Keep in mind that the Mastery, Discovery, and Alumni tracts of the Academy are for writers of long form (memoirs, how-to, and novels) and short form (short stories, essays). Any combination of what you will receive (below) is applicable and necessary to these genres.
Seminar Series One:
Heartbreaks, Hot-Damn Work, and Deep Diving into the Divine.
“A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it.”
— Roald Dahl (Boy: Tales of Childhood)
Series One is an overview of the course + many wild ways to navigating the critical voice:
- How to navigate the Academy (it’s easy!).
- Gateless guidelines to keep you out of fight or flight and creating mind blowing work .
- Why the Critic keeps breaking your heart.
- A little bit of brain science on how the mind creates optimally.
- How to have agency when it comes to external and internal criticism.
- Non-linear thought and spatial landscapes when writing.
- How to break the heavy-thinking habit (hint: you are doing it right now!).
- Where to find your sponsors and cheerleaders.
- Demystifying the act of putting words on the page.
- How to move past panic, let the intuit lead, and create incredibly fresh prose.
- Pregnant with words and language: creating hot-damn work in the tub.
- The Critic and the voice of privilege: one and the same.
Sample luminary for this month is how-to author, Tara-Nicholle Nelson, CEO of Transformational Insights and guru for inclusive and conscious leadership, whose work on the critical voice has been seminal in the corporate, non-profit, and creative sectors.
Seminar Series Two:
First Draft Addiction and the Child in the Stream of Sunlight.
“I used to want the words “She tried” on my tombstone. Now I want “She did it.”
— Katherine Dunham
How to Find the Inherent Beauty in Your First Draft:
- First draft: what the heck a first draft is and who to share it with.
- Why the idea of a “shitty” first draft needs to be overturned to create domain-changing work.
- Bowing to the raw brilliance of what you have inside.
- To read or not to read while you are writing your own book.
- Voice, glorious voice: the voices in your head and how to use them to create work that shines out from the crowd.
- What writers really mean in terms of narrative voice and the exact steps to finding a unique voice.
- Why vulnerability is so important to the creative writing process, how to find that vulnerability and who to show it to.
- The common act of betraying your true voice an how to avoid it so that your work stands out as singular in the industry.
- Who you are writing to: the child in the stream of sunlight and how this creates that very important intimacy with the reader.
Sample luminary for this month is Terri Trespicio, internationally-recognized speaker, comedian and the award-winning author of the self-actualization how-to Unfollow Your Passion, Simon and Schuster.
Seminar Series Three:
“It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”
— James Baldwin
Series Three Gives You the Secret to A Beginning the Reader Cannot Put Down:
- How to kick off that big bad baby and make it compulsively readable from the start.
- How to handle what happened before the book, why it’s fiercely important, and how to spin it into your text.
- The famous “arc” in creative writing (any genre) what it is and how to use it to create a high stakes narrative.
- The secret sauce few writers talk about when creating a crazy-beautiful beginning.
- Why your lowest point can be your greatest asset in the book and how to leverage it to kick off that first chapter so the reader can’t stop turning pages. .
- How to frame the book so it gains solidity in the industry, including the definition and use of the global frame, community frame, how to use politics, and your personal map to getting your characters to the book’s main stage.
Sample luminary for this month is grammy-award winning singer song-writer Mary Gauthier, whose memoir, Saved by a Song, St. Martins has been hailed as one of the most important books to read for the maturation of the artistic process.
Seminar Series Four:
Structure and Scaffolding.
“To write well, express yourself like the common people, but think like a wise man.”
Series Four: How to Become the Architect of Your Work
- When to use structure and when it can kill the book.
- A last scene and deliverable horizon point, and why your ending tends to show up when you are sleeping or driving or changing a diaper.
- Pacing: running time in the book, how to weave it, how to pass it, and why you need to know the color of your great-grandmother’s underwear.
- Show versus tell: the extraordinary balance great authors know about these show vs the tell, how to know when one earns the other, and the common myths behind telling vs showing.
- How to drive your arc and characters to the point of climax, the great circle of the great book, how long your denouement should actually be in the end, and how to use power to create a book the reader will never forget.Sample luminary for this month is Deepa Purushothaman, corporate inclusion visionary, co-founder nFormation and author of The First, the Few and the Only, Harpers.
Seminar Series Five:
Character Dahlink, Character.
“The act of writing requires a constant plunging back into the shadow of the past where time hovers ghostlike.”
— Ralph Ellison
Series Five Shows You How to Create Characters That Draw Your Reader Inexorably Forward in Memoir, Novels, or the How-to:
- Why character is so important in absolutely genre, even and especially how-to writers.
- How to avoid the reader “character dump”, in other words, that person who talks too much at the bank and how this can kill your book.
- The skill of layering characters so they grow to be intimate confidantes with the reader. And the role secrets, addictions, and other seductive poverties have on this process.
- Villains you want to f*#@ (and this includes you, memoir writers!).
- Characters in opposition: the trick to creating conflict that sells. And…h ow the best books are actually co-written with your reader.
- Point-of-view characters in fiction, voice in nonfiction and how to exchange one for the other while you are writing so they pop off the page.
- The character riff—letting that character talk your ear off. Including the imperative use of conception, gestures, fashion, external and internal wants, shames, poverties, gifts.
- Friends and love and the sprite and the fool: the archetypes and how to dance those babies around on the page to further the inexorable pull forward of your central story.
- How to collapse characters, why it is necessary to create complexity (and how to not kill your best friends in the process.)
- Talk to me, baby: delicious heart-stopping dialogue, the art of dialogue in books, how to make it packed with tension. What to do and what absolutely not to do when writing it.Sample luminary for this month is short story writer and essayist Jodi Paloni, author of They Could Live with Themselves; and poet, memoirist and op-ed writer, Shanta Gander, author of Ghettoclaustrophobia.
Seminar Series Six:
“The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”
— Thomas Paine
Series Six How to Create Tension that Makes Your Book Compulsively Readable.
- The systemic nature of layering the stakes: what it really means and how to do it effectively on a macro and micro level.
- External pressure cookers—the frame that creates the tight rope of tension, a “peg leg” and other layering techniques.
- How not to avoid action.
- The trick of “creative timing” in creating crisis.
- Flashbacks and flash-forwards: the most common mistake and how to avoid it.
- The techniques for flashback and how it differs from “real time” scene.
- The impact of memory verses flashback in scene and why it is important to distinguish them from one another, when to use flash vs memory and why they need to be drastically different.
- Why flash is so absolutely necessary in the how-to, where to put it, how to use it.
- How to identify the personal blindspot when it comes to conflict, and how to recognize that deadly companion so that it does not sabotage your work. Not everyone has it, but those who do can find themselves at the starting block again and again.The sample luminary for this month is Jen Barrett, internationally-acclaimed expert on women and wealth and the author of the how-to Think Like a Breadwinner, Random House.
Seminar Series Seven:
Descriptions to Beat the Doldrums.
“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”
— William Wordsworth
Series Seven: How to Create Setting, Place and Emotional Urgency.
- The cinematic nature of the contemporary book, how to do it and why you can’t sell your writing without it.
- How to leverage description to elicit mood and how to use the irreplaceable craft tool: description in action to create a full world for your reader, whatever genre. Why this is the only way to move your reader to tears.
- The lessons in description of Cormac McCarthy and other literary iconoclasts who have used it to create a worldwide name for themselves.
- The description dump versus the weave, how to save your dialogue from tedium by using description and what publishers look for when it comes to world building.
- How to work with description swaths to get to that perfect slice of life, otherwise known as description in the white space.
- Generic description versus kick-ass fresh description the reader has never heard before and how to do it.The Sample luminary for this Month: celebrated and award-winning memoirist and novelist Mary Morris, author of All the Way to the Tigers, one of NPR’s best books of the year.
Seminar Series Eight:
Lights, Camera, Action! The Construction of an Extraordinary Scene.
“As a writer, you ask yourself to dream while awake.”
— Aimee Bender
Series Eight: Creating Cinematic Writing: The Only Writing That Sells Today.
- How to create scene construction that mirrors the structure of an entire book.
- Creating scenes that mirror the reader’s experience without dragging the bucket along with the horse.
- Letting scenes write your book and what that skill entails (hint: this may mean a lot of leisure hours!).
- How to create scenes that make how-tos, novels, and memoirs into bestsellers.
- The skill you need to ground your reader again and again in the micro frame, how and where to do it so that your reader can’t turn away from the page.
- The importance of story/scene in every genre and how to use it in every instance so that your work comes alive and breaks the barriers of the humdrum read.
- What you want from the scene, how to know if you’ve gotten it, and how not to repeat it again.
- The definition of an emotional scale in scene and what it means to begin with sorrow and end with ecstasy.The sample luminary for this month is multi-genre novelist, memoirist and media favoriteJen Waite, author of the memoir A Beautiful Terrible Thing and the novel Survival Instincts, Random House.
Seminar Series Nine:
Revision, Rewriting and Editing.
“If you wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”
— Toni Morrison (Song of Solomon)
Series Nine: Editing.
- Theme and agenda: why these come last and how they choke the reader if they arrive too early in the work.
- How to layer through your drafts and the way to use curiosities, and inquisition as the centrifugal force for the work so that it grabs a publisher’s attention.
- The scene dump, the description dump, the character dump, and why you must go to the dump to create fast-moving, crazy-beautiful prose.
- Saving the darlings. What we mean when we say the whole is bigger than its parts and what Faulkner really meant by “going in for the kill.” How to use it to save the book from the trashcan.
- What works and stays, why the red pen and the cross-out are carcinogens and how to edit in a way that disabuses them of their power.
- The importance of wait-time and common challenges, including the importance of filling the neediness with love.The sample luminary for this month is Joanna Castillo, former VP Executive Editor and Editorial Director of Atria, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, now one of the top agents at Writers House Literary Agency in Manhattan.
Seminar Series Ten:
The Skinny, Including the Platform, Agents, Publishers, Book Deals, and Publicity.
“I couldn’t sacrifice my heart for a publicity stunt.”
— Kim Kardashian
Series Ten: The Sale:
- What in the world do you do once you are finished?
- Do you need a platform? If, so, how do you get one?
- How do you know if you are ready for an agent?
- Should you go indie or big four?
- Do you need a proposal and, if so, how do you build one that stands out and actually SELLS?
- What does a bestselling query look like?
- Who are the best agents in the industry and how do you land one?
- What are the no’s and yes’s of this relationship?
- How much should you change your work to get published?
- How many do you send out, how long should you wait?
- How do you build your career as an author beyond the book?
- And more …
The sample luminary for this call is Paula Rizzo, former news anchor and media trainer, author of the bestselling book Listful Living.
The After-Call: This Happens When the Academy Is Done Done Done…
“[Writing is] being able to take something whole and fiercely alive that exists inside you in some unknowable combination of thought, feeling, physicality, and spirit, and to then store it like a genie in tense, tiny black symbols on a calm white page.”
— Mary Gaitskill
Luminary calls during the Academy are supplemented by our time together as a group, my mentorship, writing salons, writing pods, Academy seminars and more.
At the end of the Academy, we wait about a month and then we meet again.
The Academy alumni call (you will be a brand new alumni at that point!) is a huge confab about whatever it is that you might be missing.
This is a luminary call with me, Suzanne. I have been in the industry for two and a half decades and have become one of the most celebrated development editors in the country. My writers (like you!) go on to be repped by some of the biggest literary agents in the word, their work is picked up my media greats like the Today Show and O Magazine and they are translated abroad and optioned for film.
I will be with you all the way through, and the alumni call is one more time for you to put all your Q’s and fears, needs and hopes on the banks of the river so that you can sail.
What, what, what, oh WHAT would you like to know?
We will talk about the beatings of the inner Critic and the inner Little Match Girl who thinks it’s never going to happen, the swinging Tarzan who believes she’ll be on the bestseller list (this can absolutely happen!) and the ways the family, the lover, the friends might be working for or against you. Ask me about the Grand Canyon and the color of my grandmother’s kimono. Ask! Ask, Ask.
This is also a time to say goodbye (but not forever) and how wonderful you are and how you really are going to swing big and break through and how just taking this beautiful step for yourself has not only shifted your work, but also activated your (happy!) neurotransmitters, improved your health, and brought you ecstasy.
Gateless has your back, onto the sale my sweet…