“Thanks again, Laura, for your astute editorial and workshopping skills. Couldn’t have done it without you. It’s really amazing. A year ago, I was in your class and thinking about writing some personal essays for fun and now, I’m getting nominated for national prizes.”
–Tom Pyun, nominated for a Pushcart Prize for his personal essay in the Blue Mesa Review.
Writing Classes at the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto:
Personal Essay: The Monster and the Miracle–April 24
Personal Essay: The Monster and the Miracle II–May 15
Number of sessions: 1
Time: 10:00 a.m.- 2:00 p.m.
Date: Sunday, April 24, 2016
Part II: (workshopping your essays from Part I): Sunday, May 15, 2016
Course fee: $125 for each (can be taken separately)
Michel de Montaigne, perhaps the father of the personal essay, wrote, “I have never seen no greater monster nor miracle than myself.” A successful personal essay has to identify the monster within you, and accomplish the miracle of transformation, through understanding and enlightenment. A personal essay isn’t really about you—it’s about that transformation, that story.
This one-day course will teach you how to craft a personal essay. How do you you take your personal experiences, ideas, blogs, or journal scraps and turn them into an essay? What is the difference between an essay that editors are excited about and one that never gets a return email? What are the three biggest sins of personal essay and how can you avoid them? By the end of the day, you will have an idea and a framework for a personal essay. Bring your lunch.
Laura Fraser is an award-winning essayist, the editorial director of Shebooks.net, and author of the memoirs An Italian Affair and All Over the Map. She has published personal essays in such publications as the New York Times, O the Oprah Magazine, Sunset, Elle, Tricycle Buddhist Review, Afar, and many others. Laura has taught magazine writing at the University of California at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and at many other venues. She brings her practical sensibility, compassion, and sense of humor to every class.
Individual Writing Coaching
I love to work with clients on an individual basis on non-fiction books, articles, and essays. My focus as a writing coach is not to edit your work but to teach you how to write (thought I can do both). I work with writers on shaping ideas for articles, structuring the pieces, removing clutter, and making the thoughts and language clearer and more compelling. I specialize in narrative nonfiction, and have helped shape several memoirs. We can work on creating scenes, writing dialogue, or any other skills that you need. I also help people write magazine queries and book proposals, but my focus as a writing coach is on writing, not selling.
Usually, a client will send me a piece to read and then we will make a phone or in-person appointment to discuss the work; I will also send back an edited copy, if appropriate, in track changes or Google Docs.
My approach to writing is practical and direct, and I find that humor goes a long way in easing the process. I am compassionate and interested in helping you be the best writer you can be–as long as you realize that writing involves work. I’m encouraging but also realistic. If your book or article needs work before you send it off to an agent or editor, I’m going to let you know and hope that you will be game for another round.
In general, I like to work with published writers or people with some experience. If you’re a beginner, it’s probably best to start with a class. Please send me an email if you’re interested in coaching.
I usually work by the hour and ask for a three-hour minimum. Email me for my rates and policies.
A few testimonials from coaching clients and colleagues:
“Genius. You broke the structure-code.”
–Joshua Mohr, novelist
“I felt confident that Laura would be a good instructor, given the bio I read in the course catalogue, but she was better than good. She was marvelous. She obviously put great thought into organizing the course, choosing reading assignments, and creating instructional videos for us. The were all very helpful. Her responses to the writing assignments were detailed and thoughtful. She was kind and encouraging, but she also gave concrete ways to improve my work. I felt very lucky to have her as an instructor.”
–Stanford Continuing Education student
“Laura is fantastic. She has an excellent sense for language. Her feedback and course material were insightful and helpful.”
–Stanford Continuing Education student
“I’ve had the benefit of Laura editing my memoir and coaching me to re-structure it for maximum results. She’s a great teacher who sees into dense and unformed material to find the gems, then she helps you, the writer say what you wanted all along. I’ve also had the luxury of reading her personal essays on food, health and relationships with self and others…she’s a great talent. Any organization or individual in need of concise, approachable writing or re-writing should hire Laura ASAP.”
“Laura Fraser’s gifts as a writer and teacher are so many that it’s a little hard to know where to start. As a writer, her elegance and economy, not to mention her attention to detail and deadlines, are impressive. As a teacher she is both effective and generous. As an editor she is skilled in bringing out the best in other people’s compositions without imposing her own voice on the work. And as a colleague she is a warm and gracious advocate and friend, always on the lookout for ways to help or connect. ”
Stephanie Losee, Journalist, author, and communications professional, Stephanie Losee Inc.
“I have had Laura edit my last two blogs on health and healing. The difference between my “final draft” and the piece I ended up with after working with Laura is mind blowing. She was able to help me hone and articulate my point of view with a precision that I didn’t know was possible in my writing. What I particularly loved about the process, as challenging as it was at times, was that Laura did not re-write my piece, but instead asked questions and made comments so that I was able to find my true voice and express it clearly. The results have been wonderful and I cannot recommend Laura highly enough for anyone seeking editing support. She is a true gift.”
–Ricky Fishman, DC
“I am really impressed with Laura’s editing. I was working on an OpEd and desperately needed to edit it, spent hours upon hours and couldn’t get it right. Laura took a look, and lo and behold, The Fraze! It was SUCH a better piece.”
–Lawrence Axil Comras, green and tech entrepreneur
“Whenever I’m having trouble writing, I just think, “What would Laura do?” and it gets better–cutting, structuring, adding some sparkle and humor. She’s an amazing teacher and has made me a much better writer.”
–Katherine Ozment, Boston Magazine, and author, Grace Without God (Laura edited)
“Laura is an AMAZING editor and teacher. When writing my book, she helped make boring passages come alive; when my transitions were clunky and lacked logic, she helped chart out the flow. When I lost motivation and confidence, she reassured me with gentle and inspiring support. She was always fast, yet thorough; she always offered wise edits that improved my work immensely. I love how Laura balances fun and lots of laughter, with discipline and diligence. The best!” May 21, 2009
“Laura is one of the most conscientious and talented journalists I know. It is always a joy to come across her well-researched and engagingly written articles in magazines. Her writing has a definite trademark sparkle any writer would envy. I’m also always impressed with how many fields she is skillful in writing about. I’ve enjoyed her personal memoir essays as well as pieces in the fields of health, medicine, travel, food, and social justice. I know she’d be an excellent teacher or consultant for anyone in need of guidance in crafting their writing of any length in these and just about any field.”
“Laura is a real craftsperson of journalism. I’m always impressed by her artful structure, lively details, and deep connection to the subject. She’s smart, versatile, funny, and indefatigable. What’s more, because she has studied her craft so well, she has become a marvelous teacher who can deconstruct and demystify the story-writing process and help others learn how to do what she does so well.”
–Susan West, WestGold Editorial, former Editor-in-Chief, Afar magazine, senior editor at Smithsonian and Health
Storytelling, events, panels, etc.
I have taught magazine writing at the University of California at Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, as well as at the Grotto, Esalen, San Francisco State University, Aspen Summer Words, UC Extension, A Room of Her Own (AROHO), Harvard’s Nieman Conference on Narrative Non-Fiction, and other venues. I frequently do panels, classes, and workshops on memoir and magazine writing, as well as readings and bookstore events.
In connection with my book Losing It, I made numerous media appearances, conference keynote speeches, and have talked to young women on eating disorders wards. I’ve spoken about weight and the diet industry to groups at Wesleyan University, Amherst, Williams, Mt. Holyoke, the University of Connecticut, Smith College, Hampshire College, Cal Berkeley, and other universities. I have appeared on the Today Show, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, Entertainment Tonight, MTV, CNN, the Food Network, Maury Povitch, Leeza Gibbons, and numerous local news shows.
I occasionally moderate panels and conduct interviews at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club, including:
- An interview with Jonah Lehrer, author of How We Decide
- A panel on the Counterculture, with R.U. Sirius, Jello Biafra, Louis Rossetto, and Burning Man’s Larry Harvey
Recently, I have done panels and workshops at:
- The Aspen Summer Words Literary Festival
- The Kansas City Writers’ and Readers’ Conference
- The A Room of Her Own Writing Conference
- The San Miguel de Allende Writers’ Conference
- UC Extension Freelance Writing workshop
- Harvard University’s Nieman Workshop on Narrative Journalism
And storytelling at:
- The Marsh, San Francisco
- Porchlight, San Francisco
- Fray Day, San Francisco
- Grotto Nights, San Francisco
- The Monkeyhouse
And I did an NPR commentary on why I hate dieters at dinner parties.
To arrange a conference appearance or reading, or to inquire about private writing classes or coaching, please send me an e-mail.