Djerassi Workshop FAQ

Note on upcoming workshops: Due to a scheduling conflict (my fault!) there will be no workshop in 2020. The next Djerassi YA novel workshop with me will be in March 2021, and some changes to the design of the workshop are coming. Details will be posted as soon as they are available. You can expect applications to open in the late summer or fall of 2020.


Young Adult Novel Writing at the Djerassi Program in Woodside, CA
with Nova Ren Suma 


This is a week-long retreat tailored for writers working on YA novels of any style and genre who would also like time to get new writing done. Led by New York Times bestselling author and writing teacher Nova Ren Suma on the beautiful property of an artist colony in Northern California, this retreat features constructive morning workshop critiques, in which we will discuss the opening pages of each participant’s novel centered by the writer’s own questions about their work, themed generative writing exercises, evening readings and craft discussions, and ample time to retreat, write, and explore the grounds and sculptures left behind in the landscape by Djerassi artists. Includes up to 75 pages (15–25 for group critique; 50 in private conference) of manuscript review and an hour-long one-on-one conference with Nova Ren Suma.

This retreat takes place at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, a working artist colony in Woodside, California, with all food provided and delicious dinners made from local ingredients prepared by a private chef. Dietary restrictions are easily accommodated. All writers will have their own private studio, and during the workshop, no other outside artists are in residence.

Dates: Saturday, May 4, 2019 – Friday, May 10, 2019
Deadline: Monday, December 3 2018
Notifications: Wednesday, December 19 2018
Application fee: $10
Workshop fee:
Individual: $1500/$1850 private room, shared bath/private room and bath
Special couples rate: $1250 each (shared room/bed)
Deposit: $500 due Wednesday, February 6, 2019 (Deposits holds your place and are non-refundable)
Final payment: due Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Includes 6 nights lodging, all food, and local transportation from and to the San Francisco Airport.

Application Process:
Details can be found on the Djerassi Program website.

Application materials to be requested:

  • Nova Ren Suma Workshop Application Form
  • A short statement about what you hope to gain from this workshop and what writing experience and classes you have taken before, if any.
  • A writing sample of young adult fiction of no more than 15 pages. This does not need to be the manuscript you will be submitting for workshop.


What are you looking for in writing sample?

I’m looking for good writing, of course, but also the spark that tells me I would be able to be helpful to you as a writing teacher—a connection to your writing that tells me we would work well together.

It’s not all about the writing sample, either: I am looking at that last question on the application carefully, the short statement where I ask “what you hope to gain from this workshop and what writing experience and classes you have taken before, if any.”

I’m looking at the person as well as the writer, so I can try to craft a good, supportive, dynamic group of writers who will click with one another, and who will come from diverse perspectives and backgrounds and places in their careers.

Please know: The sample pages you send in for the application absolutely do not have to be the pages you send in for the actual workshop. So send your best work for the application, and know you can send far rougher pages later.

The writing sample can be work that is published or unpublished—whatever you think best showcases your work as a writer. It should be no more than 15 pages.

When will the pages for critique be due?

One month before our workshop starts, so you have a chance to read all your fellow writers’ work and write feedback before arriving at Djerassi (and so I’ll have time to read, too!).

You’ll be able to workshop up to 25 pages with the group. You will also have the opportunity to send me up to 50 additional pages for private critique, which we will discuss in person when we meet.

These additional pages can be from a different novel, if you prefer, or from the same novel—up to you.

What kind of writers are you seeking?

Writers with experience writing YA, though not necessarily publications. Of course published authors are very welcome to apply—a number of multi-published and agented writers have taken this workshop before as have writers who have not yet published or found an agent. Writers with MFAs and writers without have taken this workshop. Writers working on their first-ever YA novel and writers working on their tenth YA novel have taken this workshop. I’m open to all.

However, this is not a workshop for beginning-level writers who have never written fiction before. You should know what YA is, and you should be enthusiastically, passionately writing it.

Underrepresented voices are especially encouraged to apply.

You must be 18 or older to apply.

What should I plan to bring for workshop?

Your 25 workshop pages—and the additional 50 pages you will send only to me for discussion in our private conference—do not need to be the sample you send in with your application. In fact, ideally they will be new work that you’ve taken as far as you can, work you are open to gaining feedback on to make it better.

Ideally you will bring the first 25 pages of the manuscript to workshop, but if you would prefer to workshop something later in the novel and have a good reason to do so, let’s chat.

I know this is a “YA” workshop, but can I workshop pages from a middle-grade novel? How about an adult novel that I want YA readers to read?

This is a workshop only for YA (young adult) writing. That’s what we will be workshopping in May, and I assume if you’re applying you know who I am and why I’d care, and you know what YA is so I don’t have to define it.

I would not want you to bring pages from a middle-grade novel or an adult novel to the workshop.

If you apply with a middle-grade or adult fiction sample, it is possible that I might assume you are not the best fit unless you let me know in your statement that you are seeking to bring a YA novel to workshop. Just let me know, so I don’t misunderstand. In previous years, writers have been rejected over this.

How many writers will you accept for the 2019 workshop?


Are you choosing writers RIGHT NOW THIS VERY SECOND and is there a chance I will lose my spot if I wait to apply until the deadline? (i.e., Are there rolling admissions?)

Don’t worry—no rolling admissions.

I don’t select the writers until after the deadline.

I do however often read applications as they come in and set aside ones I think would be a good fit. Once I have all the applications, I work hard to craft a group of writers who I think will work well together.

What is the daily schedule?

Writers will arrive throughout the day on our first afternoon—Djerassi Program staff will pick you up at the airport and drive you up the twisty, twisty mountainous road—and we’ll begin with a communal dinner and a gathering that evening.

We will meet for workshop at 10am in the mornings for the next five days, and in workshop we will critique each writer’s novel pages in a constructive, honest group discussion led by me. After some experimentation, I no longer use the traditional workshop “cone of silence” method. Instead you begin by directing the conversation and asking questions of the group, and you are welcome to speak up during discussion. At the end of your critique, you will have another opportunity to ask the group questions about anything you’d like clarity on, or anything that didn’t come up in our feedback. Trying this workshop method made for extremely fruitful critique sessions to allow the writer to move forward with work on the novel throughout the week.

After you’ve been workshopped, you and I will schedule a private hour-long conference in the afternoon, where we will talk about how you thought the workshop critique went and discuss your additional pages.

During one afternoon, we’ll go on a sculpture tour of the property, which is totally voluntary but highly recommended.

Scheduled during some afternoons there will be themed writing prompt sessions led by me, where we will write off prompts meant to help you dig deeper into your novel. These sessions are optional, and you can take part as you please, but just know I have witnessed some remarkable pieces be written in these sessions, and I think they are especially exciting.

Djerassi_tartOtherwise the afternoons are yours to write, nap, think, read, chat, hike the sculpture trails on your own, or whatever you’d like. In previous workshops, sometimes the writers would meet together for writing sprints, for more prompts, for drawing plot maps, for dance classes… the options are endless—and you are always welcome to write in your private studio. Your time is yours.

Breakfast and lunch are yours to make from the fully stocked kitchen, but every night we meet for delicious dinner in the main house, made for us by amazing Chef Dan. (Who is wonderfully accommodating for special diets, btw, if you are vegan or vegetarian or gluten-free. Everything he makes is so good. He’s my favorite chef, over all the colonies.) We share chores after dinner and clean up the dishes. It doesn’t take long.

In the evenings we will have readings—a chance to share more of your work! We might have a movie night. We might have an honest discussion about the publishing industry in a place where only we can hear. We might have a juvenilia reading night and share from our teenage writing. I take my cue from you, and will craft the week to be whatever you’d like it to be.

After five full days of workshops, writing, conferences, and readings, on our final morning the Djerassi Program staff will take you back to the airport.

I can only come for part of the workshop—should I still apply?

If you’re a member of this workshop, you are expected to stay for the whole thing. Please don’t apply if you know you can’t stay for the full week.

Is there any required reading?

A month before the workshop, you’ll get your fellow writers’ pages to read and start critiquing so you have ample time to have everything done before you arrive. Other than that, there is no required reading before or during the workshop.

Is there an opportunity for you to critique my full manuscript?

I wish I could make this option available, but with my other teaching responsibilities I’m sadly unable to fit in whole novel critiques right now.

However, 75 pages is a good chunk of your novel—in that space you could show me Act I and then talk out the rest of your plot with me in our private hour-long conference. A lot can be gained, and my feedback is meant to carry you forward with the rest of your novel after the workshop ends.

entre des artistesWhat is housing like? Will I have to share a room?

Every writer will get a room of their own!

There are two rates for the rooms: There are four studios with private bathrooms—the Middlebrook Studios, and the fee for the Middlebrooks is higher. Other rooms will have a shared bathroom—shared most likely with just one other person—and these rooms are in the Artists’ House or in the Artists’ Barn. The rooms in the Barn are more rustic, as they are traditionally used for visual and performing artists. (One of the available rooms in the Barn is a dance studio with a sleep loft!) The housing is pictured here.

When you are accepted, you will choose if you want a room with a private or shared bathroom by putting in your deposit to hold your space.

If you have specific preferences or needs, you can be in contact with the Djerassi Program staff at that time.

Are there scholarships available?

I’m sorry to say that the Djerassi Program does not have a formal scholarship program available.

It is possible I may be able to offer some partial financial aid, which I will reserve for a marginalized writer. If you are a marginalized writer who is not applying because you can’t afford the full cost but would be able to come with a partial scholarship, please still apply and mention a need for financial aid if possible in your statement. You are also welcome to contact me privately via email to let me know.

I’ve taken this workshop with you before, and I want to come back! Can I apply again this year?

First, to those of you who want to come back, thank you! I think it is such a testament to this magical week that writers would like to return! (In fact, we’ve already held two reunion workshops!)

Yes, writers who’ve taken this workshop before or who have worked with me before are welcome to apply again this year and join a new group, though of course there is no guarantee.

If you’d prefer to wait for a reunion workshop, I am not sure when/if there will be a third one, but I’ll let you know as soon as I find out!

Here’s a question I’m not asked: What do I want from this week?

I want to give you a safe place to talk about your novel, among like-minded writers. A place to be honest on the page. A place to dig in and ask questions and be open to feedback that could help raise your story to new heights. I want to dig in to your novel with you and help you get to where you’d like to be.

I also love being up at Djerassi, so I can’t wait to go back, just selfishly.

If the last seven Djerassi YA workshops I’ve led were any indication, this is going to be an incredible week. I hope you’ll consider applying! Keep an eye out here for details in Fall 2018, for the workshop that will be in May 2019.

For testimonials, scroll down on this page.