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.
Writers hand in four 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.
The fourth submission is a new addition to The Brainery: a digital project combining a flash fiction narrative (max 1000 words) with the Lithomobilus e-reader platform, and, near the end of the course.
There is an optional 5th 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 three individual Master Class Roundtable Sessions with Aimee Bender, Lise Quintana, and Christie Yant.
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 priority during roundtables, students from Science Fiction Fairy Tales may be required to be 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 1-2 stories per week from the collections below:
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.
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.
There are 20 student spaces available for Short Fiction, and we’ll sort into individual class sessions based on student availability–my goal is to have at least 4 students in each section. 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, a third digital piece of work that you may optionally publish using the Lithmobilus platform.
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 8) 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.
Aimee Bender is the author of five books: The Girl in the Flammable Skirt (1998) which was a NY Times Notable Book, An Invisible Sign of My Own (2000) which was an L.A. Times pick of the year, Willful Creatures (2005) which was nominated by The Believer as one of the best books of the year, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (2010) which recently won the SCIBA award for best fiction, and an Alex Award, and The Color Master, released last August, a NY Times Notable book for 2013.
Her short fiction has been published in Granta, GQ, Harper’s, Tin House, McSweeney’s, The Paris Review, and many more places, as well as heard on PRI’s This American Life and Selected Shorts. She has received two Pushcart prizes, was nominated for the TipTree award in 2005, and the Shirley Jackson short story award in 2010. Her fiction has been translated into sixteen languages. She lives in Los Angeles, where she teaches creative writing at USC.
Lise Quintana is the CEO and founder of Narrative Technologies, which uses interactive and hypertext narrative tools to publish new kinds of literature. Using her own experience as a writer, she has founded Zoetic Press and the new e-reader platform Lithomobilus. Quintana was formerly the editor-in-chief of Lunch Ticket, a literary journal of Antioch University Los Angeles. Previously she worked as a writer and project manager at various hardware and software companies in Silicon Valley. Quintana is on the Board of Trustees for Antioch University Los Angeles and formerly on the Board of Directors for Friends of the Santa Cruz Public Library.
Christie Yant is a science fiction and fantasy writer, Associate Publisher of Lightspeed Magazine and Nightmare Magazine, and editor of the Women Destroy Science Fiction! special issue of Lightspeed. Her fiction has appeared in anthologies and magazines including Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2011 (Horton), Armored, Analog Science Fiction & Fact, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, io9, Wired.com, and China’s Science Fiction World. Her work has received honorable mentions in Year’s Best Science Fiction (Dozois) and Best Horror of the Year (Datlow), and has been long-listed for StorySouth’s Million Writers Award.She lives on the central coast of California with two writers, one editor, two dogs, three cats, and a very small manticore. Follow her on Twitter @christieyant.
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 and critiquing peer work, as well as stories from the reading list, in addition your solo writing time.
Christie Yant’s roundtable session is confirmed for this semester, the date will be announced.
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 19, 2015 — but I can take late registrations up to January 31, 2015.
The cost of the 14 week course is $475. Registering for The Brainery Workshop enrolls you for Spring 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’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. I also offer 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: