top of page

Creator School

Small, personalized classes;

highly qualified instructors


Courses 2024


Writing Workshop

For Middle School Students

Location: Zoom

Are you ready to explore the wild and wonderful world of surrealist writing? Let your imagination take flight! This workshop helps students tap into their limitless creativity with activities to develop their ability to play with words and ideas, fine-tune their craft through revision, analyze short mentor texts, present their work to an audience and learn how to give helpful feedback. The class is capped at 16, so students will receive personal attention and build a strong sense of community.

Instructor Sam Prestianni has over thirty years of experience teaching creative writing, expository writing, music, and media literacy to students of all ages. He is a Bay Area writer, editor, teacher, musician, filmmaker, and founder of 21st Century Learning.

June 24-28, 2024



Truth and Connection:
A Course in Memoir

For Adults and Mature Teens

Location: Zoom

This popular, five-week memoir class investigates some of the vast array of memoir techniques, offers prompts with 5-15 minutes of writing time, a discussion of the challenges of memoir, publication leads, and feedback from the instructor on 25 double-spaced pages (if you wish). The atmosphere is warm and accepting and offers starting points for new writers and new possibilities for experienced writers. This 1-hour course is offered on Zoom one night a week.

Instructor Lita Kurth is a semi-retired college professor and the co-founder of San Jose's long-running Flash Fiction Forum, as well as the author of One Creative Writing Prompt A Day (Callisto Press, 2024). She has been published in numerous literary journals and her work has received multiple nominations and awards.

All Mondays in July, 2024



Write On!

For High School Students

Location: Zoom

In this poetry and short fiction writing workshop, students will engage in multilayered literary analysis and creative problem-solving activities. Individual and collaborative writing practices will teach students to embrace multiple perspectives. Class times are flexible and classes virtual, custom-designed to meet each young writer's needs. Classes are capped at 6 students.

Instructor Sam Prestianni has over thirty years of experience teaching creative writing, expository writing, music, and media literacy to students of all ages. He is a Bay Area writer, editor, teacher, musician, filmmaker, and founder of 21st Century Learning.

Pick dates that work for you!
Click to learn more...


College Essay

For Rising High School Seniors

Location: Cubberley Community Center, Palo Alto

In a positive, collaborative environment, rising seniors will learn the principles of an effective college essay, study successful models, generate original ideas, draft essays, and receive meaningful feedback from their teacher and peers. They will end the week with less fear, more inspiration, and a solid draft of their Common Application. They will also have the opportunity to work on UC applications, supplements, and scholarship applications. Classes are capped at 16. This one-week course will be offered twice; once in June (in person) and once in August (on Zoom).

Instructor Justin Brown earned a BA in Modern Literature and an MA in Creative Writing. He has been an English teacher for nineteen years, with much experience coaching the college essay. 

June 24-28, 2024 or
August 5-9, 2024

Copy of Flyer Writer's Playground.png

Writer's Playground

For Middle School Students

Location: Cubberley Community Center, Palo Alto

In this popular middle school course, writers will play with a range of genres. Based on student interest, we may explore fiction, memoir, scriptwriting, poetry, and humor. We will also experiment with a variety of writing strategies, such as idea generation, dialogue, imagery, character development, foreshadowing and/or suspense. The class is capped at 16, so students will receive personal attention and build a strong sense of community.

Instructor Kari Nygaard is an experienced local middle school English and Creative Writing teacher. She has taught a range of summer courses in creative writing, civic leadership, and design thinking.

July 8-12, 2024



Color Outside
the Lines

For Adults (Teachers, Counselors, Parents... Anyone!)

Location: Zoom

Most people avoid uncomfortable emotions, but this valuable workshop will help you embrace, explore, and understand your emotions by learning... to doodle them! As we all prepare to jump back into the whirlwind of the school year, treat yourself to this fun and engaging 2-hour workshop in which you learn to let go of perfectionism and tap into the creativity of your inner child. No drawing skills or experience with watercolors required.

Instructor Renée Johnson is an experienced middle school English teacher, creative writing camp leader, private writing tutor, and certified Heartwork Journaling coach.

Coming in August!
Subscribe for updates.



Kari Nygaard

KN Profile.png

Director and Instructor

Kari Nygaard has taught middle school English for twenty years. For six of those years she was the Instructional Lead of her department, and for another six years she mentored teachers who were new to the profession. She currently teaches English and Creative Writing at JLS Middle School in Palo Alto. She has also taught in a variety of summer programs for youth all over the Bay Area, developing courses in civic leadership, design thinking, creative writing, college essay writing, Italian, music, and even HIV/AIDS education (in Malawi, Africa, back in 2003). Kari received a BA in International Studies from Middlebury College and an MA in Educational Administration from Santa Clara University. She has worked with the San Jose Area Writing Project both as a participant and an instructor; she is a regular volunteer with Poetic Justice; and in 2015, she co-wrote a staff-student musical for her middle school.

Justin Brown



Justin Brown has taught high school English for more than nineteen years. He currently works at Henry M. Gunn High School, where he teaches Film Literature, Advanced English (grades 9 and 10), and Honors English (grades 11 and 12). Justin received a BA in Modern Literature from UC Santa Cruz and an MA in Creating Writing from San Francisco State University. He has tutored many students in creative writing and the art of the college essay. In his spare time, Justin enjoys acting and has performed on stage in two Palo Alto Players productions: Death of a Salesman and The Man Who Came to Dinner

Sam Prestianni

Sam Prestianni head shot for Creator School.png


Sam Prestianni is a veteran Bay Area writer, editor, teacher, musician, filmmaker, and founder of 21st Century Learning, an online platform that provides students with uplifting education and personal growth experiences that transcend the traditional classroom. For nearly three decades, he taught Language Arts, Humanities, and SEL Development in California independent schools while leading his own summer workshops in Creative Writing, Expository Writing, Media Literacy, and Music. A widely published journalist and critic, his work has appeared in dozens of magazines and newspapers, including SF Weekly, New York Press, and JAZZIZ magazine. His professional committee efforts include serving as a Juror for the MacArthur Fellowship Genius Grant. He has edited both fiction and nonfiction books. Often under a pen name, he has published fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction and toured the country as a literary performer and multimedia artist. He attended University of Maryland on a Writing Scholarship and earned a BA in English with a Writing minor.

Renée Johnson



Renée Johnson has a passion for helping others express themselves through writing. She moved to California from Massachusetts and graduated from California State University, Hayward with a BA in English and a focus in creative writing. She has been a full-time seventh and eighth grade English teacher in the Palo Alto Unified School District since 1998. She has experience teaching a variety of summer writing courses, including Future Author Camp, a writing camp for gifted creative writers. She also enjoys coaching adults and teens in a variety of writing projects, from personal statements to essays and speeches. Renée has worked with the San Jose Area Writing Project both as a participant and an instructor, and she is also a certified Heartwork Journaling coach.

Maya Mahony



Maya Mahony graduated from Stanford with a degree in English and creative writing and is currently a graduate student in fiction at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her stories and poems have been published in The Antigonish Review, Scrivener Creative Review, Anser Journal, BALLOONS Lit. Journal, Collision Literary Journal, Ambrosia Feminist Zine, the Stanford Daily, the Leland Quarterly, and

Lita Kurth



Lita Kurth has taught at Santa Clara University and De Anza College as well as in private workshops for many years. A co-founder of San Jose’s Flash Fiction Forum, she holds three Master’s degrees, including an MFA. She is a recipient of the Diana Woods Memorial Award and a two-time Pushcart nominee (creative nonfiction and fiction). Sample publications include Lunchticket, Redux, Raven Chronicles, Main Street Rag, Tikkun, Chicago Literati, NewVerseNews, ellipsis…literature and art, Compose, and more.

Tarn Wilson



Tarn Wilson has been teaching creative writing to high school students and adults for over twenty years. She currently works at Gunn High School. She earned an MA in education from Stanford and an MFA in creative writing from the Rainier Writing Workshop, specializing in memoir and the personal essay. She is the author of the memoir The Slow Farm (2014), the award winning memoir-in-essays In Praise of Inadequate Gifts (2021), and 5-Minute Daily Writing Prompts: 501 Prompts to Unleash Your Creativity and Inspire You to Write (2022). Her essays have been published in numerous literary journals, including Brevity, The Harvard Divinity Bulletin, River Teeth, and The Sun, and she has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Christopher Bell


Co-Founder and I.T. Support

Chris Bell has been teaching math and computer science since 2006.  He has taught courses intended for beginning students and advanced students alike, including Programming for Mobile Devices, which he created. Having received degrees from UC Davis and Notre Dame de Namur University, he has also dedicated a large part of his career to teaching teachers how to effectively integrate technology into their courses, speaking at conferences, providing professional development, and teaching at local colleges.

bottom of page