Follow Your Writing Dream. Change Your Life.

Learn How to Write a Book with Us!

Our program teaches you to write a book, from first idea to final draft. Classes start again in 2020! Friend us on Facebook "SMU Writers Write" for updates about the next Information Session.

And JOIN US at Chocolate Secrets on December 10 for The Writer's Path night at Lit Nights Dallas! Our instructors -- Melanie Sumrow, Heather Harper Ellett, J.Suzanne Frank -- and two NEW students will be reading.

Who we are ...

We're a home for adults (please be 21 years-old at least) who are following the desire and fulfilling the dream of writing a book. Fiction or non-fiction, short story or personal essay, we are the place to learn craft, find allies, and embrace the practice of writing. Our classes are non-credit, adult education, held once a week for five weeks, in the evening, on the main Dallas SMU campus. Classes must be taken in order, one at a time, because they build on each other.

Each writer has an individual path, but we all face the same challenges. Whether you've wanted to write since you could first pick up a book, or you realized recently that you have a story to tell, The Writer's Path can help. Our classes are taught by published authors, people who face a blank page everyday (ish) just like you. People who understand that Life gets in the way, and how to foster that passion and love for writing even when you don't have "time" for it.

Being a writer isn't something you do, it's someone you are.

We've been helping Dallas writers achieve their dreams for decades. If you are serious about this journey, come walk with us. We have a specific curriculum to take you from idea to polished manuscript.

At SMU, writers write.

Contact with any questions.

From first idea to first draft in five classes ...

... that's our goal for you. That's how we've structured the classes, how we teach the ever-growing web that a story becomes.

But who, exactly, is The Writer's Path for? What is continuing education in writing? What happens in these classes?

Who learns here ...

The Writer's Path, TWP, #TWPathers is open to any and all adults. If you have a doctorate in writing, if you resell antique dolls, or take care of your children at home. If you're an attorney, or school teacher or retiree. If you have NO experience, or if you are published and want to get better … if you are an adult with the desire to write, c’mon in.

We are a community that really only has writing in common. All walks and interpretations of the human experience are welcome to attend. We are unified in our love of story and respect for others’ stories. We don’t have to agree on content to be allies in process.

Continuing education because we know you have a full life already. You have accomplished a lot of things and probably failed at a few. We aren’t a graduate school that will give you a degree. We don’t hand out credit or letters at the end. But if you do it with all your heart and energy, you may end up with a book at the end. Or a new career. It all starts with a great story, well told. 

We train focused, dedicated students who are driven to realize their dream of writing. Who want to improve their craft. Who want to be good enough to have the option of competing on the world stage, in publishing.

Why are we here?

Because we love writing. We want to tell the stories in our heads and hearts. We are trying to answer our own questions, or make sense of the world through our personal lens. We want to do it with people who understand that perspective, who encourage us, and challenge us.

We began from need and desire: a need to learn more and get better, and a desire to meet with and pursue this dream with colleagues following the same longing.

Those students pursued the path, found publishing venues, and became your current instructors. Everyone who stands at the front of the class has also been a student in it. (Except Carmen Goldthwaite, who was the initial hire and already super accomplished.)

These instructors also pursue personal development and growth in both craft and teaching. You can catch our instructors speaking regionally for writers groups, or teaching at conferences for their genre and area.

The specifics

Our classes meet three hours a week for five weeks, starting with Creative Writing Foundation. As stated in the title, it paves the way by training your mind and practices, for success in everything else.

After Foundation, the paths diverge into Fiction, (novel writing) and Nonfiction (all true stories, or based on true happenings). Much of nonfiction is sold on a package of a detailed outline, sample chapters, marketing plan, and platform overview. The author submits that “proposal” to agents, who look for editors who will then pay the author to write the whole book and support its sales for the life of publication. Our nonfiction pathway teaches you how to build that package for submission. First Content, then Arc, then Marketing. These classes help you create the idea and execute on your vision for a nonfiction proposal.

Fiction is more subjective and requires more care and commitment up front, because you must write the entire book, first. Our fiction pathway takes you up mountains and into the valleys of writing. In Story you learn the basic structure of the Hero’s Journey, based on the work of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell and displayed in (most) everything you’ve read or seen, fiction and nonfiction. The Hero’s Journey reveals the framework that upholds almost all stories, from the first written one (Gilgamesh) to whatever came out last week at the movie theater.

The Hero's what?

The Hero’s Journey is not a formula, any more than getting handed a smartphone and told to take pictures of the sky, is. The Hero's Journey is a shape that helps you take the idea in your head and craft it to make sense, convey meaning clearly, and transmit feeling.

The next class, Plot, builds on that framework. You practice and gain greater understanding of all the elements you’ve learned in Foundation and Story, and begin to develop them with your ideas and characters. You leave class with an outline for your story.

Heroic Chapters is TWP’s special sauce. It’s managed by two instructors who, through lecture, class readings, analysis, and group participation, help you understand the effectiveness of the Hero’s Journey in your story, so you can improve it. In nine weeks, you cover key scenes that you’ll use as guideposts when you begin writing chronologically.

... which is where Chapters fits in! every week you hand in an excerpt of a chapter and get feedback from your instructor and classroom allies, allowing you to continuously improve as you move forward. Some students take this class for the duration of their manuscript's first draft, some take it only once, at the beginning or end of the process. Part of your heroic journey in becoming an author is to figure out HOW you write, so that you can replicate the process effectively.

When you think you have a first draft, you submit for Revision.

You learn how to see your book from a publishing perspective, and how to shape it for the audience YOU want to reach. 

How we're different ... why the classroom counts

TWP doesn't have an institutional ‘voice’ we are trying to mold you into. We don’t leave gaps in your education, so you are bound to us for continuing progress. We want to teach you ALL you can learn, so you will have the skills to write book(s). Plural. No part of what we do as individual instructors is duplicated online, in a book, (or sometimes,) even in another class.

Our classes are small, 6-18, and get smaller as the courses progress, because wanting to write a book and writing a book are different things. Sometimes Life interferes with desire. Sometimes you have the time, but not the story. Sometimes you have the story, but not the time or money. Sometimes you take the first class and realize Not Yet. Sometimes you take the first class and realize Not You. But then there's You who takes the first class and realizes you have found your Home, your tribe, your calling. Welcome! #TWPathers

This program, in some form, under some name, has been at SMU since the 1960s. So, whenever you start taking Foundation, that is your “cohort start” date. If you can’t make the next class, or the next year, or the next decade, you can always come back and pick up where you left off. 

Writing is a lifetime learning and pursuit. We get that. (We live that.) Your story is being written, but it’s also writing you. TWP offers you a heroic journey to fulfilling your dream.

*It’s not 12 steps and you’re done.

*It isn’t a rough draft, then publishing success.

*Sometimes it’s not even a great book well published, because the reward for success is writing MORE.

... If you’re still reading, we want to talk to you & we’re pretty sure you want to talk to us. Email and she will schedule a time to call you and answer all your questions at your convenience. Or come to an Info Session (see above for the next one) and meet her and other attending instructors and potential students.

And sign up for CWF, because you should always fan the flame of your writing enthusiasm!

(Did we mention classes in Taos? New York?)

The Writer’s Path. No writer walks the same road, but we all follow the creative journey and in that, we have camaraderie.

Step on the Path. Change your life.


Alum who have published traditionally

  • Shilpi Somaya Gowda (NY '07)
  • Daniel J. Hale (NY '99)
  • Sally Kemp
  • Harry Hunsicker
  • Kay Honeyman (NY '09)
  • Amanda Arista (NY '09)
  • Amanda E. Alvarez (NY '09)
  • Don Goldman (NY '98)
  • Caroline Rose Hunt
  • Ron Roy
  • Kathleen M. Rodgers
  • Kalena Cook (NY '05)
  • J.Suzanne Frank (NY '96)
  • Tricia Skinner
  • Douglas E. Neel
  • Keith Goodnight (NY '07)
  • Kate Defrise (NY '09)
  • Rachel Goodman
  • Lauren Allbright (NY '13)
  • Alexia Gordon (NY '15)
  • Melanie Sumrow (NY '11)
  • Heather Harper-Ellett (NY '17) debut author 2019