The Brainery Workshop is an online creative writing class focused exclusively on speculative fiction as an artistic discipline worthy of theory and practice.
This course is an intense practicum in speculative fiction writing and students can expect a traditional graduate-level fiction workshop, concentrating on understanding and implementing the various aspects of speculative fiction. These aspects include craft issues such as characterization, point of view, narrative structure, style, and voice. Although this class is designed with a flexible schedule in mind, students are expected to commit to the same standards as expected of graduate-level creative writing courses, including: deadlines, feedback, and accountability.
Students participating in The Brainery must be committed to a spirit of community development and support. I believe collaboration, as opposed to competition, is the key component of a good workshop chemistry–and having a supportive community of like-minded writers and readers, of the kind of stories you’re most invested in, is transformative.
I love fairy tales and science fiction equally, and I am personally interested in experimenting with blending these two genres to remix stories we recognize culturally with science fiction elements. To get a better idea of what to expect, please consult the course readings below.
Writers hand in three required submissions, as well as one query letter, during the program: the first two submissions will be of new and/or original work, up to 7500 words in length (either short story or novel excerpt), the third submission will be a revision of one of the two previously submitted pieces.
There is an optional 4th private submission (either new or revised work) only read and critiqued by me (think of it as a Finals Week submission: no grades, all feedback!).
In addition to the weekly virtual class sessions, I am excited to host a Master Class Roundtable Sessions. For Science Fiction Fairy Tales, I tentatively have Seanan McGuire scheduled. (Tentative means: I have contacted Seanan and she has expressed interest and wants to move forward, but we have not confirmed.)
Students from both classes during Spring 2015 will have the opportunity to “sit in” on each course’s roundtable sessions based on seat availability. Students enrolled directly in the course will have priority during roundtables, students from Short Fiction may be required to be muted during the session. All sessions will be recorded and available for all students enrolled in both courses to download.
In addition to each others work, we’ll be reading and discussing Jeff VanderMeer’s Wonderbook, as well as Joseph Campbell’s Myths to Live By, as well as the novels and short stories below:
It might seem like a lot of reading, but two of those are short stories. If four books seems like a lot, I think it’ll be worth it as we navigate ways to combine science fiction with fairy tale storytelling through class discussion and experimentation. Plus, I’ve tried to keep the cost of the books relatively low (under $40) or widely available through libraries.
The Brainery provides the framework for speculative fiction writers looking to produce submission-ready short fiction (this may be in the form of flash fiction, short stories or novel excerpts). Participants will deepen their theory and practice of spec-fic through the discussion of course readings, a continually evolving feedback loop from me and their peers, as well as the kind of accountability that a community of peers can provide. At the end of the course, we will work on query/cover letters, as well as target publications for writers to submit the work produced during Science Fiction Fairy Tales.
By connecting you with fellow readers/practitioners of speculative fiction, The Brainery helps you recognize that your writing is important by connecting you to peers in meaningful ways, which, ideally, will allow you to realize that your writing is important and that there is a market for your work. By investing in your writing in these ways, it is my hope that The Brainery gets you to make your writing a priority.
The focus of The Brainery in this session is on science fiction fairy tales. The program is designed in the fashion of graduate-level creative writing workshops, so the focus is on generating new material. But since I know that writing is not necessarily always about writing, but, instead, is really about re-writing, I have built in a revise-and-resubmit portion of the course. This way we can revisit a previously submitted piece and trace how the work has changed.
There are 10 student spaces available for Science Fiction Fairy Tales, and we’ll sort into individual class sessions based on student availability–my goal is to have everyone in one session, but we might end up with two separate sections of 5 students each. Once class times have been selected, I’ll give students access to The Portal, the private peer review site I custom-designed, where students will only have access to/be responsible for reading and responding to the submissions in their section.
All private, online workshops are led by me, and we’ll help each other deepen our writing practices. I’ll also hold an hour of virtual office hours each week, where we can live-chat about any questions you might have about the course, the readings, or your writing, getting unstuck. I will provide in-depth written feedback on each one of your assignments, as well as marginalia.
By the end of the semester, the goal is for everyone to have one complete short story ready for submission, a draft of a second short story in the pipeline, and at least a third flash fiction submission in preparation.
The discussions in The Brainery Workshop can be exhilarating, and the contact high from connecting to peers in these meaningful ways can be addictive–you’re in a group who care about speculative fiction as much as you do–so it’s important to stay true to the kind of stories you want to tell, instead of performing for the group. Although submission-ready work is one of the goals, I want to impress upon you that it is not the only goal.
Seanan McGuire is the author of the October Daye urban fantasies, the InCryptid urban fantasies, and several other works both stand-alone and in trilogies or duologies. In case that wasn’t enough, she also writes under the pseudonym “Mira Grant.” For details on her work as Mira, check out MiraGrant.com.
In her spare time, Seanan records CDs of her original filk music (see the Albums page for details). She is also a cartoonist, and draws an irregularly posted autobiographical web comic, “With Friends Like These…”, as well as generating a truly ridiculous number of art cards.
Seanan was the winner of the 2010 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and her novel Feed (as Mira Grant) was named as one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2010. In 2013 she became the first person ever to appear five times on the same Hugo Ballot.
She is also the guest editor for the forthcoming Queers Destroy Science Fiction!, and this Fairy Tale Survival FAQ might be particularly helpful for writers taking this class.
She has written over a dozen volumes of fiction and poetry since her first novel, The Labyrinth, was published in 2004. Her full-length novels include (chronologically) Yume no Hon: The Book of Dreams, The Grass-Cutting Sword, The Orphan’s Tales (a duology consisting of In the Night Garden and Cities of Coin and Spice), Palimpsest, The Habitation of the Blessed, Deathless, and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.
She is also the author of two novellas, Under In the Mere and The Ice Puzzle as well as several collections of poetry, including Apocrypha and Oracles (2005), The Descent of Inanna (2006) and A Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects (2008). Her first collection of short stories, Ventriloquism, came out in the winter of 2010.
Her poetry and short fiction can be found online and in print in such journals as Clarkesworld Magazine, Tor.com, Fantasy Magazine, Electric Velocipede, Lightspeed Magazine, Subterranean Online, and Weird Tales, as well as in anthologies such as Interfictions, Salon Fantastique, Welcome to Bordertown, Teeth, Paper Cities, Steampunk Reloaded, Haunted Legends and featured in numerous Year’s Best collections.
She has been nominated for the Hugo (2010), Locus (2010 & 2011) and World Fantasy Awards (2007 & 2009). In the Night Garden won the James Tiptree Jr. Award for expanding gender and sexuality in SFF (2007), and the series as a whole won the Mythopoeic Award for Adults (2008). Palimpsest won the Lambda Award for LGBT fiction (2010). Her story Urchins, While Swimming, received the Million Writers Award for best online short fiction in 2006 and her poem The Seven Devils of Central California won the Rhysling Award in 2008.
Tentatively scheduled means I contacted her and she has expressed excitement and interest, but we have not confirmed a date yet.
Virtual face-to-face classes are held once a week using GoToMeeting. Classes are 60-to-90-minutes class each week during an agreed upon time, so participants will have a chance to meet and talk about each others work out loud. All writers are expected to read and submit written comments on the work we’re peer reviewing that week by our class meeting during the virtual class session.
In addition to the virtual class session, you should plan on budgeting three hours a week for reading course texts, and reading and critiquing peer work, in addition to however you schedule your solo writing time.
The Brainery Workshop is an investment in developing and deepening one’s relationship to, and mastery of, speculative fiction writing. If you find yourself starting stories, but never finishing them; if you find yourself without a stable, reliable writing group that “gets” your kind of writing; if you crave learning from a collection of writers who will read your work with a spectrum of spec-fic and literary knowledge; if you find the solitary nature of writing a hindrance to productivity, but find sharing work as a source of productive motivation–then The Brainery Workshop may be for you.
The Brainery is for you if you are creative, courageous, curious, and, perhaps, most importantly: generous, both with others, and with yourself; generous with your time and energy to provide insightful feedback and share resources with your fellow writers, but also generous with your writerly self–believing your writing is important, and making your writing a priority. (I might just be projecting, but this is something that I continue to struggle with myself, and so it’s a personal goal of mine to help others conquer this particular form of self-sabotage.)
I am using the term “graduate-level” for this course for a couple reasons, even though I am not affiliated with an institution of higher education:
As a teacher, my impulse is to be as inclusive as possible and say that all levels of writers are welcome–as long as you’re comfortable writing and you’re willing to work on your craft. But, as a student, I know that feeling of intimidation all too well. Sometimes the fear can be debilitating.
So I will say: only you can be the judge of your comfort level. But I will also say: we are all here to work. It’s not a competition. It’s about cooperation. And that, a large part of my personal growth as a writer, came from critiquing writing in a workshop. Peer review is where I learned about what I liked and didn’t like, what worked and didn’t, and became able to articulate these things, as well as identify these in my own writing (added bonus: these are skills that translate to other careers as well). Plus, peer review can make you brave–if you’re able to write for yourself and not worry about “performing” for a group.
This is why I spent so much time developing The Portal where we’ll conduct our peer review critiques: because I don’t want to lose this integral part of a workshop just because we’re online.
If you’re interested in the workshop but have concerns about your writing level or capabilities, feel free to contact me.
Absolutely, I will. I am planning a novel workshop for the summer and comic book writing for the fall, in addition to Short Fiction. You can keep up to date with future workshop offerings on my email list (sign-ups are on my blog, in the sidebar on the right hand of the screen), and follow me on Facebook and Twitter.
Classes start the week of January 26, 2015 — but I can take late registrations up to February 8, 2015.
The cost of the 14 week course is $475. Since, at this time, I cannot offer coupon codes, I am purposefully discounting the cost of the workshop as a whole. Registering for The Brainery Workshop enrolls you for Spring 2015, which comes with:
READ THIS FIRST: If you have registered for The Brainery for a free account or for a course in the past, make sure you’re logged out, or else you won’t be able to see the registration page. (I’m actively troubleshooting this problem.)
If you have a PayPal account, you can use PayPal credit to break the payment down into installments. Right now, PayPal credit has no interest on purchases for 6 months of $99 or more.
Do you have any questions about The Brainery Workshop? Here’s an easy way to contact me: