The Sacramento Writers’ Workshop is an intensive manuscript development program for aspiring short story writers, memoirists, and novelists, sponsored by Sacramento Country Day School. Participants will have the opportunity to polish a piece of writing, refine their craft, and connect with other writers in a constructive setting.
The 2021 Workshop has been cancelled.
The Sacramento Writers’ Workshop is an intensive manuscript
development program for aspiring short story writers,
memoirists, and novelists, sponsored by Sacramento Country
Day School. Participants will have the opportunity to polish a
piece of writing, refine their craft, and connect with other
writers in a constructive setting.
The Sacramento Writers’ Workshop is an intensive manuscript
development program for aspiring short story writers, memoirists,
and novelists. After submitting a manuscript, accepted
participants will have their unpublished writing thoroughly
reviewed by peers and an experienced instructor. Each
manuscript will be workshopped for approximately one hour, and
individual consultations will be available afterward upon request
(especially for those participants who wish to publish their
A typical workshop will begin with the instructor and
participants describing what the story meant, what worked
especially well, and what might be improved. A focused discussion
of the manuscript in terms of structure, character, and language
will follow. Finally, the author of the manuscript will have an
opportunity to ask clarifying questions at the end of the
discussion. Praise will be generous, and criticism will be
The 2021 Sacramento Writers’ Workshop will focus on advanced
and intermediate fiction and memoir, though writers of all
levels are encouraged to apply. While this program is
intended for adults (age 18 and over), ambitious high school
seniors are welcome to apply.
About the Instructor
Jason Hinojosa is the author of numerous
award-winning short stories and two novels, The
Last Lawsons and The Conception of Zachary
Muse. He earned his MFA in fiction at the Iowa Writers’
Workshop, studying with Marilynne Robinson, Margot Livesey, and
others. His fiction focuses primarily on themes of family, time,
sexuality, place, and perspective. Jason has taught
literature and creative writing courses at various levels
including university, continuing education, high school, and
middle school programs. He currently teaches at Sacramento
Country Day School and serves as the English Department
The 2021 Workshop has been
The Workshop will meet for two weeks, three meetings per
week, two hours per meeting. The first Workshop meeting will
feature lectures on craft and establish the norms of the program.
The second meeting will be the first manuscript review.
COVID-19 health and safety protocols will be observed including
health screening at the beginning of each session, mandatory
masks, and physical distancing.
Participants should have annotated manuscripts and response
letters prepared before discussions. A notepad or laptop will be
required for participation.
The cost of the program is $515.
Need-based financial aid is available; please inquire
Workshop fees must be paid by credit card at this time. Payment
will be requested after your manuscript has been reviewed and you
have been formally accepted into the program.
Workshop fees are non-refundable, except in that case that the
minimum enrollment for the class is not met, and the class is
Info for Accepted Participants
Every accepted program participant is strongly encouraged to read
each manuscript twice. First, read through the manuscript as if
you were reading a published work in a newspaper, magazine, or
online journal. Second, read and annotate the manuscript with
your comments and questions.
Every participant must then write a short response letter to be
ready on the day that manuscript is being workshopped. The
workshop letter is not only an opportunity to provide feedback to
your fellow participant; it is also an opportunity for you to
articulate and refine your own understanding of the many
interconnected elements of effective writing.
Thoughtful, respectful, and detailed feedback is expected. Please
be judicious with your criticism and generous with your praise.
Questions regarding the details of this program may be
We know that the Sacramento Writers’ Workshop is an
excellent program for authors of all levels, but you don’t have
to take our word for it. Read what past participants think of the
Emily H. (‘19)
“…Writing is such a solitary activity, many people forget how
beneficial and enjoyable it is to gather with a group of peers
and really dig deep into each other’s works. I thoroughly enjoyed
my experience and feel that I have grown exponentially as a
“Jason is very knowledgeable about literature, and he fosters an
atmosphere of kind and honest constructive criticism. If you are
ready to edit your work, this is the class for you.”
“As a beginning writer, I found every aspect of the workshop to
be helpful. Each lecture at the beginning of the session was
packed with useful information about various aspects of the
writing craft… I was encouraged to improve and was inspired to
“With an emphasis on encouragement and positivity, the approach
provides plenty of hard hitting feedback and various points of
view that are enlightening. I highly recommend this experience.”
Let your characters drive the plot
Rather than force your characters to do whatever it is you think
they should, let
them decide instead. Trust your characters. They know what to do.
decide and the plot will follow.
Ignore the reader
Paradoxical as it sounds, the less you consider your reader’s
questions, the more
you will draw her toward the answers. Trust your reader to keep
up. Don’t insult
her intelligence by explaining everything away.
Encourage bad behavior
As Isabel Allende said, “Nice people with common sense do not
characters. They only make good former spouses.” You don’t
overdramatize your fiction, but you will keep your reader engaged
character who knows better but does the wrong thing anyway.
Stay in scene
Your characters are (usually) physical bodies in particular
places at particular
times. Don’t wander away as you wax authorial. Stay with them.
How do they
respond to the sensory stimuli of the moment? How does the moment
contradict, or complicate what they’re thinking and feeling?
Start with a question you can’t answer
If it matters to you, it will matter to your reader. Rather than
you already understand (and risk sounding preachy or
condescending), delve into
a thorny mess in earnest and invite your reader to come along.
Linger at the moment of choice
As J.W. Goethe wrote, “All beginnings are delightful; the
threshold is the place to
pause.” The decisions your characters make will show your reader
more than any
amount of description. When your character is presented with a
down. Let the reader soak in the moment.
Don’t let your characters off the hook
When your characters get pushed into corners, avoid the
temptation to provide
them an easy way out or simply end the scene. Force them to react
to the crisis.
Make them face the impossible decision – and its consequences.
Avoid either/or endings
An either/or ending – Will he or won’t he? Did she or didn’t she?
– usually fails
to be satisfying. What matters most usually isn’t what the
character does at the
end, but what the character feels.
Develop a daily writing practice
It’s simple. Sit down and write. Write just one word if that’s
all you can muster.
Do it every day.
Read your story aloud
Listen to the rhythm of what you’ve written. The music of your
prose – from the
sour notes to the harmonious chords – will guide your revisions.
Trust your instincts
Writing is intuitive. Give your inner critic a break. Get out of
your own way and
just delight in the pleasure of unchecked creative flow.