Jack Grapes Method Writing Program in SF
July 2014 Newsletter

Training in the Offseason
Breaking through Roadblocks
in Your Writing
by: Alexandra Kostoulas
Another Flying sidekick by kaibara87 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license

You know, that's how it is with writing. Sometimes you write new material. Other times you edit. Both are important and require stamina.  Developing stamina as a writer is like learning to hold your breath under water.  Part of learning endurance is to understand that there are various modes of thinking that serve writers in different phases of a project. Each one has its own characteristics. Here are a few to think about:



Deadline/Procrastination mode--First of all there is procrastination mode, which we all must fight against. You are in procrastination mode if, when you have a deadline, instead of picking up a pen, you'd rather: binge watch the latest episodes of your favorite TV series,  do chores around the house, run errands, eat snacks, cook a long elaborate dinner, go outside, call a friend, go out for drinks, dance around the house, fold laundry, wash your hair.  This is not to say that we should not do chores, live our lives, have fun, dance our way through life, etc. We have to nurture and take care of ourselves in order to live a healthy and creative life. But when we are jumping into other things besides writing because of the fear of sitting down to work, silence and the blank page, we are letting procrastination get the better of us. We all do this. Myself included. 


For many, our brand of procrastination is the obsessive checking of social media or watching of mindless television. If you're obsessed with social media/email/endless google searches that take you down the rabbit hole and generate more answers than you ever needed to know and you need to take a break or get a grip (ahem, speaking from experience), here's an idea: Shut it down. You can get an app that actually shuts down your computer from going online and lets you work.  There are two that I use. Freedom and Antisocial.


I heard some urban lore that they were initially developed for computer programmers who needed to focus on writing code, but a lot of writers I know also use them. They're relatively cheap ($10-15) and help you block yourself from checking email and/or social media for a chunk of time so you can actually get in the zone. (  and also )


Creative Mode


This happens when you are actively writing new material. In this mode, you are engaging in creative alchemy, making something out of nothing. You don't have a plan and you are just making stuff up. When we're in flow--it's like play. This is often the kind of writing that has the most passion behind it. We feel the most alive while writing it. We are mad with words, the excitement of reading the words aloud for the first time is great. If you've taken a workshop with me, you know that we fiercely cultivate a space for creativity and the constant generation of new material. It's almost magical because we discover things about ourselves, we give birth to our characters, to our stories, to our poems, our scenes, and they emerge fully formed and ready for battle.  In class we learn to embrace process over product, open up the creative channel, keep it open and see what comes.


Editing Mode


One of my teaching mentors used to say--Writing is rewriting. 


After you develop a body of work, sometimes you might want to shape, weave and craft it into a larger piece.  I think editing old work and shaping it is the hardest part because you have to make difficult choices and cut things to fit the shape as it emerges and you have to go slow.  Sometimes you have to reshape scenes, descriptions or lines to fit into a particular narrative. There is no right answer, just a sensibility and a kind of "design thinking" that dictates what works and what doesn't and principles that you use/ precepts that you use to shape your work around. As your work begins to take shape and you make artistic choices, you also develop a rationale.  At the same time, you have to develop discernment, to know not to cut your best stuff. That's where workshopping comes in handy. Trying material out on a community of peers can help with this and can help you strengthen your editorial eye.  It helps you realize what your best stuff really is.


Strength / Flexibility


The weird part is that as writers, like martial artists, we have to be both strong and confident in our choices yet flexible and adaptable to change. We have to be receptive to the stories that want to be told and need to be told, but we also have to figure out the best way to tell them. We have to be open to process and stay in the moment through process, and shape the product. We have to be able to focus on the minute details, but we have to be able to see the big picture.  We have to love to tell stories, but we have to focus on the reader and her/his experience.


It's important to realize that there are many types of writing and thinking about writing. There are many hats that we wear as artists. There is the art of writing. There is that feeling of mad passion when you dash something across the page, like you are diving headlong into the waves of life.  There is that sluggish plodding along of editing, where it seems like it will take forever to get through a scene, to clean up what you have already written, or to synthesize the story in your mind with what's on the page. There is the moment when you feel like you come alive and your writing sings off the page when you are reading it aloud to others for the first time and that fresh first kiss impression of it all and the slow satisfaction and craftsmanship and taking pride in your work of editing.


At times it can all be overwhelming. But do not despair. A great workshop can guide you step by step through the process. Before you know it, you're half way there. In between generating new material, you can use the time to rest, or if you want, weave smaller pieces together to create something big.  Many of you reading this are toggling back and forth between both writing/editing mode. Both are important. Don't give up because for a writer, It never ends.  



� Alexandra Kostoulas

Writer and Instructor

Jack Grapes METHOD WRITING Program in SF


Learn More


Our Taylor Street Location 
Jack Grapes' Method Writing Program in San Francisco

Fall Classes Start Sept 16, 17, 25 and run for 8 consecutive weeks.  
Cost is $395.  

Click on your preferred day to sign up!


Location: 80 Fresno Street At the very bohemian Emerald Tablet 
in the Heart of North Beach--near the intersection of Broadway and Columbus
At the crossroads of SF's historic literary scene.
Sept 16-Nov 4, 2014 6:30-9:30 pm


Location: 25 Taylor Street at the Wework building
Above the Golden Gate Theatre
In the up and coming Mid-Market area
Sept 17-November 5, 2014 6:30-9:30 pm
and for the first time, we will be adding a 3rd class:

Location: 25 Taylor Street at the Wework building
Above the Golden Gate Theatre
In the up and coming Mid-Market area
Sept 25-November 13, 2014 6:30-9:30 pm
We will also have a final reading at the Emerald Tablet on a Sunday afternoon in mid November.
walking into the main gallery
Emerald Tablet Art Gallery and Creativity Salon
Our North Beach Location
Wework Building 25 Taylor Street 7th floor 

The Streets of Paris During the Longest Days of the Year
-Brittany Vargas

  Featured writer from the METHOD WRITING SF workshop



Filled with sweat and soot like the Arab Quarter by Garde du Nord or Place Pigalle, where corn cobs roast on an open flame and one-legged scoundrels hobble angrily, screaming across a plaza by a statue perhaps historical covered in filth, and like a skittish porcupine I froze. I let my quills pop out.


The longest days of the year and I am alone in Paris. I am wandering where I never went before, I am wondering what to do with myself, going to Jazz and Blues jams in the working class quarters, walking along the little lanes winding up and down hills, the bars and restaurants and shops are crammed together, the vibrant night still lit by an orange and pink glow. Early Summer in Paris, seems like a cool day in Kolkota. There is something raw, vital and violent on these streets, where a man once threw a full can of coke at me when I ignored his calls for a cigarette. On my way to class, Paris IV, La Sorbonne, north near the banlieu. His roar, a scarcely comprehensible scream from the cavern of his car, hurled at me from across the street. Then the thump and splash on my back.


They say Place Pigalle is changing, it is being gentrified. There will be a L'Occitaine shop peddling anti-aging creams with potions plucked from the ends of the earth - the forests of Brazil, the rivers of Iceland, the placentas of human bodies. Here, where Henry Miller bought sex down a bedbug lane and embraced the destruction of the world, scattering his poetry like bombs. I stride across the street in a black hat with neon pink and green polka dots to meet Lucas, who I smoked a cigarette with at the Blues Jam in Bellville.


I meet Lucas by the fountain, and we walk back towards his little artist's garret in Montparnasse. He holds my hand in a dark bar and orders a drink and when we go back to his place he puts on Peaches. He has never seen a girl shaved before. Later, he calls and calls, but I am gone. After many voicemails, he says "tu etais sympathique", hissing the last formal word like citrus juice in a wound. But I am on the run, lost and lonely on the longest days of the year. I am dining on couscous and meat stews with dates and harissa and bottles of red wine with my Algerian neighbors. I am smoking cigarettes in the cafe pretending to understand the plumber and mechanics rough descriptions in French. My friends have left Paris, the knowledge that I must go home soon looms as I stare out the window at the warm and empty streets below my apartment.



Good Writing & Arts News from 


More good press!


We were recently written up as a feature in the 

San Francisco Chronicle and 

listed as a "notable event" in 

The Rumpus.

 (click on the link to read the article)



And From LA:



Jack Grapes has a new book of poetry out:

Poems So Far So Far So Good So Far To Go 

You can order it on amazon.

Read this great review of his work in Cultural Weekly.


Our Final End of Class Reading at Emerald Tablet
last month was our best one yet! Thank you for joining us and for reading your hearts out as always. Thank you also to poet and Beast Crawl founder Paul Corman-Roberts who read with us as our first featured author.
Please join us for our next one on a Sunday in November with featured author Nick Mamatas.      
Local Literary and Arts Events

Reading at the Frank Bette Center for the Arts 

Please join Yvonne Campbell, Alexandra Kostoulas, Vince Montague, and Maw Shein Win in a summer reading at the lovely Frank Bette Center for the Arts in Alameda on July 26th. 

Come early to sign up for open mic. Refreshments too!

Frank Bette Center for the Arts  1601 Paru (at Lincoln), Alameda, CA.
Crows in the Storks Nest Reading Series
Alexandra Kostoulas reads alongside Gina Gold, Karlyn DeSteno, and Karen Hultquist.
Crow's in the Stork's Nest is a monthly feature and open mic series of Full of Crow Magazine held at Oakland's infamous Stork Club on 2nd Fridays. 2330 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA.



Reading Coming Soon to 25 Taylor St. San Francisco.   I've been asked to organize a reading at our Mid-Market location above the Golden Gate Theatre. I thought it would be fun to have a reunion reading featuring the people who have taken my workshop three or more times. Please contact me if you are interested in performing with us or if you want to help with organizing. Nayomi Munaweera, author of Island of a Thousand Mirrors, will be the featured writer reading along with us. 



A local website that features readings and literary culture around the Bay Area. 
They have 3 or 4 Bay Area literary arts events per day. Visit for more info.


The Emerald Tablet Art Gallery and Creativity Salon has cool arts and literary events happening all the time. Check out some of Emerald Tablet's upcoming events here.



IF YOU WILL BE IN LA OVER SUMMER, check out the 90for90 Festival

Downtown Literary Alchemy Laboratory, experimenting in the literary arts, the business of publishing and the process of building community with 90 events in 90 days. At Traxx Bar & Restaurant located inside the historic Union Station. 800 N. Alameda St. Los Angeles, CA 90012

Open 6/27-9/27/2014, M-Su 5:00-11:00 pm. A project of Writ Large Press. Contact with inquiries.  

"If there is a book that you

want to read, but it hasn't been

written yet, then you must write it." 


 -Toni Morrison


"No tears in the writer.

No tears in the reader.

No surprise for the writer.

No surprise for the reader." 

-Robert Frost





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