A Free Fiction Course

The days do run together, don’t they…

Here in Vermont, governor Phil Scott declared a state of emergency on March 13th, extending to April 15th.

On April 10th, he extended that state of emergency to last through May 15th.

On May 15th, he extended that state of emergency to last through June 15th.

It’s getting pretty repetitive out there, our wariness beginning to grate on us, uncertain sometimes what day of the week it is, going to bed what seems like 45 minutes after we got up in the morning. We need a little more structure than our current lives might provide.

So here’s my offer. What I’m going to do is give you an eight-week course that will teach you to write a short story, from scratch. Each week will have an assignment that comes to you on Monday, due on Thursday. Then on Friday, your second assignment will be to respond in a very specific way to the work that your colleagues have done—that’ll be due on Sunday. We’ll do that for eight weeks straight, and at the end, I guarantee you that you’ll have created a story that you don’t think you could have done when you started.

I know how to make this work safe for writers at all levels; you don’t need to worry about whether you’re the “slow kid in class,” or that the others will look down on you. The assignments I create are, in a way, talent-neutral; being a “good writer” won’t make them easier, and being an early or inexperienced writer won’t make them harder. What they aren’t neutral about is gumption, about your willingness to take a set of specific instructions and do something personally important with them.

You will never see your colleagues, and they will never see you. You will not talk with one another. We will relate to the work only through the work—through words on pages, which is the only thing that writers and readers ever get. You will not know one another’s names or ages or genders or ethnicities; you will only get words.

You also won’t be able to work on something you’ve already started. You’re going to generate a character, a setting, and a dilemma from zero, based on questions I’ll be asking. So don’t do this to pursue a story you’ve already started. Do it if you want to learn the craft of going from blank page and blank head to living, breathing people. It’s a practice that you can then take back to a story that you DO already have in mind, and surprise yourself with how much more it can be.

I’m posting this offer on the evening of Sunday, May 17th, and I’m going to e-mail it to friends and colleagues on Monday, May 18th. If you want to participate (and it’s free, I have nothing to sell), contact me no later than 11:59 PM EDT on Wednesday, May 20th. You can reach me:

  • by e-mail, if you know my e-mail;
  • through the “Keep in Touch” tab on my website; or
  • through a direct message on LinkedIn

In that message, answer this one question: Why do you want to do this?

By Friday afternoon May 22nd, I’ll let you know whether you’re in the class. I’ll be taking not fewer than four participants nor more than eight. I’ll give priority to people familiar with the way I think, but who knows, I may only get six people interested. Costs nothing to send me a message, if you’d like to participate.

If you’re one of those in the course, I’ll send you class materials and your first assignment over that weekend. We’ll begin on Monday, May 25th, and you’ll have a completed and revised story by July 17th. With permission, I’ll publish those stories here on this website, one at a time, when the class is complete. You’ll still own them, of course, and can seek to publish them elsewhere if you’d like.

This experience would cost you hundreds of dollars even at your local community college, thousands in some fancy-ass MFA program. And I’m offering it for free. Why? Because I also want the structure. Because I miss teaching, and I’ve had years of practice teaching online. And because membership in the community of writers obligates one to lend a hand to others.

Let me know if you want in.