help me create an environment that ultimately allows good faith conversations where people are given opportunities to clarify their intentions. Please be conscious of how long you read, how much you talk, and of making space for others. We are all here to learn together and to pursue our craft in a comfortable, supportive, energized environment.  

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