creative nonfiction workshops

(two sections: one in Davis & Woodland on Tuesday nights, the other in Sacramento on Wednesday nights)

CNF is a weekly, year-round workshop that provides local writers with the chance to sink into longer-term conversations about new work at any stage–and to keep them writing forward in close-knit community, week after week, in direct conversation with the most compelling living literature there is. Together, we read the best creative nonfiction being published today, practice workshopping in a way that is generous, supportive, and focused on the writer’s goals, and take home a wide variety of writing exercises to fuel our continual growth and exploration.

Many in this workshop joined years ago and have used its structure to develop book-length projects, but the group is equally open to writers who identify as exploratory or beginning essayists and would like to find support for exploring their writing lives one piece at a time outside of any interest in manuscript development or publication. We make room to explore the many intersections of poetry and prose, lyric and argument, story and truth, investigation and meditation, and the personal and the universal in our thinking about this genre, and are wide open to those who work in forms other than (or in addition to) the essay.

As facilitator, I will push you to concentrate the core of your writing, honor your creative expertise, and produce work that will change the way you move through the world. I lead CNF from a belief formed over nearly two decades of teaching (and a lifetime of voracious reading) that this moment’s work is about creating more space for truth in our world: through formal expansion, through a re-evaluation of the beliefs we bring to story, by paying sharper attention to how we perceive, and by learning to trust in the capacity of individual voices. Since starting CNF in 2003, I have proudly watched dozens of writers find what they most wanted to find in their writing within this circle. Alums of the workshop have now published essays and memoirs all over the place, gone on to MFA programs in every corner of the country, launched editing and publishing projects, become reviewers, and hit print more times than I can count. I design each session so the content of the workshop constantly refreshes, which means that CNF has for many years served as a long-term home base to a great number of writers who are in it for the long haul. The culture of our circle is rich, human, inherently feminist, always surprising, and unlike anything else I know.

CNF opens for registration twice a year (in December for winter/spring and June for summer/fall). If you’d like to receive word to your inbox when future sessions open for registration, drop me an email at rgouirand [at] gmail [dot] com to get on my list for registration announcements.

CNFers past + present have said the following:

Rae is an insanely smart, generous, thoughtful, and perceptive teacher, reader, and mentor. Her workshop provides the best instruction, conversation, and community I’ve found outside of an MFA program. (CE, Davis)

After working with her through her Creative Nonfiction workshop for the last four years, I can state with confidence that Rae is one of the best readers and thinkers I have ever worked with. Her attention to my pages has consistently been generous and incisive, filled with a wisdom and intuition that can come only from years of reading widely and deeply and working diligently at her own craft and within the industry. In workshop, Rae excels at approaching each writer and their work as if they are the only ones in the room, while communicating the issues at hand in a universal way–I know that I have taken as much from her comments on the writing of my peers as I have from her comments on my own work. Her assignments are thoughtful, generative, and disruptive in the best ways, inducing new ways of seeing and new pages. From Rae’s superbly-curated reading lists, to her discerning editing suggestions, to her genuine kindness as a human being, I return again and again because this workshop continues to illuminate pathways that bring me closer to telling the story I want to tell. In short, this workshop has made me a better writer. (FP, Sacramento)

Rae honors each writer’s intention by meeting new work where it is. As leader, she brings her tremendous depth of reading, writing and evaluative skill to bear on each piece, which she expresses with both clarity and complexity to aid the writer’s continued progress. This magical combination offers continuous inspiration to us all. (GW, Davis)

Rae crafts an inspirational space in which we collectively create community, practice intellectual exchange, and develop the confidence to share the best of ourselves in writing. (MK, Davis)

Through lucky happenstance that only happens when your heart is open to magic, I found Rae and the community of writers that I needed as my hometown literary tribe. I’ve discovered a fresh commitment and passion for my memoir. (TW, Davis)

Rae’s workshops provide me with a stable practice of reading both current and classic literature and exploring and taking risks on my own. The feedback I receive helps me to hone my writing skills and illuminates the fact that as a writer I am not alone. (BN, Davis)

Rae is astonishingly smart and perceptive, and yet so patient. Experiment or play it safe. She responds to each participant individually, with as much inspiration and guidance as each desires. Over the years, Rae has provided me with a consistent foundation of support as I’ve progressed from aspiring writer to published–and even paid–writer. (ST, Sacramento)

Rae’s CNF workshops dive deep. Her thoughtfully chosen readings and engaging lectures make for spirited discussion. Our writing assignments are shared in an environment of support and encouragement. Rae urges us to look deeper, and ask harder, and write truer. She is a true gift to the writing community. (CH, Fair Oaks)

Rae’s unrelenting commitment to sharing her passion and talent for words on a page has allowed me to unbridle my own passion for writing. I appreciate that Rae takes equal interest in all her students, regardless of their writing experience or professional goals. (BH, Sacramento)

Rae is a gifted teacher: she draws on a wealth of knowledge and brings out the best in her students. (Anonymous, Sacramento)

Rae creates a stimulating, supportive environment with so many thoughtful, inspiring insights. Her poet’s vision is fresh and contagious. (KD, Carmichael)

I love Rae—she is by far the most informed, engaged instructor I’ve had and her passion for and knowledge of creative nonfiction is incredible! (Anonymous, Sacramento)

The community Rae has crafted offers a supportive and companionable ‘home’ to each of the participants in her workshops. (JS, Carmichael)

Rae knows how to listen to and provide support for everyone in this workshop. She creates a welcoming community for all writers, whether they have worked with her for years or are new to the workshop and to writing. She made me feel at home immediately, and I have benefited greatly from the discussions of the books we have read together and from sharing my own writing and listening to the writings by others here. (VS, Davis)

It has been a breathtaking session, with much read and written, and much learned… Rae is indeed a writer’s gift! (HA, Sacramento)

Being in the presence of other writers and taking part in Rae’s lively and challenging discussions have been instrumental in helping me heal. (MN, Davis)

Having the opportunity to discuss writing with fellow writers is a gift, doing so under the direction of someone as skilled a facilitator as Rae an even greater gift. (SS, Davis)

Rae expanded my mind and writing skills in ways I could never have fathomed. (Anonymous, Sacramento)

Hands down, this is the best class I have ever taken, kindergarten to Masters’ degree. (JB, Sacramento)