Building a Story: a five-week workshop


My spring five-week online creative writing workshop, Building a Story, has five spaces available. This is the same workshop that has sold out immediately in the past, and I love teaching it. The weekly format (offered on Tuesday evenings, 6-9 pm CST) allows us time to dive into all the essential elements of storytelling, from unforgettable characters to great dialogue to the most powerful iterations of tense and point of view and narrative arc. The workshop is lively and exhilarating and always, always supportive. Over many years I’ve developed my own unique style of teaching (based in part on what I disliked in workshops I took as a student), and I welcome writers of all genres and all levels of experience. Our workshops are illuminating, exhilarating and unfailingly supportive. (See sample testimonials below)

I’d love to see you in this five-week workshop. Email me at with any and all questions.

Building a Story meets on Tuesday evenings via Zoom: March 22, 29, April 5, 12, 19, from 6-9 CST. The workshop is strictly limited to eight participants, with detailed weekly individual feedback from me. Fee: $400. Bonus: Writing prompts will be emailed to you every Friday for one month after class.

Registration and payment: To register (for either this five-week Building a Story class or any of my other individual workshops, email me or simply send payment and note which class you’re registering for. Registration is tentative until payment is received. You may send payment via Venmo to @Alison-McGhee-1, via Paypal to, or by personal check.

Testimonials from past participants

New and experienced writers alike who are lucky enough to take an Alison McGhee class will find their writing explored and uplifted, examined and celebrated, but always, always improved, in her skilled and gentle hands. (Tara G.)

Alison’s writing programs have been a revelation. I’ve taken writing programs in the past that made me swear I would never write another word, but Alison has a knack for bringing out the very best in the writers who study with her, even when “the best” is something they never knew they were capable of. Her teaching is fiercely intelligent, fiercely gentle, empathetic, deeply informed, and never patronizing or condescending. Take a leap of faith and try one of her classes. You’ll never look back.  (Janet M.)

Alison’s teaching has this amazing after-effect, an echo, a vibration, that comes from her voice, her sympathy, her encouragement of good words. (Tim N.)

Alison brings to her role as teacher an impressive combination of skills – passion, knowledge and depth of experience in the craft of writing, expert facilitation skills that creates a safe space for participants, and a seamless ability to keep the group moving. But what sets Alison apart is her unique ability to support people in their frailty as they explore sometimes difficult material in their lives or the lives of their characters. Alison’s immense humanity never makes a writer feel like they are going somewhere entirely alone. There’s always the feeling that she’ll catch you if you fall, and guide you back to the work at hand – the gift of storytelling.  (Tessa V.)

Alison is so very kind and responsive.  Her prompts are the most inventive I have ever seen. She gently guides you into new territory and eases you into taking writing risks without you realizing it. Take one of her workshops and reap the benefits. (Keyan K.)

New podcast and online summer workshops!

Hello friends,

Wow, what a year. Is that even possible to say, since we’re only halfway through? All the everything happening around us and to us, the swirl of life in 2020. It feels as if we’re at a breaking point, a breaking point that’s necessary, scary, exhilarating, exhausting.

Some days I’m filled with fear, some days with fury, and every day a kind of wonder and hope for the future world we can make together. A world we can all breathe in. With that better, kinder world in mind, I’ve created a new podcast and moved all my one-day workshops to Zoom, on a pay-what-you’re able basis. I’d love to see you in one!


Welcome to my new podcast, Words by Winter

Words by Winter: Conversations, reflections, and poems about the passages of life. Because it’s rough out there, and we have to help each other through. Each brief episode includes a story or conversation or letter from a listener, along with a poem. Words by Winter can be found anywhere you listen to your podcasts.

Click here for Words by Winter on Apple Podcasts.

Click here for Words by Winter on Google Podcasts.

Click here for Words by Winter on Spotify.

I’d love to hear from you about what you’re going through, what uncertainties or troubles you’re dealing with, maybe in the silence of your own mind and heart. Let me know, and I’ll go in search of a poem to help you through, one that might help all of us through, in the way that poems have been helping me ever since I was a little girl.

Sometimes life feels too hard, too intense, just too much, and if that’s where you are right now, reach out. Whoever you are, whatever age, whatever place in life, you can drop me a line or send a voice memo to 

Note: Music-free episodes are available upon request to listeners with hearing difficulties.

Introducing the Summer Session Workshops! 

9C805922-3A4B-4E42-8B12-B14912EDB00ECome join me on my (virtual) porch this summer! All my three-hour workshops are now taught via Zoom and designed for writers of any and all experience. No preparation required. Each workshop is intensive, exhilarating, and fun. Consider them a recharge of your creative spirit. I regularly update my class offerings (and I’d also be happy to design one specifically for your group, whatever that group is). 

NOTE: I welcome everyone and respect everyone’s individual financial circumstances. Sometimes, when under great duress, it’s even more important to feed your creative soul.

Therefore, all my classes are pay-as-you’re-able (truly, no questions asked), from free to a maximum of $75. Payment can be made via Venmo to Alison-McGhee-1, or via my Paypal account, which is Personal checks are also fine.

All workshops are strictly limited to ten participants. To register for one or more, please email me.  


Creative Writing Kickstart!

Date and Time: Tuesday, August 4, 10-1 pm, CST

Have you always wanted to write but aren’t sure how to begin? Or, are you a writer in need of an energy boost and a fresh start? This three-hour intensive Kickstart workshop will recharge your writing energy and help you develop a regular writing practice. We’ll do several brief writings and talk about various aspects of craft and process –maybe language, maybe flow, maybe dialogue, maybe tense and point of view, maybe some other things– in terms of what makes great writing great. 

The class is designed for writers of all abilities, experience levels and genres – so I forbid you to worry if you’ve never written before! Whether you’re a longtime writer in need of a boost or someone who’s always had an interest in writing but never known how to sit down and get started, the class is designed for you. 

Bonus: Weekly writing prompts will be emailed to you for one month following the end of class. 


The Art of Writing Picture Books

Date and Time: Saturday, August 8, 10-1 pm CST

Do you love picture books? Have you ever wanted to write one? Are you curious how to go about it? Welcome to my one-day picture book writing workshop! In our intensive, fun class, we’ll deconstruct some classic picture books, talk about ideas for new ones, and go through all the nuts and bolts, such as how long can a picture book be? What’s the relationship between writer and artist? How do you write a picture book that children will love and adults won’t mind reading ten thousand times in a row?

We’ll come up with ideas, draft a basic outline for one or more picture books, read aloud some favorite passages, and provide instant feedback on anything you come up with. This class is designed for people of any writing ability or experience – all are welcome. Guaranteed to be illuminating, exhilarating and fun.


The Freedom of Form

Date and Time: Friday, August 14, 10-1 pm CST

When you’re stuck in a piece of writing, feeling lifeless, what do you do? Grind through, hoping desperately that a window will open? Give up? Take a break? Declare yourself a failure and slink off to drown your sorrows? I’ve taken a shot at all these methods, and none of them work as well for me as re-framing the work itself. I give myself seemingly arbitrary rules to work within, e.g., Write this scene as a series of text messages, or, Write this novel as a series of one-hundred-word passages. 
The freedom of assigned form is real, people, and it’s why novels usually have chapters, and picture books are usually under 500 words. It’s why enduring forms of poetry like haiku and sonnets and sestinas are still alive and thriving. In this workshop, which is designed for writers in all genres, we will play with form as a way to open up your writing, your mind and your heart to the freedom and creativity inherent in all art. This class is designed for people of any writing ability or experience – all are welcome. Guaranteed to be illuminating, exhilarating and fun. Enrollment is limited. 
Bonus: Weekly writing prompts will be emailed to you for one month following the end of class.


Memoir in Moments: Writing Your Life

Date and Time: Tuesday, August 18, 5-8 pm CST

Maybe you’re at a new stage of life, looking back. Maybe you’re thinking about your family, or your children, and all the stories they might not know about you. Maybe you’re looking back on your childhood, the things you wondered about back then, the conversations you had, the places you went, how all of them were pieces of a much larger life puzzle. Think about that T-shirt you wore all the time in seventh grade. Think about your favorite dessert when you were five years old. Your favorite song as a senior in high school. The secret you’ve never told anyone. The dream that came true, and the one that didn’t. The unexpected turns your life has taken, and how they placed pattern to everything that came after. 
This class is for anyone interested in writing out some of their own life stories. We’ll focus on memoir moments in this class, brief, specific writing prompts that shine up from the page and give readers a perhaps unexpected window into who you are. This class is designed for people of any writing ability or experience – all are welcome. Guaranteed to be illuminating, exhilarating and fun. Enrollment is limited. 
Bonus: Weekly writing prompts will be emailed to you for one month following the end of class.


A Novel Idea: Ways to Coax that Book Into Reality 

Date and Time: Saturday, August 23, 10-1 CST

Is there a book within you that wants to be written? Stories that want to be told? Do ideas and an urge to write them out come to you at work, while walking the dog, cooking dinner, folding laundry, and in dreams? Are you frustrated because you don’t know how to begin, or how to keep going once you’ve begun? Welcome to this workshop, drawn from my own experience as a novelist, in which every single book presents its own specific building-block challenges. 

Through a series of in-class prompts, discussion of creative process –both general and specific to you– and intuitive and practical analysis, we’ll come up with an individual book-writing practice plan for each participant. Note: This class will be helpful for anyone who wants to write a book, regardless of genre or subject matter. 

Bonus: Weekly writing prompts will be emailed to you for one month following the end of class.