I teach at the Writing Salon in Berkeley, Calif., and previously taught at UCLA Extension online. My students have gone on to attend several prestigious MFA programs, including the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the Michener Center at the University of Texas, Johns Hopkins, Vanderbilt, the New School (New York), the University of Montana, the University of Tampa, and Antioch (Los Angeles).
Please note: due to the coronavirus pandemic, I will not be teaching until further notice. Ideally I’ll start teaching again in 2023, but if you’d like to work with me remotely, please see the page for editing services.
A few testimonials from recent students:
I could not be more satisfied with Cary as a teacher or with my overall experience in his courses. In class, Cary is a calm, kind, intelligent – I’ll go ahead and say wise – presence. He gives excellent feedback, and his praise is meaningful because he is unafraid to tell student writers when a piece of work isn’t there yet (better, he can explain why). He’s drily funny. It’s telling that a couple of students in our group were taking the class for a second time. The workshop itself is thoughtfully organized. Each week is devoted to a specific aspect of craft, with excellent readings that support the lesson. There’s also a writing exercise that is tailored to the topic at hand but also open enough that you feel you’re working on real stories, not just prompts designed to get your juices flowing in an amateurish way. I spent some time looking for a writing course that was suitable for savvy beginners – the kind of people who aspire to take their fiction seriously someday, and want the kind of rigorous, supportive, specific instruction that will really help them get there. The course was just what I needed.
— KATHERINE S., Oakland, CA (later completed the Johns Hopkins MFA program, 2017)
Patience, warmth, knowledge — these are just a few of the words that come to mind when I think of Cary. He is a wonderful teacher, one who is completely committed to helping his students be better writers, readers, and thinkers. When I started working with Cary, I had never before taken a creative writing class or shared my stories with other people. At first, I felt like a rookie. But Cary treated me like a writer. He both supported me and challenged me to push further, and his engaging classes opened me up to new techniques, ideas, and sources of inspiration. With Cary’s help and support, I applied to MFA programs and was accepted. His classes, workshops, and incisive feedback have made me a more confident and more effective storyteller. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with and learn from him.
— CAT B., Berkeley, CA (later completed the MFA program at the University of Montana, 2019)
I have taken two classes with Cary and each time I have left as a better writer. He structures his class so that writers gain expert models, windows through which to analyze their craft, and a lot of feedback. Cary finds the perfect balance of support and challenge so that you feel inspired and able to improve. I am very grateful for all that I have learned from Cary’s classes.
— KATHERINE C. S., Berkeley, CA (went on to complete a Michener Fellowship at the University of Texas, 2017)
Studying with Cary Groner at The Writing Salon has been a formative experience for me. I’ve studied fiction in universities and taken other workshops in San Francisco, but Cary stands out as an excellent teacher due to his knowledge of craft, his intuition of what a student story is trying to accomplish, and his dedication to being an encouraging mentor. In each of the intensive courses I took with him there were also other returning students, which I think speaks volumes. In class, Cary makes sure that student feedback is productive and honest, but also constructive and compassionate. He isn’t afraid to point out the weaknesses in a story and suggest how they might be addressed. When a story excels in a particular way, Cary will explain why it is working and give impromptu craft lessons, which I’ve found extremely helpful. When students mention the same problem area within a single story, he’ll then steer that conversation toward a craft lecture on why it isn’t working and how it might be revised. Cary often takes the time to suggest specific readings for each individual student, depending on what their current needs are. Aside from the structured coursework and thoughtfully planned readings, this additional teaching through examples really sets him apart from other instructors. Cary is generous with his feedback and time, and he’s also a really nice, funny guy. I can’t recommend him highly enough as a teacher, and anyone who gets a chance to study with him will find it rewarding. I’m sure many more of his students will go on to become accomplished writers.
— CHELSEA N., Alameda, CA (later completed the MFA program at Vanderbilt University, 2021)
Cary Groner is that rare combination of talented writer and gifted teacher. I have an undergraduate degree in English/Creative Writing and I can honestly say that I learned more in one class with him than I did in my degree program. Cary nurtures the talent of every writer in his course. He encouraged each of us to break out of his or her comfort zone. He engaged us in lively discussions of essays on writing and used examples of great contemporary and classic literature. The writing exercises we completed each week were challenging and helped me to learn more about the different elements that make up a great literary short story. Although I was in a class of fifteen students, I felt as if he were my personal mentor. His criticism and comments helped me to improve tremendously. Through Cary’s course, I also learned to read like a writer. After my degree program, I felt that I was lacking as a writer and really did not know how to write a short story. I have had stories published before, but I don’t really think that I knew what made a short story great until Cary’s class. I would highly recommend taking a class with Cary and would take another class with him in the future if given the chance. I learned so much from him and, by the end of class, produced one of the best pieces I have written to date. Because of his instruction, I feel that I can write many more great pieces.
— TANYA A. (UCLA Online student; went on to complete MFA program at the University of Tampa, 2017)
Cary’s class was an amazing opportunity for me – and would be for anyone who’s serious about learning the craft of writing. He creates thoughtful lessons that dig deep into concepts like characterization, dialogue and point of view. He also assigns published stories that demonstrate different approaches to craft issues. I learned a lot from the broad range of writers we read, from Chekhov to contemporary Pakistani fiction. And most importantly, Cary’s a great critic. He gives insightful feedback that gets to the heart of students’ writing. He doesn’t hijack stories or tell you what to write – he helps you figure out how to realize your own goals for each piece. He also guides class discussions carefully to encourage students to give each other respectful and useful critiques.
— SARAH N., Berkeley, CA
I recently had the pleasure of taking an online fiction writing class from Cary Groner. I’m not sure how I lucked into having Cary as the professor, but I could not have asked for a better writing instructor. His assignments challenged me and pushed me out of my comfort zone into a place where I was able to experience tremendous personal growth as a writer. His feedback was very detailed and valuable. He could see things in my work that I was too close to recognize and, even better, he helped me develop my own skills for critically reading my own work. Going into the class, I was nervous about sharing my writing, but I came to recognize that Cary always provided both honest and critical feedback in a way that still nurtured, motivated and encouraged me as a new writer. He also facilitated vibrant discussions among my classmates and I was able to witness growth through their experiences in the class, as well. I would highly recommend taking a writing class from Cary if given the opportunity; I know I would sign up for another one in a heartbeat.
— MAGGIE L. (UCLA Online student)
Cary Groner was a wonderful teacher: patient, organized, and encouraging. Although I’ve been writing quite a while and have had a little bit of publishing success (children’s fiction) there were still things I didn’t know about structure and point of view and motivation, conflict and suspense. If I’d succeeded with any of these elements in the past, it was due to in part by chance. Cary’s class has made me a more conscious writer relying less on instinct and more on mindful decisions. I am able to see more clearly where my short fiction is missing the mark. I hope to continue with the Writing Salon in the fall and it would be wonderful to have Cary as my teacher again. I know he has so much more to offer.
— KAREN E., Berkeley, CA
My online course with Cary Groner was as intensive and beneficial as if I had been in a classroom setting. The reading material, lectures and writing assignments meshed together seamlessly, giving me great insight into writing styles and technique as well as guidance into my own writing. In trying to move forward with my literary education, I couldn’t have asked for a better or more knowledgeable teacher. The time and care he puts in to working with the students is nothing short of wonderful. The class was invaluable to me, and I would not pass up a chance to take another writing course with Cary in the future.
— MADDIE B. (UCLA Online student)
Rigorous, intelligently structured, and rich in craft and critique, Cary Groner’s fiction workshop is a standout. Cary gave us a solid grounding in the techniques of writing fiction along with writing assignments in which to practice the technique at hand. He also introduced us to a trove of superb stories and essays carefully chosen to illustrate the masterful use of each technique we studied. Cary is an engaging and inspiring teacher, generous with his knowledge and his time. We came away each week energized by the craft we learned and ready to try it out in our fiction. This class was my first experience with workshopping fiction. I was grateful for the constructive and thoughtful environment Cary maintained. The critiques of the other students were extremely useful to me. All of us also benefited from Cary’s expert feedback–which is itself worth the price of this class.
— JOANNE T., San Rafael, CA
Ihighly recommend taking a course from Cary. His approach is to pack as many components of an MFA program into a nine week class as possible. The class is well organized and demanding. If you believe, as I do, that it is necessary to “know the rules in order to break them,” then Cary’s class is the one for you. In workshop, he is skilled at noticing gaps in stories and then introducing literary strategies to fill them—which is not to say that he is opposed to unconventional techniques, but that he feels students should be aware of and have many useful tools in their arsenal in order to improve their craft.
— AVERY M., Berkeley, CA
Ihad not taken a creative writing course since my undergraduate degree program over twenty years ago. I was hesitant to take this course, fearing that it would either be amateurish and a disappointment or focused on professional development for writers more skilled and experienced than I am. Cary did an excellent job of creating a rigorous course that exceeded my expectations. He respected the class members and treated us as peers; he set high standards by providing excellent examples of classic and current literature; he was flexible and responsive to the needs of the group; and he gave thorough, balanced, personalized, and helpful criticism that improved every class members’ writing skills by the end of the course. I am sure that Cary could do for any class what he did for me in a very short amount of time. He helped me grow in confidence and skill and renewed my love of writing.
— KATE S., Oakland, CA
Cary Groner’s fiction writing class was probably one of the most valuable courses I have ever taken in my life, including all the courses for my MA in English lit. It certainly tops the list for writing classes. I was at a place with my fiction where I was truly stuck. I knew that the pieces weren’t working, and although I had taken courses in basic stuff around character, dialogue, etc, I couldn’t really diagnose what was wrong, so I didn’t know how to move to the next level. Cary, in teaching a sophisticated, but still very practical course, lay open for me some important ways I could move forward. I loved the variety: reading selected essays and stories by seasoned writers, his critiques of these essays and stories, and our interactive critique process.
— NALINI D., Richmond, CA