The Truth of the Matter with Alan Black

Writing a column requires leanness and precision. Master the form while developing your voice in this two-week workshop with 'San Francisco Chronicle' writer Alan Black.

Your Instructor: Alan Black, journalist at San Francisco Chronicle

Where: Online — Available everywhere!

When: This class is not currently enrolling. To be notified when it is offered again, Click Here

Enrollment: 16 students

Price: $150

Class Description

When you're writing a column, every word counts. 

Column writing is built on the power of observation, a mirror for everything. Flights of provocation, insight, humor, and wit prevail. Perhaps fury appears. Pathos can be thick. Columns can make you scream in outrage or whistle in agreement. They can be serious or sad. You can bill them as outrageous, cue belly laughs or perhaps reflection.

The strength of your voice is key. So is the ability to concisely convey your ideas. Columns often come with space limits—a harsh reality you'll never truly know until you're teetering on the edge of a deadline, trying to smash six paragraphs into a sentence. 

Voice and brevity are invaluable skills. And you'll learn to develop these skills under the guidance of Alan Black, a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle

In this two-week workshop, you'll collaborate on developing and sharpening your prose. You'll examine key joints in a column’s construction. Then you'll nail them in the assignments.

And you'll examine the pitfalls and joy of the figurative, and the dangers and appeal of the didactic.

Because writing a column isn't as easy as throwing down some words. There's an art to this—to making your argument, to making it stick, to leaving an impression on your reader. And whether you want to hone your blogging skills, or you want to write columns to field out for freelance gigs, or you have dreams of getting into journalism, or just want a serious crash course in word economy, this class is a solid place to start.

What This Class Covers

Alan will submit a written lecture at the start of each of the two weeks, and has chosen two columnists as examples to study:

  • Ernest Hemingway’s columns for the Toronto Star in the 1920s, which cover many subjects that embrace his style
  • Marina Hyde, a columnist for the British newspaper, The Guardian, covering celebrity, sports and general life. 

You'll discuss their constructive elements and analyze their methods, vocabulary, and style. And you'll submit two columns, one for each week of class, as a homework assignment. Alan will critique and work with you on polishing them.

Column lengths will be 900 words maximum—and every word counts!

Goals Of This Class

The goal is to fuse your style to your name. Imagine this scenario—you write a column, your byline is blacked out, but we know it's from your pen, thanks to your style. A little piece of branding should be attached to your persona by the end of the class.

After the class, you'll be able to write columns with confidence, no matter the size of the audience or the platform of the publication. 

And you can take those columns and turn them outwards into longer work—for your voice will be stronger by mastering the short column.

About Our Classes Class FAQs