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How about those Resolutions?

how to form a habit infographic

Here are mine: My non-writing related New Year’s resolutions are: to drink 8-10 glasses of water a day, to not eat after 8pm and to do pilates on Fridays. So far I have been doing so/so with them. Sometimes I mess up. (Actually ALL of the time) Do you remember that one episode from the Office where Pam makes everyone keep track of their New Year’s resolutions on a wheel and everybody tries to find creative ways to avoid her because everyone gave up on theirs?  This is so me.

The good news is you can make and remake New Years’ resolutions any time of the year.  In June of 2014 I made my most successful resolution to date and I made it mid-year.


I resolved to get invited to feature at more readings.  


It seemed after years of working several simultaneous teaching jobs at local colleges and universities, working with 90 students in a semester, I was too busy to participate in the burgeoning literary scene around me. When I finally was able to poke my head above water, I applied once or twice a year to be a “featured reader” at various readings and festivals and everybody I asked said no to me. This happened to me for years and eventually I gave up. It was quite demoralizing.

While drinking coffee in the morning on a random day in June, I made a pact with myself. I resolved to be featured at or host a reading every month for the next 12 months.  I was going to try harder. I would treat it like a job. I was going to put myself out there and if nobody asked me or allowed me to read in their reading series, I would host my own. I made a promise to myself to read or host every month for the entire year. 

I believe I’ve hosted four Write from the Gut! readings during that time and three Greek American Writers’ Nights, and three At The Inkwells in San Francisco.  
From summer 2014 until now, I was the featured reader at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York. Locally, I was a featured reader at Passages on the Lake at the Terrace Room in Oakland, at Frank Bette Center for the Arts in Alameda, Get Lit, Generations in Berkeley, Why There Are Words in Sausalito, Crows in the Stork’s Nest in Oakland, Liminal in Oakland, Rolling Writers in San Francisco. A few of these were things I initiated. A few of the curators asked me on their own. 
Last May, I was accepted to be one of 25 storytellers to tweet a story live to viewers around the world as part of the Twitter Fiction Festival. It was so much fun. 
Also in 2015 I was approached by Monique Antonette Lewis, founder of At the Inkwell in New York, who asked me to be her San Francisco curator. I accepted. Our next At the Inkwell is coming up this coming Monday at Alley Cat Books in the Mission. 

I’m reading as a featured reader next month at two series—Deviance, A Feminist Showcase at Liminal, and Lyrics and Dirges at Pegasus Books in Berkeley.

Achievement unlocked!

I may have failed at all my other resolutions, but that one stuck and it wasn’t even made in January. It just goes to show you that you can make New Year’s resolutions any time. 
So, what are your Creative Writing goals for 2016? My advice is to pick one and work on it every month a little bit at a time and keep it playful. Set small goals for yourself that are consistent.  For me, getting into all those readings was symbolic. It was a way I could be accepted when in the past I had been excluded.  Achieving this acceptance in the literary community at large helped me let something go—a fiction that I didn’t even realize I was telling myself. I was harboring a belief that maybe there was something wrong with me. Maybe everybody knew it except for me. Maybe I didn’t deserve to be included. I was letting my past limit present and predict my future.  Now, when I go to arts events, I move  through the crowd with a bit more swagger because I know that I have something to offer. I built my circle around myself from the supportive people I found along the way here and there, and I tried to ignore the exclusives, the copycats and the Debbie Downers, and the haters. 
This year my New Year’s resolution is to Make Art Sustainable. 

I am making it broad so I have the most chance of success.  There are many ways this can happen. 

I resolve to try to make creative writing sustainable for myself, for the teachers who work for SF Creative Writing Institute, for our clients, and for the community of artists in the Bay Area, and for the underserved. I know this is hard. I know that everything we are doing is an experiment and that it may not work. I have seen the best collaborations come to an end due to financial constraints. I know it may not work. But I hope that it does.

We’ve got a great lineup of classes and programming this Winter and forming in Spring. I am so thrilled to work with Hollie Hardy and Nick Mamatas who are both gems and are impressive in their own right.

SF Creative Writing Institute is committed to paying fair wages to our teachers so that we can keep more writers in the Bay Area. When you sign up for one of our classes, you are doing the good work of keeping a writer—who is a seasoned professor, and/or professional editor fed.  If for any reason we are not able to pay a fair wage, I’ve told the teachers, please tell me and we will disband.  (Nick Mamatas promised to tell me this over roast beef and mashed potatoes at Lefty O’Doul’s in November, so he can hold me accountable.) I have no assurance that we will actually sustain ourselves. But, I know we are on the right track.

When you enroll in one of our classes, you are also plugging into a network of emerging and established literary talent (both in our teachers and students). You are aligning yourself with people-in-the-know who can help to sustain you on your creative journey.  

We strive to be a supportive, nurturing, yet challenging environment where anyone can belong in order to create and craft their writing. 

Thank you for reading, gentle writer. Good luck to you this year.

Welcome to 2016!

Alexandra Kostoulas,
Founder & Executive Director
SF Creative Writing Institute


Good News for Fabulist Fiction Instructor, Nick Mamatas

Nick Mamatas’s most recent book, THE LAST WEEKEND,

got rave reviews in the San

Nick Mamatas Writefromthegut 9
Nick Mamatas reading at Write From the Gut! #9 Photo by: Zoe Christopher

Francisco Chronicle. The reviewer compared his work to  Jack Kerouac, Hunter S. Thompson,  H.P. Lovecraft, Charles Bukowski, Henry Miller, John Fante.

Nick Mamatas has also been short-listed along with co-editor Masumi Washington for a This is Horror Award for their anthology, Hanzai Japan: Fantastical, Futuristic Stories of Crime From and About Japan.
Read the review in the SF Chronicle.
Grab your copy of THE LAST WEEKEND.

Good News for Sunday Poetry Workshop Instructor,

Hollie Hardy

Hollie Hardy reading from Write from the Gut #9! Photo: Zoe Christopher

We’ve just learned that Hollie Hardy’s book HOW TO TAKE A BULLET, AND OTHER SURVIVAL POEMS has won the annual Poetry Center Book Award at San Francisco State University!


From their website: The Poetry Center Book Award has been presented annually since 1980 by The Poetry Center, San Francisco State University, to a single outstanding book of poetry published in the previous year. The Poetry Center Book Award carries a cash prize and an invitation to read, along with the award judge, at The Poetry Center in San Francisco.


Good News for San Francisco Creative Writing Institute

We got our first grant!
We have been offered to take over the programing for Central Market Now at SAFEhouse Arts and we said yes! We will start in April.
Stay tuned for more info and how you can get involved!

Winter 2016 Classes Start Next Week

To learn more about a class, or  to sign up, click on the pictures or sign up button


Jack Grapes’ Method Writing Program

Instructor: Alexandra Kostoulas


Jan 28-Mar 17, 2016 * 6:00-9:00pm
8 Sessions
Cost: $425
Fun fact: In April, Alexandra will have been teaching this class for four years. It has moved from various locations to its new home at SF Creative Writing Institute which she founded in April, 2015. This year marks her 13th year of teaching in total. She has taught at Academy of Art University, Golden Gate University, Berkeley City College, and elsewhere.
Students of Method Writing range from professional writers to beginners to everything in between. Space is limited. Still a few seats left.

Sunday Poetry Workshop

Instructor: Hollie Hardy
Jan 31-Mar 20, 2016 * 2:00-5:00 pm
8 Sessions
Cost: $395
Fun Fact: This is the second time we are offering this inspiring class. Hollie Hardy is an amazing and beloved professor at Berkeley City College and San Francisco State University. She has an MFA in poetry from SFSU.  Her reading series Saturday Night Special in the East Bay has a huge following.  This class is filling up fast. Reserve your space before it fills!


Fabulist Fiction

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Mysteries, Young Adult, Magical Realism, Chick Lit & More.

Instructor: Nick Mamatas
Feb 20-Mar 26, 2016 * 2:00-5:00pm
6 Sessions
Cost: $395
Fun Fact: Nick Mamatas works by day as an editor at Viz Media. a Japanese-American manga, anime and entertainment company located in the Twitter building in San Francisco. He has published over 100 short stories and seven novels. One of his main editorial clients at Viz media is Hayao Miyazaki. He is the president of the Mystery Writers of America NorCal chapter. There are still a few spaces left in Nick’s class. You can reserve your spot now



At The Inkwell: Genre NightUnknown
Monday, January 25, 2016.
Alley Cat Books. 3036 24th St
San Francisco, California 94110
NICK MAMATAS                                                        12369104_1034613033268321_5154604624810202757_n
Saturday Night Special,
Saturday January 30, 2016

an East Bay open mic.

3218 Adeline St, Berkeley, California 94703

Features: Lisa Martinovic and Freddy Gutierrez

First come first served. Sign-up starts at 7pm and closes when it fills up or when the reading starts, so get there early if you want to read! (Note: Sometimes the list is full by 7:03pm)

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San Francisco Creative Writing Institute
25 Taylor Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
    (415)  371-9054
Which is why you need the tiniest bit of bravery. People get scared when you try to do something, especially when it looks like you are succeeding.  People do not get scared when you’re failing. It calms them.

—Mindy Kaling

Creativity Takes Courage
—Henri Matisse
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October 2015 Newsletter

Why a Course in Genre Fiction?


-Nick Mamatas

Genre fiction, just like literary fiction, requires (with exceptions!) a compelling plot, believable characters, coherent and sometimes even clever sentences, and thoughtful themes. So, surely literary fiction writers should accept genre-writing students into their classes and MFA programs, right?

No, but not for the reasons you might have already heard. Anyone who has spent any time with creative writing instructors, especially of undergraduates has heard the horror stories—often about horror stories. “It was this nice story of a boy and a girl exploring a beach, and then they found a cave full of gargoyles and were torn to pieces!” I heard someone at the AWP conference wail once. Such a story is apparently so awful that it cannot be improved. Literary fiction writers also complain that genre fiction is formulaic—quick, what is the formula for a science fiction story? Many would say: It doesn’t deal with serious themes or issues, and it is just so poorly written.

Basically, there is a bundle of fallacies to unpack. Literary fiction can be just as formulaic as genre fiction: Are the protagonists middle-class whites? Is mere infidelity or loss a primary theme? Does the first paragraph of a literary story introduce a moment, the next couple include some backstory, and is the epiphany at the very end and often connected to the beginning via an objective correlative?

The only difference between literary fiction and genre, at its worst, is who kills the teens on the beach: a murderer makes it a crime story, gargoyles fantasy-horror, and if they just walked into the ocean together because life is futile and empty, well then it’s literary fiction. As far as the quality of writing goes, I find that literary writers often make the mistake of comparing the best of their lot—say, Faulkner—with the covers of whatever lurid and forgettable novel they happened to walk past in the airport one day. One could just as fruitfully compare the best novels of Dashiell Hammett or Gene Wolfe with the worst short story about a cancer diagnosis in the latest issue of The Podunk Review.

The problem with the arguments of literary fiction writers, and the real reason why they don’t wish to teach genre fiction writing in their classes is this: they don’t read genre fiction and don’t know anything about it, but as a class refuse to simply come out and say that they are ignorant of the topic and thus incompetent to teach it.

Honestly, it’s worse when they try. I’ve had to “fix” several students of easily impressed literary fiction writers. One student was trying to write a dystopia, but the only advice his prior teacher could give him was to read Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World, as if there is nothing new to say since the 1940s. (Here’s a big theme for dystopia: environmental degradation.) Another teacher congratulated a student on writing “weird, creative” fiction—except that this student’s ideas were all ancient. The first story of hers we read for my workshop was virtually a scene-by-scene reenactment of the first episode of the Twilight Zone, and the concept was old then.

All the genres have similar issues: I’ve seen noir stories set in the 2000s, but involve everyone speaking and acting as though they live in the 1950s—not one cell phone! Not one open marriage! Romance stories that take place in a lily white Oakland, California. If you’ve never actually read the genre, as literary fiction writers and sometimes even students have not (movies are a common student inspiration), you will only end up recreating the memories of a childhood sitting in front of the television set.

I used to share the annoyance of many aspiring genre fiction writers with the barring of science fiction, mystery, romance, in creative writing classes, but now I understand it. Why try to teach what you don’t know? Why demand to learn from someone who hasn’t read and doesn’t like what the sort of thing you’re writing?

But really, literary fiction writers who bar genre fiction from their classrooms should at least admit why they do it. Until such time, I am pleased to create a relatively open space for fiction of all sorts in my classes. We’ll even read some of that literary stuff. Even “li-fi” needs a compelling plot, after all.

Welcome October!

Nick Mamatas reading at Write From the Gut! #9 Photo by: Zoe Christopher
Nick Mamatas reading at Write From the Gut! #9
Photo by: Zoe Christopher
We’ve got a new class starting October 15! It’s called Fabulist Fiction and will be taught by Nick Mamatas. It may be for you if you write or want to explore writing fiction in the following genres: magical realism, science fiction, fantasy, chick-lit, mystery, historical novels, YA, etc. It could also be for you if you consider yourself a literary writer, but you want to kick your plot up a notch or you just need help with plot. (Come on, who doesn’t?) He also teaches students how to write query letters that will get the attention of editors and agents.
Nick Mamatas is a master of his craft. He is the author of  7 novels, over one-hundred published short stories, and has edited various anthologies. For his day job, Nick works at Viz Media. His major client at Viz is world-famous animator Hayao Miyazaki. As somebody who has worked as an editor for 20 years, he has industry knowledge about what it takes to publish your fiction, but also has the writer’s perspective on what it takes to craft your fiction.

Here’s the course description…

Fabulist Fiction:

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Mysteries, Young Adult, Magical Realism, Chick Lit & More.

Exciting plots and larger-than-life characters are the cornerstones of popular fiction and the emphasis of this course. Whether you’re writing romance, mystery, science fiction, or suspense, the principles of writing popular fiction — interesting prose, characters with whom we can empathize, and a story that moves — are key.

In this course, we’ll workshop your short stories and novel chapters, explore the history of the genres, perform writing and idea-generating exercises, and discuss the magazines and publishers looking for your sort of fiction. The goal is to give you a solid grounding in the demands of popular fiction from an editorial point of view, and a better understanding of your favorite genres.


6 Sessions
Oct. 15-Nov. 19, 2015
Tuition: $395

Sign up


“Nick is an electrifying lecturer. Each of his classes was an experience that left me feeling energized and excited about the prospect of returning to work. It’s hard to overstate the extent to which his lectures feel like superbly timed and carefully crafted performances. He’s obviously put far more work into developing his course than is typical for a creative writing instructor. During workshop, he gives excellent, honest, and very practical feedback. He holds you to a high standard, but he’s also encouraging, and he’s very cognizant of his responsibility to prepare writers for the realities of the publishing world. When I took his class, I was working on the stories I planned to include in my MFA applications. After eight weeks, I had a suite of stories that were where I needed them to be, and he’d also given me some practical advice on how to market my just-finished novel to potential agents. All in all, his class has everything you could possibly want: it’s both commercial and literary, practical and revelatory. Certainly equal, in terms of instruction, to the Clarion Workshop or an MFA seminar—I’d say it’s the best creative writing class I’ve ever taken.”
-Rahul Kanakia, author of ENTER TITLE HERE, a contemporary young adult novel coming out from Disney-Hyperion in August 2016.

“Nick’s lectures are funny and his critiques are honest. He brings a unique perspective to the classroom as both a professional writer and editor. His classes are dense with thought-provoking material and he has a lot to offer writers at all levels of experience. I’m so glad I signed up.”

Dominca Phetteplaceauthor of stories in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Clarkesworld, Zyzzyva, and VICE Terraform.

Nick Mamatas is the author of seven novels, over one hundred short stories, and dozens of essays and articles.

Nick Mamatas
Nick Mamatas

His books include the novels Love is the Law and The Last Weekend, the short fiction collection The Nickronomicon, and the how-to guide for writing short fiction and non-fiction, Starve Better. Nick’s short fiction has appeared in Best American Mystery StoriesAsimov’s Science FictionNew Haven Review, and many other anthologies and journals. He has written about writing for The Writer, Fine Books & Collections, and Wonderbook. His anthologies include the award-winning Haunted Legends (co-edited with Ellen Datlow) and The Future Is Japanese (co-edited with Masumi Washington.)

Sign up for Nick’s Class here.


At the Inkwell Reading Series
Come to our reading:

At the Inkwell Memoir Night.

Monday, October 19 7pm *free*

Here is a pic of our September 18th readers and curator from At the Inkwell’s Fiction Night in San Francisco. L-R: Kathryn Kruse, Elena Mauli Shapiro, Alexandra Kostoulas, Carolina de Robertis, Apollo Papafrangou.
Elena Mauli Shapiro reads from her latest novel, IN THE RED.

Alley Cat Books
3036 24th Street 
San Francisco
Our Oct 19th reading will feature:
Alexandra Naughton, John W. Evans, Carrie Visintainer, and Giovanna Capone

Alexandra Naughton

Alexandra Naughton is a problem. Alexandra Naughton has a problem. Alexandra Naughton is probably the Courtney Love of Bay Area poetry. An Oakland-based writer, she combines the mundane and the existential in her life experience in both poetry and memoir. With a prominent internet persona and following, she is the founder of the BE ABOUT IT reading series, zine, and small press. She is the author ofI Will Always Be Your Whore: Love Songs for Billy Corgan , and YOU COULD NEVER OBJECTIFY ME MORE THAN I’VE ALREADY OBJECTIFIED MYSELF  both on Punk Hostage Press. You can find out more about her here:

THP author's photo
John W. Evans

John W. Evans is the author of two books, Young Widower: A Memoir (University of Nebraska Press, 2014) and The Consolations: Poems (Trio House Press, 2014). His poems and essays appear in Slate, The Missouri ReviewBoston ReviewZYZZYVAThe Rumpus, and Poetry Daily, as well as the chapbooks, No Season (FWQ, 2011) and Zugzwang (RockSaw, 2009). He teaches at Stanford University, where he was a Wallace Stegner Fellow.


Carrie Visintainer

Carrie Visintainer is the author of WILD MAMA and the founder of of Free Your Wild, empowering people to unlock and embrace their personal “wild.” Her articles and essays have appeared in OutsideBackpackerThe Huffington Post, and several Travelers’ Tales “The Best Women’s Travel Writing” volumes. When not off the grid, she writes in a tiny shed in her Colorado backyard, where she lives with her husband and two young kids. Visit her and share your insights at

Giovanna Capone

Giovanna Capone is a poet, fiction writer, and playwright. She was raised in an Italian American
neighborhood in New York, whose strong immigrant influence still resonates in her life.  She has been living in California for over 20 years, but she will always be a New York Italian. Her work has appeared in various publications, including Curaggia: Writing by Women of Italian DescentBless Me Father: Stories of Catholic ChildhoodUnsettling  America: An Anthology of Contemporary Multicultural PoetryAvanti Popolo: Italian-American Writers Sail Beyond ColumbusQueer View Mirror 2Lesbian & Gay Short Short Fiction, andFuori:  Essays by Italian/American Lesbians and Gays. Her recent fiction has appeared in The Paterson Literary Review. Her current project is an anthology of short fiction and memoir by lesbian writers, which she’s co-editing with two other women. It’s tentatively entitled: Dispatches from Lesbian America. Giovanna lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she works as a public librarian.

write from the gut

Sunday Dec 6, 2015. 5-7pm.
1 Grove St. San Francisco, CA
Looking ahead:
We will have an end-of-class reading on December 6, 2015 at SAFEhouse for the Performing Arts at 1 Grove. We are partnering with Central Market Now, a group of arts events geared toward the Central Market Street neighborhood in SF. The event will feature students of Jack Grapes’ Method Writing Program taught by Alexandra Kostoulas, the Sunday Poetry Workshop taught by Hollie Hardy, and Fabulist Fiction, taught by Nick Mamatas.
Chiwan Choi
Chiwan Choi
We will also have a special guest reader coming up from LA. Chiwan Choi, poet and publisher at Writ Large Press will be our featuring on Dec 6. Here he is reading poetry in an alley in LA.


We recently created a YELP page thanks to Poetry instructor, Hollie Hardy. Be the first to write a review!
If you have taken classes from Alexandra, Nick or Hollie and you like what you have learned and the way it was presented, please review us here. Please list the name of the class and instructor in your review.
If there is something we can improve on, don’t hesitate to drop us a line and let us know by emailing:

Jean Sullivan-FinnWrite from the Gut #9 on Sept 18
was fun, and eclectic and our best one yet! Thank you to all of our readers. Here are a few highlights and photos sent in by Zoe Christopher, student of the Jack Grapes METHOD WRITING Program. write from the gut
Liz Melchor reads from her novel-in-progress
Liz Melchor
reads from her novel-in-progress


Hollie Hardy, Poetry Instructor reads from a selection from her collected and new poems.
Dennis Estrada reads a piece from his memoir-in-progress.
Yvonne Campbell reads from her novel-in-progress
Lapo Guzzini reads some new creative non-fiction.
Lapo Guzzini reads some new creative non-fiction.



If you would like to donate to SF Creative Writing Institute, your donations are fully tax deductible. Our fiscal sponsor, SAFEhouse Arts is a 501(c) 3 organization. To make a donation, you can send a check made out to SAFEhouse Arts, (our fiscal sponsor). Please write SF Creative Writing Institute in the memo line. Donations are accepted year round. Send the check to 25 Taylor Street. San Francisco, CA 94102.  Donations will go toward funding our ongoing and new programs. We are also actively seeking arts and education grants. More on that to come.

San Francisco Creative Writing Institute
25 Taylor Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
 (415)  371-9054

“Artists don’t get down to work until the pain of working is exceeded by the pain of not working.”? Stephen DeStaebler

“I write for the same reason I breathe – because if I didn’t, I would die.”
—Isaac Asimov


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