Fiction Writing Workshop
Learn how to write SF that sells.
Using the short-story form, we help you master the elements that create great stories.
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. We'll likely enjoy other special-guest authors and editors, as well. Simultaneous scheduling and adjacent meeting spaces provide valuable opportunities to intermingle with the other group and discuss writing from different perspectives outside regular meeting times.
For 2015, 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:
During the last day or two of the second week, we also expect to host both our Campbell Award and Sturgeon Award-winning authors, plus Kij Johnson and other authors and editors who are attending the Campbell Conference, to talk about the business of writing.
Founder and Week 1 Special Guest Author
Gunn plans to participate during Week One, giving comments on one of each workshopper's stories, and offer 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.
In 2007, he was named Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master.
John Kessel returns to the Workshop for his first visit since his student days at KU! He joins us during the first weekend and will participate throughout Week Two, critiquing each workshopper's final story and revision.
Born in Buffalo, New York, John Kessel is the author of the novels Good News from Outer Space (which placed for the 1990 John W. Campbell Memorial Award), and Corrupting Dr. Nice, which Kim Stanley Robinson called, "the best time travel novel ever written," and, in collaboration with James Patrick Kelly, Freedom Beach. His short story collections are Meeting In Infinity (a New York Times Notable Book), The Pure Product, and The Baum Plan for Financial Independence.
A writer of erudite comic and satiric short fiction, Kessel's stories have twice received the Nebula Award (for his novella "Another Orphan," a fantasy about a commodities broker who awakes one morning to find himself trapped in the novel Moby Dick, and more recently for "Pride and Prometheus," in which Mary Bennet from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice meets Mary Shelley's Victor Frankenstein), in addition to the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, the Locus Poll, and the James Tiptree Jr. Award. His play "Faustfeathers" won the Paul Green Playwright's Prize, and his story "A Clean Escape" was dramatized as the first episode of the ABC TV series Masters of Science Fiction, starring Sam Waterston and Judy Davis. In 2009 his story "Pride and Prometheus" received both the Nebula Award and the Shirley Jackson Award.
With Jim Kelly, he has edited five anthologies of stories re-visioning contemporary short SF, most recently Digital Rapture: The Singularity Anthology, as well as Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology, The Secret History of Science Fiction, and Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology.
Kessel holds a B.A. in Physics and English, and a Ph.D. in American Literature. He helped found and served as the first director of the MFA program in creative writing at North Carolina State University, where he has taught since 1982. He also writes plays and performs in the independent films, such as The Delicate Art of the Rifle. He lives and works in Raleigh, NC.
As has been our tradition with guest authors for the Workshop, Kessel is also a "Young Gunn," having studied science fiction and writing under James Gunn. He earned his PhD from the University of Kansas in 1981.
Though he only joins us for a day or two, Steven Gould will participate in this year's Workshop, as well!
Gould is the author of Jumper, Wildside, Helm, Blind Waves, Reflex, Jumper: Griffin's Story, 7th Sigma, Impulse, and Exo, as well as stories published in Analog, Asimov's, and Amazing, and elsewhere. He received the Hal Clement Young Adult Award for Science Fiction, and has been a Hugo, Nebula, Prometheus, and Compton Crook finalist, but his favorite distinction was being on the American Library Association's list of Top 100 Banned Books 1990-1999 for Jumper, made into the 2008 feature film. In 2013 he was hired to help develop the movie sequels to James Cameron's Avatar, as well as write four novels based on the films. Steve lives in New Mexico with his wife, writer Laura J. Mixon (M.J. Locke) and their two daughters, two dogs, and three chickens. He has practiced aikido and Japanese sword for the last two decades, and currently serves as President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).
The Campbell Conference following the workshop plans to bring the winners of the Campbell and Sturgeon Awards to the campus as special guests, and several more SF-writers and editors are also scheduled to attend, talk, and sign books during the special Campbell Conference this year. We invite our special guests to come and talk to us on Friday afternoon about "The Secrets of Successful Science Fiction" - always a great experience! Our notable visiting authors, editors, and other guests of the Conference usually stay in the dorm with the attendees, so you will have special access to these luminaries.
Starting in 2013, we are proud to announce that Workshop participants may register for the Campbell Conference at no cost (except for the banquet): Just note that you are a Workshop attendee on your registration form. You must still register in advance, of course!
Workshop moment, 2013
James Gunn (left) and Jeremy Tolbert.
Participants have time for writing, recreation, socializing, and individual conferences.
This year's Writing Workshop meets from June 1–12, and the Campbell Conference, June 12–14. We have an informal get-together with the Science Fiction & Fantasy Novel Writers Workshop attendees on Sunday evening, 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.
Attendees arrive at the dorm the day before critiquing begins and often stay through the entire Campbell Conference, so plan to arrive on Sunday and leave the Sunday afternoon or evening of the Campbell Conference. If you wish to arrive early to settle in, please let us know so we can see if we arrange that with the Housing department.
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 (2,500 - 10,000 words), though writers frequently turn in short-shorts (around 1,000 words) or longer works. If you write novelettes or novellas (longer than 10,000 words), please limit your submissions to less than 30,000 words total.
Due to time constraints and the structure of the Workshop, we usually cannot take up more than three works total, even if they are short-shorts or flash fiction, so keep that in mind. If you are writing a novel, consider instead the novel-writing workshop held in conjunction with this short-form workshop, because it's challenging to give useful feedback on just a few chapters. 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.
The "Young Gunns" of 2008
Applicants will be notified about acceptance starting in March, so contact us as soon as you can! Enrollment for KU graduate credit begins in April, but 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 20, whichever comes first. Note: The 2014 Workshop still has a few available slots, so apply now!
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 session of manuscript critiquing, discussion, and other exercises each afternoon, starting at 1:00pm and running until 4:00pm (or a little later 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 story. 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!
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 (who has also served as guest author), John Kessel, 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
New starting in 2015! Return to the scene of the crime to reinforce the lessons from your last workshop, and reconnect with other alums.
Starting this year, we offer an informal two-week workshop for people who have previously attended the regular workshop. It runs from June 14–26, but because the workshop starts on Sunday afternoon, as the Campbell Conference winds down, we strongly encourage you to consider showing up on Friday, June 12, for the conference. As with the regular workshop, Repeat Offenders Workshop participants may also register for the Conference at no cost: Just note that you are a Workshop attendee on your registration form. You must still register in advance, of course!
Repeat Offenders is basically a chance to work with similarly trained writers on whatever project is underway. Kij often leads a few discussions and works on fishbowling and development as needed.
By May 19, contact Chris McKitterick (firstname.lastname@example.org). Be sure you:
The SF Writing Workshop is now full. If you wish to take the workshop, apply early next year!
Enrollment is limited to 8-12 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 2 and April 20, 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 2015 Workshop Application" for clarity. I accept applications from January 2 through April 20 (first-come, first-served). My goal is to pick a good diversity of writers whose approaches and writing styles work well together. We usually fill our ranks, so submit early! The first acceptances go out in 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 (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 take the Workshop. For details on registering for graduate English credit (ENGL 757) at KU, contact Lydia Ash (firstname.lastname@example.org). 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 (email@example.com) about enrolling (ENGL 495).
If you are accepted, congratulations! Be prepared to have two more stories (a total of 3, 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 in 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. To attend the Campbell Conference, be sure to register for that, as well - it may be free for Workshop attendees, but you still need to register! 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 a maximum of 30,000 words for all three works) 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 20. For ease of distribution, submit only electronic documents (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 by 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.
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 all 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.
Tuition for the Workshop is $600, exclusive of meals and housing, upon acceptance. Due to a generous donation, we plan to offer at least one scholarship for the workshops based on need and potential for success. Check with us for details before you apply.
If you wish to take the Workshop for KU credit (English 757 or 495), enroll as usual through KU (we also require $100 to help cover costs associated with our guest authors, payable to KU). Dorm and meal costs rise the longer you stay, of course, so plan appropriately. Meals vary in cost depending on where you eat.
Basic Campbell Conference membership is now included free to all Gunn Center summer-program registrants; note that you are an SF Institute student in your online-registration form (instructions here). You are also invited to attend the Awards Ceremony on Friday evening, but you must still register and pay for the Banquet meal if you wish to eat.
Thanks to a generous donation from a friend of the Center, a limited number of scholarships are available for KU graduate students and outstanding writers in financial need. To be considered, please request it and explain your need when contacting us. Details on this page.
Our official dorm housing for out-of-town attendees is likely to be one of the lounges in Rieger or Krehbiel Scholarship Hall at 1323 Ohio Street, a new residence located near the Kansas Student Union, Oread Hotel, and downtown. 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. They 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 Lydia Ash know if you have special needs.
Dormitory rooms are available at the following rates. These may vary slightly each year.
Note: Prices have gone up
dramatically this year, but we do not wish to pass on the increase. If you'd
like to help keep housing prices low for future attendees, please consider
making a donation to help the Gunn Center cover our losses! Use the button below
to use a credit card, or write a check made out to CSSF. Thanks!
If you wish to stay in a dorm, you must make dorm reservations by early May. Please pay for your room in advance once you hear from Lydia Ash about this year's final rate. Check-out is at noon.
Check out VisitLawrence.com for local hotel information.
Meals are available in a variety of places, including the Kansas Union and a myriad of local restaurants. Check out Lawrence.com for a list of just a few of the local eating establishments. We head downtown each evening for a diversity of group dinners for all those interested!
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.
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
Contact us for any logistical help you might need in getting settled for your stay:
Lydia Ash ( firstname.lastname@example.org )
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