Fiction Writing Workshop
Learn how to write SF that sells.
The Workshop is especially intended for writers who have just begun to publish or who need that final bit of insight or skill to become a published writer, though we often see more-published authors who want to grown their writing as well. We work with all brands of speculative fiction, including horror, fantasy, magical realism, slipstream, speculative philosophy, hard SF, and so on.
SFWA Science Fiction Grand Master James Gunn established the Workshop in 1985 and led it on his own (with appearances from Sturgeon and Campbell Award-winning authors) until 1996, when author and CSSF Director Christopher McKitterick began co-teaching; Kij Johnson also co-taught from 1996-2002, before branching off her own SF&F Novel Writing Workshop, offered during the same two-week period. Gunn stepped back his participation in 2010, but plans to drop in from time to time to meet the workshoppers and offer words of writing wisdom, and he usually joins us for lunch in the (very good) adjoining dorm cafeteria. McKitterick has been inviting a special guest author for Week Two, as well, and we often enjoy the writing advice and camaraderie of other visiting authors and editors. Simultaneous scheduling and adjacent meeting spaces provide valuable opportunities to intermingle with the other group(s) and discuss writing from different perspectives outside regular meeting times.
For 2016, we continue the tradition of inviting outside authors and editors to join us so you get diverse perspectives on what makes great spec-fic. This year, we are honored to host two guest authors:
Founder and Week 1 Special Guest Author
Gunn plans to participate during Week One, giving comments on one of each workshopper's stories, and offering sage advice during lunch get-togethers, health permitting.
James Gunn's most-recent novel, Transcendental, came out in 2013 (and the sequel is nearly complete), along with two other books. He started writing SF in 1948, was a full-time freelance writer for four years, and has had nearly 100 stories published in magazines and books; most of them have been reprinted, some as many as a dozen times. He is the author of 26 books and the editor of 18; his master's thesis was serialized in a pulp magazine. Four of his stories were dramatized over NBC radio's "X Minus One"; "The Cave of Night" was dramatized on television's Desilu Playhouse in 1959 as "Man in Orbit"; and The Immortals was dramatized as an ABC-TV "Movie of the Week" in 1969 as "The Immortal" and became an hour-long series in 1970-71. His stories and books have been reprinted in many languages.
Gunn was born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1923. He received his BS degree in journalism in 1947 after three years in the U.S. Navy during World War II, and his MA in English in 1951, both from the University of Kansas. He also did graduate work in theater at KU and Northwestern. In 1969 at the University of Kansas, he taught one of the first courses in science fiction. An emeritus professor of fiction writing at KU, Gunn still teaches and regularly visits workshops and conferences.
Week 2 Special Guest Author
Andy Duncan won the Sturgeon Award for his 2001 Asimov's novella "The Chief Designer." His first collection, Beluthahatchie and Other Stories, won a World Fantasy Award, as did his SciFi.com story, "The Pottawatomie Giant." His 2012 publications included a second collection, The Pottawatomie Giant & Other Stories (currently available from PS Publishing), and a Tor.com story, "On 20468 Petercook," while his novelette "Close Encounters" was a cover story of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Duncan has been nominated multiple times for the Nebula, Stoker, World Fantasy, Shirley Jackson, and Hugo awards. Duncan has been a juror for the Philip K. Dick, Shirley Jackson, Sturgeon, and Bram Stoker awards, and has taught at Clarion, Clarion West, and the Center's own SF Writing Workshop. Recent books include Crossroads: Tales of the Southern Literary Fantastic, an anthology co-edited with F. Brett Cox; The Night Cache, a stand-alone novella; and Alabama Curiosities, an offbeat travel guide.
Duncan attended Clarion West in 1994 and studied creative writing at North Carolina State University under John Kessel (another Gunn student). He taught Clarion in 2004 and Clarion West in 2005, was a full-time journalist for 12 years, and taught college for 17 years. A professor in the English department at Frostburg State University in Maryland, he also teaches a seminar on 21st-century SF and fantasy at the University of Alabama. He regularly blogs at Beluthahatchie.
What's Andy's writing like? My favorite description, by Craig Jacobsen in the SFRA Review:
If Harper Lee and Gene Wolfe had a love child, Andy Duncan is it.
Workshop moment, 2013
James Gunn (left) and Jeremy Tolbert.
This year's Writing Workshop meets from June 6–17, and we will have an informal get-together with the SF/F Novel Writers Workshop attendees on Sunday evening (the 5th), at 6:00pm in our residential hall where we'll be meeting, to get acquainted and plan for the coming weeks.
The "Young Gunns" of 2012
Front row left: Joan Slonczewski (2012 Campbell Award winner), Sheila Williams (editor of Asimov's), Sheila Finch (Campbell Award juror and author).
Back row: Abigail Godsell, Laurie Walker, Marcy Arlin, Andrew Genova, Evan Mielke, Chris McKitterick.
Not pictured: Andy Duncan, Sarah Fischer, James Gunn, Chris Kelworth, Kathy Kitts, Chuck von Nordheim.
Participants arrive at the dorm the day before critiquing begins. In addition to workshop sessions, you also have time for writing, recreation, socializing, and individual conferences. This workshop is very much a community-building event! On the final day, we also give semi-public readings to prepare you for a writing career - don't worry, we provide training for that.
The "Young Gunns" of 2011
Clockwise from left: Bradley Denton, Jack Ryan, Isaac Bell, Tepring Crocker, Kara Tan Bhala, Chris Kenworthy, Kathy Kitts,
Mark Silcox, Chris McKitterick, Chuck Von Nordheim, and James Gunn (back to camera on left).
Preferred length is the short story (up to 7500 words), though writers frequently turn in short-shorts (around 1,000 words) or longer works. If you write novelettes or novellas, please limit your submissions to less than 25,000 words total.
Everyone comments on every story, each story is analyzed for publishability, and writers are encouraged to submit their work for publication. We might also work on exercises, analyze successful fiction, and more.
Due to the structure of the Workshop, we cannot take up more than three works per person, even if they are short-shorts or flash fiction, so keep that in mind. If you are writing a novel, consider instead our Novel Writers Workshop held in conjunction with this short-form workshop, because it's challenging to give useful feedback on just a few chapters.
The "Young Gunns" of 2008
Applicants are notified about acceptance starting in March, so contact us as soon as you can! Though enrollment for KU graduate credit begins in April, contact us early if you plan to enroll for credit so we can reserve you a spot. We continue accepting applications until the Workshop fills or until May 18, whichever comes first.
The "Young Gunns" of 2005
Standing: Ann Tonsor Zeddies, Mark Grover, Larry Taylor, Fran Van Cleave, James Gunn, Harold Agnew, Nolen Harsh.
Kneeling: Chris McKitterick, Mary Rose-Shaffer, Eric Warren, Karen Schwabach, Mandy Earles, Pat Buehler.
The Workshop offers a three-hour (minimum) session of manuscript critiquing, discussion, and other exercises each afternoon, starting at 1:00pm and running until at least 4:00pm (often until 5:00pm if needed). The rest of the day is free for writing, study, consultation, and recreation. We often have lunch together in the student union at noon, and most nights we go out together for dinner on the town and then many gather back at the scholarship hall for late-night movies and conversations about fiction writing. Attendees write or revise one manuscript over the weekend and often work on an exercise or two. Many participants exchange more manuscripts during and after the Workshop, so be prepared to share more if you find interested readers! Many workshoppers keep in regular touch via our discussion group and even build lifetime relationships.
Bradley Denton and Nathaniel Williams playing the blues, 2011 Workshop.
Does the Workshop help students get published? Most former attendees have not only gone on to publish in both the short and long forms, but to win the fields most prestigious awards. Among these are multiple award-winning authors Pat Cadigan, Bradley Denton, Andy Duncan, John Kessel (all former guest authors), and many more. Two Workshop graduates have won the grand prize in the Writers of the Future contest, and the majority of grads have gone on to publish their work.
The "Young Gunns" of 2004
Enrollment for the traditional workshop is limited to 8-10 enrollees, so if you wish to attend, be sure to apply early! Positions go quickly. To reserve a spot for this year's Writers Workshop:
Between January 11 and April 25, submit via email to Chris McKitterick (email@example.com) a sample story in proper manuscript formatting (and in US 8-1/2" x 11" paper layout) you wish to use in the Workshop. Also tell me a little about you and your writing goals. Use the subject line "CSSF 2016 Workshop Application" for clarity. I accept applications from January 11 through April 25 (first-come, first-considered). My goal is to pick a good diversity of writers whose approaches and writing styles work well together. We usually fill our ranks quickly, so submit early! Many acceptances are offered by early March, and I continue a rolling series of acceptances until the Workshop fills.
Are you a KU student or hoping to take the Workshop for KU English credit? Great! KU enrollment is late in the application period (starts in April), so to ensure your spot submit your application package - before KU enrollment - to Chris McKitterick as soon as you know you would like to apply for the Workshop. For details on registering for graduate English credit (ENGL 757) at KU, contact Lydia Ash (firstname.lastname@example.org) for how to apply for non-degree-seeking or regular graduate credit (after you've been accepted). If you wish to take the Workshop for KU undergraduate credit and have worked with him in the past or won the James E. Gunn Award for Science Fiction Writing, contact Chris McKitterick (at his email@example.com work address) about enrolling (usually ENGL 495).
If you are accepted, congratulations! Be prepared to have two more stories (for a total of 3 short stories or two novellas) ready to submit to the group before May 18 (sooner is better!). You'll receive detailed information about the Workshop and an invitation to our private Google Group by late April. If you are not accepted, I'll provide details about how to improve your chances of getting in during the rolling-acceptance period, or next year.
For those accepted to the workshop and in financial need - especially KU creative-writing graduate students - we are now pleased to offer the new Mark Bourne Speculative Fiction Writing Scholarship. You must apply to be considered for this scholarship.
If you are accepted, we'll contact you with registration instructions. If you wish to apply for reduced tuition, contact Chris McKitterick right away and submit a note explaining your financial need. Your registration is not complete until you have sent us your check by the deadline.
Between acceptance into the Workshop and May 18, submit a total of three stories (or two novelettes or novellas - a maximum of 25,000 words total) via our Google Group for distribution to other Workshop attendees. Please identify your preferred order, as that affects which our Special Guest Authors critique (McKitterick critiques all three). You may submit these one at a time or all at once. Final deadline for submitting stories to be workshopped is May 18. For ease of distribution, submit only in .doc or .docx format via our private group.
If you are accepted, you'll be informed how to register and pay.
If you are not a current KU student but wish to take the Workshop for graduate credit, you also need to apply as a non-degree-seeking graduate student. Fill out this KU application form and supply a copy of an official transcript showing proof of an undergraduate degree. On the application form is an area for comments/notes. Indicate that you wish to enroll only for the summer SF Writing Workshop (ENGL 757). You must enroll using the KU online enrollment system, and you need a permission code from Chris McKitterick (firstname.lastname@example.org) sometime during April. You can officially enroll for graduate credit after you have the code, but be sure to enroll before June 1 or KU will charge a late-enrollment fee. If you have any questions about the application or enrollment process, please let Lydia Ash (email@example.com) know.
Contact us for any logistical help you might need in getting settled for your stay. More logistical information is available on the CSSF LiveJournal page.
Return to the scene of the crime to reinforce lessons from your last workshop and reconnect with other alums. New for 2016!
Starting this year, we offer a less formal, advanced two-week workshop for people who have attended this Spec-Fic Workshop in previous years (aka "Young Gunns"). It runs from June 19–July 1.
Repeat Offenders is basically a chance to work with similarly trained writers on whatever project everyone has underway. Details are still getting worked out, but we're planning project development sessions, traditional workshopping, short talks, and so forth, plus lots of time for writing: details to come as we work out everyone's wishes! This is not only a time to further develop your writing, but also a great chance to get advice and feedback on ongoing, longer projects. We might have other guests drop in as well!
Enrollment is limited to 10, so apply early! To apply:
By May 18, contact Chris McKitterick (firstname.lastname@example.org). We're already starting to fill up, so contact us soon. Include in your message:
Rooms share a bathroom, either with an adjacent room or down the hall (3 stalls and showers/bath per 6 rooms), and have a sink and counter space for a microwave or other small kitchen equipment. Other building amenities include a lovely wraparound porch with seating (including a chair-swing or two), basketball court, refrigerator, coffee and tea equipment, and many private study areas. We are conveniently located just down the hill from the KU Student Union and a few blocks' walk from lovely downtown Lawrence. Be sure to let us know if you have special needs.
Housing does not include meals, but these are available in the nearby Kansas Union and a variety of wonderful restaurants, and Lawrence offers at least one fine micro-brewery. Check out Lawrence.com or Yelp's Lawrence page for a list of many of the local eating establishments. We head downtown most evenings for group dinners with all those interested!
The default housing arrangement is now a single room with a shared bath for each attendee. Some double rooms may be available for people who request them, but we will not be able to find roommates for you.
Housing cannot accommodate check-ins earlier than June 5 or beyond July 1.
Logistical information collected over the years is available on the Center's LiveJournal.
The "Young Gunns" of 2003
Front row: Kij Johnson, Jeannette Cheney, Betsy Boyce, Nolen Harsh, Terry Mackey, Adrian Simmons.
Middle row: Harold Agnew, Thomas Seay, Pat Buehler, Jennifer Schwabach, Cliff Johns, Kelly Green, Betty Hull.
Back row: Wolfgang Baur, David Kirtley, Rod Rogers, Frederik Pohl, Chuck Marsters, Larry Taylor, James Gunn.
Housing costs have gone up dramatically, but we do not
wish to pass on the increase. If you'd like to help future attendees, please consider
making a tax-deductible donation! Click the button
below to give using a credit card, or write a check made out to CSSF and mail it or bring it
with you. Thanks!
Because of new procedures change how the University makes housing available to summer programs, we have changed our rate structure for the workshops, with a single flat rate that includes tuition, administrative costs, and housing, payable within a short time after acceptance (TBA in your acceptance letter). Please inform us as soon as possible if you have a roommate; we cannot find room-shares for you.
- tuition, administrative fees, and single room with shared bathroom (13 nights): $1120
- tuition, administrative fees, and shared room (13 nights), per person: $920
- tuition and administrative fees without housing (for locals, or if you make arrangements to stay elsewhere): $700
- tuition and single room with shared bathroom (12 nights): $880
- tuition and shared room (12 nights), per person: $700
- tuition and administrative fees without housing (for locals, or if you make arrangements to stay elsewhere): $550
- tuition, administrative fees, and single room with shared bathroom (13 nights): $1950
- tuition, administrative fees, and shared room (13 nights), per person: $1590
- tuition and administrative fees without housing (for locals, or if you make arrangements to stay elsewhere): $1200
Young-Adult Writing Workshop with Tessa Gratton and Natalie C. Parker (dates TBA)
- tuition, administrative fees, and single room with shared bathroom (6 nights): $650
- tuition, administrative fees, and shared room (6 nights), per person: $540
- tuition and administrative fees without housing (for locals, or if you make arrangements to stay elsewhere): $400
Make checks payable to University of Kansas.
Meals and incidental costs rise the longer you stay, of course, so plan appropriately.
Thanks to a generous friend of the Center, a limited number of scholarships are available for outstanding writers and KU graduate students in financial need. To be considered, you must request it and explain your need in your application.
Everyone enjoys equal access to the Gunn Center's offerings, and we actively encourage students and scholars from diverse backgrounds to study with us. All courses offered by Gunn Center faculty are also available to be taken not-for-credit for professionalization purposes by community members (if space is available). Click here to see the Center's Diversity Statement.
The Academic Achievement and Access Center (AAAC) coordinates accommodations and services for eligible KU students. If you have a disability for which you wish to request accommodation and have not contacted the AAAC, please do so as soon as possible. Their office is located in 22 Strong Hall; their phone number is (785)864-4064 (V/TTY). Also please contact us privately about your needs in this course.
By car, Lawrence is at the intersection of U.S. 59 and
The nearest major airport is Kansas City International (MCI), about 55 miles from Lawrence. Transportation to Lawrence from Kansas City International can be arranged through one of several airport shuttle services.
Many transport services offer rides between the Kansas City International (MCI - the "M" is for "Mid-Continent") airport and Lawrence, including:
Here's a map showing where KU is located in Eastern Kansas:
Kansas Union map (in .pdf format).
Google Maps centered on the KU Kansas Union.
For anyone who hasn't visited, Lawrence is wonderful, a lively small city in the Kaw River valley, filled with art, events, and activities. The location of the University of Kansas, Lawrence is situated about 40 miles from Kansas City and 20 miles from Topeka. Summers can be hot, but classrooms and housing are air-conditioned.
Among its many amenities, the University of Kansas contains a large science-fiction collection (including a number of single-author paper and manuscript collections, such as Theodore Sturgeon's) and other great reference collections; museums of natural history and art; and sports, theater, and lots more. Lawrence offers many excellent restaurants and shopping and recreational opportunities. Kansas City is less than an hour away. Nighttime opportunities include movies, dinner, live concerts, star-gazing sessions, and of course talk about writing and more.
The nearest major airport is Kansas City International (MCI), about 55 miles from
Lawrence. Transportation to Lawrence from Kansas City International can be
arranged through one of several airport shuttle services. By car, Lawrence is at
the intersection of U.S. 59 and
A Basic SF Library |
About Gunn |
Educational Program |
Films and Online Videos |
SF News |
SF Youth Program|
CSSF Awards | Campbell Conference | James Gunn Essays | SF Hall of Fame | CSSF Blog | Resources | Donate