This course is an intense practicum in speculative fiction writing and students can expect a traditional graduate-level quality 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.
Every student enrolled in The Brainery will have the opportunity to RSVP and attend all roundtable sessions as there is limited virtual seats available. It is important to note that guest speakers are no longer designated for each workshop, but are available to all enrolled in The Brainery. All sessions will be recorded and available for students 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 published or 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.
Spaces are limited for Science Fiction Fairy Tales–the goal is to have all 5 students in the same 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.
Master Class Roundtable Sessions are 60-90 minutes long. Please note: Every student enrolled in The Brainery will have the opportunity to RSVP and attend all roundtable sessions as there is limited virtual seats available. It is important to note that guest speakers are no longer designated for each workshop, but are available to all enrolled in The Brainery. All sessions will be recorded and available for students to download.
Charlie Jane Anders is the editor in chief of io9.com and the organizer of the Writers With Drinks reading series. Her novel, All the Birds in the Sky, will be available January 26, 2016 from Tor Books. Her stories have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Tor.com, Lightspeed, Tin House, ZYZZYVA, and several anthologies. Her novelette “Six Months, Three Days” won a Hugo award.
Daniel José Older is the author of the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series, which begins in January 2015 with Half-Resurrection Blues from Penguin’s Roc imprint. Publishers Weekly hailed him as a “rising star of the genre” after the publication of his debut ghost noir collection, Salsa Nocturna. He co-edited the anthology Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History and guest edited the music issue of Crossed Genres.
Ellen Datlow has been editing science fiction, fantasy, and horror short fiction for over thirty years as fiction editor of OMNI Magazine and editor of Event Horizon and SCIFICTION. She currently acquires short fiction for Tor.com. In addition, she has edited more than sixty science fiction, fantasy, and horror anthologies, including the annual The Best Horror of the Year, Lovecraft’s Monsters,Fearful Symmetries, Nightmare Carnival, The Cutting Room, and The Doll Collection. Forthcoming is The Monstrous.
She’s won multiple World Fantasy Awards, Locus Awards, Hugo Awards, Stoker Awards, International Horror Guild Awards, Shirley Jackson Awards, and the 2012 Il Posto Nero Black Spot Award for Excellence as Best Foreign Editor. Datlow was named recipient of the 2007 Karl Edward Wagner Award, given at the British Fantasy Convention for “outstanding contribution to the genre,” was honored with the Life Achievement Award by the Horror Writers Association, in acknowledgment of superior achievement over an entire career, and honored with the World Fantasy Life Achievement Award at the 2014 World Fantasy Convention.
Nathan Lowell first published a poem in elementary school; that early success was followed by forty years of attempt, rejection, failure, and ultimately giving up on the dream of writing science fiction. In 2007, with the rise of podcast fiction, he started writing again. He completed his first successful novel – Quarter Share – in January, 2007, and podcast it through Podiobooks.com over February and March, 2007. Since then he has written eight novels, several short stories, and a novella. His podcast novels have been finalists in the Parsec Award five times, and he’s won Parsec Awards for Speculative Fiction (long form) twice — 2010 and 2011.
He holds a BS in Business Administration with a minor in Marketing from SUNY/Buffalo (92), an MA in Educational Technology (98), and a Ph.D. in Educational Technology with specializations in Distance Education, Interactive Media, and Instructional Design (04). He lives Colorado with wife, two daughters, and a trio of feline companions.
Francesca Lia Block is the author of more than twenty-five books of fiction, non-fiction, short stories and poetry. She received the Spectrum Award, the Phoenix Award, the ALA Rainbow Award and the 2005 Margaret A. Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as other citations from the American Library Association and from the New York Times Book Review, School Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly. Her work has been translated into Italian, French, German Japanese, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish and Portuguese. Francesca has also published stories, poems, essays and interviews in The Los Angeles Times, The L.A. Review of Books, Spin, Nylon, Black Clock and Rattle among others. In addition to writing, she teaches fiction workshops at UCLA Extension, Antioch University, Writing Pad and privately in Los Angeles where she was born, raised and currently still lives.
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.
This semester we are offering Literary Lab, which functions as book club where an instructor with The Brainery will lead discussions of a novel from the perspective of readers reading as writers once for each month: February, March, April.
This is a book discussion group that is open for enrollment to workshop participants and non-workshop participants alike.
For currently enrolled students: $20.
For non-currently enrolled students: $40.
Find out more here.
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.
We will not give you a prescription for how to change a story so it’ll get published. We will tell you what you’ve done so you can highlight and reinforce those things that we perceive to be working in order for writers to make the story consistent throughout.Furthermore, with the focus on publishing, we also try to suggest which magazines would be the best fit based on our knowledge.
The third goal for writers enrolled at The Brainery is developing a community.
It is difficult enough being a writer, but having a support system that is rooting for you is a powerful motivating force. Trying to keep pace with your cohorts who are sending manuscripts out is as well. Not in a competitive sense, but, rather being inspired by their bravery and their success.
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 January 30, 2016.
We can take late registration until February 3, 2016, with an additional $25 late registration fee.
The cost of the 15 week course is $500. Registering for The Brainery Workshop enrolls you for Spring 2016. I can guarantee the following:
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: