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Short Fiction Summer 2015


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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 top-tier university courses in creative writing PhD and MFA programs.


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. 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.


This summer session is shorter than the usual offerings. Writers hand in 3 submissions: the first two 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.

In addition to the weekly virtual class sessions, there will be two individual Master Class Roundtable Sessions with guest speakers who are professional writers.

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 other workshops may be required to be be muted during the session. All sessions will be recorded and available for currently enrolled students 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.


Screen Capture of The Portal demonstrating highlighting and marginalia capabilities.

There are only 10 student spaces available for Short Fiction being taught with me (Jilly Dreadful, Ph.D.), and there are only two class times to choose from–my goal is to have all 8 writers in the same section, or 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, and a work of flash fiction..

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 2 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.


John Chu
John Chu

John Chu is a microprocessor architect by day, a writer, translator, and podcast narrator by night. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming at Boston Review, Uncanny, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Apex Magazine and His story “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” won the 2014 Hugo Award for Best Short Story.

Roundtable Session Confirmed: Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Michi Trota
Michi Trota
Editor, Writer

Michi Trota is the managing editor for Uncanny Magazine: A Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy. She’s based in Chicago is also a writer, communications manager, community organizer, and firespinning geek fiend who was raised on a steady diet of 80s cartoons, anime, and classic sci-fi/fantasy literature and soundtracks.

Roundtable Session: Tentatively Scheduled for July 15th

Summer 2015 Schedule

Available Class Times
There are only two available class times to choose from: Tuesdays: 7:30pm EST or Thursdays: 8:00pm EST

If neither of these times work for you, then I suggest signing up for this section of Short Fiction which will have a different instructor.

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.



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:

  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 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.


On Refunds:

On Trigger Warnings:

On Conflict Resolution:


Absolutely. I am planning a comic book writing workshop for the fall, in addition to Short Fiction and Sci-Fi Fairy Tales. 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 June 15, 2015 — but I can take late registrations up to June 22, 2015.



The cost of the 10 week course is $375. Registering for The Brainery Workshop enrolls you for Summer 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.

Contact Me

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







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