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Who Gave You the Right to Tell That Story?

Who Gave You the Right to Tell That Story? by Lila Shapiro for Vulture

For those following closely, it can feel as though the debate has gotten stuck in a rut, unable to move beyond the basic question of whether a writer has the right to tell a given story. One of the goals of the course is to shift the conversation from “whether” to “how.” The class is predicated on the idea that “writing the other” is a skill that can be taught and learned, like any aspect of the craft. Shawl and K. Tempest Bradford, a speculative fiction writer who co-teaches the class, urge their students to get comfortable describing a character as black or Asian or white. Students learn to analyze their identities and the unconscious biases that shape their work. They consider why some identities are more challenging to render than others. They practice taking risks.

What Our Students Say

Thoughtful, insightful, and yet utterly unthreatening to sensitive writerly egos, this is the best workshop I’ve attended in ages.

Lori Selke on the Classic Seminar

A lively, entertaining, and above all stimulating experience, proving yet again that even the examined life benefits by being re-examined from time to time, all the more so in the case of writers.

Suzy McKee Charnas, author of Walk to the End of the World, on the Classic Seminar

I can’t recommend this course enough; as well as delivering everything it promised in terms of new perspectives on writing about marginalised people, it gave me tools that will improve my writing overall, particularly with respect to character development and worldbuilding.

Rivqa Rafael, a Multi-Week Class student

The class on worldbuilding provided many valuable insights into how to include a diverse cast of underrepresented groups, demonstrating how to break out from traditional hierarchical and normative presentations with solely focused on privileged groups. Rather than a prescriptive list or an approach that focused on performative and manipulative “wokeness” the class offered insight and an opportunity for dialogue on true worldbuilding and the art of crafting secondary worlds that are inclusive and avoid accidental usage of analog cultures and otherization. Lessons on research, criticism, and varied frameworks left me well prepared with a toolbox to tackle issues of inclusiveness for today, tomorrows that may or not may not be, and histories that never were.

B Phillip York, a Building Inclusive Worlds student

This is a very good, condensed, well balanced and presented mix of information and practice on writing about difference.

SK on the Classic Seminar

The workshop was one of the highlights of the Potlatch science fiction convention last February. It’s a Don’t Miss.

Christie Maurer on the Classic Seminar

This class was eye-opening and world building for me as a writer. The content was amazing, the guest speakers impressive, and the exercises broadened my thinking. If you want to build worlds in your writing (and after the class I would argue that worlds get built in all fiction) you need to take this class. It will give you the knowledge, courage and community to take risks, to be inclusive in ways you’d not yet thought of, and to change the world by building a better one.

Michelle, a Building Inclusive Worlds student

What an incredibly valuable class. This course provided a thoughtful and supportive place to dig deep into tricky issues and questions, and to examine our own context and assumptions. The resources were incredible, and I know I’ll come back to them over and over. The discussion was illuminating and my approach to my writing has already changed. I’d recommend the four week Writing The Other course to any author without hesitation.

Amie Kaufman, author of the Starbound Trilogy

Many writers live in fear of making offensive mistakes. This workshop is crucial for understanding how that fear can lead to marginalization or elimination of characters that challenge the status quo. And it’s fun, too.

A Seattle student on the Classic Seminar

This class mentally stimulates thoughts about what it is to live in an alternative, minority worldview. It also provides opportunities to discuss issues surrounding character development of unique non-mainstream characters which could engender qualities of heightened realism and color to your story, thus triggering greater understanding of minority issues in the broader culture.

Sonja Bolon, Creative Therapist, on the Classic Seminar

Taking this deep dive class connected me to a lot of wonderful people and resources. It helped me pinpoint several immediate problems in my current works in progress, gave me specific strategies to address those flaws, and ways to analyze my work in the future to better tell the inclusive stories that I imagine. I would not have been able to take this class without the scholarship.

A Building Inclusive Worlds student

The conversations and community that emerged over the course of the Writing the Other intensive was as valuable as the issues discussed within the readings and exercises, if not more so. So glad I did this!

Fran Wilde, Nebula Award-winning author of Updraft

Writing the Other is an invaluable workshop for anyone who cares about writing honest and true stories. On point exercises. Loads of reference material. Experienced instructors who bring passion and wisdom to each and every lesson. I highly recommend it.

Beth Bernobich, author of The Time Roads

Going into the workshop I had a particular story I was burning to learn how to tell without being inappropriate. I was terrified I was writing it (and anything else involving characters of color) like an out-of-touch white dork. Ms. Shawl and Ms. Bradford were compassionate and emotionally generous while being very straightforward. Their class both eased my mind and made me realize how clueless I’ve been; it has started me on a lifetime learning project that can do nothing but make me a better writer.

Ellen Saunders, a Weekend Intensive student