Workshops and Masterclasses

The Ad Astra Center for Science Fiction & the Speculative Imagination holds numerous workshops throughout the year, offering a deep-dive into writing science fiction, fantasy, horror, and other spec-fic genres. These are unique opportunities to study with key Ad Astra author-educators and enjoy expert feedback.

This page presents Ad Astra sponsored workshops, as well as those from affiliates. A resource page dedicated to highlighted workshops and events from others in our space is forthcoming.

Become an AdAstranaut and launch your journey to the stars through stories!


"AdAstranaut Writing Workshop Series: Through the Stars Through Stories"

Sign up now to apply for the Ad Astra Center for Science Fiction & the Speculative Imagination's second speculative-fiction writing cycle! We continue to offer our traditional (two-week residential) Speculative-Fiction Writing Workshops each summer, but with the "Science into Fiction" Spec-Fic Writing Workshop Series we're offering an ongoing, year-round series of interdisciplinary bi-monthly workshops, seminars, talks, write-ins, and much more led by McKitterick and a diversity of experts in many fields designed to help writers gain what we hope is the most well-rounded workshop experience offered anywhere!

Award-winning author, spec-fic educator, and Ad Astra Center director Chris McKitterick leads the workshops. After Dr Barbara Kerr's talk, "Creativity and the Brain," on Thursday, November 3 at 6:30pm Central (in person at the Lawrence Public Library and available soon on our YouTube channel), events for our second spec-fic writing workshop cycle will run for six weeks, both in-person in Lawrence, Kansas, and online. Writers in our first AdAstranaut workshop participated from three cities across the country, including half who attended with McKitterick and Baringer in the Ad Astra Center's office (or "shrine to science fiction," as one attendee describes it).

The workshop series begins with idea and story-development sessions on the weekend of November 12-13, continue through AdAstranaut write groups each week, and culminate with story-critique sessions on the weekend of December 17-18. Weekend sessions begin at noon (US Central time) and - depending on how many participants enroll - run 4-5 hours each day (ending by 4:00 or 5:00pm on Saturday and Sunday).

For the Series #1 workshops, experimental particle physicist, physics professor, and spec-fic fan Philip Baringer - our first Ad Astra Presents speaker - joined us to offer expert advice. Watch Phil's inspirational talk - "The Higgs Boson in This Particular Universe: Facts, Speculation, and the Story of a Little Ripple with a Big Bang" on the Ad Astra YouTube channel now.

Similarly, Barbara Kerr hopes to participate in the workshops, as well. Dr Kerr is co-director of the Center for Creativity and Entrepreneurship Education at KU, a Distinguished Professor of Counseling Psychology, and an American Psychological Association Fellow. She specializes in psychology of creativity; issues of gender, privilege, and talent development; and innovations in counseling and therapy.

We host workshop sessions for those attending in-person via the Ad Astra Center space, which sports a library, SF memorabilia, and a wall of windows overlooking the University of Kansas' beautiful Potter Lake at the center of campus. Weekend and evening parking is free beside our building when football games are not in session. Write groups will take place there as well as in downtown coffee shops. All activities are hybrid, and also run simultaneously online as needed - we have a nice microphone and speaker setup in the room to accomodate those who cannot attend in person.

Developmental sessions are designed to help writers brainstorm and develop ideas and fictional worlds, deepen characters and their relationships, map out story structure, and address other elements so they can have a complete story in the next 4-5 weeks. Participants are encouraged but not required to turn in a finished story for the critique session - that is, you can apply to only get developmental feedback for something that might take you longer to write. All Series #1 writers did the full course of workshop events, and the projects turned out fantastic.

For critique sessions, we'll use the process I've found most useful over the years: Everyone reads and critiques everyone else's stories, then we discuss them in a round-robin format, and I'll offer my thoughts last, usually with a short talk on some relevant aspects of writing. We offer time at the beginning for authors to ask specific questions they'd like us to address, and after each set of critiques we hold open discussion. I prefer this over random discussion or lectures because writers learn as much from critiquing others' stories as from hearing critiques of their own work. It also makes for a much more interactive, lively, and involving discussion for all.

Participants are invited to participate in regular Ad Astra Center write groups (in person and online) with their cohort and other writers, for support, to encourage accountability, and to provide a productive atmosphere to get writing done.

I've designed this extended workshop cycle to empower participants through the full process of inspiration through idea through drafting through finished story in just six weeks - to give you a taste of working like a professional author, and to help folks get writing done! We're scheduling workshop sessions only over weekends and write groups mostly at night to improve accessibility for those who cannot get away during weekdays.

I'm so excited to launch the year-round AdAstranaut program! It's designed to provide the deepest, broadest, most comprehensive education for folks who want to learn how to write, understand, and teach spec-fic available anywhere - essentially, we've designed the optimal program I would have wanted for myself when I first began my journey into the SF universe (only better now because tech allows us to offer these things globally and asynchronously). AdAstranauts earn points for attending talks, workshops, write groups, and more and track their progress to the stars - we'll provide certificates of completion and other fun things (as well as discounted fees on future workshops and masterclasses) as participants virtually reach the Moon, Mars, and beyond in your writing journey!

I firmly believe that the modes of inquiry speculative fiction enables offer our best hope for understanding the diversity of human experience and helping build a better shared future. If you don't need an MFA (and good luck finding one that specializes in speculative fiction - or even allows or understands it), consider taking our workshops and becoming an AdAstranaut!

McKitterick will send all enrolled participants complete workshop guidelines and process well in advance of both sessions. We'll use the Ad Astra Center's #AdAstranaut Discord channel for those who need to or would like to participate online. Participants needn't work on stories that specifically use this cycle's inspirational-talk topic - all ideas and spec-fic subgenres are welcome! - but try to take full advantage of the talk and other materials we'll share with participants for inspiration and to get the most from our expert's ideas. For example, thinking about how our universe is structured helps with worldbuilding for any genre!

Everyone comments on every story, we analyze each story for publishability, and encourage writers to submit their work for publication.

After this workshop series, we'll continue to offer more expert talks and other opportunities to learn more about spec-fic and writing. Every two months we plan to offer a new "Science into Fiction" AdAstranaut Workshop Series, and we'll host a writing-journey tracker for those who continue to engage with cutting-edge research, writing workshops, and popular media. Track your path to the stars and earn certificates that show your dedication to the art!

We encourage participants to remain in regular contact, continuing participation in future AdAstranaut workshops series and write-ins, supporting one another's writing careers, and even continuing to critique one another's work. The AdAstranaut experience is more than a two-weekend adventure; it's a community!

How to Apply

To have enough time to give proper attention to everyone's work, enrollment is limited to 10 active participants. So if you wish to attend, apply early! Positions go quickly.

To reserve a spot for the AdAstranaut Spec-Fic Writing Workshop Series #2:

  1. By November 11, apply for the story-developmental session (November 12-13) using this Google form.

  2. By December 5, apply for the critique session (December 17-18) using this Google form.

    You can apply separately or together for the developmental session and/or the critique session (doing both = fee discount, and successive workshop series include further discount). Ideas and stories you wish to work on need not be tied directly with the inspirational talk (but do check it out!).

    As with my residential workshops, 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're likely to fill our ranks quickly, so don't delay! I accept applications during this period on a first-come, first-considered basis - be aware the Workshop usually fills by April. I continue a rolling series of acceptances until the workshop fills or as we get late drops and additions. 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 into the developmental session, be prepared to discuss your ideas, characters, setting, narrative structure, and so forth. We can help you brainstorm a bare-bones idea, but the more you're prepared, the more you'll get out of the session. McKitterick will send you dev-session guidelines as soon as you're accepted.

  4. If you are accepted into the critique session, plan to turn in your story that you wish to have critiqued by December 12 (in proper manuscript format and 8-1/2" x 11" layout) to give everyone time to read and consider it. Submit only complete stories, maximum length 6000 words (common for many publications; book chapters are difficult to critique out of context of the rest of larger work, so none of those, please - and shorter is better). McKitterick will contact you in advance about how and where to submit your story, and how to prepare for the experience.

Age 18 and older only, please (we plan to offer youth programs soon!).
 

Costs

To help everyone attend regardless of financial privilege, we offer variable rates for our workshops: Listed below is the cost for those who can afford full price (who help support those who cannot). Thanks to generous supporters, we offer rate-reduction scholarships for those in need. In order to be considered for a rate reduction scholarship, you must request it when applying.

Full-price cost to attend the 2022 "Science into Fiction" AdAstranaut Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop Series #2:

  • Both Idea and Story-Development Workshop plus Story-Critique Workshop$275 (max enrollment 8-10).
  • Idea and Story-Development Workshop (only): $50 (max enrollment 8-10).
  • Story-Critique Workshop (only): $250 (max enrollment 8-10).
  • Repeat attendees (of either the residential summer workshops, this series, or both) enjoy $50 off after their first full workshop and $100 off after their second.

Please complete your registration and make all payments before you begin, unless you make special arrangements. After you are accepted, we will send you payment instructions (note that the payment form includes donation options to help support other writers in financial need).

Thanks to generous friends, a limited number of scholarships and discounts have been available for writers 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. If you would like to make a charitable donation to help others attend the workshops who might otherwise not be able to, just add on one of the support options in the payment form or contact McKitterick - the Ad Astra Center is a not-for-profit educational organization, so you should be able to deduct your gift from your taxes. Thank you so much to our donors!

Attendees will have the opportunity to sign up for special discounts for the year-round series of upcoming Ad Astra Presents "Science into Fiction" talksshort workshops, masterclasses, summer residential workshops, seminars, and more, all especially designed for speculative-fiction writers, educators, and fans, and led by a variety of SF authors, editors, scholars, and professors and other experts in a variety of specialties to provide participants with deeper understanding of SF and the vast array of human expertise necessary to stay on top of the ever-accelerating change that shapes human civilization - and even what it means to be human.

Go here for full details, and go here to apply.

"Science into Fiction" Writing Workshop Series #2

  • Nov. 12-13 / Dec. 17-18

  • In-person in Lawrence, KS, and online via Discord

Are you working on – or thinking about – a science fiction or fantasy novel you want to write? Novel Architects Kij Johnson and Barbara J. Webb can show you how to build it. We have almost twenty years of experience teaching writers how to plan and build SF/F novels, helping everyone from experienced professional novelists like R. F. Kuang and Tina Connolly to talented new writers just getting their start.

The Fantasy and Science Fiction Online Novel Master Class is eighteen hours of talks and discussion directed toward helping you design and detail your best novel. By the end of the class, you’ll have been presented with the tools necessary to create a novel: the specific requirements of the form and genre as well as novel-focused discussions of character, worldbuilding and immersion strategies, plot and structure, and BB.

This master class is not a workshop, but nine sessions that include advice specific to your projects.

Full details and how to apply.

 

Novel Architects Master Class for Fantasy & Science Fiction Novels

  • Jan 5 - Feb 2, 2023 | Online

  • 9 sessions twice weekly on Mondays and Thursdays, 6:30-8:30 Central

 

Celebrated science fiction and fantasy author Kij Johnson will lead a developmental workshop for writers of short science fiction and fantasy. This week-long event will be held in person in Lawrence, KS, June 13 through June 17. The workshop will be small, with no more than six individuals admitting. Workshop hours will be 1-4 each afternoon.

Areas of focus

The scope of the workshop will be determined by the attendees in the weeks before the workshop starts, but may include:

  • classic workshopping of completed stories
  • developmental discussions for early-stage stories and ideas
  • writing or reading assignments
  • discussions and talks

Housing

Attendees will be responsible for securing their own housing. Lawrence is a charming town with great restaurants, about an hour from the Kansas City airport. Professor Johnson’s home will be used as collective working space social clubhouse in the hours before and after class.

Cost

$800 payable on acceptance. A scholarship may be available.

How to apply

Send an email to kijjohnson@gmail.com 

Subject line: 2022 Short Story Workshop Please include your name, contact information, a paragraph or two about yourself and your writing, an email address of phone number for a personal reference who is not a family member, and a 2-3 page sample of your writing.

Deadline for applying

April 15, 2022. Professor Johnson aims to make her decisions by 4/22, and will then send further information to attendees.

 

Kij Johnson’s Science Fiction & Fantasy Short Story Developmental Workshop

  • In person, June 13-17, 2022 | Lawrence KS

For 2023, award-winning SF author, scholar, and educator Christopher McKitterick resumes his residential, two-week workshop on speculative-fiction storytelling. He also again offers our residential "Repeat Offenders" advanced spec-fic writing workshop for alums.

Traditional Workshop

The traditional workshop is intended both 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 for published authors who want to grow their writing or refresh their skills through an intensive workshop experience. We work with all flavors of speculative fiction including fantasy, hard SF, horror, magical realism, slipstream, speculative philosophy, and so on. McKitterick works hard to put together a creative cohort that's diverse in genre, backgrounds, and experience, with an emphasis on developing a mutually supportive cohort adept at respectfully offering useful critiques and accepting feedback in the positive spirit they're offered to help everyone learn and grow not only as authors but as members of the spec-fic community.

Repeat Offenders

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.

See the Traditional Workshop and Repeat Offenders pages for more information and instruction on how to apply.

Traditional Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop / "Repeat Offenders" Spec-Fic Workshop July 2-14, 2023

  • June 18-30, 2023 / July 2-14, 2023

  • In-person in Lawrence, KS, and online

"AdAstranaut Writing Workshop Series: Through the Stars Through Stories"

"The Higgs Boson in This Particular Universe: Facts, Speculation, and the Story of a Little Ripple with a Big Bang" is the first of our ongoing series of talks designed to inspire creatives with cutting-edge research to help come up with ideas, develop stories, and do in-depth worldbuilding in science fiction, fantasy, and other speculative-fiction works.

We’ll have a Q&A and discussion right after Phil’s talk, a story-idea brainstorming and story-development session the weekend after, and then another weekend speculative-fiction writing workshop six weeks after the talk where we’ll critique stories inspired by these ideas (and others).

Get more information and apply for the AdAstranaut Spec-Fic Writing Workshop Series #1 here.

For support, accountability, and solidarity, Ad Astra Center director McKitterick and other staffers will host write-ins several days each week, and our Ad Astra Discord channels offer tons more support, ideas, and community. You can also find the Ad Astra SF Center on social media at Facebook,  TumblrTwitter, and now YouTube (sign up for the mailing list if you don’t want to miss news of upcoming events).

Phil is not only a brilliant experimental particle physicist who’s been part of discovering the Higgs boson using the Large Hadron Collider, he’s also a huge speculative-fiction fan and co-taught “Science, Technology, & Society: Examining the Future Through a Science Fiction Lens” with McKitterick (as well as other exciting courses using SF to dramatize and better understand complex physics ideas). And he’s a long-time friend (whom McKitterick Tuckerized in his first Galactic Adventures of Jack & Stella novel… called Ad Astra Road Trip).

Baringer will even be joining us for the story-development and writing-workshop sessions! Where else (except the Launchpad Astronomy Workshop) can you get science-expert feedback on your fiction?

McKitterick hosts this event and leads the workshop and developmental sessions for this cycle, so you’ll also get expert creative feedback (he's an award-winning writer who’s been teaching successful writing workshops for 30 years, as well as a variety of spec-fic courses for students, pros, and educators). Most of his alums have gone on to publish, start magazines, teach, and more, and our growing creative community stays in touch year-round.

In future events, we’ll continue to invite experts, spec-fic authors, and other brilliant minds to share their insights and inspiration with our AdAstranauts.

Our talks and Q&As will steam live (as will developmental sessions, workshops, write-ins, and more for those who register) and become available for later viewing on our YouTube channel (and listening, hopefully, on podcast), so if you aren’t local or can’t attend live, you can still fully participate.

"I'm so excited to launch the year-round AdAstranaut program," McKitterick says. "It’s designed to provide the deepest, broadest, most comprehensive education for folks who want to learn how to write, understand, and teach spec-fic available anywhere - essentially, we've designed the optimal program I would have wanted for myself when I first began my journey into the SF universe (only better because now tech allows us to offer these things globally and asynchronously).

"I firmly believe that the modes of inquiry speculative fiction enables offer our best hope for understanding the diversity of human experience and helping build a better shared future. If you don’t need an MFA (and good luck finding one that specializes in speculative fiction - or even allows or understands it), consider taking our workshops and becoming an AdAstranaut!"

Stay tuned for more spec-fic courses and events as we get rolling!

AdAstranaut Speculative-Fiction Writing Workshop Series #1

  • Sept. 17-18 / Oct. 15-16

  • In-person in Lawrence, KS, and online