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Spring 2022 Class: “Writing Short Fiction”

I’m stretching my wings, folks, and taking 20+ years of experience writing, editing, and publishing — not to mention three-odd years’ worth of podcast hosting — to the classroom. This spring I’ll be teaching a practical, nuts-and-bolts approach to writing short fiction at Assabet After Dark, the largest adult continuing education program in metrowest Massachusetts.

From the catalogue:

Writing Short Fiction

Short fiction is an easy medium to attempt, a difficult one to master. We will focus on a practical, nuts-and-bolts approach to writing short fiction in multiple genres. You will discover different narrative techniques, tips for effective dialogue, plotting a short story versus plotting a novel, and how to submit your work and where. You will workshop your story one-on-one with the instructor, with the goal of having a completed, ready-to-submit short story by the end of the course.

Assabet After Dark Spring 2022 catalogue

It’s six classes, one a week in 2-hour blocks every Tuesday from March 8 to April 12. The only cost is the course fee, which I haggled down to $85 to keep the cost of entry low for those who might otherwise not be able to afford writing classes. Representative demos of my approach to writing (both the art and the commerce thereof) can be found on my blog post about How to Sell Your Fiction, my appearances at conferences, or my co-hosting gig on the No Story Is Sacred podcast.

But! I recognize that not everybody is in or around Massachusetts, or would feel comfortable with in-person teaching right now. (VERY fair.) So here’s the skinny — I’m offering two options to people who want to be part of this, regardless of where you are in the world.

  • Option 1 – In Person: This is an open class (though spaces are limited)– if you’re in Massachusetts and want to make the drive, you can register to attend the “live” course, whether that ends up being in person or over Zoom. Registering for the in-person course gets you access to:
    • 12 hours of dedicated live teaching
    • One-on-one short-story workshopping and support with me
    • A course site with resources and copies of the presentations for later review
    • Access to a dedicated Discord server to get help, talk over assignments, ping me and others for help, and generally build a writing community for those who may not have had one previously
  • Option 2 – Online-Only: For those who still want to be part of a community and learn along with others in an online setting, I’m creating a special role in this class’s Discord server called “Virtual Student”. You’d be locked out of the in-person class channels, but everything else will be open for you, including:
    • Single-shot talks
    • Workshop-versions of future classes
    • Crowd-sourced resources, open submission calls, and general support

And that’s it! This is a new direction for me, but one I’m very excited about. So, brass tacks:

Interested in the “Writing Short Fiction” course? Space is limited, but click here to register.

Interested in the online-only server access? When the server is ready for primetime (sometime in the next month), I’ll mail out a limited number of registration offers to anyone who signs up for the waitlist via the below form:



Writing with Katherine Crighton “Virtual Student” Server Waitlist

Let’s see if I can get the fine print here right on the first try and with minimal fuss:

  • Information from the form will only be used to send out registration offers for the server.
  • Registration offers will be sent out on a first-come-first-served basis, generally in batches to control server growth.
  • When/if you receive a registration offer, you’ll be reminded about the server and given updates about its current state and usage–and if you still want to sign up, you’ll be given instructions for submitting the one-time access fee of $10 and the link to the server.
  • This single fee is to prevent a rolling bill like with Patreon, or a drive-by trolling from all but the most dedicated.
  • If maintenance of the server ever becomes onerous, I’ll either: 1. close registrations; 2. jack up the access fee; or 3. do something really wild, like hire a moderator or something.

Have an idea for classes or talks you’d like to see, or other topics you’d like me to address? Drop me a line and I’ll add it to the list!

(Image credit: Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay)

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New short story: “DEMON FIGHTER SUCKS”

I have a new short story out from the excellent Apex Magazine, “DEMON FIGHTER SUCKS”, in Issue 123.

It’s the last story I sold before my mother died, and the first story to get published after she died. For a lot of reasons (particularly apparent if you read it) this work is important to me, and Apex Magazine did a great job with it.

Read more…
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once in a golden hour

As I sometimes do, I’m doing another experiment in creating consistent content for patrons — this time, I’m creating a brief weekly zine through Patreon called The Minor Hours and Small Thoughts Magazine, in the style of the strange and random early Regency and Victorian publications previously mentioned on the blog. Mine will be filled with commonplaces, small pieces of fiction and creative nonfiction, interesting art, and specious advice.

More importantly for this day and age, this zine won’t dwell on the latest news or dire issues — there are other, better resources for that. Publishing and writing updates or thoughts are going to remain here, along with longer pieces, and my irregular (free) newsletter for publishing updates is always available for signup. But the miscellany of life is what I’d like to record, both my own and others’, and I think that has value all by itself.

The first issue is up and free here for anyone who’d like to see vaguely what I’m offering — $1 a month gets you a weekly zine of varying length and questionable wit, and $2 gets you both the subscription and an original, subscriber-only flash story per month. Depending on interest, goals and tiers may be added, but for now I’m going to stick with something simple, fun, and, hopefully, a respite from the rest of the world.

ETA 8/27/20: As I said on my twitter, fuck it, the whole thing’s free now. Tiers are still available if you’d like to get monthly fiction from me, or if you’d like to get the Minor Hours Magazine directly in your inbox, but otherwise, enjoy.

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New short story: “They’re Made Out of Corn”

In the middle of everything, it’s strange to give good news, but: I have a new short story out, the first since before some Big Life Shit that went down a few years ago. Enjoy “They’re Made Out of Corn“, out today from Daily Science Fiction, a continuation/pastiche of Terry Bisson‘s “They’re Made Out of Meat.”

Read more…

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Playing the ponies; or “I don’t want to be in marketing, but here I am anyway”

Image by Bhakti Iyata from Pixabay

It’s a rotten time to be a writer. Leaving aside the creativity-crushing effects of indoor monotony, the usual mechanics of the publishing business are showing their fault lines: authors can’t go on book tours, covers can’t catch consumers’ eyes as they perambulate around shops, and while ebook and audio bundles could be a cool thing, I suspect the big houses are concerned about what will happen to all that easy-to-break DRM’d material after the crisis is over — which is what they were worrying about before, but it’s not a good look right now.

Marketing is one of those things that seemed to be broken well before all this, though, so I wanna talk about it briefly.

Creativity is not zero-sum game — ideas are a dime a dozen, every author has a different take, and even if they don’t, the audience may not care (see: stuffman’s Two Cakes comic) — but marketing is. The funds a publisher can put toward advertising creative endeavors is, generally, limited. Stuff costs money, and that money has to get allocated. Publishers make a guess as to what’s going to sell, and allocate money toward that — just like any other company.

It’s all very uncomfortable. Publishing needs content from authors to have any sort of business. Readers, however, are fickle and publishers are not infallible — they don’t actually know what’s going to sell well, regardless of the money thrown at any one project. So there’s incentive there to publish a lot and then see what the reading public likes. But that “publish all the things!” ethos rides up against the zero-sum issue of before: there’s only so much money. So… the publishers make a bet, pick what they think is going to be successful, and hope they’re right. They’ll stack the deck as much as they can — advertising and marketing and whatnot — but again: they don’t actually know how it’s going to turn out. One tent-pole book that sells well because of a heavy advertising push can support publishing dozens of other books… one or more of which may end up being equal or larger successes, because of talent or audience whim or sudden Oprah visitation.

It makes sense, when you look at it from that angle. If, however, you’re the writer on the other end of the equation… it feels a lot like being a content-producing monkey. Or, to put it a more palatable way, vastly underappreciated and overworked for the pay we receive.

A real-life example:

I’ve had one book published (co-authored, published by Tor Books, so there was a Real Publisher with Real Money and a Real Contract), and let me tell you, I was surprised by what I was asked to do. I needed to provide a list of reviewers for them to send ARCs (but why didn’t they have their own list?), and I had to set up my own interviews (but I didn’t know anybody, couldn’t they at least connect me…?).

What I didn’t realize at the time was that another book was coming out in the same genre at almost the exact same time — but it was a three-book deal as opposed to the single one we had, and they already had all three books in hand. So, where does the money go? There isn’t an infinite amount of it — and “money” here includes stuff like the literal hours in the day. Hours spent on our book were hours that couldn’t be spent on that other one.

Do all that math, and what comes out is that other book, and its associated series, was a better bet, business-wise. Gotta put your money on the horse that gives you the best chance of winning. Those books got the major marketing push, and ours didn’t.

(Note: Being able to rationalize it doesn’t actually make it feel better.)

I have no idea what the other book’s sales were like; ours weren’t great. But I had a decent advance that never earned out, so between me and the publisher, technically I walked away the winner. And the publisher didn’t collapse into financial ruins when my book didn’t take off, because that other book — and any of the other better-selling books that came out that year, and the backlist of bestsellers, and the constant promise of future bestsellers — allowed for them to take a loss on mine, and losses on many other future books that they’ll publish anyway on the off chance that one of them’ll be a winner anyway.

I don’t have a solution for any of this. Publishing houses are doing a ridiculous, constant balancing act that absolutely shouldn’t work, just like how “playing the ponies” should not constitute anybody’s idea of a career. It’s a wonder that the whole thing hasn’t collapsed before now.

The reality is, unless I plan to pull an Emily Dickinson and hide all my fiction away in a drawer somewhere — which I’m not — I have to accept that part of the whole writing gig is marketing myself, because there’s never going to be any guarantee that a publisher is going to do it for me. I have to make my own luck, stack my own deck, bet on my own horse.

I just wish that for all the math publishers are doing on their end, they’d do some on ours. Because they have a limited number of dollars and hours to put to a project… and so do I. And if they can’t find a way to pay authors to be both their content creators and their marketing team… well. That’s a gamble that might eventually cost them everything.

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a little bit goes a long way

I’m in the middle of outlining a romance novel that has a lot of potential endings — and several of those possible ending are polyamorous in nature. It’s making me realize one of the weird ways fiction doesn’t necessarily mirror reality.

Romance fiction tends to be, largely, monosexual — one person meets one person, they fall in love, happily ever after (HEA). On some rare occasions, though — and this appears in both original romance novels and in romantic fanfiction — you get a polyamorous solution to everyone’s will-they-won’t-they.

When an author chooses the polyamorous option, they’re trying to demonstrate how it works for an audience that may not necessarily have any experience of it in real life. And in fiction, it looks great. There’s support, there’s a lot of love, there’s frequently really inventive sex scenes. Two things I’ve noticed, though:

  • The kind of poly that tends to show up as the HEA is polyfidelity, or maybe “kitchen-table poly“. In polyfidelity, everyone’s in a relationship with everyone else, like a closed triangle (or whatever shape the polycule is). In kitchen-table poly, everyone might not be in a relationship with everyone else, but they’re all involved in one another’s lives to the degree that they could sit around the kitchen table in their pajamas.
  • You don’t see a lot of parallel or solo poly — at least, not being practiced by the main character. In parallel poly, multiple relationships are being maintained separately; in solo, the poly person maintains multiple relationships but is “settling down” with no one person in particular.

I don’t think kitchen-table or polyfidelity or any of those big group styles of poly are the default of poly — and I don’t think they’re necessarily better than parallel or solo poly, just because we see it in fiction more often. Rather, I think that it’s difficult to write parallel or solo poly sympathetically, in the manner that we’re used to writing about mono relationships.

Writing (for me) is all about having a toolbox of ideas and hacks and methods to convey particular ideas, tools that allow me to translate the messy story in my head to something that looks relatively similar in a complete stranger’s head. If I try to convey one character’s love and desire for multiple other characters, and those characters are all separate or otherwise don’t interact… that sort of writing exists, but generally it’s used to denote a cheater. Even if the author explicitly states that that’s not the case, the author has to contend with their reading audience’s years’ worth of experience decoding and interpreting monosexual fiction — and their own experience writing it. It’s just… easier to write polyamory as if it’s just very complex monogamy.

The truth is, though, that it’s a different bird. And that can land some readers in trouble, particularly those who use fiction to game-test ideas in a sandbox before playing them in the real world. If they’re presented with a type of relationship that looks like it solves their own problems, and then don’t do any research outside of fiction… well, let us consider the example of 50 Shades of Grey and BDSM, and move on from there.

So in working on the ending to my romance, I’m stuck trying to come up with the HEA while at the same time maintaining what I’d like to think is reality for a large subset of the polyamorous community (and shouldn’t they get to see themselves in fiction too?). It’s frustrating work — but, I suppose, that’s why authors do it. Maybe I’ll be the one to crack the code.

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like fine print, so hard to read

by Anna Katherine

Originally published on The Anna Katherine Co-op of Evil, April, 2012. “Anna Katherine” is the pseudonym of Anna Genoese and Katherine Crighton; this story is a prequel to the Door-world book SALT AND SILVER, 2009.

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Rian Corveau is fifteen years old. He lives about twenty minutes north of the border, speaks French better than he reads it (and he only does around his Quebecois family, anyway), loves hunting better than fishing, and has just had sex for the first time.

Michelle is six months older than him, and lives in town, and is so beautiful he doesn’t know words in enough languages for it. Her skin is the color of milk. Her lips are wide and thin around her mouth. Her laugh is rough and catches in the air when he tries to kiss along her skin like he’s seen in movies. She smells like spice and snow.

Everything, everything in the world, is amazing.

Continue reading “like fine print, so hard to read”
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The Invasion

by Katherine Crighton

Originally published on tumblr, April 2, 2015

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It began on a Tuesday. Aliens arrived, in swirling disco-ball orbs that were very shiny, and started laying waste to everything in sight and more than a few things in important bunkers. Munitions were destroyed; surrender was denied; the destruction of the world was both imminent and inevitable.

The cats of the Eastern seaboard decided, in a group vote, that the humans had finally proven themselves useless.

Continue reading “The Invasion”
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The Words Are the Breath

by Katherine Crighton

Originally published on tumblr, March 13, 2015. Written for whitesheepcbd​. Warnings: offensive treatment of developmentally disabled children/adults, referenced child abuse, referenced filicide, blasphemy. I tried to be respectful of the developmentally disabled community and their concerns – any errors of fact or misrepresentations of their experience are entirely my fault and, at any rate, I should not be seen as any sort of source for more information (there are many self-advocating groups/blogs both on tumblr and on the web in general that are much better spokespeople/resources than me — start with the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network and go on from there).

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Six.

Sunday school was one of the things that Sam was supposed to pay attention to. His mama walked him to the door every time, which didn’t match what the other parents did; it bothered him. He dragged his feet, trying to get her to stop and go back to her pew, but she thought it was because he didn’t want to go, and just kept moving. It was backward. She was getting it wrong and he couldn’t tell her and she wouldn’t listen anyway.

He stood in the door once she pushed him inside, like he always did, and waited there, watching, until she went back to her pew and the sermon started up again. He checked the church – everybody was matching again. Good. Now he could go into Miss Sarah’s class and sit in circle time for today’s lesson.

Continue reading “The Words Are the Breath”