Reviews of Writing Classes

I’m a 2007 Writer’s Workshop alum writing to thank you. I no longer live in the Seattle area, but recently received notification that I am a Fellowship Award Recipient to the Professional Wine Writers Symposium at Meadowood Napa Valley in February 2017. Thank you for the direction your workshop provided all those years ago, which guided me to my true North. While not easy, I found the courage to pursue what I love – writing – and in doing so, to find my voice.

– L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne Master Level

This is just to let you know that I have been published in Northwest Lawyer magazine!  I was inspired to publish by the class. I would not have thought to submit an article without your encouragement. I have more confidence now, thanks to your classes.

– Ellen Barton writes from Seattle.

I can’t thank you enough for all that I learned from you about crafting a narrative, scene, and character portraits in your writing classes. Also, your tips for using strong verbs, rich descriptors, and setting up the framework for the book have proven invaluable. I could never have completed the book without the tools and skills you helped me acquire.

– Angela Day is the author of Red Light to Starboard: Recalling the Exxon Valdez Disaster

It was 20 years ago you urged me to submit a story I’d written in your class to the Seattle Weekly. They published it in February 1993. Best money I ever made. I’ve been a journalist/ reporter ever since then all over the country, including the Hartford Courant. Thank you.

Janice Posada is a writer for the Hartford Courant.

Nick, I am so grateful for the opportunity to take your summer nonfiction seminar through The Writer’s Workshop.  It was the summer of 2008, and I was in the midst of making big changes in my professional life.  The writing class proved to be the kick-off to my new path as a food and wine writer on the east coast.  Now as wine columnist and a restaurant reviewer for the Boston Globe, I regularly use the techniques of narrative writing to bring readers into the action of a story and to create engaging scenes out of everyday moments.  Thank you for fostering a supportive learning environment in your writing classes that played a key role in my development as a professional writer.

Ellen Bhang is a Boston Globe Correspondent from Boston, MA

Thank you so much for the wonderful Follow The Story class.  In eight weeks you’ve taken my writing skills farther than the four years I spent on my Bachelor’s degree in English.

Wendy Kendall writes from Seattle, Washington.

I took your non-fiction course in the winter of ’95/’96. You must have done a good job because of the 11 folks in the class, six of us have published books. The University of Oklahoma Press published my manuscript in 2005: A Room for the Summer; Adventure, Misadventure and Seduction in the Mines of the Coeur d’Alenes. The class had a great effect and I read and re-read my notes continually as I proceeded through my book.

 – Fritz Wolff is a writer from Olympia, Washington

Thanks to your guidance, my head is spinning with oodles of ways to express myself using the personal essay style. I attended a conference for text and academic authoring in Minnesota a few weeks ago, where three of us actually composed a personal essay on napkins at a reception with a well-stocked bar.     I credited you as my inspiration.

Karen Hoelscher, Ph.D. writes from Bellingham, Washington.

Do you have a compelling story? Want to learn the craft of narrative writing? Dr. Nick O’Connell teaches time-honored principles with a relaxed style in four enjoyable courses. From nut graph to structure, from lead to climax, Nick has transformed my writing career from scientific researcher to riveting narrative non-fiction author.

 – Dr. David G. Embrey is a freelance writer from Puyallup, Washington.

GUESS WHAT!!!! Equus has accepted my article! OK, so they are only paying me $50, but I really don’t care about that. Thank you so much for helping me, Nick. I have really enjoyed and benefited tremendously from working through the writing process with you in this course. Your comments and assignments kept me inspired and enabled me to write an article I had been thinking about for a long time. I don’t think that I could have done this without you. This is amazing! Just wanted to share the news!

 – Katharine Maccornack, Ph.D., is a writer from Summit, New Jersey.

Sometimes the most influential people have no idea of the impact they have on others. I just wanted you to know what a tremendous difference you have made to my writing life and to share the great news that an essay of mine will be published in a Seal Press anthology, Ask Me About My Divorce: Women Open Up About Moving On, that is scheduled for release in May 2009. Your kindness, your style, your generous sharing of your craft, your respect for everyone… it all had a deep impact on me and gave me the courage to write from my heart.

Susan Carol Stein is a freelance writer from Seattle.

I really appreciate all of your great feedback in the online writing class, particularly the fact that you went through my writing very carefully. Although I learned a lot in the Writers Digest Fiction course it was mostly through my efforts – instructor feedback was usually limited to two or three sentences of general comments that were not particularly helpful.  I will stick with you, Jessica Murphy and Scott Driscoll in the future.   – Bob Sproule is a freelance writer from Klamath Falls, Oregon.

I wanted to write and share with you how much your non-fiction creative writing class meant to me. With zero professional writing background, I absorbed as much as I could from your class. Here’s just a smattering of what I learned:the huge importance of an engaging opening; the use of verbs to create action and move the reader along; create tension in the reader and set them up for the solution; use action-oriented scenes. And much more.
Steve Roberts is the author of Wine Trails of the Northwest.

Thanks to what I learned from you and Scott Driscoll, I was lucky enough to become an intern at Seattle Magazine, then a freelance writer, and now I’m the Research Editor for Seattle Magazine, Seattle Business Monthly, and Northwest Home & Garden. I really appreciated your feedback and suggestions. This is a long overdue thank you.

– Sheila Mickool is the Research Editor for Tiger Oak Publications.

About six years ago I took your Creative Nonfiction course on-line.  I enjoyed it immensely and think I even learned something.  Fast forward to October, 2006. The editorial board of the University of South Carolina Press met this afternoon.  My proposal for a book called Longitude by Wire: Finding North America was on the agenda.  At a little after two this afternoon I received this e-mail from the editor: “Project approved for publication. Congratulations.” Who would ever have thought I would get this far?  Just amazing!

Richard Stachurski is a freelance writer from Bellevue, Washington.

If it weren’t for Nick O’Connell, I would not be a soon-to-be-published author.  Nick’s classes helped me find my unique writing voice, and his enthusiastic and insightful critiques inspired me to expand a short story idea into a book. I highly recommend Nick’s classes to anyone who has any interest in writing. You’ll not only be given structure and advice, you’ll also learn how to get your work published!

Elisabeth Squires is the author of the bOObs: A Guide to Your Girls, published by Seal Press.

Just last week I received call from an editor at Tate Publishing who told me that a book I’ve written about caring for my mother has been accepted for publication. What a surprise! One of the reasons I took your course was to gain more skills to complete this book, so my dream has finally come true.

– Jennifer Sokol is the author of Six Years of Grace: Caregiving Episodes With My Mother.

I took Nick O’Connell’s class “Stalking the Nonfiction Narrative” when I was stuck on the first draft of my book. He helped me break through barriers, giving me the techniques to create a solid structure for my book. Then he worked with me as a writing coach and gave insightful feedback that enabled me to craft my story into a publishable manuscript. Throughout the whole process, he encouraged and advised me on all aspects of the writing and publishing. Nick was a huge part of my recent book sale, and I would recommend him to any writer–-whether you just want to improve your technique or to publish professionally.

– Rebecca Agiewich’s novel, The Break-up Babe, was recently published by Random House.

Nick, thanks so much for all your guidance and help: the classes, the feedback, and the positive attitude towards criticism all contributed to my successful book proposal. The structure of the class plus your positive spin on incorporating suggestions really altered my attitude. Given my lifetime history of a critical mother, that was some change!

– Patty Cogen’s book, Parenting Internationally Adopted Children, was published by Harvard Common Press.

Prior to taking Nick’s class, I had faced a deluge of rejections—79 alone, just for my book. He had to convince me that the essay I was writing for his class was appropriate for the “Lives” column of the Sunday Magazine section of The New York Times and encouraged me to submit it. “Too Close for Comfort” was accepted the day the editor received it and was published two weeks later. Is there a better endorsement for Nick’s teaching talents? I almost forgot–his obvious joy in craft and wonderful sense of humor.

– Debra Borchert is a freelance writer based in Seattle Washington.

Nick is one of the most approachable and helpful writing teachers I’ve ever met. He’s not just a good teacher, but a veteran writer himself, who knows all of the ins and outs of the business. I’d recommend his classes not only to the beginner, but also to established writers who are looking to improve and broaden their skill set.

– Cory Graff’s book Strike and Return: American Airpower and the Fight for Iwo Jima was published by Specialty Press.

Before taking Nick O’Connell’s Creative Nonfiction course, I sent stories off to editors with a sinking feeling in my stomach. I was nervous that I would be found out. The truth was I was winging it. I didn’t know how to write a nut graph or a compelling lead. From scenic leads to nut graphs and character development, I learned techniques that made my stories stand out. That’s how I landed my job as Associate Editor at San Francisco Downtown Magazine, only six months after taking Nick’s course. I was up against Brown and Oxford graduates–one of whom was on staff at Time Out magazine–but I was offered the job because my stories had strong themes, clear structures and, most importantly, kept the reader reading. Nick’s course gave me the confidence and, most importantly, the techniques I needed to bring my stories to life.

– Vanessa Sharp is Associate Editor of San Francisco Downtown Magazine

I have learned how to write under your guidance. A plain sentence I speak with tears in my eyes. I’m so grateful to learn! In fact when I compare the progress I’m making as a writer with that of friends in elite MFA programs on the east coast, I think I have learned much more. I really do, and they are paying $20,000 plus travel for their degrees. The students work with many brilliant, famous writers who are neither brilliant or memorable teachers. I see my friends struggle with the basic scaffolding of story construction even though their language is often poetic and beautiful. No one is talking to them about how to tell a story. The long and the short of it is that I am immeasurably grateful that I found your program.

– Jo Ellen Warner is a freelance writer from Seattle, Washington.

The essay I wrote with your help is in this week’s issue of Newsweek. It is quite exciting – thanks for your help and encouragement. There is very little change from the original, so we must have done good!

– John Hare’s personal essay “Tough Enough to Give up Snuff” appeared in Newsweek. He lives in Yuba City, California. 

I have taken Professor O’Connell’s Creative Nonfiction class via email from France. The study of writing techniques, related readings and feedback from the assignments is very effective. In fact, I have already been hired to write articles regularly for The Riviera Times!

– Mary C. Mascarella is a freelance writer based in Nice, France.

Nick O’Connell’s teaching was of great help in improving my writing and editing skills. The personal essay I did for the class on my whitewater rapids trip was published in Newsweek’s “My Turn” column. He helped me clarify my language and eliminate excess verbiage. He also showed me how to craft a compelling lead paragraph, one that transports the reader into the landscape of the story from the first word.

– Judy Gelber is a freelance writer from Boca Raton, Florida. 

Nick’s great sense of humor, his keen eye for clean, compelling prose, and his years of practical writing experience make learning productive and entertaining. Nick successfully guided me through my first job as a newspaper reporter and has provided advice and mentoring since. He’s a great teacher for the beginning writer and a superb coach for the experienced professional.

– Deirdre Allen Timmons is a Seattle-based contributor to Underwire, Seattle Homes and Lifestyles and many other places. She’s currently working on her second screenplay.  

Nick’s writing classes have been critical for me to get started as a professional writer. He teaches an excellent mix of craft and marketing–both of which are essential for successful writing. He taught me how to write a gripping lead, set the scene, and finish in a way that brings the piece full circle. On the marketing side, Nick willingly shares his own strategies for breaking into publications. I found his tips about querying editors, as well as his market insights, invaluable and have used them successfully in publishing my first essay–a story about my first car. I’m grateful for his encouragement of my career in writing. In the fall, I will study Creative Nonfiction at the University of Idaho’s MFA program. I’ll also be TA’ing and hope to model my teaching style on his!

– Jeff Jones is a freelance writer based in Moscow, Idaho.

Nick O’Connell’s writing classes really opened up my eyes to using fictional techniques (dialogue, telling detail, characterization) in my nonfiction writing. Writing assignments I produced for Creative Nonfiction were later incorporated into Inside the Pike Place Market (1999). I highly recommend Nick’s classes to other writers looking for direction and inspiration.

– Braiden Rex-Johnson is a food, wine and travel writer and author of the best-selling Pike Place Market Cookbook (2003).

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