In May 2005, I received a Master of Arts degree in English (with a concentration in creative writing) from North Carolina State University. I have subsequently taught English composition, English literature, creative writing, and other courses at the NCSU Young Writers’ Workshop, Wake Technical Community College (Argument-Based Research), Saint Augustine’s College (English Fundamentals II, English Composition I & II, Business & Technical Writing, Advanced Composition), Singapore Management University (Academic Writing), Hwa Chong Institution (English Language, Literature in English, Language Arts, Sabbatical: Fiction-Writing Workshop, Sabbatical: Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing Workshop, Sabbatical: Studies in Dystopia, Sabbatical: Science Fiction Scenario Writing), and workshops for the Ministry of Education’s Gifted Education Branch (Literature Seminar: “Prose Writing for Publication” and “Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing”; Creative Arts Seminar: “Winnowing Memories Through Speculative Means” and “Tripping the Heavy Fantastic”).
My typical composition class involves much student interaction, as I’ve found it to be a better instructional tool than straight lecturing, and more interesting to the students besides; if they can participate in the learning process, the information tends to stay with them longer than it would if they merely took notes. Consequently, I pay attention to the class as a whole (and every class is different) to discern what methods to employ, rather than plowing ahead regardless of whether the lessons have been comprehended. I’m also a stickler for correct grammar, punctuation, and word usage, and will offer refresher sessions to brush up on these essential basics.
In my creative writing classes, I’m a big believer in the workshop method. Having participated in the prestigious Clarion Writers’ Workshop in Michigan and the Strange Horizons Workshop in Oregon, as well as various fiction workshops during graduate school at NCSU, I’ve become convinced that the chairs-in-a-circle critique session (during which the author whose story is being critiqued sits quietly in the “cone of silence”) is an extremely effective way of learning what works and what doesn’t in a given piece of writing. In workshops I’ve conducted, I couple these critique sessions with lectures on the fundamental elements of narrative writing (character, plot, setting, dialogue, viewpoint, telling details, etc.), and in my genre-writing lectures I also bring in world-building, theme, speculation/extrapolation, and tackling social/political issues through imaginative fiction.
I also facilitated a series of speculative fiction writing workshops, conducted at BooksActually in Tiong Bahru, Singapore:
Saturday, 28 January, 2-4 pm
Creating Fantastical Characters, Part 1
In speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, horror, and all associated subgenres), authors are not limited to mundane reality in the characters they create. Characters may be magical beings, technologically augmented super-soldiers, aliens from other worlds, terrifying monsters, or something else entirely. This workshop will guide participants in the creation of their own fantastical, yet believable, characters through a series of brainstorming activities, character sheets, and group participation.
Saturday, 18 February, 2-4 pm
Creating Fantastical Characters, Part 2
In Part 1 of the workshop, participants learned techniques for creating their own fantastical characters. In Part 2, they will further deepen and develop their characters using strong visual details, psychological motivation, and the relationship to the physical environment. By the end of this workshop, participants will have complex, multi-dimensional, believable characters around which to develop a new piece of fiction. Note: Participants for this workshop must have also signed up for Part 1.
Saturday, 24 March, 2-4 pm
Strange New Worlds, Part 1
Speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, horror, and all associated subgenres) often takes place in otherworldly settings, such as Tolkein’s Middle-Earth, the planet Pandora in the film Avatar, or a slightly different version of the world we know. The details that go into the imagining of a fantastical setting allow the writer to both ground a narrative in reality and challenge the notions of that reality. This workshop will give participants the skills to be able to create their own strange new worlds as the backdrops for their fiction.
Saturday, 28 Aprtil, 2-4 pm
Strange New Worlds, Part 2
In Part 1 of the workshop, participants began the process of imagining a fantastical setting in which to set their fictional stories. In Part 2, they will now populate their strange landscapes with living beings and cultural details. By the end of this workshop, participants will establish cultures and history that will lend resonance and believability to their settings for the purpose of rich fiction. Note: Participants for this workshop must have also signed up for Part 1.
Saturday, 19 May, 2-5 pm
Winnowing Memories Through Speculative Means
Preserving memories is an issue often explored in speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, horror, and all associated subgenres), whether through a technological process of uploading to a computer like in Cory Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, or through the magical Pensieve in the Harry Potter novels by JK Rowling. This introductory workshop will give participants an understanding of the conventions and approaches used in examining the concept of memory in good SF writing. Participants will explore the SF tropes and techniques used, and apply these to their own fiction through various exercises. They will also examine the mistakes beginning SF writers should avoid, apply two or more SF tropes in the creation of a premise, ground their settings in the real world, and write a solid opening to a SF short story. Note: Participants will need to download and read the following texts prior to the start of the workshop, as we will be discussing them during the session: “Truncat” by Cory Doctorow and Turkey City Lexicon
Saturday, 30 June, 2-5 pm
Tripping the Heavy Fantastic: Advanced Speculative Fiction
A notable trend in speculative fiction of the last 15 years is the tendency toward cross-genre writing that combines the tropes of the realistic and the fantastic. Whether it is labeled as magical realism, fabulation, slipstream, irrealism or interstitial fiction, this type of writing challenges genre conventions and reader assumptions, especially in terms of memory and the perceivable world. Students in this workshop will examine several prominent cross-genre works, investigate the effectiveness of this blending of genre tropes to explore the concept of memory, and apply these techniques toward the opening scene of a cross-genre short story. Note: Participants will need to download and read the following texts prior to the start of the workshop, as we will be discussing them during the session: “Strange Mammals” by Jason Erik Lundberg and A Working Canon of Slipstream Writings