Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop
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"Repeat Offenders" Spec-Fic Workshop

Learn to write SF that sells.
Using the short-story form, we help you master the elements that create great fiction.
Since 1992.


Instructors

Details

How to Apply

"Repeat Offenders" Workshop

Housing for the Writers Workshop

Costs

Diversity and Disability

2018 Workshoppers in our scholarship-hall lounge
2018 Workshop cohort
Sitting: Pat Cadigan, Julian Richardson.
Standing, left to right: Aubrie Schartz, Jean Asselin, Mary Fluker, Kathy Kitts, Theodore Nollert, Sarah Worrel,
Patricia Crumpler, Sanna Breytberg, Ian Martinez-Cassmeyer, Chris McKitterick.

For 2022, award-winning author and SF scholar and educator Christopher McKitterick plans on resuming the tradtional, intensive, two-week summer workshop on speculative-fiction storytelling. (He's also planning on offering a unique series of short online workshops and critique sessions - TBA.)

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 creative cohort that's diverse in terms of both genre and experience.

SFWA Science Fiction Grand Master James Gunn established his workshop in 1985 and led it (with appearances from many award-winning authors) until 1996, when author and long-time co-instructor 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 in 2010, handing off the workshop to McKitterick but still dropping in from time to time as a special guest to meet the workshoppers and offer words of writing wisdom (until his death in 2020).

McKitterick normally invites other 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 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.

His recent guest instructors have included Pat Cadigan, Bradley Denton, Andy Duncan, James Gunn, Kij Johnson, and John Kessel.

Instructors


Selfie of Chris reflected in an astronaut helmet at NASA's Mission Control.

McKitterick leads the Workshop, participating from when the application period opens in January through the end of the summer program, critiquing every story and giving short talks on writing - especially during Week One. He's been taking and teaching writing workshops across the country since the 1980s, has been a part of the Spec-Fic Workshop since 1992, and founded the "Repeat Offenders" Workshop (advanced workshop for returning alums) in 2016.

In 2021, McKitterick founded the new Ad Astra Center for Science Fiction and the Speculative Imagination (launch announcement here), directed (and previously helped run) the J Wayne and Elsie M Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction from 1995-2022, teaches SF and creative writing at KU and elsewhere, and offers workshops and masterclasses around the world.

Chris' short work has appeared in markets including Aftermaths, Analog, Argentus, Artemis, Captain Proton, Discovery Channel Magazine, E-Scape, Extrapolation, Foundation, James Gunn's Ad Astra, Libraries Unlimited, Locus, Mission Tomorrow, Mythic Circle, NOTA, Ruins: Extraterrestrial, Sentinels, Sense of Wonder, SFRA Review, Synergy, Tomorrow Speculative Fiction, Top Deck magazine, various TSR publications, Visual Journeys, Westward Weird, World Literature Today, a bowling poem anthology, and elsewhere. His newest short fiction, "Ashes of Exploding Suns, Monuments to Dust," was on the Tangent 2018 Recommended Reading List and won the AnLab Reader's Award for best novelette - his first major writing award. He regularly publishes nonfiction about SF and other writings, including a poem or two that became lyrics for songs. His debut novel, Transcendence, is in its second edition. He recently finished a couple more novels, Empire Ship and The Galactic Adventures of Jack and Stella, and has several other projects on the burners.

En route to becoming an SF scholar, writer, and teacher, McKitterick studied astrophysics, education, and psychology. He earned his BA in creative writing from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he ran two observatories and a planetarium. He spent a year teaching high school in the Montana Badlands, then began formal SF writing and literature studies in 1992 with James Gunn at the University of Kansas, where he earned his MA in creative writing and continued post-graduate studies ever after. For nearly a decade, he worked for gaming and tech companies in Seattle, spending summer vacations teaching the SF Workshop and SF Institute. In 2002, KU recruited him to teach SF and writing full-time, and to direct the center for the study of science fiction.

Read more about McKitterick here, or check out his personal website.

Pat Cadigan dispensing wisdom
Pat Cadigan dispensing wisdom
 

Andy Duncan with his writing notebook
Andy Duncan with his writing notebook
 

James Gunn and Jeremy Tolbert critiquing in our dorm lounge
Workshop moment, 2013
Gunn (left) and Jeremy Tolbert.

"James Gunn is as sage as they come."
-Trent Walters, from a Workshop review for SF Site

2022 SF Writing Workshop

The workshop normally meets every weekday afternoon for two weeks, and we begin with an informal get-together with Kij Johnson's 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 each evening.

Young Gunns 2013 in our scholarship-hall lounge
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.

Young Gunns 2011 critiquing in our dorm lounge
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 Kij Johnson's 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!

Young Gunns 2008 in action
The "Young Gunns" of 2008

Applicants apply starting in January or February and are notified about acceptance starting in mid-March, so contact us as soon as you can! McKitterick often offers his workshop for graduate KU credit, as well; though for-credit enrollment begins in April, contact him early if you hope to enroll via that route so we can reserve you a spot. We continue accepting applications until the Workshop fills or until the deadline, whichever comes first.

Young Gunns 2005 in our dorm lounge
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 McKitterick's 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! The system seems to work.

Young Gunns 2004 at Vermont Street Barbeque
The "Young Gunns" of 2004

How to Apply

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:

  1. Between January 31 and May 15, submit to Chris McKitterick (spec.fic.workshop@gmail.com) a sample story in proper manuscript format (using 8-1/2" x 11" layout) that you wish to have critiqued during the Workshop. For clarity, please use the subject line "2022 SF Workshop Application."

    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 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 creative goals. We fill our ranks quickly, so don't delay! 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.

  2. If you are accepted, congratulations! Be prepared to have your other work 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 early 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 for next year.

  3. If you are accepted, I'll contact you with registration instructions and add you to our Google discussion group.

  4. Between acceptance into the Workshop and May 18, submit your to-be-workshopped stories (a total of 3 short stories, 2 novelettes, or one novella and a short-short, staying under the maximum of 25,000 words, combined) via our Google Group for distribution to other participants. 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. 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.

Contact McKitterick for any logistical help you might need in getting settled for your stay. More logistical information collected over the years is available on the legacy LiveJournal page. We also use other social media, and I'll send out lots of suggestions via our Google Group mailing list.

Want to take the Workshop for KU graduate credit?

Are you a KU student hoping to take the workshop for KU credit? Great! As a courtesy to the University of Kansas, this course has often been available for graduate credit. KU enrollment is late in the Workshop application period (begins 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 credit at KU, ask about 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 (stay tuned for the line number). You must enroll using the KU online enrollment system, and you need a permission code 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 Award for Science Fiction Writing he previously offered, contact Chris McKitterick about enrolling (stay tuned for line number).

2016 Workshoppers in our scholarship-hall lounge
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.

"Repeat Offenders" Writer's Workshop
  2022

Return to the scene of the crime to reinforce lessons from prior workshops and reconnect with alums. Since 2016.

Chris McKitterick offers an advanced (and less formal) two-week workshop exclusively for alums (aka "Young Gunns") of the Spec-Fic Workshop.

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 hope to once again have the honor of hosting Pat Cadigan as Special Guest Author-Instructor. 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 15, contact Chris McKitterick (spec.fic.workshop@gmail.com). We fill up as fast as (or faster than) the traditional workshop, so contact me ASAP. Include in your message:

  • "2022 Repeat Offenders Workshop Application" in your subject line.
  • Describe the project(s) you're working on - and whether you'll bring existing stories to be workshopped or projects you want to develop - and what you'd like to get from the workshop.
  • Do you want nothing more than a writing retreat? That's cool - just let me know. You're welcome to participate in others' dev or crit sessions, and check-ins and professionalization discussions, plus the usual evening hangouts of course, and we're setting aside our room for morning Write Group (quiet writing time).
  • Note: The May application date is for the Repeat Offenders Workshop only; the deadline for the traditional workshop is much earlier.

2018 RO Workshoppers in our scholarship-hall lounge
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 RO Workshoppers in our scholarship-hall lounge
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 RO Workshoppers in our scholarship-hall lounge
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.

Housing for the Workshops

Stay tuned as we retool the workshop for 2022....

2017 Workshoppers in our scholarship-hall lounge
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.

If you'd like to help future attendees, please consider making a tax-deductible donation!

Costs

Stay tuned for 2022 costs as we retool the workshop.

Please complete your registration and make all payments before you arrive, unless you make special arrangements.

Meals and incidental costs rise the longer you stay, of course, so plan appropriately.

Thanks to generous friends, a limited number of scholarships and discounts have been 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, and funds need to be available to help.

Young Gunns of 2003 outside the dorm
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.

Diversity and Disability

Everyone enjoys equal access to my offerings, and I actively encourage students and scholars from diverse backgrounds to study. All my courses are also available to be taken not-for-credit for professionalization purposes by community members (if space is available). Click here to see my 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.

Transportation from Airport to Lawrence

By car, Lawrence is at the intersection of US 59 and I-70 (Kansas Turnpike). The west interchange is closer to campus. Lawrence can also be reached along the lovely Kansas Highway 10.

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:

  • Better Alternative Transportation Services (BATS): 24/7 door-to-door service; individual rates.
  • SDM Transportation: 24/7 door-to-door service; offers airport shuttles or luxury cars with individual rates.
  • Jayhawk Taxi: 24/7 door-to-door service; fixed rate to the airport for 1-2 passengers.
  • Super Shuttles: 24/7 door-to-door service; group rates; group discount code: S6Q2W.
  • Five Guys Shuttle: 24/7 door-to-door service; rates per van, not per person.
  • Here 2 There Shuttle: 24/7 door-to-door service, airport shuttle, and reservations for special events. Can hold up to 10 passengers at once. Call or text 785-380-8879 or email 785shuttle@gmail.com
  • KCI Express Shuttle offers pickup and delivery right to our dorm or your hotel for only $5 more than the normal rate. Phone Reservations: (816)645-1815. After 8:00 PM CST (816)372-1556.
  • Ground Transportation Services is a local Lawrence business that provides 24/7 taxi service within Lawrence, and the surrounding areas. They also operate daily door-to-door shuttle service from Lawrence to the Kansas City Airport. (888)467-3729 or (785)838-4500. See a schedule here.
  • Uber and Lyft also operate in the area.

Notes:

  • Reserve well in advance of your trip to confirm pricing and availability.
  • The Kansas City International Airport's official airport code is MCI - "Mid-Continent International Airport."
  • This list is for your information only. We are not affiliated with these services, and some attendees had problems with others, so do your research.

Maps

Here's a cropped map of the University of Kansas (click the image to see it in full-screen size):
 click for larger map

Here's a map showing where KU is located in Eastern Kansas:
 

University of Kansas map.

Kansas Union map.

Lawrence bus routes and maps.

Google Maps centered on the KU Kansas Union.

Lawrence in the Summer


1992 SF Workshop
Back row: Frederik Pohl, Chris McKitterick (my first year!), John Ordover, James Gunn.
Front row: Tom Crice, Dan Gollub, Rebecca Bates, Sheila Hartney, and...

 

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 I-70 (Kansas Turnpike) or K-10. The I-70 West Lawrence interchange is closer to campus. Lawrence can also be reached along the lovely Kansas Highway 10.

Find out all about Lawrence - its history, stores, museums, observatories, and SFnal activities - here.

 

I believe strongly in the free sharing of information via digital humanities, so you'll find a lot of content - including course syllabi and many materials from my classes - on this and related sites and social networks as 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 me and link back to this website. I'd also love to hear from you if you used my materials!

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 Chris McKitterick.)

Creative Commons License
Works on this site are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

updated 10/2/2021