From mystery writing to yoga: 7 ways to expand your horizons in 2017

L.A. Stunts Training Center in Buford features intensive, in-depth classes taught by professional stuntpeople. Students in the six-day “Stunt Boot Camp” learn how to realistically fight, fall, get hit by a car and more on camera — and what it takes to work in a professional setting. CONTRIBUTED BY SHELBY SWATEK

L.A. Stunts Training Center in Buford features intensive, in-depth classes taught by professional stuntpeople. Students in the six-day “Stunt Boot Camp” learn how to realistically fight, fall, get hit by a car and more on camera — and what it takes to work in a professional setting. CONTRIBUTED BY SHELBY SWATEK

“New Year, New You … “

Ugh. Is there a more annoying — or at least, pressure-packed — slogan than the one that rolls around every year around this time?

Unless your New Year’s resolution involves head-to-toe plastic surgery and witness relocation, you’re probably not looking to change yourself completely. You’re pretty good the way you are. Except … maybe you’ve secretly been hankering to write fiction. Or try practicing mindfulness. Or to learn Latin.

OK, maybe that last one isn’t too useful on an everyday basis. But who are we to squash anyone’s dream?

Whatever that entails, there’s probably a class out there for it. Whether you’re looking to pick up a specific skill — or just learning for pleasure — here are seven to get you thinking, “New Year, newly invigorated you.”

(Note: Some of these are one-time classes or workshops, while others involve longer courses of study. In every case, we’ve offered “extra credit” options — additional classes to consider in case your first choice fills up, or you want to explore other interests.)

Stunt Boot Camp

Jan. 16-21 (additional sessions: Feb. 13-18, March 20-25). $1,850 (tuition discounts available). L.A. Stunts Training Facility, Buford. 310-425-2848,

For aspiring stunt performers, as well as actors wanting to do more of their own stunts, this intensive, six-day session (eight hours per day) is taught by professionals who relocated the business from Los Angeles due to the wealth of film and TV production work here. The intentionally small classes (maximum eight students) cover "the essential skills every well-rounded stuntperson is expected to know and more." Including, but not limited to: Fighting for Camera, Intro to High Falls, Intro to Car Hits and — just as important — Film Protocol and Set Etiquette and How to Get Hired and Not Get Fired. This class takes serious commitment, but can bring lasting benefits: 10 LASTF graduates were part of stunt ensembles nominated for 2016 Screen Actors Guild awards for their work on "Jurassic World," "Furious 7," "The Walking Dead," "The Blacklist" and "Daredevil."

Extra credit: There's also a three-day Advanced Stunt Workshop,for which successful completion of Stunt Boot Camp is a prerequisite. Among things students learn are Car Hits and Roof Rolls and Fire Safety and Individual Fireburns.

Award-winning mystery novelist David Fulmer (seen here in a purposely moody shot at the Euclid Avenue Yacht Club in Little Five Points) will teach the Decatur Writers Studio class How to Write a Mystery, starting in late January. Students will learn about constructing a plot, writing dialogue, creating characters and more. AJC FILE PHOTO

icon to expand image

How to Write a Mystery

7:30-9:30 p.m. Mondays, Jan. 23-Feb. 27. $300. Decatur Writers Studio, 708 Church St., Decatur (one block from the Decatur Square).

Do you watch "Murder She Wrote" and think, "I could do that"? More seriously, do you read Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler and the other greats and think, "I want to do that"? This six-week class, taught by award-winning mystery writer David Fulmer  — whose works include the "Storyville" series of novels, four of which have been optioned by Amazon Studios — will cover plot structure, dialogue, character development and more through in-class exercises and take-home assignments. A project of the Decatur Book Festival, the Decatur Writers Studio features a variety of small classes (usually a maximum of 12 students) taught by acclaimed writers.

Extra credit: Check out these other DWS classes, also starting in January: Narrative Nonfiction, taught by Drew Jubera, author of the best-selling book "Must Win: A Season of Survival for a Town and Its Team," and consulting producer on the Netflix series "Last Chance U"; Travel Writing, taught by Suzanne Van Atten, a veteran Atlanta Journal-Constitution editor whose own book, "Moon Puerto Rico," is now in its fourth edition. (A six-week Novel Workshop, taught by best-selling novelist Joshilyn Jackson, is already sold-out.)

Figurative Sculpture

7:30-9 p.m. Thursdays, Jan. 19-March 9. $200. Spruill Center for the Arts Education Center, 5339 Chamblee Dunwoody Road, Atlanta. 770-394-3447, (Note: Students are strongly encouraged to register at least three days before the course's scheduled first meeting.)

Whether you dream of becoming the next Michelangelo, or simply want to understand and appreciate the skill behind something like the Pieta, this could be the class for you. Students will work in clay, with an emphasis placed on learning about anatomy, scale and proportion. (Note: This course involves working with nude models.)

Extra credit: If clay's not your thing, maybe painting, glass blowing — even basic blacksmithing — is. Check out the complete list of Spruill's adult arts classes and workshops at

Never Too Late: Reinvention Workshop with Best-Selling Author Claire Cook

9 a.m.-noon Jan. 28. $45. 6 Executive Park Drive N.E., Atlanta. 404-727-6123,

Forget just taking a class. Maybe you're trying to figure out a new direction for your life — and how to get there. This Emory Continuing Education coursetaught by the author of "Must Love Dogs" and 11 other books — who wrote her first novel at age 45 in a minivan of all places! — is an excellent way to help jump-start the process. Students will: identify a reinvention goal; commit to a plan for achievement; design a system for accountability, and pull together a support system. Tuition includes a copy of Cook's book, "Never Too Late: Your Roadmap to Reinvention (Without Getting Lost Along the Way)."

Extra credit: Explore the full Emory Continuing Education catalog at

A student is shown during a recent class taught by the Cook’s Warehouse. From boiling water for beginners to master classes devoted to specific cuisines or techniques, the metro Atlanta institution offers numerous classes at its three locations. CONTRIBUTED BY ERIK MEADOWS PHOTOGRAPHY

icon to expand image

Cooking Boot Camp, Boiling Water

Feb. 3-5. $229. The Cook's Warehouse Midtown, 1544 Piedmont Ave., Atlanta. 404-815-4993,

Literally don't know how to boil water? Or are you able to do that and other cooking basics — but you're not sure how to debone a chicken or work a pressure cooker? This three-part series of classes is designed for first-time cooks, but also has plenty of solid knowledge to offer to those who know their way around a kitchen — or maybe just think they do. During three hours on Friday night and four hours each on Saturday and Sunday afternoon, students will learn vital skills like dicing and julienning; how to select and use the proper cooking vessels, utensils and knives; and how to follow and prepare menus for numerous dishes ranging from fresh-squeezed juice and Sautéed Shrimp, Orzo and Fresh Herbs to homemade chicken stock and Pan Sautéed Rib-Eye with Mushrooms and Oven Roasted Crispy Sweet Potatoes.

Extra credit: Maybe you know a man who needs or wants an even more specifically man-centric, how-to cooking course (heck, maybe you are that man!)? Then check out the three-hour class, The Guy's Guide to Becoming a Gourmet, on Feb. 1, which the Cook's Warehouse course catalog whimsically describes as a "safe zone" where "no question is too simple and no recipe is too difficult."

Lunch & Learn Series: Cultural Do’s & Don’ts

Noon-1:30 p.m. Feb. 21. $25 (for one class; discounts available if you register for the entire series). Alliance Francaise d'Atlanta, Roswell Center. 435 Jones Drive, Roswell. 404-875-1211,

Mais oui, chances to study an array of foreign languages abound here. And Alliance Francaise offers beaucoup de different types of French classes — from beginner to advanced, from classes made up of toddlers or corporate co-workers — at its two locations in Midtown Atlanta and Roswell. But this particular class, part of a series,stands out for several reasons: As the name suggests, it takes place during the traditional lunch hour, so a whole range of people can fit it into their busy schedules. Even, it turns out, people who don't even know what "beaucoup" means. "You may not yet speak a word of French," the course description reads, "but you'll be able to impress with your savoir-faire" when it comes to "some of the most important cultural norms and values that are the fabric of French culture." There's another Lunch & Learn on French for Travelers at the Roswell location on Jan. 24.

Extra credit: A more expanded Lunch & Learn series at the Midtown Alliance location in Colony Square kicks off with Introductions, Greetings and Small Talk, from noon-1:30 p.m. Jan. 19. That's followed at the Midtown location by Cultural Do's & Don'ts on Jan. 26 and French for Travelers on Feb. 16. Find information about it and the rest of Alliance Francaise's classes at

An instructor leads a yoga class offered by the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta. Two one-time workshops this winter would make for a good introduction to yoga — or a new way of looking at it for more veteran practitioners. CONTRIBUTED BY MJCCA

icon to expand image

Yoga Mindfulness Workshop and Partner Yoga Workshop

10 a.m.-noon Jan. 29, mindfulness. $15-$35 (nonmembers price).

7:30-9 p.m. Feb. 16, partners. $20-$55 (nonmembers price).

Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta-Zaban Park, 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody. 678-812-4000,

Whether you're a yoga veteran or just looking to dip your (soon to be more limber) toe into the discipline, either or both of these classes are a great option. Mindfulness emphasizes being aware in the present of thoughts, feelings and body sensations as a way to reduce stress and feel better physically and emotionally. Partner yoga adapts classic poses for two bodies, rather than one, and as such, may be a good way for a more experienced practitioner to introduce a beginner to the joys and benefits of yoga. (One more thing partner yoga — at least this partner yoga workshop  — has going for it: There'll be chocolate-covered strawberries and champagne at the end of class.)

Extra credit: The MJCCA offers a wide range of classes, workshops, arts and cultural activities and much more, for all ages. Some are only for members, but many are open to the community at large.Check it out at