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. We 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.
Imagine taking a deep breath before you dive into a body of water, but instead of swimming across the surface, you sink to the bottom with the waterproof pencil and pad of paper invented by Yoshihuro Nakamatsu and write as much as you can before coming up for air.
That’s what this workshop is going to be like.
This fall, Science Fiction Fairy Tales will be taught in the hypoxic style, meaning it is a breathless generative kind of writing where writers will be producing new material every week. During class, writers will share those pieces with the workshop by posting them to The Portal (giving others a chance to read before class time) and then reading them out loud during class for immediate feedback. This will not be a standard format workshop, such as taught in Short Fiction. This class has been completely redesigned from the version taught in Spring 2015.
This hypoxic-style workshop is designed to push students to challenge themselves as writers and to question the conventions and limits of what it means to remix fairy tales in modern ways. The workshop focuses on writing that is not simply writing about or on a given fairy tale but writing that is also performative—writing that does something, as writing. We are trained to think about the what of what we write (our plots, our characters) but not the how of what we write (the language and style, the point of view, the structure).
Every week we will consider a different fairy tale and experiment in remixing it using experimental methods. Every week each student will write 750-1500 words based on each week’s fairy tale or scientific theme, as well as be asked to discuss each other’s work.
There are no standard end comments on the pieces through the semester, and in-text marginalia will be limited due to the nature of the sharing process, and especially because this is a generative writing workshop, where we’re trying to produce as much writing “in one breath” as possible. There will be a final portfolio of completed work, complete with revisions, with extensive feedback including end comments and marginalia, though.
Because of the mixed backgrounds and professional goals of workshop writers, students are encouraged to work with me to best adjust the assignments to help advance their own work. But, pretty much, this class is a way to get super comfortable creating shitty first drafts, getting that work in front of other peoples’ eyes and getting feedback.
In addition to the weekly virtual class sessions, we are excited to host Master Class Roundtable Sessions with the guests profiled below.
Students from each class 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 question asking priority during roundtables, students from Short Fiction. All sessions will be recorded and available for all students enrolled in both courses to download.
Jilly Dreadful is the founder of The Brainery: Online Speculative Fiction Workshops + Resources which has been featured on The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy and The Roundtable Podcast. She completed her Ph.D. in Literature and Creative Writing at University of Southern California. Jilly is a member of SFWA, and has stories forthcoming from: Lightspeed, She Walks In Shadows, the first all-female Lovecraft anthology (Innsmouth Free Press), and Rough Magick, an anthology edited by Francesca Lia Block and Jessa Marie Mendez. Her fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in NonBinary Review, Devilfish Review, among others.
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 The Brainery Workshop.
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.
There are 10 student spaces available for Science Fiction Fairy Tales, and we’ll sort into individual class sessions based on student availability–our goal is to have at least 5 students in each section. Once class times have been selected, we’ll give students access to The Portal, the private peer review site Dr. Jilly Dreadful 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 the instructors, and we’ll help each other deepen our writing practices. We’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. We 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 writers in Science Fiction Fairy Tales to have written approximately 10,000 words, and feel energized to expand and complete the work generated in class. The goal of the Portfolio submission at the end of workshop is get in-depth feedback on those revisions in order for that work to be ready to be short story ready for submission and a draft of a second short story in the pipeline.
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 with other writers 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 generating a large amount of writing, and thinking about the ways that writing is performative, is one of the goals of this workshop, this is not the same as relinquishing your writerly agency in an attempt to be awarded the “best” feedback.
Annie Bellet is the USA Today bestselling author of The Twenty-Sided Sorceress, Pyrrh Considerable Crimes Division, and the Gryphonpike Chronicles series. She holds a BA in English and a BA in Medieval Studies and thus can speak a smattering of useful languages such as Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Welsh.
Her interests besides writing include rock climbing, reading, horse-back riding, video games, comic books, table-top RPGs and many other nerdy pursuits. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and a very demanding Bengal cat.
Terri Windling is a writer, editor, and artist specializing in fantasy literature and mythic arts. She has published over forty books, winning nine World Fantasy Awards, the Mythopoeic Award, the Bram Stoker Award, and placing on the short lists for the Tiptree and Shirley Jackson Awards. She received the S.F.W.A. Solstice Award in 201o for “outstanding contributions to the speculative fiction field as a writer, editor, artist, educator, and mentor.” Her work has been translated into French, German, Spanish, Italian, Czech, Russian, Turkish, Korean, and Japanese. She has served on the boards of the Interstitial Arts Foundation and the Mythic Imagination Institute (U.S.), and is currently a member of the advisory board for the Sussex Centre for Folklore, Fairy Tales, and Fantasy at the University of Chichester (U.K.).
As a writer: Windling has published mythic fiction for both adults and young adults, as well as picture books for children. Her essays on myth, folklore, and mythic arts have appeared in magazines, art books and anthologies in the United States and Europe, and she has contributed to reference volumes including The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales and Panorama illustré de la fantasy & du merveilleux.
As an editor: Formerly a Senior Editor in the New York publishing industry, Windling now creates and edits book series for a variety of U.S. publishing houses, and serves as an editorial consultant for the Tor Books fantasy line. She has published numerous anthologies for adult, young adult, and middle-grade readers — many of them co-edited with Ellen Datlow and created around myth and fairy tale themes. Winding and Datlow edited the award-winning Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror annual volumes (St. Martin’s Press) for sixteen years — publishing the works of A.S. Byatt, Angela Carter, Vikram Chandra, Susanna Clarke, Charles de Lint, Louise Erdrich, Pierrette Fleutiaux, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Ursula Le Guin, Gregory Maguire, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Steven Millhauser, Haruki Murakami, Peter Straub, Jane Yolen, and other writers of magical literature from around the globe. Windling was also the founder and co-editor (with Midori Snyder) of the online Journal of Mythic Arts, which ran for eleven years and won the 2008 World Fantasy Award.
Virtual face-to-face classes are held once a week using GoToMeeting. Classes are 2-2.5 hours 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 and critiquing peer work, as well as stories from the reading list, in addition your solo writing time.
Example Tentative Schedule–themes are subject to change based on workshop interest. Each fairy tale will be paired with scientific journalism articles (students are under no obligation to remix that fairy tale using that science theme).
This semester we are adding Literary Lab, which functions as book club where an instructor with The Brainery will lead discussions of a novel once for each month: October, November, and December. This is a book discussion group that is open for enrollment to non-workshop students for $30, but we are giving workshop students the option to participate for free.
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.
We are using the term “graduate-level” for this course for a couple reasons, even though we are not affiliated with an institution of higher education:
As teachers, our 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, we know that feeling of intimidation all too well. Sometimes the fear can be debilitating.
So we will say: only you can be the judge of your comfort level. But we will also say: we are all here to work. It’s not a competition. It’s about cooperation. And that a large part of personal growth as a writer comes from critiquing writing in a workshop. Peer review is where many of us learned about what we liked and didn’t like, what worked and didn’t, and became able to articulate these things, as well as identify these in our 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 Dr. Dreadful spent so much time developing The Portal where we’ll conduct our peer review critiques: because she didn’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 us.
On Trigger Warnings:
On Conflict Resolution:
Absolutely. The Brainery will be offering Novel Workshop in Spring 2016, as well as one of the following: comic book writing or an interactive fiction + new media workshop for the spring, in addition to Short Fiction. You can keep up to date with future workshop offerings on the email list (sign-ups are on the blog, in the sidebar on the right hand of the screen), and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Registration ends September 28, 2015.
We can take late registration until October 3, 2015, with an additional $25 late registration fee. (This fee is waived as of 10/2/15: due to a WordPress error, I accidentally had a mismatch of information. The above description did not match the information below–it still had Short Fiction’s information in there.)
The cost of the 12 week course is $415. Registering for The Brainery Workshop enrolls you for Fall 2015. I canguarantee the following:
If you have registered for The Brainery for a free account in the past or registered 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 really am trying to fix 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. The Brainery offers a Writer Support Fund for writers in dire economic circumstances.
Do you have any other questions about The Brainery Workshop? Here’s an easy way to contact me: