In 2019 I was stuck. I had all the training I could have dreamed of and the encouragement of some of the most accomplished writers at work. I had been through the prestigious Wallace Stegner Fellowship in Fiction at Stanford, as well as three years of graduate study at the University of Mississippi. I had published articles, essays, and stories, received grants and residencies, and taught creative writing at three major universities. I even had a writer’s cabin in the woods, complete with a ferny glen, a wood stove, and little propane lamps on the walls.

But I would sit there at my desk in the loft, re-writing the same paragraph over and over until I ruined it, unable to get any purchase. I knew how to write things that would get published, but couldn’t figure out how to write what I really wanted: a book that touched the inner life, that was authentic and not performative. I saw other writers seem to do this beautifully, and understood much of the craft. But I would try to go inside myself to find my own words and hit a mysterious barrier. Writing began to be connected with frustration and disappointment, rather than optimism and joy.

Over the next few years, I went deeply into myself: cultivating mindfulness practices, expanding self-awareness through psycho-education, and delving into the layers of my own subconscious material through breathwork, somato-emotional therapies, and work with entheogens. Through this work of self-discovery, I began to understand the patterns that were blocking me creatively.  I learned to merge the qualities of professionalism that I had gained from my education with playfulness, freedom, and joy in the process. I learned to see myself more clearly. And by seeing myself more clearly, I noticed that I began, in baby steps, to have my own clear vision of others and the world. I’ve come to believe that, in one way or another, cultivating one’s own clarity of vision is one of the ultimate tasks of the writer.

My teaching and writing practices have evolved to integrate my training and experience as a writer and as a human. I created the Creative Writing School to be a nurturing space for serious writers. A place where we can examine and practice craft at a high level and engage with our own work with radical honesty. Where we can meet each other and the page with vulnerability and an understanding that we never finally know, that we are all, always, starting from the question.

Rachel Smith’s writing has appeared in The AtlanticThe Seattle TimesThe Rumpus, The Coachella Review, and elsewhere. She has received residencies and fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Marquette Residency, and the Elizabeth George Foundation and has taught creative writing at Stanford, the University of San Francisco, and the University of Mississippi, where she received an MFA in Creative Writing. She was a Wallace Stegner Fellow and a William Chace Lecturer at Stanford.  Rachel also holds a BA in Psychology and is trained in Hakomi, a relational practice of assisted self-discovery. She lives in Los Angeles with her goldendoodle, and sometimes writes at her cabin, in the gorgeous, rainy woods of the North Cascades.


There is no parallel experience to that of working with Rachel. Over the seven years of our friendship, Rachel has taught me craft, language, and nuance better than any teacher I have ever known. Her teaching comes from a deep well of wisdom and trust.
— Jessica Shi, MacDowell & Katherine Min Fellow
I learned so much in my first class with Rachel, and since then taken several more, all with the same great results: I leave feeling empowered with specific skills, but also with a sense of possibility! She is masterful at presenting a class with strong writing, then giving everyone space to work out ‘how’ it’s powerful. This leads to many aha! moments that really stick with me days and months later when I’m struggling with a way forward.
— Kurt Wallace