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.
This class is a combination of the curriculum from The Brainery’s Short Fiction workshop and classes based on Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward’s seminal work Writing the Other: A Practical Approach.
Writers know that it’s important to create characters whose gender, sexual orientation, religion, racial heritage, or other aspect of identity differs from their own. But many are afraid to do so for fear that they will get it wrong–horribly, offensively wrong–and think it is better to not even try.
However, it is possible to write the Other sensitively and convincingly—even in the small amount of space short stories allow—and this class can start you on the path to doing just that.
During the 15 weeks of the class, students will delve deep into learning this sometimes tricky skill through a combination of readings, analysis of published fiction, writing exercises, and developing, writing, and revising stories of their own in a safe, supportive atmosphere.
It starts with laying down a foundation of good writing craft, as many mistakes and pitfalls when writing the Other are born from lack of skill. The class will cover language, description, narrative structure, and plot, then dive deep into characterization, stereotypes and tropes, dialogue and dialect, worldbuilding, cultural appropriation, how to research the Other, and strategies for keeping your wordcounts under 8,000.
In addition to the regular instructor, students will benefit from guest lectures exclusive to this class by authors Nisi Shawl and Max Gladstone. Students will also have the opportunity to get a critique on their final submission from one of these writers.
Students hand in three required submissions during the program. The first two submissions will be of new and/or original work, up to 7500 words in length. The third submission will be a revision of one of the two previously submitted pieces.
The class texts (which all students should have at least week before classes start) are:
Classes are virtual and meet weekly in GoToMeeting or Google Hangouts video chat rooms with ongoing discussions happening in a private Slack chat channel.
In addition to regular classes, The Brainery hosts Master Class Roundtable Sessions with the guests profiled below. All Brainery students will have access to these sessions. All sessions will be recorded and available for all students enrolled in courses to download.
K. Tempest Bradford is a speculative fiction writer, editor, media critic, and activist blogger. 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.
Tempest has edited both fiction and non-fiction for The Fortean Bureau, Allegory Zine, and Fantasy Magazine. Her media criticism and lit reviews can be found at io9.com, NPR Books, and xoJane.
Since 2014 she’s developed and taught courses on writing and the Other with Nisi Shawl, Cynthia Ward, and other authors who care deeply about diversity in fiction.
Max Gladstone is a two-time finalist for the John W Campbell Best New Writer Award for his fiction, and a one-time finalist for the XYZZY Award for his game Choice of the Deathless. In July 2015 Tor Books published his latest Craft Sequence novel, Last First Snow, a tale of zoning politics, human sacrifice, and parenthood. The Craft Sequence, , tales of wizards in pinstriped suits and gods with shareholders’ committees, started with Three Parts Dead, Two Serpents Rise, and Full Fathom Five. In addition to these novels, Max’s short fiction has appeared on Tor.com and in Uncanny Magazine.
Max studied Chan poetry and late Ming dynasty fantasy at Yale; he lived and taught for two years in rural Anhui province, and has traveled throughout Asia and Europe. He speaks Chinese, can embarrass himself reading Latin, and is a martial artist, fencer, and fiddler. He’s also worked as a researcher for the Berkman Center for Internet and Policy Law, a tour guide for the Swiss Embassy, a go-between for a suspicious Chinese auto magazine, a translator for visiting Chinese schoolteachers, a Chinese philosophy TA, a tech industry analyst, and an editor. He has wrecked a bicycle in Angkor Wat, sung at Carnegie Hall, and been thrown from a horse in Mongolia.
Nisi Shawl is the winner of the 2009 James Tiptree, Jr. Award for her short story collection Filter House and a World Fantasy Award nominee. She is co-author, along with Cynthia Ward, of Writing the Other: A Practical Approach, an instructional guide to literary inclusivity. She edited the 5th volume of the WisCon Chronicles series: Writing and Racial Identity and the anthology Bloodchildren: Stories by the Octavia E. Butler Scholars. She is co-editor of Strange Matings: Science Fiction, Feminism, African American Voices, and Octavia E. Butler with Dr. Rebecca J. Holden. Her Belgian Congo steampunk novel Everfair is due out from Tor in September 2016.
The Brainery provides the framework for speculative fiction writers looking to produce submission-ready short fiction with diverse characters and well-crafted worldbuilding. Participants will deepen their theory and practice of SF through the discussion of course readings, a continually evolving feedback loop from instructors 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.
The Brainery helps you recognize that your writing is important by connecting you to peers and mentors 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.
To facilitate the peer discussion aspect of the course, students will be added to a Slack channel private to this class for chatting in-between classes and turning in and analyzing writing exercises.
The focus of The Brainery in this session is on sensitively including characters with identities different from your own, but there is equal weight given to all aspects of short story writing. The program is designed in the fashion of graduate-level creative writing workshops, so the focus is on generating new material. But writing is not necessarily always about writing—it’s really about re-writing. This is why we include 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 12 student spaces available for Short Fiction Writing and the Other, and we’ll sort into individual class sessions based on student availability–our goal is to have at least 6 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 monthly 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 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 submission-ready work is one of the goals, we want to impress upon you that it is not the only goal.
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.
Virtual face-to-face classes are held once a week using GoToMeeting or Google Hangouts. 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 five hours a week for reading and critiquing peer work, reading assignments, writing exercises, and Slack channel discussions, in addition your solo writing time.
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. 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 $575. We 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: