Pen on Fire

Pen on Fire

Pen on Fire is a 10-week workshop, which includes lectures, exercises, and the critiquing of student projects. It’s for beginners or anyone who wants to brush up on the fundamentals. Farther down, you can view a syllabus for this course.

The dream of a writer is to write like their pen is on fire. To burn through pages with confidence and finesse. But we often put all kinds of obstacles in our own path, slowing us down and robbing us of the freedom we need.

Perhaps you’re stuck with starting a project, or unhappy with your progress, or you need inspiration to put some gas in your tank, or you want to stretch some under-used muscles. Or you want the support of a teacher and like-minded writers.

This course provides techniques and tricks and insights that help you push past your worst internal roadblocks, so you can fly through your writing on a daily basis.

About Pen on Fire
Pen on Fire

A great way to start your writing journey or to add a little fuel to the literary fire.

Angela Davenport

registered nurse


This is a cross-genre course, applicable to any kind of prose writing.

Upcoming Classes

Masks are not required, but we’ll provide masks for those who want them. We are no longer requesting proof of vaccination.

More Covid details


Registration fee $25, paid once per term

See Payment Options

To register for a 10-Week course, you need to pay in full to guarantee your place in class. Or you can pay a $95 deposit plus a $25 registration fee (total $120) to temporarily hold your place, but tuition must be paid in full 10 business days before your class starts or you risk losing your spot.



This course introduces techniques and tricks and insights that help you surmount obstacles to your writing path. Course components:
     Writing exercises
     Workshopping of student projects (each student presenting work two times)

Week 1
Confidence: Letting go of disclaimers. Finding compassion for yourself. The differences between freewriting vs. journaling and the benefits of each.

Week 2
Rituals: Finding what works for you. Identifying your strengths. Visiting with your work.

Week 3
Playing to your Strengths: Choosing the right genre. Throat clearing, vamping, and prevaricating. Breaking through resistance to tell the story you want to tell.

Week 4
Obstacle of the Self: Getting out of your own way. What are the obstacles you most frequently impose on yourself? Discovering them, developing tactics to get rid of them, and preventing new ones from appearing.

Week 5
Who Is Telling the Story?: Whose story is it, anyway? Who is the narrator? Who is driving the action? Paring away all distractions and focusing on who is telling this story.

Week 6
The Finer Points of Revision: Where to start when you feel lost. Things to keep an eye out for. Creating a plot board.

Week 7
Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been?: How your past influences your thinking about your work. Setting goals. Using compassion and poetry to grow your writing.

Week 8
Marketplace Madness: To publish or not to publish? Putting yourself out there. Surviving the business of writing with your psyche intact.

Week 9 
No MFA Needed Here: What are the elements of an MFA program that could help you grow your writing? Finding them in your community and your life. Connecting to the literary world.

Week 10 
Persevering: Handling rejection. Minimizing rejection. Techniques for persistence and perseverance.


Barbara DeMarco-Barrett
Barbara DeMarco-Barrett

Barbara DeMarco-Barrett is the author of Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman's Guide to Igniting the Writer Within (Harcourt Mifflin Harcourt/Mars Street Press), which was a Los Angeles Times bestseller and winner of the Best Book Award from the American Society of Journalists and Authors. She edited the anthology Palm Springs Noir (Akashic Books), and her short stories have been included in the anthologies Coolest American Stories (Coolest Stories Press), USA Noir: Best of the Akashic Noir Series, and Orange County Noir (both Akashic Books). Her short fiction has appeared in Oyez Review, Literary Hatchet, Broad River Review, Rock and a Hard Place, and Dark City Crime and Mystery Magazine. Her essays and articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Inlandia, the Antarctica Review, the Ocotillo Review, the San Jose Mercury News, Orange Coast Magazine, Poets and Writers, Writer’s Digest, and The Writer. She hosts and produces the long-running podcast Writers on Writing, and she was a co-producer and writer of the documentary Not in My Neighborhood. She has taught at Chapman University, the University of California-Irvine, and Saddleback College.

Read more