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Short Fiction Fall 2015


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Short Fiction is now full. If you’d like to be put on the waitlist and be given first priority to sign up to take this class in the future, then please contact Dr. Jilly Dreadful at the bottom of this page. The tentative start date for Short Fiction in the spring is January 18-25, 2016. 
The Brainery Workshop is an online writing workshop focusing exclusively on speculative fiction as a discipline, and is run with the same artistic rigor as a top-tier university course found in creative writing PhD and MFA programs.
Please note: Nothing is automated on The Brainery. When you register, this page will not update. I do batch updates at night. Thank you. –JD


imageThe Brainery Workshop is an online creative writing class focused exclusively on speculative fiction as an artistic discipline worthy of theory and practice. The writing participants are expected to produce includes, but is in no way limited to: magical realism, science fiction, horror, weird tales, slipstream, steampunk, and the like. As long as there’s a speculative fiction-y element, we’ll call it good.

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.


Writers hand in four required submissions, as well as one query letter (done as a writing exercise at the end of class), 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. The fourth submission is a work of flash fiction 1000 words or less.

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 Science Fiction Fairy Tales may sit in. All sessions will be recorded and available for all students enrolled in both courses to download.

Who is teaching this section of Short Fiction?

Once you enroll in Short Fiction, you will be given a schedule availability chart, and based on the times you are available, you will be sorted into a section of Short Fiction taught by one of these two instructors:

Valerie Valdes
Valerie Valdes

Valerie Valdes attended the University of Miami, where she majored in English literature with minors in creative writing and motion pictures. After graduation, she studied poetry in an intensive six-week program at Trinity College Dublin with Denise Duhamel and Campbell McGrath. Since then, she has participated in numerous workshops with writers and editors including CC Finlay, Jeff VanderMeer, Nick Mamatas and Carrie Cuinn. Her latest work is forthcoming in Lakeside Circus and She Walks In Shadows, the first all-women Lovecraft anthology by Innsmouth Free Press.

Valerie has over fifteen years of experience as a copy editor and proofreader for individual and corporate clients. She has served as the Municipal Liaison for the Miami region of National Novel Writing Month for ten years, and runs The Miami Grindstone, which coordinates local meet-ups and provides information on calls for submission and writing-related topics. You can learn more at her website:

K. Tempest Bradford
K. Tempest Bradford

K. Tempest Bradford is a science fiction and fantasy writer, editor, media critic, gadget-lover, and Star Trek fan from way back. Her fiction has appeared in multiple anthologies and magazines ranging from Strange Horizons to Electric Velocipede, and Federations to In The Shadow of the Towers.

She worked as an editor for The Fortean Bureau and Fantasy Magazine, and served on the James Tiptree Jr. Award jury. Her media criticism and lit reviews can be found at, NPR Books, and xoJane. Outside of The Brainery, she has taught courses on Writing the Other with Nisi Shawl, Cynthia Ward, Mary Robinette Kowal, and David Anthony Durham.

You can learn more on her website,


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 standalone 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 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.

The focus of The Brainery in this session is on short fiction (as outlined briefly above). 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.


Screen Capture of The Portal demonstrating highlighting and marginalia capabilities.

There are 20 student spaces available for Short Fiction, 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 everyone to have one complete 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 at least 3 other writers (but no more than 10) 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, we want to impress upon you that it is not the only goal.


Ken Liu
Ken Liu
Writer, Translator

Ken Liu ( is an author and translator of speculative fiction, as well as a lawyer and programmer. A winner of the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy awards, he has been published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Asimov’s, Analog, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, and Strange Horizons, among other places.

Ken’s debut novel, The Grace of Kings, the first in a silkpunk epic fantasy series, was published by Saga Press in April 2015. Saga will also publish a collection of his short stories, The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, in March 2016. He lives with his family near Boston, Massachusetts.

Ken is also the translator of numerous literary and genre works from Chinese to English. His translation of The Three-Body Problem, by Liu Cixin, won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2015, the first translated novel to ever receive that honor.

Amal El-Mohtar
Amal El-Mohtar
Writer, Editor, Podcaster

Amal El-Mohtar is an award-winning writer of prose, poetry, and criticism, who divides her time and heart between Ottawa and Glasgow. Her stories and poems have appeared in magazines including Lightspeed, Uncanny, Strange Horizons, Apex, Stone Telling, and Mythic Delirium; anthologies including Kaleidoscope,  Glitter and Mayhem, The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, and Welcome to Bordertown; and in her own collection, The Honey Month. Her articles and reviews have appeared in the LA Times, NPR Books and on

Other projects include The Banjo Apocalypse Crinoline Troubadours, a performance collective of which she’s a founding member along with CSE Cooney and Caitlyn Paxson; Down and Safe, a podcast about Blake’s 7, with L. M. Myles, Scott Lynch, and Michael D. Thomas; and editing Goblin Fruit, a web quarterly dedicated to fantastical poetry since 2006.

Fall 2015 Schedule

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


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:

  1. Graduate school is where you pick a specialty discipline, regardless of subject matter.
  2. This course is specifically for people who are interested in working on their speculative fiction creative writing in a professional way.

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 Refunds:

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.



The cost of the 12 week course is $415. Registering for The Brainery Workshop enrolls you for Fall 2015, which comes with:

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.

Contact Dr. Jilly Dreadful

Do you have any other questions about The Brainery Workshop? Here’s an easy way to contact me:






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