Fiction Writing Workshop
Learn to write SF that sells.
This summer, in conjunction with the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction, the SF&F Novel Writing Workshop, and the Young-Adult Novel Writing Workshop, Christopher McKitterick teaches an intensive two-week workshop on speculative-fiction storytelling, with special guest instructors Pat Cadigan and James Gunn.
This workshop is especially intended for writers who have just begun to publish or who need the final bit of insight or skill to master the elements that create great stories editors want and readers love, and we often see more-published authors who want to grow their writing or refresh their skills through an intensive workshop experience, as well. We work with all brands of speculative fiction, including horror, fantasy, magical realism, slipstream, speculative philosophy, hard SF, and so on, and McKitterick works hard to put together a good diversity of genre and experience.
SFWA Science Fiction Grand Master James Gunn established the Workshop in 1985 and led it (with appearances from Sturgeon and Campbell Award-winning authors) until 1996, when author and CSSF Director McKitterick began co-teaching; Kij Johnson also co-taught from 1996-2002, before branching off her own SF&F Novel Writing Workshop, which meets in the same building. 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 sometimes joins us for lunch in the (very good) Kansas Union cafeteria just up the hill.
McKitterick invites special guest author-instructors to help provide diverse perspectives on what makes great spec-fic, and we often enjoy the writing advice and camaraderie of other visiting authors and editors. Simultaneous scheduling and adjacent meeting spaces with other spec-fic writing workshops provide valuable opportunities to intermingle with the other groups in our building, and to discuss writing from different perspectives outside regular meeting times. Attendees also have many opportunities to socialize with one another, and many build life-long relationships.
This year's author-instructors:
Gunn hopes to participate during the Workshop, offering sage advice during at least a couple get-togethers, health permitting.
James Gunn's most-recent novel is 2017's Transformation, the final book in his Transcendental trilogy (after Transgalactic). He started writing SF in 1948, was a full-time freelance writer for four years, and has published 100 stories in magazines and books; most of them have been reprinted, some as many as a dozen times. He is the author of 30 books and the editor of 20; his master's thesis was serialized in a pulp magazine, and may be published in book form soon. 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, beginning our long tradition of SF@KU. An emeritus Professor of fiction writing at KU, Gunn still teaches, speaks, and regularly visits workshops and conferences.
Workshop moment, 2013
James Gunn (left) and Jeremy Tolbert.
James Gunn is as sage as they come.
-Trent Walters, from a Workshop review for SF Site
This year's Writing Workshop meets every weekday afternoon for two weeks, and we begin with an informal get-together with the SF/F Novel Writers Workshop attendees on Sunday evening beforehand at 6:00pm in the residential hall where we'll get acquainted and plan for the coming weeks. The advanced "Repeat Offenders" Workshop (for alums) takes place during the following two weeks. We have the full building to ourselves, and are a short walk (or drive) from lovely downtown Lawrence, where many go for dinner.
The Gunn Center Conference (this year, during the "Repeat Offenders" workshop) usually brings in the winners of the Campbell and Sturgeon Awards to campus as special guests, and several more SF writers and editors attend, talk, and sign books during the special Gunn Center Conference. We also invite our special guests to come talk on Friday afternoon about "The Secrets of Successful Science Fiction" - always a great experience! Sometimes our notable visiting authors, editors, and other guests of the Conference even stay in the dorm with the attendees, and our instructors either stay there or nearby, so you'll have special access to these luminaries.
Since 2013, we are pleased to announce that Workshop participants may register for the Gunn Center Conference at no cost (except for the banquet meal): Just note that you are a Workshop attendee on your registration form. You must still register in advance. Note the Conference dates to help arrange your travel - whether it occurs during the time you're here, all SF Summer program attendees get free registration for the Conference.
The "Young Gunns" of 2012
Front (left to right): Joan Slonczewski (2012 Campbell Award winner), Sheila Williams (editor of Asimov's), Sheila Finch (Campbell Award juror and author).
Back: 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, so plan to arrive on Sunday 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. 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!
In the final week, we often give semi-public readings to prepare you for a writing career - don't worry, we provide training for that. If attendees are interested, we might also plan for public readings in downtown Lawrence, a few blocks from where we stay and meet.
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. Short-shorts and flash fiction are welcome, too!
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.
Everyone comments on every story, we analyze each story for publishability, and encourage writers to submit their work for publication. We might also work on exercises, discuss successful fiction, and more. After the workshop, each year's cohort usually remains in regular contact for at least a year, supporting one another's writing careers and often continuing to critique their work. McKitterick's workshop is more than a two-week adventure; it's a community!
The "Young Gunns" of 2008
Applicants apply starting in mid-January and are notified about acceptance starting in March, so contact us as soon after the New Year 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. I 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 4:30pm (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 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 with their cohort via our discussion groups, return for the Repeat Offenders Workshop, and build lifetime working or even personal relationships.
Bradley Denton and Nathaniel Williams playing the blues, 2011 Workshop.
Does the Workshop help attendees get published? Most alums have not only gone on to publish, but to win the field's 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. Full list of alumni publications and awards coming soon, but we recently learned that about 90% of recent attendees have gone on to publish - perhaps the strongest record for any SF workshops! Our system seems to 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 14 and May 13, submit to Chris McKitterick
(email@example.com) a sample story in
manuscript format (using 8-1/2" x 11" paper layout) that you wish to use
during the Workshop. Use the subject
line "2019 SF Workshop Application" for clarity.
I accept applications during this period on a first-come, first-considered basis - be aware the Workshop usually fills by the end of March. My goal is to build a productive, supportive cohort by selecting a good diversity of writers whose approaches and writing styles I feel will work well together, so please let me know a little about you and your writing philosophy and goals. We fill our ranks quickly, so don't delay once you're ready! I offer most acceptances by late March, though I continue a rolling series of acceptances until the workshop fills or as we get late drops and additions.
If you are accepted, congratulations! Be prepared to have two more stories (for a total of 3 short stories, or 2 novellettes or a novella and a short-short) ready to submit to the group before May 17 (sooner is better!). You'll receive detailed information about the Workshop and an invitation to our private Google Group in late April through mid-May. If you are not accepted, I'll provide suggestions 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 pleased to offer the
Mark Bourne Speculative Fiction Writing Scholarship.
At the moment, we can usually only offer one scholarship per this and Kij's
novel workshop. To be considered, you must apply for
this at the same time you send your application materials.
3a. We offer smaller discounts for those in need who don't receive the Bourne scholarship, especially for Repeat Offenders. Be sure to request this when you apply; we also sometimes offer this option to those who applied for the larger scholarship when it is no longer available.
If you are accepted, we'll contact you with registration instructions. If you wish to apply for the scholarship, reduced tuition, or special fee waivers, contact Chris McKitterick right away and submit a note explaining your financial need. To attend the Gunn Center Conference, be sure to register for that, as well - it is free for Workshop attendees (and a great opportunity to rub shoulders with pros and fans in the field), but you still need to register. Your registration is not complete until you have sent us your check or otherwise paid, by the deadline.
Between acceptance into the Workshop and May 17, submit a total of three stories (or two novelettes or a novella and a flash or short-short to stay under the maximum of 25,000 words, combined) via our Google Group for distribution to other workshop attendees. Please identify your preferred order, as that affects which ones 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 17. 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, and must do so in advance to hold your slot in the workshop.
Are you a KU student hoping to take the workshop for KU credit? Great! As a courtesy to the English Department, this course is available for graduate English credit (ENGL 757). KU enrollment is late in the Workshop application period (starts in April), so to ensure your spot, submit your application package before KU enrollment to Chris McKitterick as soon as possible during the application period. For details on registering for graduate English credit 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 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. After you've been accepted, 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 Lydia Ash (email@example.com) before May. 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 ask.
If you wish to take the workshop for KU undergraduate credit and have worked with McKitterick in the past or won the James E. Gunn Award for Science Fiction Writing, contact Chris McKitterick about enrolling (usually ENGL 495).
Contact us for any logistical help you might need in getting settled for your stay. More logistical information collected over the years is available on the CSSF LiveJournal page. We also have a Facebook page, and will send out lots of suggestions via our Google Group mailing list.
2016 Workshop cohort
Front (left to right): Sarah Worrel, Caitlin Rogers, Andy Duncan, Andrea Corbin, Christopher McLucas.
Back: M. Luke McDonell, Izzy Wasserstein, Gregory Scheckler, Shawn Frazier, Dylan Henderson, Laura Wilson Anderson, Chris McKitterick.
Not pictured: James Gunn.
Return to the scene of the crime to reinforce lessons from prior workshops and reconnect with other alums. Since 2016.
Chris McKitterick now offers an advanced (and less formal) two-week workshop exclusively for alums (aka "Young Gunns") of the Spec-Fic Workshop. This year it runs through McKitterick's birthday and (if we offer a hoped-for add-on week) through James Gunn's birthday!
Repeat Offenders offers the opportunity to work with similarly trained writers - and special guest authors - on whatever projects you have underway. Details are customized for each year's attendees, but we usually plan project-development sessions (short and long work), traditional workshopping, theory and business talks, and so forth, and time for writing (some come primarily as a writing retreat and participate only in discussions): 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.
This year, we once again have the honor of hosting Pat Cadigan as Special Guest Author-Instructor during Week One (and probably Week Two as well!). In previous years, Pat and Andy Duncan have also joined us.
Enrollment is limited to 10 active participants (we may allow more who wish to attend as a writing retreat, Housing space permitting), so apply early!
By May 17, contact Chris McKitterick (firstname.lastname@example.org). We fill up as fast as (or faster than) the traditional workshop, so contact me ASAP. Include in your message:
2018 Repeat Offenders
Seated (left to right): Pat Cadigan, Patricia Crumpler, Kathy Kitts.
Standing: Anna Sherer, Kristen Koopman, Adam Cheney, Jean Asselin, Rebecca Dorf Landau, Rachelle Smith, Sarah Worrel, Chris McKitterick.
Not Pictured: M. Luke McDonell.
2017 Repeat Offenders
Front: Pat Cadigan.
Second row (left to right): Rachelle Smith, Sabrina Starnaman, Patricia Crumpler, Chris McKitterick.
Back: Jalyn Powell, M. Luke McDonell, Adam Cheney, Kristen Koopman, Kathy Kitts, Jean Asselin, Sarah Worrel.
Not pictured: Andy Duncan.
2016 Repeat Offenders
Front (left to right): Kristen Koopman, Jalyn Powell, Gregory Scheckler.
Back: Carolyn Kaberline, Jean Asselin, Kathy Kitts, Chris McKitterick, Rachelle Smith, Shawn Frasier.
Not pictured: Isaac Bell.
Our official dorm housing will likely again be the first-floor lounge in Rieger Scholarship Hall at 1323 Ohio Street, located near the Kansas Student Union, Oread Hotel, and downtown Lawrence. We have the full building to ourselves, including study nooks, a grand piano, tons of SF and writing-related books, a dining area (with an ice machine, a refrigerator, kettles, coffee machines, and so forth), and a movie-watching lounge stocked with hundreds of films.
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.
The Center stores a bunch of sheets, pillows, blankets, floor mats, and some other items, but it's a good idea to bring your own if you want more or have specific needs. Air conditioning can sometimes be too vigorous or not enough before being serviced, and the outside weather can be hot and rainy, so prepare appropriately.
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 two fine micro-breweries and many bakeries. 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 earlier check-ins or later check-outs.
More logistical information collected over the years is available on the Center's LiveJournal.
2017 Workshop cohort
Front: Wendy Van Camp, Pat Cadigan (right).
Back, left to right: Chris McKitterick, Desirée Neyens, Stephanie Grossman, Emma Cook, Anna Sherer, John-Paul Hurley, Hilary Ritz, Dominick D'Aunno, Patricia Crumpler, Chris Kelworth.
Not pictured: Jean Asselin, Adam Cheney, James Gunn, Kathy Kitts, Sarah Worrel.
Housing costs have gone up dramatically over the past few
years, 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, with a single flat rate that includes tuition, administrative costs, and housing, payable within a short time after acceptance (details in your acceptance letter). Please inform us as soon as possible if you have a roommate; we cannot find room-shares for you.
We are working on budgeting and expenses, as well as KU Housing pricing changes, so these costs might change.
Speculative Fiction Writers Workshop with Chris McKitterick and Special Guest Author-Instructor (June 9-21, 2019)
- tuition, administrative fees, and single room with shared bathroom: $1450
- tuition, administrative fees, and shared room, per person: $1275
- tuition and administrative fees without housing (for locals, or if you make arrangements to stay elsewhere): $1050
- Guest-Author fee for those enrolling for KU credit (in addition to cost of KU credits, unless receiving special Center fee-waiver): $200
Young Gunns Repeat Offenders with Chris McKitterick and Special Guest Author-Instructor (June 23-July 5, 2019)
- tuition, administrative fees, and single room with shared bathroom: $1050
- tuition, administrative fees, and shared room, per person: $875
- tuition and administrative fees without housing (for locals, or if you make arrangements to stay elsewhere): $775
- Guest-Author fee for those enrolling for KU credit (in addition to cost of KU credits, unless receiving special Center fee-waiver): $200
- Writing retreat only? Contact McKitterick (email@example.com) to work out a special package.
- tuition, administrative fees, and single room with shared bathroom: $2350
- tuition, administrative fees, and shared room, per person: $1950
- tuition and administrative fees without housing (for locals, or if you make arrangements to stay elsewhere): $1700
- Guest-Author fee for those enrolling for KU credit (in addition to cost of KU credits, unless receiving special Center fee-waiver): $200
Make payments payable to University of Kansas (CSSF). Please complete your registration and make all payments before you arrive, unless you make special arrangements with McKitterick.
Meals and incidental costs rise the longer you stay, of course, so plan appropriately.
Basic Gunn Center Conference membership is now included free to all Gunn Center summer-program registrants - note that you are an SF Summer attendee in your registration. 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. Check this year's dates to help arrange your travel schedule; all this year's SF Summer program attendees are invited to attend this year's Conference before or after actively workshopping.
Thanks to a generous friend of the Center, a limited number of scholarships and discounts are available for outstanding writers, Repeat Offenders, and KU graduate students in financial need. To be considered, you must request it and explain your need in your application.
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.
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 US 59 and
The nearest major airport is Kansas City International (MCI), about 55 miles from Lawrence. Transportation to Lawrence from Kansas City International (MCI - the "M" is for "Mid-Continent") airport can be arranged through one of several airport transport services, including:
Here's a map showing where KU is located in Eastern Kansas:
Google Maps centered on the KU Kansas Union.
Unfortunately, each summer KU endures lots of road construction. See this map for details.
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
We believe strongly in the free sharing of information via digital humanities such as this website, so you'll find a lot of content - including all of McKitterick's course syllabi and many materials from our classes - on this and related sites and social networks as part of the Center's educational outreach. Feel free to use this content for independent study, or to adapt it for your own educational and nonprofit purposes; just please credit us and link back to this website. We'd also love to hear from you if you used our materials!
The Gunn Center is associated with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), the Science Fiction Research Association (SFRA), the University of Kansas, and other organizations, and is owned by James Gunn and Chris McKitterick. Web developer since 1992 is Chris McKitterick.
This website and its contents are copyright 1992-present by Christopher McKitterick except where noted, and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. (Feel free to use and adapt for non-profit purposes, with attribution. For publication or profit purposes, please contact James Gunn or Chris McKitterick.)
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