I’ll be leading an 8-week workshop for intermediate-to-advanced fiction writers, beginning Sept. 24. We’ll meet on Monday evenings, in South Philadelphia, to discuss each others’ work-in-progress and tackle various issues of craft, with an eye toward submitting your work for publication.
Everyone will have a chance to workshop at least two of their own stories. In class we’ll take them apart and look at them the way a mechanic might look at a car engine: inspecting the gears and wires, figuring out how the thing runs, and what we could do to make it run more effectively.
You’ll leave the workshop with specific ideas for revision, reading suggestions, and a working knowledge of how and where to submit your work for publication.
The cost for the 8-week class is $250. Here’s what you’ll get for your money:
1. Detailed feedback on two stories or novel chapters, both in class (through our workshop discussion) and in writing, from me and your classmates.
2. Weekly discussions centered around issues of craft (point of view, dialogue, managing narrative tension, creating complicated characters, revision, building solid work habits, submitting your work for publication, etc.)
3. A course pack that includes several short stories from contemporary authors, a sampling of successful novel openings, plus a few useful essays about the craft of writing.
4. Snacks (nothing kills a good class discussion like hunger pangs).
The class will be capped at eight students. To secure a spot, please just fill out the form here. I’ll ask you to send a $25 check to hold the spot, and you can pay the balance once the class starts and we’ve met in person (since I realize people would have very legitimate reasons not to send $250 to some stranger they’ve only “met” through the Internet).
For more information about the class, check out the Frequently Asked Questions below. For more about me, and testimonials from former students, just check out the tabs at the top of the page.
Got questions? Feel free to drop me an email.
Is this class for me? What does “intermediate to advanced” mean?
The class is best for those who have written some fiction already, and who want to take their work to the next level, though that “next level” might mean different things for different writers. Maybe you’ve been a dabbler in fiction and you’d like to start taking it more seriously. Maybe you’d like to start submitting your work to literary journals. Maybe you’ve already published a few things, but would like to publish in bigger markets, or build more regular writing habits. Maybe you’re thinking about applying to MFA programs, and you want to hone the stories you’ll submit as a writing sample.
The great thing about a workshop is that it can accommodate a variety of experience levels, because everyone has strengths he or she can bring to the table and share with others.
My only rule is this: When you’re in my class you’re a writer, and you think of yourself as a writer. That means you take your work, and yourself, seriously, that you hold yourself to a high standard and push yourself to get better.
But Mike, what makes you qualified to run a fiction workshop?
I’m glad you asked, hypothetical Internet person! I teach similar creative writing classes at Temple University, here in Philadelphia. I have an MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop, and my own stories have appeared in a number of literary journals, including EPOCH, The Southeast Review, The Baltimore Review, Eyeshot and Monkeybicycle. I’m also one of the founding editors, and current fiction editor, of Barrelhouse, a twice-yearly print journal based in Washington, D.C
I think that background gives me a unique perspective as a teacher. As a working writer, I’ve struggled (and continue to struggle!) with many of the same issues you’re probably struggling with, so this stuff’s not just theory to me. I can also tell you how an editor might read your fiction, and help you work toward publication, giving you something like a road map to the (often difficult to navigate) literary world.
Still not convinced? Check out the Testimonials page to see what others have said about my teaching.
How will this work? We’ll, like, sit in a circle and talk about our feelings? Is that what writers do?
Not exactly. For one thing, my living room is really more of a square. But we will follow a workshop model, which means the bulk of our time will be spent critiquing each others’ draft stories. I’m a firm believer in that model, because I think you can learn as much (if not more) about how fiction works by responding to the work of others. That process forces you to articulate your aesthetic preferences and think deeply about the relationship between reader and writer. It’s tough to read our own writing objectively, but when we read someone else’s work-in-progress we can much more easily see the flaws, the false starts, the missteps–and in figuring out how to improve those things, we’re also figuring out how to improve our own writing.
Basically, my philosophy on workshop is this: in a good workshop, you should learn just as much (if not more) during the weeks in which your work is not being discussed.
So we’ll just be workshopping? Is that the whole ball of wax?
In each class we’ll also do a bit of writing, and talk about issues of craft that go beyond the particular stories we’re discussing. Each class will follow this basic schedule:
1. A brief 10-15 minute writing exercise to get the juices flowing.
2. A craft discussion, with a different topic each week (e.g., point of view, dialogue, dramatic tension, work habits, revision, submitting your work, etc.)
3. Workshop of two stories or chapters submitted by your classmates.
I’m a little nervous about letting a room full of strangers critique my work. That sounds sort of painful.
The best workshops are honest without being mean-spirited. I aim for a classroom environment that’s supportive, one where writers are helping writers. That involves being honest about a work’s flaws, sure, but it also means encouraging the positive, and looking for ways to make a piece of writing work. I think our critiques are best when they come from a place of generosity, from taking each other–and ourselves–seriously as writers.
If it makes you feel any better, in all my years of running and participating in workshops, I’ve never seen anyone cry.
So, why should I take this class, rather than the million other in-person and online writing classes I could sign up for?
That’s a totally fair question. For one thing, I think this class is a pretty tremendous bargain. For $250 you’re getting detailed feedback on two stories (or novel chapters), you’re getting detailed craft lessons, and the chance to meet other local writers and share in a community of your peers. I’ve seen private workshop instructors charging upwards of $500 for classes that, frankly, look kind of lame to me, or that make all sorts of wild promises about how they’ll reprogram your brain to be more “creative.” I’m not a mystical shaman or a motivational speaker. In this class you’ll get straightforward feedback on your writing and a deeper understanding of how fiction works.
Online workshops can be great–I’ve taught some, in fact–but there’s something to be said for meeting in person, actually seeing the people you’re talking to, holding their stories in your hands. And snacks! You can’t eat snacks over the Internet.
There will be snacks?
There will be snacks! Since we meet in the evenings, at a time when a lot of people are just getting off work, I don’t want anyone’s concentration to be killed by their rumbling stomach. We’re not talking wedding-reception feast or anything, but I’ll provide some munchies–think cheese and crackers, veggies, hummus, that sort of thing. In past classes, participants more skilled than I am at the culinary arts have sometimes brought in homemade treats for everyone to enjoy (though of course that’s not a requirement; I’m not going to make anyone bake).
Okay, this all sounds great. How do I sign up?
If you’re interested in the class, please fill out the form here.
Each class is capped at eight participants. I’ll ask you to send me a check for $25 to hold your spot, and you can pay the balance at our first meeting.
Any questions, feel free to send me an email.