Whether inspiring people to generate and develop new material in The Lab, helping a novelist polish the final draft before sending to an agent, or encouraging an MFA applicant to dig deeper with a submission, Matthew Clark Davison's clients walk away with the confidence to broaden their vision and achieve their goals.
Feedback from those who have taken The Lab:
The Lab was the highlight of my Autumn. I came to the Lab in a post-MFA rut, eager to continue working on my project but not sure how to keep the story in motion. Matthew’s lessons taught me how to thoughtfully consume other forms of art as a writer, how to look at a photograph or listen to a podcast, pinpoint what I appreciate about it and attempt to incorporate that quality into my own writing. It was an education in storytelling mediums, how the work of John Cameron Mitchell and Tina Lousie Belvins and Lyle Ashton Harris can speak to each other. Each week I learned how to glean various tools from these artists for use in my own craft, a skill I hope to continue to use in the future.
Matthew was my first creative writing teacher and he is hands-down the best instructor I’ve ever worked with, the mentor who helped me get into an MFA program ten years ago. I hadn’t worked with him in years, was feeling in a rut, and decided I needed a dose of Matthew. I was hoping to generate new story ideas and shake up my writing, get outside my comfort zone. The Lab helped me do just that. We did close readings of, as well as writing exercises based on, the works of writers like Lucia Berlin, Jamaica Kincaid, and Mary Gaitskill, writers who take risks and bare the ugly. After my six sessions at The Lab, I came away with the realization that I need to work harder on character development and that my characters need to take more risks too.
I’ve taken The Lab with Matthew Clark Davison several times over the last few years. It is highly generative. In-class critique is concentrated and minimal, and the sessions help me find a deeper understanding of my characters’ motives. I have produced several useful “stubs”—a term coined from Wikipedia—“stubs” are the genesis of longer passages or chapters. I collect these “stubs” during The Lab sessions and then use the take-home experiments Matthew devises to expand.
Matthew Clark Davison uses other art forms—painting, film, journalism, sculpture—as jumping-off points to look at our writing. His multi-arts perspective is particularly attractive. I recommend The Lab to any writer trying to begin or finish or who is “stuck” in the middle of a project. The sessions always jump-start my writing.
Where else can you write furiously in a church while seeing a glitter-drenched opera? Where else can you learn about how your setting can change your character by watching a film in which queer black child gets baptized in the ocean? Where else can you study two painters' landscapes and learn to incorporate absence into your scene? The Lab is a vibrant space to experiment across artistic disciplines. Matthew Clark Davison is a committed, creative, compassionate, compelling teacher. I highly recommend working with him in The Lab.
I come to The Lab when I have a project that needs fleshing out. Each week’s set of experiments helps me generate new material and more deeply understand my characters. Matthew Clark Davison’s instruction inspires me to look at my writing in new ways. If you're feeling stuck in your novel or story or memoir or personal essay; or just need that extra push, The Lab is a great space to make things happen.
When I think about my current life as writer/artist, getting connected to the Lab was monumental for me. The first piece of writing I ever published was written during my first Lab cycle-- and, more importantly than that—Matthew's creativity and encouragement laid a groundwork for me to feel comfortable pursuing my creative voice and pushed me to prioritize creating space for writing and creative wanderings. He does the important and necessary work of connecting writing with spirituality, aesthetics, and practice and for curating such exciting experiments every time.
Participating in Matthew's class was a vital experience for me. When I do write, it's mostly reviews of non-fiction analytical psychology books. My time in “The Lab" gave me the space to go deeper into my own emotions and listen to the words that emerged. Matthew is a gifted teacher who encourages curiosity and is on the lookout for the unexpected. His approach helped me find some new ways of expressing or, experimenting with, my creativity.
—Gail A. Grynbaum RN PhD
I originally approached "The Lab" with curiosity...and trepidation. I had never taken any kind of writing class, having always been convinced that 1) I wasn't a good enough writer, and 2) because I thought all writing classes involved mean and/or pointless workshopping. Everything about The Lab and Matthew proved me wrong. First, because this class is much more exploration than traditional class. The exercises are invigorating, and Matthew's insights are truly helpful--I think of it more as making you notice something on a page than telling you that something has to be on the page. Second, there is a broad range of levels represented in the room, and Matthew has structured the class in such a way that at no point do you feel vulnerable or judged. I would take this class again and again.
I’ve had the opportunity to enroll in The Lab several times over the past 7 years and I have walked away with something invaluable that has enriched my writing every time. The variety of experiments Mathew offers throughout the 6-week Lab have not only helped me become a better storyteller, they’ve expanded my creative process. A number of seeds were planted in each session of The Lab that have blossomed into a number of writing projects that have included short stories, a children’s picture book, and now the beginnings of my first novel. Thank you, Mathew!
I’ve participated in The Lab for 2 years and have always discovered a new way to explore my writing and that of others. As an artist, it was an immense pleasure having a designated time to focus on my own project, free-write, or dive into one of Matthew Clark Davison’s many brilliant writing prompts, all with the freedom to share and receive feedback or not. Those who are new to writing, experimenting, or already published will all find an open and diverse group of “labbers” together to create and, more often than not, inspire each other in ways only an environment like this can produce. I highly recommend The Lab to anybody who seeks a safe space for their creativity.
When writing, it's easy to get lost and discouraged, to lose perspective. Matthew's most valuable gift may be in helping you find your way back into a piece, giving you renewed clarity and enthusiasm for it. He accomplishes this with great skill and not a little humor, making him a joy to work with.
When my son Ethan was seven, eight, nine, I would buy magic tricks for him from Misdirections, on 9th Avenue between Lincoln and Irving. The proprietor, Joe, got to know me well enough that he invited Ethan and I to the Miraloma Park Improvement Club for a get together with magicians from all over the Bay Area. Oh my God, what a night. We walked around with decks of cards and magic boxes and silver rings, things appearing and disappearing, aces jumping out of velvet bags, the king of clubs ending up in Ethan’s back pocket, which was impossible but there it was. Everyone had a new illusion, and they couldn’t wait to share. We were treated as fellow magicians even though we didn’t know what we were doing. It was literally and figuratively a magical evening, and not unlike, the six evenings at The Lab. There we were, marginal, in the best sense of the word, I still didn’t know what I was doing. What I do know is that we were writing like madmen and madwomen. We were sharing new illusions, trying them out on one another. I know my heart beat faster.
Enrolling in "The Lab: Writing Classes with Matthew Clark Davison" has given me time, accountability, and support for my writing. But it's more than that. It's a true literary exploration. Matthew's carefully selected prompts and thoughtful lessons inspire me to dig deeper into my characters' inner lives and help me discover and explore the themes most important to me. "The Lab" is also a great place to find new characters - writers at all levels and stages appreciate the creative and artistic questions posed in "The Lab." Matthew is encouraging, kind, skilled, and authentic. I will probably just continue taking "The Lab" forever.
When I started The Lab, I knew writing was the only thing I wanted to do. After years of academia and essays, I was finally finding my voice in fiction. But I had no idea how to push myself, how to think around blocks and deepen my characterization. Matthew's teaching style gets you to the other side of a problem while unlocking your own insight into your creative project, all without you feeling like you're being led in a specific direction. His prompts have taken me places in my writing I'd hoped I'd get to on my own, but didn't know where to start. After taking a couple cycles of The Lab, I had a completed an MFA portfolio, almost entirely developed from Matthew's experiments. My only regret in choosing NYU's MFA program is that it means I'll be so far from The Lab!
The Lab is a fun and supportive environment in which to experiment. Matthew Clark Davison's writing prompts are thoughtful, stimulating and provide results. I'm a songwriter, and I took the Lab in the winter of 2012 curious what effect it might have on my music-writing process. Much to my surprise, I walked out of that six week session with the idea for a play. A year and a few cycles of The Lab later, I’m finishing up the first draft of a play in two acts with musical interludes. Thank you, Matthew!
On more than one evening I have arrived at The Lab thinking the well has run dry. Then Matthew's readings/discussions/experiments open me up to a flood of ideas. There are those who do, those who teach, and a very talented few who pull off both extremely well. Matthew’s experience as a published writer is valuable to his students; he's passionate about his own work, but also appreciates and possesses real insight into the writing of others. As a teacher, he's empathetic, but also willing to challenge those participating in his workshop to dig deeper and test their limits. One of the things I love best about his writing prompts is how he draws freely on other disciplines, including the visual arts. Having first signed up without any set expectations, I have kept returning to The Lab over the years principally because I find it enjoyable, but also because Matthew has given me new enthusiasm for and real direction in my writing.
Since completing graduate school I have felt anything but that--complete. In The Lab, I had a chance to step back and see the characters and conflicts in my stories with a greater kindness and compassion than I ever did in grad school. Time was set aside to think and write. The burden of accomplishment, of having a fully realized, living story, was secondary to the greater intention to explore who we are, who our characters might be. That freedom reminds me of why I like to write in the first place. Matthew's Lab created a wonderful space for exploring stories and connecting with other writers.
—Julia Halprin Jackson
I have known Matthew for a few years now and I can easily say that he is one of the most inspirational teachers I have ever had. His life revolves around writing; finding inspiration in sculpture, dance, and music. The Lab answers the questions every aspiring writer asks "What now?" "Where do I begin?" If you are stuck in the middle of a story and need a nudge in the right direction, or you are just trying writing out for the first time, I highly recommend The Lab to get those creative juices flowing.
Matthew Clark Davison's passion for reading, writing, creativity, and excellence are contagious. I highly recommend The Lab, his 6-week writing program. Expect to be stimulated and enriched by the readings, discussions, and writing prompts. I left every session of The Lab feeling inspired and rewarded, brimming with the possibilities of our words, with the possibilities of the right word at the right moment.
Matthew is a rare breed in writing instructor. His talent and passion for writing is rivaled by his talent and passion for teaching. It behooves any aspiring or established writer to seek out Matthew's coaching.
Matthew is a treasure. He touches his students with his wit and wisdom…his writing prompts helped me reach deep down to rediscover events I had forgotten, and helped me bring them to the page in surprising ways. The best writing workshop in all the Bay Area!
Matthew Clark Davison brings the world into The Lab through other mediums, and then invites the actual world to behold the budding fruits of that exchange. I came into The Lab with an imagination and the urge to explore, but Matthew's direction shifts my direction in a way that makes me see humanity in a different light, and lets me be human in a different way. I would have never thought to write the origin of love for my character, or to use architecture to explore the layers of a piece. I found The Lab to be an amalgamation of the craft of story and the instinct of art. I look forward to repeating the experience.
— Lorena Landeros
Matthew Davison has an amazing gift of pulling new and compelling material out of writers with the idea that we simply must take risks with our work - whether in subject matter, form, the editing process, or exposing our work to a larger community. Matthew’s enthusiasm and commitment to the writing process is contagious. Because of his invaluable instruction and feedback, my writing explored new, exciting and provocative depths during his 6-week lab.
— Liz Tucker
After six-weeks with Matthew, the act and pleasure of writing have woven their way back into my life. The Lab helped me make a direct connection to my creative vision. His facilitation style and creative prompts were invaluable to building confidence and trust in my own voice. Matthew's lab was not just about learning the craft; it was about being in an environment that allowed creativity to flow.
— Jennifer Hasegawa
Receiving instruction from Matthew Davison reaps benefits that work double-time! Not only will you get skilled and effective guidance to strengthen your writing, you will receive it from someone who is whole-heartedly invested and committed to your specific goals and desires. Further, he teaches his students how to read more effectively, which undoubtedly makes us better writers.
— Steve Dershimer
Matthew is an insightful, uniquely personal instructor with an understated yet well-prepared and confident approach. Not only did I improve my writing craft and critical reading skills, but the vibe was devoid of pretension, filled with helpful, supportive discussion, and never devolved into the hollow kum-ba-ya that does no serious writer any good. Beginning to well-seasoned writers are well served by The Lab.
— John Yi
The Lab fit in perfectly with my schedule and opened an extremely productive space for my writing. It was great to hear other participants’ interpretations of the creative prompts. Matthew’s facilitation mixed beautiful examples of theory with practical application of concepts, always with a smile. I found it very applicable and looked forward to the workshop each week. This is a great opportunity for anyone who wants to explore their own writing in the company of like-minded folks.
— Anne Trickey
The Lab is a warm environment that fosters experimentation and expression. The writing prompts, discussions, and feedback gave me some great ideas; some of the pieces I wrote were quite a pleasant surprise even to myself.
— Candyce Choi
The Lab helped me find my creative voice. Highly recommended.
— Rick Richman
The Lab isn't like taking a class. It's like sitting around your living room talking about your writing with a group of friends. Matthew's exercises were beautifully targeted to the group dynamic - no set curriculum here! Matthew listens to what's going on with the group and responds accordingly. The exercises took me to deep places in my novel and helped me get to the emotional heart of the story I'mtelling. Matthew's characterization workshop helped me break through and clarify a scene that I have been trying to get right for more than a year. I left the workshop feeling full of the creative energy I needed to continue working on this piece and push on to its completion.
From those who sought help on MFA applications:
It's always a bit unnerving sharing a story with an accomplished writer and as a novice writer applying to MFA Programs, I found myself rather intimidated, overwhelmed and exposed. Matthew established a disarming sense of comfort that immediately put all fear and worry to rest. Our discussions were illuminating, and provided me the a means of uncovering the real direction of my work. He was able to draw purity from my words, revealing prose that carried much more substance and focus. He was always flexible with regards to schedule. Matthew's insight and expertise propelled me through this process with a comfort and confidence I was unable to obtain on my own. I cannot thank him enough and look forward to working with him again in the future.
Working with Matthew has proven invaluable during the MFA application process. In looking at my manuscript, he gave solid advise that would not have occurred to me otherwise, but more importantly, I found the required personal statement most tedious. How to 'sell' yourself, how to position yourself, in the midst of hundreds of applications for the same program, was quite difficult, and only with Matthew's professional advice was I able to write a concise, accurate and creative statement. What I came away with was not only a fighting chance at admittance, but also a solid personal and professional relationship with Matthew. In the event that I get in to the MFA program, my gratitude to him will be deservedly a great deal.
From those who have worked one-on-one with MCD:
Matthew enters stories with boundless curiosity, challenging the writer to find the deepest nuance of character and most taut story arc. He possesses the ability to hone in on places of unexplored tension and possibility--sometimes just a single line--but developing that one aspect can bring a vast depth or complexity to the story telling. Really it is the passion that he arouses within the writer about his or her own work that is remarkable. No matter how stuck I am, always after working with Matthew, I reenter the world of my story with a renewed sense of vigor and possibility.
— Mary Michael Wagner, fiction writer, teacher, O. Henry Award and Pushcart Prize Winner
Matthew Davison is a rare talent. He is a gifted and versatile writer of many mediums; he is smart enough to be truly humorous, real enough to cut to your heart, and deep enough to make you hungry. In the critical process, Matthew offers wise and compassionate feedback. And for me, he has the depth of insight, craft in his bones, and a gift of communicating that not only empowers the work, but inspires the music. Best of all, in the sometimes dangerous “mix” of the creative and the critical, he makes me laugh.
— Janice Mirikitani, Author of LOVE WORKS (City Lights Books), 2000 San Francisco Poet Laureate, Executive Director of The Glide Foundation.
Matthew Davison is a reader, teacher, editor, and writer of uncommon gifts. He has the insight to read a work-in-progress on its own terms, and the skills to engage the writer in a fertile process of discovery and development. You won’t find smarter, warmer, more stimulating guidance anywhere.
— Michelle Carter, Winner of the 2000 PEN West Playwriting Award for Hillary and Soon-Yi Shop for Ties, Professor of Creative Writing.
Matthew Davison is a wonderful writer and a wise and sympathetic teacher.
— Maxine Chernoff, author AMONG THE NAMES (Apogee Press), and SOME OF HER FRIENDS THAT YEAR, New and Selected Stories (Coffee House Press), Professor of Creative Writing.
Matthew Davison reads and offers criticism with the whole of his considerable intelligence, sensitivity, and good will.
— Robert Glück, author of DENNY SMITH & OTHER STORIES (Clear Cut Press), Professor of Creative Writing.
The poet Wendell Berry wrote that a teacher’s “great function, or opportunity or obligation, is tomanage somehow to address himself openly and generously and invitingly to the unknown--the possible that presents itself to him in the minds and lives of his students.” Like Berry, Matthew Davison, an accomplished writer and teacher of writing, is concerned with possibility. He believes in potentials, potentials in the writers he works with, potentials in the work itself. A writer needs to possess a sense of optimism about his or her work. That's one of the prerequisites for moving forward with any written draft. A teacher of writing must possess a sense of optimism about student work. Matthew Davison's ability to see beneath the surface of a new piece of writing to what lies submerged within a draft is extremely valuable to the beginning writer or the accomplished writer who desires critical useful feedback. His astute eye for what works in fiction catches what others cannot see or are not willing to imagine. His care, patience, and sensitivity to the creative process contribute to his understanding of what type of critical feedback is most useful to the writers he works with. He has the ability, as an editor and teacher, to help a writer push work forward, to move beyond the initial creative spark to a fully accomplished piece of writing. I believe those who work with him are lucky to have him.
— Toni Mirosevish, Professor of Creative Writing, author of The Takeaway Bin.
Matthew can spot the intrinsic emotional heart buried within an early draft and help you bring it forth, even if you’re not sure what you want to convey. Working with Matthew, I’ve seen enormous growth in my own work. He has a wonderful eye for the craft of fiction.
—Katie Hern, author of Reunion: A Year in Letters Between a Birthmother and the Daughter She Couldn’t Keep (Seal Press).
Matthew Davison’s insight—combined with his sensitive, articulate feedback—has aided my development as a writer for the past six years. Working with him, I’m constantly inspired by the elements he discovers in my writing. Matthew is a hard, sincere critic, and the best of his students come away from feedback sessions more motivated than ever.
— Ann Marie Aubin, Fiction Writer.
My four years writing with Matthew Davison have been an absolute gift. I’ve learned much from his respect and humor. His keen vision will help a student discover gems even in early drafts. His suggestions offer clarity and direction without shutting down imagination. He is capable of both celebrating a writer’s natural gifts and developing necessary skills. Above all else, he is willing to traverse unfamiliar territory and support his students in translating that whispering voice at the heart of a story.
— Alissa Blackman, Fiction Writer.
In his feedback on stories, Matthew combines considerable rigor of analysis with kindness and an absolutely fabulous sense of humor, which makes working with him a pleasure.
—Sarah Rosenthal, Award-Winning writer and Writing Instructor.
Matthew Davison has a discerning and precise eye for pinpointing the strengths of a manuscript, and a gift for conveying his critical insight in a truly constructive manner."
—Y.J. Schonfeld, fiction writer, translator, winner of Playboy Fiction Award.
Matthew Clark Davison is an invaluable writing teacher who gives honest feedback while supporting your development and progress. He cares a lot about writing and hasn't hesitated to share his own experiences when I've needed to hear about the common struggle to produce good writing. And, throughout, he has not lost focus on what I need as I write, rewrite, and learn.
—Sam Osherson, Nonfiction and Fiction Writer.