UC Extension

Exploring Creative Writing

This ten-week course through the UC Berkeley Extension for beginning writers helps you assess your potential, identify your strengths, and learn valuable writing techniques. Class exercises and weekly writing assignments help you discover your talents in a variety of forms: short fictional scenes, short story, poetry, and journalistic writing. A supportive atmosphere enables you to see how others respond to your writing. On completion, you should have a clearer sense of your writing strengths and directions to take for more advanced courses.

“Exploring Your Creative Writing Potential” was a remarkable experience. Over the summer I watched the group of us – beginning writers to experienced, ages ranging from early twenties through mid-seventies – transform in confidence, creativity, and authentic expression. Clive’s technique of identifying writers’ strengths and building on them created an environment of trust and enthusiasm that nourished us all.  It was an experience that will enrich my writing for life.”  – Sally Bolger, 2012

The next session starts on Tuesday, February 5, ends April 9, 2019, 6:30 – 9:30, UC Berkeley Extension Golden Bear Center, 1995 University Ave, Conference Room 2.

$: 640 UC Berkeley Extension English X438-Section 023 Enroll here

Required textbook for the class: Let the Crazy Child Write!

Contact Clive at (510) 508-5149 if you have questions about this class.

Developing Your Creative Writing

Gain confidence in your creative writing abilities before joining a more focused group. If you’ve completed Exploring Creative Writing ENGLISH X438 or an equivalent course, or you’ve learned creative writing techniques on your own, then you’re ready for the next step. Strengthen your foundation in the basics for all genres, stories, poems, essays, novels, memoirs or blogs, and prepare for an intermediate or an advanced class.

The next session TBD
$: 640 UC Berkeley Extension: EDP:X438-016 Enroll here

Required textbook for the class:  Let the Crazy Child Write!

Contact Clive if you have questions about this class.


10-Week Workshops: Poetry, prose, plays, nonfiction

Bring copies of your work in progress – journal, story, poem, novel, play or essay. Read it aloud and take notes as the workshop quotes your own most powerful lines back to you. This not only supports your strengths, it immerses the workshop more deeply in your piece. As one person repeats an image, I hear it again, review my own reaction, and sink closer to your intent. The syngenetic (having the same origin) workshop furthers your work with feedback from the same place – as much as possible – as the primary impulse of your writing.

We’ll next ask a question like, “How does this character help the piece?” “What is the piece about?” “What is the function of that image?” and address the structure of your piece. You will pick up one or two rewrite suggestions – which you are free to apply, ignore, or use in a later piece. The workshop will quickly tune into your strengths and weaknesses, and you will find that your writing skills improve dramatically.

Workshops meet in Temescal District, Oakland

Fee: $400
Also included in these sessions are one-day workshops,
10am to 5pm Saturdays.

Monday workshops take place 7:00 to 10:00pm.

Wednesday workshops take place 7:00 to 10:00pm.


We encourage participants to bring their writing, including prose, to Poetry Saloons (drunk on poetry!)
472 44th Street, Oakland
6:00pm potluck, 7:30pm reading
Every second Friday of the month.

Contact Clive to join one of these classes.


Targeted workshops

Structure of Large Work

If you think you might write a novel or a screenplay, or if you’ve begun working on one, or if you’ve finished a first draft, this workshop is for you.

We’ll read The Writers Journey by Christopher Vogel, The Screenwriters Workbook by Syd Field, and refer to Theory of Fiction by Henry James. Each session I’ll give a short talk on a topic, followed by a discussion. Then we’ll proceed with a syngenetic workshop, looking especially at how well our work incorporates the week’s topic. Bring in copies of up to ten pages, double-spaced.

The first five topics, from a folder of many topics, are below. In the second half of the series we’ll choose topics according to what we need..

  • Whose Story is It? – identify and define the main characters, including strengths and flaws.
  • What’s at Stake? – some gripping problem, as family, identity, fortune, love, life, death.
  • Plot Works through Character – the characters need to change as the problem evolves.
  • Sequence of Challenges – the hurdles faced should follow each other in an organic way.
  • Subplot – a second story should be an enhancement or a counterpoint to the main story.

Fridays, 10:00am-1:00pm, starting November 14th.
Limited to six writers. Fee: $400 for ten sessions.
Contact Clive at (510)508-5149 for current series.
For a commentary on the class, see the blog entry Structure of Large Work.

The Novel’s Arc

In this workshop we’ll address the main issue that eludes us in our weekly classes: How well does your novel work as a whole? We’ll read one of our novels, meet for two hours and track how the essential components are developed throughout the novel. So far, in our other group, we’ve been able to give a comprehensive picture both of how well the novel is working and what it needs to arrive at a higher level, all in a single meeting. The next month we’ll do the same with another novel.

Some of the questions we’ll ask: Does your theme grab the reader’s attention from the start? Is the voice consistent, and do the visuals create a powerful movie? Does the plot keep the reader turning the pages? Do your characters develop in a compelling manner? Does dialogue move the plot forward and deepen your characters, while it’s both engaging and seems real? Does the pacing work in concert with the plot? Is the resolution satisfying?

Notice we won’t make any marketing decisions about the book (as, more sex, or more violence, or less of either) but only say honestly how we, as conscious, sentient beings, respond to the book.

Contact Clive at (510)508-5149 to join.

Fee: $500


  1. You have at least draft number one of a novel complete, with line editing already done.
  2. You can print out five copies of your novel.
  3. You subscribe to the notion that reading and discussing three peers’ novels will aid your understanding of your own novel.
  4. You commit to reading a novel once a month.

Short Story Workshops

We’ll examine elements of the short story and see how they are employed in examples of very short stories. These three to four page stories cover six minutes to six months of time. The various strategies used are fascinating. We’ll do a draft of at least one story on the first day of this two day workshop (two consecutive Saturdays). On the following Saturday, we’ll see how well the story elements are working in your draft. After these two days, you should take off with your short story writing skills.

We are careful to establish a warm and inviting atmosphere where even the rawest and shyest of writers can flourish and feel proud of what they accomplish. I expect, as usual, eight or ten people (including some of brave beginners), much exciting writing, and fun to boot.

Cost: $150.00

Contact Clive if you want to join or set one up.

One-day Crazy Child workshops


Note: this workshop is included if you’re in a 10-week workshop or in a novel workshop. Note also that the nonprofit WordSwell will accept teachers-in-training at a reduced fee.

We’ll establish an inviting atmosphere, one so comfortable even the shyest writers can flourish and feel proud of what they accomplish. As usual, I expect eight or ten people, much exciting writing, and fun to boot. Fee: $80 (no one will be turned away for lack of funds).

This workshop will help you get started on creative writing of any sort — poems, stories, personal essays, plays, novels. The history and underpinnings of what we do is spelled out in Let the Crazy Child Write! (New World Library, 1998) or, briefly, in “Preface” and “Chapter One” at the website

We recognize three voices in the writer’s psyche: “Editor,” “Writer,” and “Crazy Child” — or creative unconscious. The Editor is the “should ” voice, as in you should write everything perfectly the first time, you should make money with your writing, you should make no spelling errors. The Writer organizes your writing life, finds blank paper and pens that work, makes time to sit at the computer or go to a coffeehouse with your notebook. The Crazy Child is the urge to write, that itch in your psyche or body that wants to get out into the world. We’ll tell the Editor and Writer to take a walk and let your Crazy Child write whatever it wants.

Our Writers and Editors may be fine at their jobs, but they often get involved too early in our writing. By letting the Crazy Child write whatever it wants, we’ll produce energetic and enlightening rough drafts. These drafts will display our strengths, our passion and our most deeply held beliefs, and they are usually strongly stated. When we repeat your most vivid lines back to you, you’ll discover that you are doing at least one or two things very well. You’ll find your Crazy Child is smarter and far better organized than the Editor and Writer might think.

Any questions? Or you’d like to register, and need directions? Phone 510-508-5149, late afternoon is best, or email


2-Busy-2-Write Writers’ Group

Every other Tuesday.

These mini-Crazy Child Workshops meet at 7-9pm on a Tuesday night for those who are too busy to otherwise do the writing they love. Clive will introduce an exercise and then leave the writers in piece for a whole hour. The second hour is for sharing writers’ work.

The suggested donation is $20 per workshop. (If you bring healthy cookies to share, suggested donation is less.) RSVP to Clive at (510) 508-5149 or email

The Mind-Body Crazy Child One-Day Workshop

We are close to our creative source when the child within speaks its mind and ignores any critical or editorial voices.

In the spirit of the Crazy Child and the Rebel Saint, this workshop will combine Clive’s synergetic teaching style – opening ourselves and writing up to positive group reflection – with Tressa’s meditations that will guide us to a more spacious opening within.  These outer and inner techniques, when combined, are a doorway to creative impulses that are often blocked by the “noise” of everyday life.  Relaxing and quieting the mind, tapping into body sensations (feelings), we are more attuned to what the Crazy Child wants to express through writing.  To Be and Become Writing.

Cost is $85. Contact (415)668-0122.


Tressa Berman, Ph.D. is an anthropologist, author and dharma practitioner.  She has worked with cultural creatives around the world – from the red desert of Australia to the Midnight Sun of northern Norway.  A former student of Zen Master Sasaki Roshi, she was ordained as a lay monk at the San Francisco Zen Center, and is currently in Vipassana training at Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society.


mind body crazy child background art

Writing Highway 395

Writing Highway 395

August 10-17, 2019, June Lake, California

Cost: $700 ($50 discount to the first three people who register)

A glorious eight-day camping adventure dedicated to the creative process as nurtured by the mountain air. Intensive focus on your writing, exploring the eastern side of the California Sierra, creating a small and dedicated community with other writers – there’s room for it all in this workshop!

At June Lake, with the snow-clad Sierra as a backdrop among the pines and boulders strewn along the ridges, intrepid writers will create a positive, supportive, dynamic community in the wilderness. As the instructor, Clive will draw on many years’ experience helping writers merge words with the power of their creative unconscious. Writers will sprawl across our campsite with notebooks and laptops and go deep into favorite projects, or ease into discovery of something new, encouraged by the birdsong and sway of the pines.

Information and registration: Writing Highway 395 website

Contact Clive for more information.

Lake County

Lake County Two-Day Workshop: “Let the Crazy Child Write!”

The next Lake County Workshop “Let the Crazy Child Write!” will take place Saturday October 28 4:00pm-6:00pm and Sunday October 29, 10:00am-5:00pm.

We’ll do the provocative “Popcorn” and “Crazy Child” exercises on our journey into the energetic and revealing material of our creative unconscious, whether stories, poems, rants, blogs, scripts, or memoir – anything goes. Introduction on Saturday afternoon, spontaneous writing and supportive feedback sessions, in the syngenetic format, continue all day Sunday.

We join an active Lake County writer’s community for this event. Locale is the relaxing and lovely area around Clear Lake, and low cost lodging is available. These workshops are supported by Poets and Writers, Inc. through a grant it has received from the James Irvine Foundation.

Fee: $55

Lake County Arts Council Gallery
235 Main Street, Lakeport, CA 95453
Phone 707.263.6658 to register,
510.508.5149 for details on the workshop.

Costa Rica

Writing Costa Rica


January 19 – 26, 2019

Nosara B&B Retreat
Guanacaste, Costa Rica

A creative workshop in the jungle and on the beach
– Professional-level 
    workshop instruction
– Comfortable, well-furnished
– Five-minute walk 
    from gorgeous beach
– Custom-prepared meals
– Field trips
– Small, inspiring
    writers’ community

nosara beach  Nosara retreat

Nosara C 326 smallCheck out more photos from previous Writing Costa  Rica retreats.


Join us for an inspiring, relaxing retreat in Costa Rican paradise. Our group will be small and you will receive individual guidance on your writing. This workshop is perfect for all writers, whether this is your first foray into the wilds of creative writing or if your are a seasoned writer ready to expand and deepen your craft. The instructor, Clive Matson, draws on many years’ experience helping writers merge words with the power of their creative unconscious.

There will also be ample time to enjoy: swinging in a hammock, siestas, reading, taking in the spectacular sunset, and practice the fine art of doing nothing. The comfortable lodgings invite you to completely unwind, watch the monkeys and listen to the birds.

ENVIRONS: Nosara, on the Pacific coast south of Liberia, Costa Rica.

The buildings and gardens of Nosara B&B Retreat are inviting, gorgeous, comfortable and our writing area has been tried and tested, it’s inspirational. The location is almost out of this world: rich jungle, a short walk to the beach, to the Nosara River, to a biological preserve, and a brief drive to the wild animal rescue center. The cooks are excellent and the food is grown locally and, best of all, the management responds to our needs, quickly and lovingly. We’ve gone there four years in a row and if you could dream up the ideal retreat, this would be it.


Most workshop days include two independent free-writing sessions, morning and afternoon. The group convenes each evening to share the day’s work following the syngenetic format where members will receive general suggestions for increasing the power of their writing.

One full day and two afternoons during the week are set aside for field trips to neighboring attractions, including a cruise up the Nosara River, visits to the jungle Biological Preserve and to the SIBU Monkey Sanctuary. Nosara holds no shortage of other spectacular places.

On the last full day in camp workshop members discuss their progress during the week, and make plans for continuing their writing, a long way away, back in civilization.


Sat. Jan. 19th:
Fly out and arrive at Liberia airport.  Van leaves by 4:00 pm for Nosara.

Sun. Jan. 20th:
8:00: Breakfast
9:00 – 1:00: Writing workshop
1:00: Lunch
4:00 – 5:00: Writing workshop (optional)
6:30: Dinner
7:30 – 9:30: Open evening writing workshop (optional)

Mon. Jan. 21st:
8:00: Breakfast
9:00 – 10:00: Writing workshop
10:00 – 1:30: Monkey sanctuary (optional)
1:30: Lunch
2:30 – 5:00: Sweat lodge (optional)
7:00: Dinner
8:00 – 10:00: Writing workshop (optional)

Tues. Jan. 22nd:
6:00: Coffee on veranda and bag breakfasts
6:30: Boat tour
11:00 – 1:00: Writing workshop
1:00: Lunch
3:00 – 5:00: Writing workshop (optional)
7:00: Dinner

Wed. Jan. 23rd:
Free Day

Th. Jan. 24th:
8:00: Breakfast
9:00 – 1:00: Writing workshop
1:00 – 7:00: Snorkeling at San Juanillo beach with bag lunches (optional)
7:00: Dinner

Fr. Jan. 25th:
6:00: Coffee on veranda
6:30: Tour through ecological reserve
9:00: Breakfast at Lagarta Restaurant
10:30 – 1:00: Writing workshop
1:00: Lunch
4:30 – 5:00: Writing workshop
5:30 – 6:30: Reading at the library (leave at 5:00)
7:00: Dinner at Rancho Tico

Sat. Jan. 26th:
7:00: Breakfast
8:00: Transportation to Liberia Airport


The price is $1,400 for a double-room occupancy, $1,800 for a single-room occupancy for one week.

Price includes: seven nights of lodging, all meals (except dinner during trip from airport, breakfast at Lagarta Restaurant, dinner at Rancho Tico, and dinner at La Luna), writing workshops, boat tour, tour of ecological reserve, van transportation to and from airport in group taxi.

Price does not include: airplane tickets, transportation to and from airport not in group taxi, monkey sanctuary tour, sweat lodge, breakfast at Lagarta Restaurant, dinner during trip from airport, dinner at Rancho Tico, dinner at La Luna, rental of snorkeling equipment, taxis (for example, to San Juanillo beach or into Nosara for shopping), laundry service, alcohol, additional nights, additional meals, gratuities.


The Nosara B&B Retreat is located near one of Costa Rica’s best protected wildlife preserves, and is situated on two acres of lush tropical gardens and jungle. Looking out, you are surrounded by magical green flora, flowers and abundant nature. The setting is pristine and quiet, the air, clean and fresh.

The ocean roar becomes more audible during high tide. Bird songs, butterflies, and an occasional humming bird contribute to the secluded and inspiring atmosphere of the location. In between sessions, a four minute walk brings you to the secluded Pelada Beach, with its fine white sand and pristine, clear warm tropical water.

Exceptionally healthy food is prepared by experienced staff and served buffet style. Food can be vegetarian, raw or include fish, chicken or meat according to your preferences. We provide seven charming rooms with single, double or triple occupancy, all with fans and hot water.


To register and for information on the workshop, contact Clive Matson:

For information on accommodations, contact Martin Becker:
213-493-7343, +506-400-23866

Payment accepted through Paypal. Please click on the button below and pay to Clive Matson’s account (associated email



“Was it watching the green flash at sunset? Seeing the sea turtles lay their eggs? Holding a young monkey in my arms? Eating delicious meals with fascinating companions? Costa Rica is a portal to magic. Clive knows how to create a safe, free writing environment where the raw, the new, the wild jungle imagination can flow through. I can’t recommend it enough.”

– Elaine Watt, 2012 participant