Green Graphic.jpg

Teaching/Mentorship

 

Want to work together? I teach workshops south of the bay area and also work with students around the globe, one-on-one. Please check this page for a listing of upcoming workshops and mentoring opportunities. 

 

 

 

FORMER STUDENT TESTIMONIALS 

Sara Michas-Martin’s class was the pinnacle of my creative writing courses as a Stanford undergrad. She was one of the most effective and thoughtful teachers under whom I had the privilege of studying. I was struck by her keen eye for each student’s unique talents and needs, her insight and patience with my own writing, and her ability to foster a meaningful writing community. If I could have another opportunity to study under her, I would.
— Supriya Misra
Sara is the best writing teacher that I’ve had the pleasure to work with. Smart and insightful, with many suggestions and notes, plus her kind counsel, helped me produce the highest level of writing I’ve ever done. She is highly recommended.
— Doug Close
Sara was an excellent teacher, supporter, and resource. Perhaps most significantly, as my advisor at Goddard, Sara recognized I was creatively thwarted by my own expectations for my work, and she encouraged me to relax and experiment, to “let go.” This intervention was a great gift of that semester and actually of my writing life. In the years since, I’ve tried to bring the same spirit of experimentation and discovery to my own students.
— Lauren Russell
Working with Sara Michas-Martin was a gift; without her guidance and mentorship, I doubt my first novel would have seen publication. Through diligent reading and insightful criticism, she helped me transform the manuscript from a pile of prosaic rubble to a story someone might actually want to read. I feel profoundly lucky to have studied with her, and would encourage anyone who has the opportunity to do the same.
— Josh Amses
I have worked with Sara in both group and one-on-one settings and found her to be a warm and insightful teacher and a supportive editor. She has a talent for working with writers at any stage of the process. She can hone in on the emerging strengths of early-stage work and find its true emotional center. For those further along in the process, she has a poet’s eye for word choice and image and can help a writer sharpen his or her work until it sings. Best of all, she is a kind and approachable person who makes the process fun.
— Marion Wyce
Sara Michas-Martin read the first draft of my novel “Children Left Breathing.” She sent me an eleven-page letter detailing the strengths as well as areas to improve, including comments on point of view and structure, plot considerations and general editing suggestions. She included copies of several articles from books on craft that were invaluable in helping me address some of the shortcomings. She added margin notes throughout the text to guide me. In offering suggestions, she was very respectful of my vision for the story, suggesting but never prescribing. Her creative approach empowered me to move forward with edits in a way that enabled me to tell the story in my own unique voice. A year later, I still return to her notes and find clues for the best way to proceed. She is an excellent teacher, as well as a talented poet. I was fortunate to work with her and look forward to working with her again.
— Jeanne Althouse

I believe curiosity is the imagination’s foremost catalyst, and that any creative path begins with listening. As a teacher of writing I aim to help students find the stillness necessary to hear their own voices and questions. Writing requires discipline, humility and compassion, but also a willingness to experiment, to notice, to be present with where we are. I encourage students to approach writing in the spirit of play, to push themselves into unknown territory, and to stay there, long enough to honor the mind’s impulse to seek connectivity.
 

 

Upcoming Courses:
 

Catamaran Center for Literary Arts
Writing Awake (multi-genre)
Thursdays, 7-9pm, beginning April 20th
Meets 4 times, $225
Tannery Arts Center, Santa Cruz, Ca 

When the writing is going well, notice, smile softly, and carry on. When the writing isn’t going so well, notice, smile softly, and carry on.”--Author Laraine Herring

As Herring suggests, the dynamic activity of writing—the flow, the frustration—is ongoing. In this course, we will bring our attention to the present moment and loosen our hold on expected outcomes. Whether you are a seasoned writer, or just beginning to write, we will take a step back from the critical to uplift our approach to the creative process, especially in the generative stage. Beginning with the simple goal of responding to daily prompts, you will explore ways to write more freely, more patiently, and with greater awareness. Class sessions will be devoted to sharing from our writing experiments and discussing readings by authors including Dinty Moore, Jane Hirshfield, and Harryette Mullen that will guide our discussion of what it means to “write mindfully.” Come prepared to write something new and unexpected every day. Keep in mind this course is intended to be more “writing lab” than “fix-it workshop,” so while we’ll share very rough drafts, feedback will be offered with a light touch. Writers of all genres and levels are welcome!

Not the News!
A Creative Writing Workshop at Folktale Winery
Sundays 2:00-4:30pm, $375
Meets 5 times, beginning April 30th
Carmel, CA

William Carlos Williams said, “It is difficult to get the news from poems…” Yes. Precisely! Let’s take a media break—turn off our phones, our televisions and turn our attention to a form that illuminates the power of language and human experience. For a few hours each Sunday we’ll gather among the vines and barrels at Folktale Winery to read great poems by contemporary writers. We will take our time to “feast on the word” as we listen to a poem’s music or notice the nature of its careful unfolding, and learn how to appreciate a writer’s use of language as a path toward insight and artfulness. Companion writing assignments aim to deepen engagement and spark inspiration for your own work (you are welcome to write in whatever genre calls to you). We will share these drafts and offer supportive feedback in the spirit of encouragement and collaboration. Come be a part of the conversation, and feel welcome to stay after class to enjoy a glass of wine by the fire as the sun goes down. This course is open to anyone with an interest in writing (beginners and prose writers welcome!).

Lit Fest Conference 2017
Lighthouse Writers Workshop, Denver Colorado
Click HERE! to register

Titles That Don’t Suck 
(craft seminar)
June 8, 4:30 to 6:30 PM

Here’s the thing, titles matter. Chances are your titles could be doing more work for you. Often we overreach, choose a title that gives away our theme, or choose a title that is benign, if not random. But beyond the obvious or clever, titles can shade a text, steer the reader toward nuance, provide subtle context or add a necessary depth or tension. Together we will gather ideas from a series of texts that illustrate the dynamic and effective use of titles. Bring a piece of writing with a crappy title and be prepared to flex your title-making machine!

Savvy Sentences: How to Mean More Than You Say
(craft seminar)
June 9, 2:00 to 4:00 PM

Author Peter Elbow says, “As a writer you must embed energy in the sentence—coil the spring, set the trap!” Looking to published work, we’ll investigate different ways authors utilize cadence, variation, grammatical structures, and length in their sentences to expressively communicate meaning beyond what is literally stated. Writers of all genres will leave with a better understanding of how to harness the rhythmic power of phrasing to communicate tone, pace, and atmosphere, and you just might leave having written something unexpected.

Reheating the Peas: Revising Poems & Flash Fiction/Essay 
(one weekend workshop)
June, 10-11: 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM

Stanley Plumbly said: “Sometimes it feels you must be two writers: the one who originates the text and the one who discovers it into its achieved version.”  Changing hats is no easy task because rarely is revision simply a matter of tuning up and tweaking. For starters, how do you begin to evaluate what needs to be improved? How do you write your way into discovery? Perhaps the biggest challenge of revision (or “reheating the peas!”) is tapping back into your initial inspiration to produce a fully realized draft.  

We will address these questions as we review writing sample from each student (750 words or 1 poem). As a member of the workshop your job is to read others’ drafts thoughtfully to identify issues of clarity, emerging themes, character development, etc. I will introduce strategies to encourage a less onerous, more organized approach to revision. Invariably you will receive useful comments on your work, however, our goal is not to “fix” one draft, but to develop practical techniques and a lasting conversation around the art and practice of revision. Come prepared to roll up your sleeves, collaborate, and reinvent!


Independent Studies
Summer 2017 & Ongoing 

I am currently accepting private students for one-on-one study beginning summer 2017. In the past I have worked with students (in all genres) either on book-length projects, short packets or created individualized tutorials tailored to a student’s interests and writing goals. Together we set the parameters of the study and meet regularly via Skype, phone or in person to discuss your work and progress. If you would like to pursue one of the options below, please contact me with a brief summary about your writing and/or project so I can provide more information and rates accordingly.

Manuscript Review:  For writers looking for feedback and direction on a complete or nearly complete body of work. This may include thirty- plus poems, a rough draft of a memoir, novel, etc. The depth of feedback is determined by the writer and may include:

  • Addressing larger thematic, narrative and stylistic concerns (architecture/sequencing)
  • Line edits and technical advice (syntax/rhythm)
  • Revision techniques, reading & writing assignments tailored to problematic areas, or areas in need of development (pluck/polish/elaborate)
  • Additional rounds of feedback on revised drafts
  • Organizational support, including submissions to journals, contests, publishers etc. (order/business)

Short Packet Review: For writers looking for quality feedback and a quick turn-around on a smaller body of work. A packet may include something like 3 poems, a single novel chapter, or one long essay. I will read your work closely, providing detailed line comments. Within a week we will Skype (or use telephones) to discuss your work. Students may choose to send more “packets” on their own schedule and as time permits.

Individual Tutorials: Tutorials are tailored to meet the specific writing interests and learning goals of each student ,and typically run four or eight weeks. Together we design a program that includes a reading list, challenging writing assignments, deadlines and weekly discussion/check-in meetings.

Not Exactly “Creative” Writing Review: For writers and NON-writers looking for help with composing and/or editing personal statements, grant or fellowship applications, as well as MFA portfolio/application review.


PREVIOUS COURSES:

Stanford University Continuing Studies
Writing Toward Mindfulness (multi-genre)
5 Weeks
Read Syllabus Here

Whether you are looking to begin writing or reinvigorate your writing routine, this course provides the support and structure to explore writing as a form of listening, investigation and play. The work of the course fortifies an intention to bring creativity into daily life, and to find grounding and meaning in our daily lives through creativity. This begins with consistently responding to a series of daily writing prompts. Designed to encourage experimentation, these prompts offer new triggering subjects, ways to direct attention, opportunities for collaboration and the chance to write about things you may not otherwise have written about. Author Laraine Herring says: "bring writing into your life with the intimacy and regularity of brushing your teeth." Through frequency, the free-writing method and community to help keep us accountable this is what we will aim to do.

To compliment our writing excursions, we will read authors with useful insights into mindfulness and writing life, as well as illustrative examples of brief fiction, nonfiction and poetry. The foundation of this course is to cultivate a regular and meaningful writing practice with the support of fellow writers engaged in the same pursuit. To that end, this is not a critique-based “workshop.” While students will have the option to share 500-1000 words from their writing excursions each week, limited feedback will be offered in the spirit of collaboration and encouragement. My hope for you is to leave this course with a truckload of newly generated material, an appreciation for the community we established together, and, above all, a healthy writing habit, one that will sustain the joys of writing for years to come.

Lit Fest Conference, Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop
Muse in the Museum: Writing and Visual Art
Register HERE: 

To explore the fertile relationship between language and image, we begin by asking how poets and writers in the past have gleaned significant inspiration through the direct engagement of visual art. How can we harness the impact of art, an experience that affects the viewer “all at once,” to initiate or enliven our own work? Beyond the exercise of responding to the work itself, what can visual artists teach us about creative vision and process? Sara Michas-Martin holds a BFA in visual art as well as an MFA. She’ll share what she has found to be the most useful and unlikely strategies applicable to the writer’s craft. Art enthusiasts and writers of all persuasions welcome! 

Stanford University Continuing Studies
Writing the Moment (poetry workshop)
10 Weeks

Robert Lowell said, “Poetry is not the record of an event: it is an event.” In this course, we will learn what makes a poem come alive, how a poem is made, and how one begins to write one. Emphasis will be placed on getting started, developing ideas, and learning how to shape a poem once it has made it on the page. In the spirit of exploration, weekly creative assignments and spontaneous writing prompts will lead to the creation of original poems submitted by students for supportive group discussion. Although our primary focus will be student writing, we will also consider the work of contemporary authors, including Robert Hass, Li-Young Lee, and Sharon Olds, in order to increase our understanding of the tools and resources available to us. This course is suitable for those who are new to poetry, as well as for experienced writers looking to experiment with diverse approaches to their writing.

Stanford University Continuing Studies
Creative Nonfiction: Developing our Practice
10 Weeks (Online)
Read Syllabus HERE

This course is built on the firm belief that in writing, inspiration, clarity, and insight happen more readily in the process than the preparation. In this course, we’ll seek to establish a regular writing practice fueled by the desire to question, reflect, and know—hallmarks of the creative nonfiction genre. We will read work by such writers as BK Loren, Sarah Manguso, and Paul Broks, who explore themes they relate to personally—illness, the science behind selfhood, nature, and the sublime. Additionally, students will receive writing prompts to help incite their own meaningful, daily investigations. From there we will focus on transforming the strands and stories emerging from our daily writing into shapely creative nonfiction. Students will have the option to pursue their own writing explorations or to complete specific assignments designed to deepen new material and gain expertise in technical aspects such as dialogue and scene. The final weeks will be devoted to work-shop, in which every student will receive supportive feedback on a longer draft. 

Lighthouse Writers Workshop
Poetry as Foundation for Prose
One Day Workshop, co-taught w/ fiction/CNF writer  BK Loren

Spoken language has been around for a long time. Writing has not. If the history of language were condensed to a 24 hour clock, writing would have been invented in the last 5 minutes. Writing as literature would have been invented in the last 60 seconds.

In order to understand what we are doing when we write words on a page and ask people to read them, a writer must first appreciate poetry, the first record of language. An understanding of poetry teaches a writer the art of compression, a well placed image and how to utilize the music of language and syntax to reinforce tone. For the prose writer, moving beyond story, placing more attention on the texture of your prose, the rhythm and pacing of your sentences, may be the thing that gives you an edge over the other piles of manuscripts editors read in slush piles. Poetry may give you the ear you need to develop in order to hear your own unique voice as a writer.

In this one day class co-taught by a poet and fiction writer, we’ll look at a handful of accessible poems to help us identify some of the tools of poetics and learn to apply them to the basic elements of storytelling through hands-on exercises. Come prepared to stretch the boundaries of your comfort zone, explore new territory, and leave with a new understanding of the power of written language. Poets and prose writers of any level welcome.