I teach six-week fiction writing workshops in the Los Angeles area. Students of all experience levels are welcome. Class size is limited to ten.
In these courses, we workshop short stories or novel excerpts of up to 20 pages, with an emphasis on the major elements of craft, including structure, characterization, and language. The workshop’s main purpose is to help each writer identify and build on the strengths of his/her work. Among the kinds of questions we consider: In what ways does this work engage and move us? Does the work have a recognizable structure that serves the writer’s artistic aims? Do the events that make up the plot connect to create meaning? Do we have a strong sense of who the characters are? Is setting used effectively? Does the language capture our imagination throughout? Class discussion is frank, focused, and supportive. Throughout the six weeks, you will read published stories as well as do writing exercises, designed to sharpen your fiction-writing skills and generate new work. By the end of the workshop, you will leave not only with fresh ideas for revision but with what could be the beginnings of new stories.
“I think this would be a life-changing experience for a student writer.”
–Michael Silverblatt, host of KCRW’s Bookworm
March 31 — May 5, Sundays from 5 to 7 p.m. Location: Pasadena
September 22 — October 27, Sundays from 5 to 7 p.m. Location: Larchmont
This workshop is designed for committed fiction writers of any experience level who are seeking support with longer-term projects (story collections, novels, etc.) and the writing life. Class size is limited to ten.
The workshop will be run just like a six-week workshop but with 15 hours of class instruction instead of 12. Class will meet every other week. During this course, each student will workshop a piece of fiction up to 20 pages. Students will do at-home writing, which they will print out and bring to class to share and discuss. We will also closely study selections of published fiction.
I teach exciting, one-day, total-immersion fiction writing classes on a range of topics. The classes are generative—meaning all day you’ll be learning new things and creating new work. Classes are six hours long, which includes a one-hour break for lunch. Students of all experience levels are welcome.
(1) Creating Compelling Characters
How do you create a character? And more to the point, how do you create a character who is so interesting that a reader will want to spend an entire story or novel with him? In this class, we will examine how to create complex and even irresistible characters. We will spend part of our time discussing how to invent characters in the first place—how, from the get-go, to make them as credible and distinct as we can. But most of our time will be spent doing exercises that help you explore the many facets of your characters, which is to say, what makes them absorbing and fully human. You will get to know your characters within a range of physical settings, time periods, and dramatic situations. You will gain insight into what motivates your characters and in what ways your characters are capable of change. Along the way, you will discover many of your strengths as an imaginative writer as well as some of your blind spots. By the end of the day, you will better appreciate the dimensions (and mysteries) of your characters as well as have a fresh understanding of how those characters can be woven into stories.
(2) Starting New Stories
Stuck getting started on a new work of fiction? Where do the ideas, the characters, the sentences come from? In this class, we are going to explore different approaches for how to start a new story. The goal of the class is for you to begin at least eight new stories over the course of a day, so that by the time you go home, you will have at least eight new and exciting fictional projects to pursue.
During this class, you will write the opening pages of many kinds of stories. One story might be autobiographical; another might be invented entirely from scratch. In one story you might inhabit the consciousness of a character your own age; in another, you might write from the point of view of someone who died before you were born. I might have you write an opening from the vantage point of a character who is quite different from you in certain ways and quite similar in others. In all, the class will be fun, challenging, illuminating, and productive—and you will go home with plenty to show for it. Indeed, by the end of the day, you will be on your way to having a number of new fictional adventures.
Saturday, May 18 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Location: Pasadena (2)
Saturday, August 17 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Location: Pasadena (2)
Saturday, December 7 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Location: Larchmont (1)
Financial aid is available.
Cancellation policy: My classes are refundable until 10 days before the class is held.
What Students are Saying
“Jonathan is a kind teacher, generous with his time, honest, inspiring, and insightful. So yes, I really liked his class! I had never been in this type of workshop before and really appreciated learning how to carefully critique others’ work as well as listen and learn from others’ critiques of my own. I will take another class with him as soon as time permits and have warmly recommended him to my friends.”
–Mary Blodgett, Winter 2018 student
“This is the best writing class in Los Angeles. Having taken literally a hundred writing classes over the years, all across the country, I can assure you that only a handful are any good. Getting a spot in Jonathan’s fiction writing workshop is like getting to attend an elite graduate-level class with the best of the best. It’s like having the Iowa Writers’ Workshop come to you. Jonathan’s rare, thoughtful approach and innate brilliance will change you as a writer. Already I have had a short story turned into a draft of a novel and another short story published. Jonathan has helped me move my work to the next level.”
–Arabella Field, Spring 2017, Winter 2018, Spring 2018, and Fall 2018 student
“Jonathan Blum has a rigorous mind and a generous heart. I have taken many, many fiction writing classes and can honestly say that he is one of the best instructors I’ve had. His knowledge of craft runs deep, and he’s clearly thought a lot about how to share that knowledge most effectively with students. He is honest yet supportive. He helped me become a better reader, critic, and writer. I highly recommend his class.”
–Rachel Vogel, Fall 2018 and Winter 2019 student
“Jonathan’s teaching is clear and instructional, with a rewarding concentration on the craft of writing. I’ve taken writing classes at conferences and universities and have had private instruction, but this was the best fiction class I have taken to date.”
–Liz Dubelman, Fall 2018 student
“I had a fantastic experience in Jonathan Blum’s class. I appreciated his focus on the craft of writing and his de-emphasis on writing for publication — it really helps strip away a lot of the fear and doubt around writing. He facilitates excellent discussions. Assignments are stimulating and engaging, and Jonathan strikes a nice balance in class between instruction and workshopping our stories. This workshop is a great way to enhance your creative writing foundation, refresh old dreams, or just get a taste for how it’s done. I look forward to taking another workshop with Jonathan next year!”
–Caroline Weiss, Fall 2016 student
“Jonathan Blum is an amazing instructor. He really knows his stuff. I am always looking to enhance my education, but I also took the class for fun. I was a first-timer — never had I written any fiction. I genuinely enjoyed every class session. Writing is an art form and I am a much better artist because of this class and Jonathan Blum. I am extremely grateful I stumbled across his flyer one morning on my way to work.”
–Heidy Garcia, Fall 2016 student
“I took Jonathan’s course on point of view. Throughout the workshop, I was struck by Jonathan’s ability to conduct an insightful and meaningful discussion about each student’s work. His workshop is a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere in which everyone felt safe to take risks and speak their minds. I left the workshop with a more thorough understanding of my strengths and weaknesses as a writer. Most importantly, I left feeling thrilled that there was such a passionate, diverse group of writers in Los Angeles.”
–Daniel Spielberger, Fall 2017 and Spring 2018 student
“I was hesitant and nervous to take the class, having never taken a writing workshop before, but I’m real glad I did. I read some amazing fiction, got back into a habit of writing creatively through weekly exercises, and for the first time, had people read and respond to my work. That was an incredible experience that I feel like you can only get at a workshop. Jonathan did a terrific job pointing out our strengths and aspects of our writing that we could improve upon. I really appreciated his and my classmates’ candor in discussing our pieces. I feel like my enjoyment of writing has been restored having taken the class. I highly recommend it.”
–Daniel Bang, Fall 2017 student
“I would absolutely recommend Jonathan’s class to anyone who’s interested in fiction writing. The close reads and feedback from Jonathan and the class have helped push my story to the next level and have given me new confidence in my writing. I also appreciated Jonathan’s workshop structure and loved our weekly discussions on fiction and craft.”
–Savanna Parra, Fall 2017 and Fall 2018 student
“Jonathan’s workshop was a game-changer for me. I had long been rejecting the techniques and habits of Screenwriting 101, and his class presented me with a more honest, organic approach to storytelling. He had plenty of expert knowledge to share with us week to week, but the core of his class was in guiding each of us to find our own way as writers. It was incredibly empowering, and I only wish I’d found him sooner.”
–Brian Tran, Fall 2015 student
“I took Jonathan’s Short Story Workshop at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. I’d always wondered what it would be like to write in Iowa City, and the workshop turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life. One week with a wonderful group of people and an amazing instructor and writer was too short. I’ve already decided to come back every summer.”
–Katherine Jia, Summer 2018 student
“If you are in search of a compelling teacher and a vibrant roundtable, work with Jonathan Blum. This man is kind and he’s smart. He has a wicked sense of humor and draws on extensive experience and a keen eye to inspire and challenge. His guidance as an instructor and as a published writer who is always in process himself is invaluable. So glad I allowed myself to have this experience and will do it again.”
–Ashley Crow, Spring 2018 student
“Jonathan is an insightful, attentive reader and teacher, whose goal is always to help students take their writing to a deeper, truer place. I appreciated his feedback, and that of the whip-smart group of writers he’s assembled.”
–Matt Ward, Spring 2018 student
“Jonathan’s workshop was my first-ever foray into fiction. My confidence grew dramatically over the course of six weeks, both as a writer and as a participant in writerly discourse. Jonathan curated an outstanding group with a wonderful variety of voices, backgrounds, and experience levels. Everyone was full of artistic curiosity, gave meticulous attention to each other’s work, and provided thoughtful, supportive feedback. Jonathan’s insight, backed by many years of experience and a clear gift for the craft, opens doors. I plan to take this workshop again and would recommend it to fiction writers of all stripes.”
–Jennifer Kotlewski, Fall 2018 student
“Jonathan’s fiction-writing workshop is informative, challenging, supportive. He’s all about writing and writers, and he always focuses on the work, giving his students insights into what makes for good storytelling. Through class assignments and incisive discussion, he encourages students to push themselves. By sharing examples of great writing, he inspires them to see what’s possible. I appreciated Jonathan’s careful reading of everyone’s work and his very specific feedback on how to make it better. If you’re interested in improving your fiction-writing skills, take this class.”
–Melissa McCoy, Winter 2016 and Winter 2018 student
“Jonathan’s fiction workshop is a must if you’re looking for intelligent, concise, and useful feedback on your work. He creates a safe environment that’s about the work, both through his own approach and the readings and exercises he brings to the group. His personal feedback, given his own workshop history, was detailed and applicable. Simply, my work got better.”
–Michael Apstein, Winter 2016 student
“I had a transformative experience in Jonathan’s fiction-writing class. I came into the class without ever having written fiction, and I am now pursuing a career in writing. Jonathan brought out the best in me. He is gentle in his critiques and leadership yet completely effective. He encouraged me to discover my own voice and not be conventional. To take risks and be brave. It is very true that we all rise to expectation. Thank you, Jonathan, for your belief in all of us.”
–Brittany Ballard, Fall 2015 and Winter 2016 student
“Jonathan Blum’s class is handled with reverence for the art of writing and a seriousness that I treasure. His insightful guidance and feedback have helped me anchor my writing. His deep understanding of POV, characterization, and dramatization has stayed with me during, in-between and after the classes. The focus on the writing throughout his workshops is greatly appreciated and I definitively recommend this class to anyone that is looking to improve their work.”
–Joshua Elias, Fall 2016 and Fall 2017 student
“Jonathan Blum is an insightful, prepared, and always intriguing teacher of fiction writing. I’ve participated in two of his workshops and have found them both to be inspirational.”
–Sharon Barr, Spring 2017 and Fall 2017 student
“Jonathan’s workshop exceeded my expectations. I was new to both writing groups and fiction. Jonathan’s style eased my anxiety from the onset, and his passion for teaching carried me through the fast-paced classes. He provided excellent guidelines for workshopping our stories, provocative exercises that sparked my imagination, and practical handouts for reference. I particularly appreciate that he kept the diverse class focused. Jonathan is an effective teacher I highly recommend.”
–Dee Dee Prince, Summer 2018 student
“I took a workshop with Jonathan that focused on point of view. He ran a professional class with clearly delineated boundaries that maintained an environment of respect and artistic integrity. We read, discussed, and practiced writing together with humor, curiosity, and encouragement. He created a safe space for exploration and offered compassionate and constructive feedback, emphasizing strengths and plainly discussing where work needed to be developed and how. I can’t recommend his class highly enough.”
–Maggie Welsh, Fall 2017, Winter 2018, and Fall 2018 student
“I took Jonathan’s workshop twice (among several others who were returning) and I could say that Jonathan got me writing or got me writing better, because he did do that, but mainly Jonathan creates a space that gets you thinking of yourself as a writer. Writing is one thing but getting the confidence to think of it as more than a silly hobby or distraction but a real vocation was big for me. Today I feel like more of a writer thanks to Jonathan.”
–Juan Montoya, Winter 2015 and Fall 2015 student
“In the land of the workshop, how do you choose? Plenty of teachers have glossy sales pitches and clever, copyrighted techniques. Lots of them love to put on a show. Yet the real deal does not fit slickly into an Instagram feed. Jonathan Blum is the real deal: authentic, attentive, talented, wise, and published. Jonathan made me feel safe, he challenged me, he made me think deeply, and he cracked me up. I write with greater ability, and more, because of him. If you want to become a better writer, take Jonathan Blum’s writing workshop.”
–Kelly Cole, Winter 2015 student
“I discovered Jonathan Blum when I signed up for his Short Story Workshop at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. He offered thoughtful critiques, wise counsel, and exposed me to many new writers. He was engaging and therefore I ended up returning to Iowa the next year to take his class again. I’ve also taken his Los Angeles workshop. I appreciate his serious approach to literature. He is very attentive and engages well with his students.”
–Linda Jassim, Winter 2015, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2018, and Winter 2019 student
“I found Jonathan’s class to be a lot of fun, and extremely beneficial to my storytelling skills and character development. He is a very attentive teacher that works hard to make sure that everyone in class gets a lot of support and comes away from the experience a more well-rounded writer and reader. I couldn’t recommend it more.”
–Ross Gardiner, Fall 2015 student
“Jonathan’s class was very helpful. Coming from a background in screenwriting and script analysis, I found his insights into approaching character and narrative structure in short-form fiction to be elucidating. I also felt that the classroom environment was supportive and that Jonathan set great, fair-minded guidelines for group critique. I learned a lot about where the strengths of my piece were, and also how people felt about the character. For any writer, this kind of feedback is invaluable. I felt my story develop in exciting new directions as a result of workshopping it in this class.”
–Jack Fleischer, Fall 2015 student
WILLIAM DEVERELL, who was in my Winter 2015, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, and Spring 2018 workshops, has a short story, “Driftwood,” in The Cost of Paper, Vol. 5. His short story, “Arraigned,” appears in Angels Flight – literary west. He was awarded a California Writing Residency in Lake Arrowhead by the 1888 Center + Yefe Nof. He published his short story, “Evangel,” in Exposition Review, Volume 1. “Evangel” was nominated for the PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers.
JOSHUA ELIAS, who was in my Fall 2016 and Fall 2017 workshops, was selected by The New Short Fiction Series for its 14th Annual Emerging Voices Group Show in North Hollywood.
ARABELLA FIELD has a micro-story, “Breakfast Blend,” on The Rose City Sisters. She was in my Spring 2017, Winter 2018, Spring 2018, and Fall 2018 workshops.
LINDA JASSIM read her story “The Crossing” as part of the Drunken Masters series at The Escondite in DTLA. She was accepted to attend the Writer’s Hotel writers conference in New York City. Her short story “The Golden Hour” appears in Liquid: Journal of Arts & Letters, Volume 1. Her story “The Wall” was published on VietnamWarPoetry.com. Linda was in my Winter 2015, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, and Fall 2018 workshops.
HOLIDAY REINHORN, who was, most recently, in my Spring 2018 and Fall 2018 workshops, has published her short story, “Our Lady of Perpetual Sadness,” in the Summer 2018 issue of American Short Fiction. A story, “Emanuel,” is forthcoming in Ploughshares Solos.
MAGGIE SMITH, who was in my Summer 2017 workshop, has had her first short story published. “The Devil You Know” appears in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers 2017 Anthology: False Faces.
BRIAN TRAN got into the MFA program in fiction writing at Washington University in St. Louis. He will receive a fellowship that covers the cost of tuition and provides a $23,000 annual stipend. Brian attended the Tin House Summer Workshop in Portland, Oregon. He was in my Fall 2015 workshop.
MAGGIE WELSH has a micro-story, “The Conference,” on The Rose City Sisters. She was in my Fall 2017, Winter 2018, and Fall 2018 workshops.
I read fiction manuscripts. I am thorough about it too.
I will closely read your short story or novel excerpt, give you line comments, write a half-page response (or more depending on the length of the manuscript), and talk with you afterward about the work.
The fee is $250 for the first 20 pages, then $12.50/page after that. So a 30-page story would be $375.
Let me know if I can help.