Exploring the Elements of Craft

Exploring the Elements of Craft

You love to read fiction. And the more you read, the more stories of your own swim or fly or dance in your head.
You want to write them down.

You’re a good writer; writing may even be a large part of your job. Maybe you’ve kept a journal for years. So why the heck can’t you get that story out?

In this low-stress, six-week class, you will explore techniques for generating story ideas; engage in in-class writing exercises that will encourage you to play with the basic elements of fiction: setting, characterization, time (scene versus summary), point of view, narrative stance, dramatic tension, language; and get more comfortable with the process and practice of writing.

You will look at the process of writing fiction from the inside out—as writer rather than reader. And you will learn where and how to begin.


But this workshop isn’t just for beginners!


  • Maybe you’ve been writing on your own for awhile but have never taken a class or workshop and would like a bit of guidance.
  • Maybe you took an introductory class or workshop years ago and would like a refresher.
  • Maybe you’ve gotten out of touch with your writing and are looking for a jump-start into fresh work.

This workshop is for you, too.


With so many pre-packaged workshops to choose from,  

why choose this LIVE workshop?


Have you ever bought a pre-packaged course
and then never quite gotten around to taking it . . .?

Maybe it sounded like a good idea because you could complete it on your own time or because you were nervous about being in a group and having your work criticized.

Learning and sharing in a community of writers is not only enjoyable (once you get over your nervousness about it – and don’t worry, you will!), it can also be transformational. In this small (limit 10), real-time workshop, we will be writing together, sharing together, learning together. We will explore both the elements of fiction and the creative process.

And while you will be asked to share your work, you don’t need to worry about it being torn apart. The atmosphere will be friendly and open, and will nurture your creative spirit.


Read about the workshop schedule Here.


We will be meeting on six consecutive weeks.

This is what we will be doing when we meet:


Week One: The Creative Process

Week Two: Describing Place (setting)

Week Three: Describing People (more than physical descriptions!)

Week Four: Describing People: Conflict

Week Five: Point of View and Scene

Week Six: Scene (cont.), Time, the Role of the Narrator

Each week, we will open with a warm-up writing prompt that will ease you into the session and get your writing juices flowing. (This exercise is just for you. You won’t be asked to share it.)

Then I will  introduce the week’s topic and read samples from the work of several published fiction writers.


And then we will write!


I will share two writing prompts during the session. The prompts are meant to be fun, meant to help you dig more deeply into your story ideas, to imagine the setting, to begin to discover your characters, to get them interacting with each other . . .

While you will be asked to share your work, you don’t need to worry about it being handled roughly. The atmosphere will be friendly and open, and will nurture your creative spirit. (And if you don’t want to share, you don’t have to.)

You will look at the process of writing fiction from the inside out—as a writer rather than a reader. And you will learn where and how to begin.


Will I be expected to complete a piece of writing?

I’ve been assisting writers for many years – as in instructor, editor, and coach – and I’m a writer myself. What I’ve learned is that one of the most counterproductive things a creative writer can do is to focus on the end product too soon.

Writing is a process, not only a process of getting the story down on paper, but a process of discovery. If we skip the discovery part, if we jump right into organizing (organizing what?), we risk becoming frustrated and creating flat, uninteresting work.

So, no, you won’t be asked to complete a piece of writing in this introductory workshop. Instead, the in-class writing exercises will help you to explore your story ideas, introduce (or re-introduce) you to the practice of writing; and encourage you to play with the basic components of fiction writing (as outlined in the weekly schedule).

Of course, if you have a work in progress, you can apply any or all of the writing exercises to your piece.

After this introductory workshop, you will be invited to sign up for my ongoing workshop (eight weeks at a time), where you will be able to share your work in progress – a paragraph, a page, up to 10 pages at a time – for constructive feedback, and guidance and support as you move forward.


Will this be a big, impersonal workshop?

Not at all! I’ve taught these workshops for many years – in bookstores and in the living room of my Chicago apartment. I had a big basket of herbal tea on the kitchen counter and cans of sparkling water in the refrigerator. We’d sip and talk and write and share – and form a supportive writing community.

My aim is to create the same inviting, supportive atmosphere in my online workshops.

We meet via Zoom, where we can see and hear each other. This setting allows a writing community to grow. You will have the opportunity to join the meeting a few minutes before it starts if you like, and to talk among yourselves – just like in my living room. (But you will have to bring your own beverage!)

I’ve limited the enrollment to 10 people. Everyone will be heard; no one will be lost in the crowd.

Are you shy? Don’t worry. Many writers are. I promise you that my workshops are safe spaces for everyone.


The workshop will be recorded,

but if you anticipate missing more than two live sessions,

it would be best if you took the workshop at another time.


You will have the opportunity to interact with other participants in real time, to share ideas and ask questions. This is so much better than receiving a recording that somehow you can never find the time to watch. And if everyone is working on their own, well, there’s no workshop.


Workshop Fee


for 12 hours (two hours each week)

in a small, face-to-face group (limit 10 participants).


Read about the workshop schedule Here.


Who is leading the workshop?



 My name is Pam Sourelis.

I’m a published writer (both fiction and non-fiction) and an experienced writing instructor and workshop leader. I’ve taught for DePaul and Loyola universities in Chicago, the Illinois Writing Project, Ragdale Foundation (a non-profit artists’ community), and the Masters in Writing Program of Southern New Hampshire University. I’ve independently taught writing workshops for adults for over 20 years.

I’m also a writing coach/mentor, a developmental editor, and an animal communicator.


What Former Workshop Participants Say

A number of years ago I joined one of Pam’s workshops and found it extremely helpful. More than that, it was a goldmine. For a good while I had been working on the material that would become my first novel, and the guidance provided in the workshop, as well as the encouragement, made me push forward. I discovered the intricacies of plot, characterization, and all the usual elements, but the workshop very much served to help me find my voice. I went on to take several more, and as confidence increased, so did the quality of my writing—and the number of novels, six so far. I have had Pam edit most of the recent ones, and each time the bar has been raised. Pam went through my latest historical fiction novel, Fortune’s Child, with me, and I just received the best review of my career from the prestigious Kirkus Reviews. As in most of my novels, you’ll find her name in the Acknowledgements.
– James Conroy Martin, author of six novels, including the critically acclaimed Poland Trilogy

Several years ago, I enrolled in a six-week, introductory class on writing fiction at Ragdale [a nationally known writers retreat] in Lake Forest, IL, because I wanted to write a novel. Trained as a journalist, I had written nonfiction most of my adult life. Since I was almost sixty-five, I knew I had to get started learning the art of fiction if I was to realize my dream. The teacher was Pam Sourelis, a person who, I soon discovered, truly understood the rights and wrongs of good fiction writing. During those few weeks, she changed the way I thought about fiction. The transition was challenging and exciting. Wanting to learn more, I joined her practice of fiction writing workshop. Since then, Pam has taught me to be a much better writer and a much better reader. I have not only learned to create character-driven stories but have benefited from the creative energy which emanates from her workshop. The whole process has been extraordinary and enriching.
– Joyce Newcomb

Pam’s writing group is the highlight of my week, as it has been for the past five years. When I started, I had a vague idea for a book. And now, with the help of Pam’s impeccable guidance and the feedback of the smart, kind and dedicated writers who comprise the small group, I have finished a draft of a novel and have started another.
Each week, without fail, I take away something new, whether it be about the writing process, story development or about myself as a writer. I consider myself lucky to have found this special group of people.
– Francie Arenson

I was always interested in writing, but I never knew how to get started. Pam’s introductory [fiction] course taught me so much, opening my mind and my heart to the world of creative writing. A group of us enjoyed the writing exercises so much that years later, after being in the Practice workshop for some time, we took the introductory course again. In the Practice workshop, I learn something every week from my own efforts and from listening to the work of the other writers in the group. Pam has created a space where we can all reveal our most heartfelt work, knowing that we will be supported and guided along our paths. Although we are serious about our craft, the evening is often filled with laughter and enjoyment as we listen to each other’s stories. I have found that by making a commitment to a weekly workshop, that I am also making a commitment to my writing.
– Jean Diamond

For years, I worked with Pam Sourelis and her writing group on a weekly basis.  Not only did working with Pam make me amazingly productive, but I learned an amazing amount. Pam considers each author’s piece of writing as its own, without trying to force her (or anyone else’s) style onto the piece.  She is able, through her review of the class’s writing, to teach everyone an extraordinary amount about technique and most of all, how to make your writing sing.
Laura Caldwell, Author of 14 published novels


You’ve wanted to do this for a long time.

How about now?



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