by Michael Durand
The 325-square-feet of bright, clean and newly-renovated office space for
The Writing Salon looks like it is just big enough to fit a ping pong table for a game
of doubles. Its intended design, however, is to release the unlimited potential of the
Located on the northwest corner of Balboa Street and 22nd
Avenue, the writing school is the newest addition to the Outer Richmond.
Other businesses on the block include a martial arts studio, jewelry store, Realtor,
hair stylist and the Balboa Bubbles laundromat.
“The Writing Salon is a network of 25 to 40 teachers instructing
classes of up to 14 students,” said Ben Jackson, the school’s director.
“The classes are open to all adults, age 18 and above,” he said.
The classes offered include poetry, fiction, non-fiction, personal essays, memoirs, screenwriting, playwriting, erotic literature, novels and works geared for children and young adults.
Jackson studied creative writing at the University of Colorado
at Boulder, then went to graduate school for his master’s of fine art
degree (MFA) with an emphasis on poetry, at the “low residency”
Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina.
“We would meet on campus for 10 days, then go back home
to work on our assignments,” Jackson said.
Jackson has taught creative writing at the Art Institute of California – San Francisco,
and literature, leadership and writing at the University of San Francisco.
Working closely with Jackson is Kathleen McClung, a senior
instructor with The Writing Salon for the past nine years.
“I have been a teacher of writing for going on 30 years,” McClung said.
McClung went to Stanford University and received bachelor’s
and master’s degrees in education. She received another
master’s degree in English and creative writing from Fresno
State University. She moved to the Richmond in 1990 and has
lived in the same apartment for the past 27 years.
“I took classes at The Writing Salon in the ’90s and
early 2000s, and I loved it,” McClung said.
She has been an adjunct professor teaching literature,
composition, creative writing and more at Skyline College
for the past 22 years.
The Writing Salon was started by Jane Underwood in
1999 in her home in San Francisco. Underwood died of
breast cancer in 2016.
The school also has a location in Berkeley, since 2002.
The most popular class the school offers is an online class called the
Round Robin, where students are paired up with different
partners each week for eight weeks, then exchange work
based on a writing prompt provided by a facilitator. The students
then give each other positive feedback about their work.
“One man has taken Round Robin 50 times,” Jackson said.
“He has never missed one session in about a dozen years.
And there are several like him who have never missed a
Round Robin class.
“We like the neighborhood feel here in the Richmond. It has a really nice community
atmosphere with some great restaurants, taverns, cafes and bookstores,” Jackson said.
“We have done some outreach to the community, passed out some flyers, talked with our
neighbors. We get some good foot traffic and even had some people stop in during our
grand opening event on the eighth of April.
“We are finishing updating our website. We are trying to
reach a wider audience and a more diverse community of
students. We are aiming to reach the millennials, techs and a new generation of writers
by using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google,” Jackson said.
McClung said The Writing Salon is trying to reach a diverse array of budding writers.
“We are targeting a variety of levels of writing, from introductory classes for new
writers, on up through very experienced writers who have published books and have
gone through master’s of fine arts programs, who are longing for community.”
For more information, go to the website at http://www.writingsalons.com.