Last month, our 2010-11 Master Class in Novel Writing (Online/Low-residency) students traveled to sunny southern California just in time for a beautiful long weekend. Hailing from as far and wide as North Carolina, Colorado, and New York, our Master Classers were met and led by award-winning mystery novelist and teacher extraordinaire Lynn Hightower (who travelled from Kentucky). Over the four days students work-shopped, wrote, listened to guest lectures, socialized with fellow writers, bonded, wrote, read from their work at Book Soup, and wrote some more. We’re pretty confident that they all went home exhausted!

The onsite residency was a chance for the students, who have been working together online since September and will continue together through May, to meet in person, bond over shared experiences, continue to polish their novels-in-progress, and work face-to-face with Lynn. As student Debbie Allmand puts it, “Lynn is a spitball. You can’t help but meet her level of energy and excitement for writing. I left the workshop rejuvenated and inspired. I have written five new chapters in the four days since the workshop.”

Writers’ Program instructors Lisa Cron and Paul Levine, who both have extensive experience in the publishing industry, joined the group on Friday and Saturday to present guest lectures. Lisa, who will be teaching our 2011-2012 Master Class in Novel Writing (Online/Low-residency), has worked in many aspects of publishing over the years as an editor, publicist, consultant, story analyst, and agent, and brought her unique perspective to the class. Paul is a lawyer who owns his own literary agency, and frequently teaches weekend courses on the legal and business aspects of publishing, a very valuable perspective since our Master Classers will soon be submitting their work for agent review.

Sunday was the Big Day, as the morning workshop/writing routine was followed by an afternoon reading at Book Soup in West Hollywood. A first time public reading is a daunting task, but our students tackled that beast! “The experience was frightening and great at the same time,” says student Elwood Edgerton. “I was worried, but then I started to read and I felt my internal rhythm take over.” On Sunday night, Lynn (who, as anyone who has met her knows, is a social butterfly), brought together a community of writers (many former students who live in the area) to join the class for dinner and socializing.

On Monday the students enjoyed pizza and as much work as they could cram into the last hours of the residency, and gradually trickled out to make their various flights and drives home. They’ve now resumed their work together online, and will continue through May when they submit their work for review by agent Betsy Amster. We can’t wait to see what the next stop on their journey brings!

We’ll leave you with the Lynn Hightower Manifesto, because it’s just that awesome: “Good writing means being humble enough to know that no matter how talented you are, and no matter how fine your literary riffs can be, you owe the reader Once Upon a Time. You are not writing for your mother who will read your story and magnet it on the fridge no matter how good or bad. You are writing for people who got fired from their job, whose spouse just came home in a bad mood, who have bills to pay and mouthy teenagers, and puppies who just ate a shoe. They want to escape from their world and go to a place in their head that you create. This is enormous trust on their part. This is enormous indulgence–they are sitting down and reading your story, and you better darn well make it worth their while. Deliver.”

For information on our 2011-2012 Master Class in Novel Writing (Online/Low-residency), click here.

More of a Sorkin than a Hemingway? Click here to find out about our Master Classes in Feature Film Writing and Writing the Half Hour Comedy Pilot.

Katy Flaherty is the Program Representative for Creative Writing (Online) and Events. Write to her at


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