Writing with Willona is my collection of free and fee-based writing workshops and networking events. To be added to the mailing list, please email


Building Cultural Understanding through Creative Writing

My cultural writing workshops use literature by writers of color to foster open dialogue about race, culture and social justice issues. These workshops are  intended to foster dialogue and increase understanding within our global community. Learn more about my one-day, one-week, multi-week and online workshops here. 

Past Events

Sweat of Their Face Writing Workshops

The following writing workshops will be held in connection with the exhibition “The Sweat of Their Face: Portraying American Workers” at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. The exhibition combines art and social history with representations of American laborers across genres and centuries of art.

Strike a Prose: Fiction Inspired by “The Sweat of Their Face”
In this creative writing workshop, we will use the photographs and paintings from the exhibition to inspire short stories. We will read and discuss fiction focusing on issues of labor and social justice in the U.S. and write our own stories. Open to writers of all levels ages 18+.

Register: Friday, January 5, 10:30 AM – 1:00 PM or Saturday, January 6, 10:30 AM – 1:00 PM.

Strike a Prose: American Workers in the 20th Century (Fiction & Nonfiction)
This creative writing workshop will focus on issues of twentieth century labor. We will read and discuss short stories and historical essays, and draw on the artwork in the exhibition to create new writing. Open to writers of all levels ages 18 +.

Register: Friday, January 19, 10:30 AM – 1:00 PM or Saturday, January 20, 10:30 AM – 1:00 PM.

Strike a Prose: Stories on Their Faces (Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry)
Using guided writing prompts, we will develop stories and poems inspired by the portraits and images from the exhibition. Fiction, nonfiction, and poetry prompts will be offered. Open to writers of all levels ages 18+.

Register: Friday, January 26, 10:30 AM – 1:00 PM or Saturday, January 27, 10:30 AM – 1:00 PM.

Sylvia Plath Inspired Writing Workshops

In October, I will  be teaching a series of writing workshops hosted by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, in conjunction with the exhibition “One Life: Sylvia Plath”. Get the dates and details here.

In Solidarity: RAWI Creative Writing Workshop

RAWI (The Radius of Arab American Writers) is sponsoring a one-day workshop in Washington, DC. As part of a series of  workshops held in different cities, the In Solidarity: RAWI Creative Writing Workshop is designed for Arab-and Muslim-American writers, writers of color, and writers from any marginalized communities.

“What Are You?” “Where Are You From?” Personal Essay Writing Workshop by Willona Sloan

This personal essay workshop will focus on the theme of writing about racial and cultural identity. Through a combination of reading, discussion and guided writing exercises, we will explore issues of discrimination and assimilation, while also celebrating our unique racial and cultural identities. We will discuss strategies for writing a moving personal essay and develop new writing in-class. Open to writers of all levels.

Purpose: To work on literary craft in the pursuit of raising our voices

Who Should Attend?: Any writer who is a person of color, a member of an historically marginalized community, and/or an ally. We especially invite Arab- and Muslim- American writers to participate.

Date: March 18, 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Location: Johns Hopkins University, 1717 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036 (DuPont Circle)

Cost: $30 per person (includes breakfast plus one book)

Register: click here:

Every Picture Tells a Story: Writing Workshop 

Learn how to develop characters, settings, and scenes inspired by Bill Viola: The Moving Portrait. Bill Viola’s work is ripe for storytelling. In this cross-genre writing workshop, you will develop new writing in response to the narratives you see in Viola’s portraits. Open to writers of all levels.

Cost: FREE!
Dates: Friday, March 17, 2017, 10:30 AM – 1:00 PM  OR Saturday, March 18, 2017, 10:30 AM – 1:00 PM
Location: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 800 G Street NW, Washington, DC 20001

First-Person Perspective: Writing Workshop – Fiction & Nonfiction

In conjunction with Bill Viola: The Moving Portrait, this writing workshop will focus on telling stories from the first-person perspective. Learn how to develop a strong narrative voice, dive into the emotional core of a subject, and create stories that feel real and personal. Open to writers of all levels.

Cost: FREE!
DatesFriday, March 24, 2017, 10:30 AM – 1:00 PM  OR Saturday, March 25, 2017, 10:30 AM – 1:00 PM
Location: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 800 G Street NW, Washington, DC 20001

Art of the Personal Essay – Nonfiction

Bill Viola’s work explores the spiritual and perceptual side of the human experience and the search for a deeper understanding of the world around us. In this writing workshop, you will learn how to develop new writing in response to Viola’s work by using self-reflective writing prompts that address ideas of searching, questioning, exploring, and experimenting. Open to writers of all levels.

Cost: FREE!
Dates: Fri, March 31, 2017, 10:30 AM – 1:00 PM OR Saturday, April 1, 2017, 10:30 AM – 1:00 PM 
Location: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 800 G Street NW, Washington, DC 20001

Create Space for Creative Writing in Your Busy Life

Have you always wanted to try creative writing but find the idea scary? Or, did you once love to write but think you have forgotten how to do it? Do you find it impossible to squeeze time for creative writing into your hectic life? No more excuses. It’s time to start writing!

Learn how to make time and space for creative writing in your life. In this workshop, we will explore the elements of creative writing and work through exercises designed to help you develop the habits of a successful writer. You will learn how to establish writing goals and meet them–even if you only have 20 minutes to write a day. You will walk away with new writing, new goals and a new commitment to your creative life.

Date: Saturday, May 21, 2016
Time: 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM
Location: cove – 1817 M Street Northwest, Washington, DC
Register here.

Increase Revenue with Creative Content (Training)

Date: Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Time: 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM
Location: Cove 7th Street – 829 7th Street Northwest
Register here.

Creative content has become a critical part of doing business. How well are you telling your organization’s story?

Everyone wants to hear a good story. Whether your goal is to engage donors, secure grant funding or engage new customers, the best way to do it by developing content about your products, programs and services. If you’re not telling stories, you’re leaving money on the table.

In this training, you will learn how to:

  • Develop content that showcases your products, programs and services.
  • Implement a content culture across your organization.
  • Create an editorial calendar and production schedule to plan for upcoming news and events.
  • Interview clients, customers and supporters.
  • Track and evaluate how well your content is performing.

This training is for business owners, communications and development professionals and anyone who wants to learn how to use content to increase revenue.

Social Justice Writing Workshopsocial justice

How do you change the way people think and act? With well-researched and informative
content. In this workshop, we will discuss how to write for different audiences (supporters, critics and the uniformed); how to use data and research to build your content; and how to interview people. This class is open to writers of all levels interested in creating social change. This will be an intensive writing workshop with in-class writing exercises.
When: Monday, November 9, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Location: Cove – 1990 K Street, NW, Washington, DC
Cost: $25

One-Day Revision Retreat: Nonfiction

It’s time to finish that article or essay you’ve been writing forever. You completed the first draft. Now it’s time to cut the fat, rearrange the structure, check your facts and see what’s missing. The goal is to produce a strong second draft during class.

Date: Saturday, November 14, 2015
Time: 9:00 AM-2:30 PM
Location: The Writer’s Center – Bethesda
Register here. 

Twenty Minutes a Day  

You’re busy. You want to write. Create a daily writing practice by learning how to make the most of writing 20 minutes a day. Learn how to generate new writing, tackle revisions and even submit your work for publication, using the time you have.

Date: Saturday, October 17, 2015
Time: 10:00 AM-1:00 PM
Location: Bethesda
Register here

Creative Writing Workshop

Reykjavík UNESCO City of Literature offers a creative writing workshop in connection with the Reykjavík International Literary Festival.

When: Sunday, September 6 from 1 – 4:30 p.m.
Location: The Nordic House in Reykjavík

Learn how to create a literary remix. Participants will read and discuss texts by contemporary Native American poets and writers of the Harlem Renaissance in this creative writing workshop. Then, you will create your own poems and stories in response. Sample the lines you like and make them your own. Rearrange, rewrite, re-verse, remix!

write drink read reykA Happy Writing Hour

When: Thursday, September 10 at 5-7 p.m.
Location: Iðnó Theatre in Reykjavík

The Reykjavík UNESCO City of Literature and the Reykjavík International Literature Festival offer a happy writing hour at the Iðnó Theatre festival bar (2nd floor) on Thursday, September 10. Iðnó is located by the Reykjavík City Lake in Vonarstræti 3.  Join us for a happy hour with creative writing prompts. We write. We drink. We read our work! Everyone is welcome, regardless of prior writing experience.

Write Your Own Adventure: Wine & Writing Class

When: Saturday, July 25, 2015 from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM
Location: Screwtop Wine Bar at 1025 North Fillmore Street, Arlington, VA

Writing, wine and adventure. Join us for a celebration of the finer points in life in this fun Spanish wine and cheese tasting class and creative writing workshop.

We will focus on creating personal writing that explores the themes of travel, adventure and the living life to the fullest. We discuss the mechanics of engaging personal writing, style, narrative voice and how to engage all five senses in your story.

We will also discuss tips for getting your writing published. Whether you want to submit your work for publication or launch your own personal blog, you will learn tips for getting your words out into the world.

Please bring laptop or writing implements to participate in the class.

*Includes tasting of three Spanish wines, cheese, coffee or tea and creative writing instruction. Taxes and gratuity included in the price. (Additional food not included in price. This event is only wine and cheese tasting). This is a privately hosted event. All are welcome with ticket. Register here.

How to Write A Lotwriting class writers center

When: Saturday, June 28, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Location: Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital (921 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, Washington, D.C.)
Cost: $50
Register here.

Do you find it impossible to squeeze time for creative writing into your hectic life? Well, you can’t publish if you’re not writing. Writing requires discipline and commitment. Here, you will learn how to develop the habits of a successful writer, including how to set and track your writing goals, create a schedule and project plan, and use writing prompts to advance your story or generate new work. We also will do in-class fiction and non-fiction writing exercises designed to show you how to make the most of your writing time. There are no good excuses! This class is for all busy writers.

Arts and Culture Writing: How to Build Your Portfolio for Publication

When: (4) Wednesdays, August 6 – August 27, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Location: The Writer’s Center (4508 Walsh Street, Bethesda, MD)
Register here.

Breaking into arts writing takes determination — and good clips. The best way to land your first paying gig is to have a portfolio of reviews and feature stories that demonstrate your skill and writing style. You will learn tips for interviewing artists and musicians; writing art and music reviews; and contacting record labels, publicists and artists. Through weekly assignments you will learn how to build a professional arts and culture blog to serve as your portfolio, as well as how to market your writing and pitch ideas to publications to sell your first story. Students must complete 400- to 500-word writing assignments each week. You will be encouraged to launch your own arts and culture blog.

Travels, Travails & Transformations

When: July 20 (9:30 AM – 2:00 PM)

Writing workshop: 9:30 -12:00 at Flashpoint Gallery (916 G Street, NW. Closest Metro: Metro Center)
Lunch: 12:30 – 2:00 PM at La Tasca (722 7th Street, NW) (Price for lunch is $25. This includes 3 tapas, tax and tip.)

We’ll read and discuss nonfiction essays focused on the theme of transformative travel. Next, you will do guided and independent writing exercises (for 45 – 60 minutes), designed to help you delve into your funny, frightening, and freaky travel experiences and explore the ways that these trips have transformed you and altered your perception of your place in the world.

Since culinary exploration is such a wonderful part of traveling this workshop will include a tapas lunch! After we do some writing we’ll head over to a tapas restaurant where you can share your class writing over a festive meal.

Register here.

Crafting Your Identity

When: Saturday, May 4 , 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM
Location: The Writer’s Center (4508 Walsh St, Bethesda, MD)
Register here.

Are you working on an essay or memoir in which you explore your cultural heritage, racial identity, or ancestry?

We will read and discuss selections of essays and memoirs by writers who celebrate their cultural, racial or ethnic identities and also raise issues related to discrimination, assimilation and frustration in relation to expressing those particular identities.

You will have the opportunity to get feedback on one of your essays or a brief chapter from your memoir. You will also create new work by doing in-class writing exercises. Writers of all levels and cultural backgrounds are welcome!

Discover the District’s Jazz Age Poets

When: Monday, 13,  6:00 PM – 7:30 PM
Where: Hamiltonian Gallery, 1353 U Street NW  (Metro: U Street/Cardozo)
Organizer: Knowledge Commons DC. Register here. (Free)

While the nucleus of the Harlem Renaissance was in New York, the movement took hold across the United States and Europe. In D.C., risk-taking, inventive poets created new forms of expression that wrestled with themes of racial oppression, African-American sexuality, and modern life during the roaring ’20s.

We will read and discuss poems of D.C.’s Jazz Age, looking at works by Washingtonians such as Angelina Weld Grimke and Sterling Brown, as well as Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, who were struggling artists, working and studying in D.C. just as the Harlem Renaissance was emerging. We will also consider the cultural and economic climate that allowed the literary scene to blossom in the nation’s capital.

photo: Laura Berry

Photo: Laura Berry

Create Your Own Poetic Masterpiece: Private Tour and Poetry Writing

In this special, free program, we will take a private tour of the National Portrait Gallery exhibition, Poetic Likeness: Modern American Poets, with a Portrait Gallery guide and then write poetic masterpieces of our own. This fun program will include an hour-long interactive tour of the show and then you will have time to do some independent writing, where you can “remix” classic poems by the depicted artists or create your own poetic responses to the portraits.

The Harlem Renaissance

Hamiltonian Gallery 1353 U Street NW Washington, DC (near U Street Metro)
Organization: Knowledge Commons DC

harlem ren

The Harlem Renaissance (1920s and ‘30s) was one of the most important periods in U.S. cultural history. For the first time, African-American musicians, poets, writers, and visual artists received the patronage and critical support necessary to allow a diverse artistic community to flourish.

This class will provide an overview of the era and the complex issues and pressures these talented artists faced. We’ll discuss literature by such legends as Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Countee Cullen, and art by Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, and Lois Mailou Jones, among others.

A Place Called Home: A Creative Non-fiction Writing Workshop

(December 8, 2012 at Source Theatre)

Learn how to capture readers’ imaginations and stimulate their curiosity with authentic descriptions of places and settings.