Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing

James Patrick Kelly

James Patrick KellyJames Patrick Kelly has written novels, short stories, essays, reviews, poetry, stage and audioplays, and planetarium shows. His most recent books include The Wreck of the Godspeed, Burn, Strange But Not A Stranger, and Think Like a Dinosaur and Other Stories.  He has also edited a series of acclaimed critical anthologies with John Kessel, the most recent of which is The Secret History of Science Fiction.  Although Jim is primarily known for his science fiction, his work also includes mainstream, mystery, fantasy, and horror. His audioplays have been produced by The Sci-Fi Channel's Seeing Ear Theater, and he himself produces two podcasts: Free Reads and James Patrick Kelly's StoryPod on He writes a regular Internet column for Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. His work has been translated into nineteen languages. His short stories have appeared in numerous "Best of the Year" collections over the past thirty years, and he has won both the Science Fiction Writers of America’s Nebula Award and the World Science Fiction Society's Hugo award. As part of New Hampshire's Arts in Education program, he has taught writing in more than forty schools throughout New Hampshire to students from grades 3-12. From 1998 to 2006 he served on the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, the last two years as Chair. Currently he serves as Vice Chair of the Clarion Foundation and on the Board of Directors of the New Hampshire Writers Project.

Selected Publications:

The Secret History of Science Fiction, edited by James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel  (Tachyon Publications, 2009)

The Wreck of the Godspeed (Golden Gryphon Press, 2008) 

Burn (Tachyon Publications, 2005)

Strange But Not a Stranger (Golden Gryphon Press, 2002)


How I Teach:

Let’s begin with two fundamental premises: you would like to be well published and you understand “popular fiction” to be a term of approbation.

I believe that the best way to learn to write stories is to write them as well as you can and then take them apart again. For me, this means that the workshop, as opposed to the lecture hall, is where excellence is forged. I broke into print with a workshop story, almost all my best work has withstood the slings and arrows of critique and I participate in a regular workshop to this day.

The value of workshop is specificity of focus. The group can't take into account theory or intent or reputation; it can only address what is on the page. I will, if pressed, talk in generalities of craft but I prefer to practice story doctoring. Expect that I will suggest —but not insist on—several alternate paths if I believe your narrative has gone astray. However, I am mindful that, during the semester, there is no group to counterbalance my expressed opinion, and I will always respect your conscious artistic decisions, even if I'm not in sympathy with them.

I will sometimes suggest assignments to help you find your unique voice, but only after we have developed a sound working relationship. Because there is no substitute for the give and take of conversation, I prefer to discuss at least one packet a semester either in a meeting or in a long phone conversation. The key question I will always ask is, “Why did you write this?” I find in my own work that the answer is not always obvious during the writing process, but that by the time I submit for publication, I must know. I regard submitting for publication as essential—nothing discourages me more than learning that you've failed to send your stories out. I hold that there is no dishonor in studying markets and understanding the history of your chosen genre. And I'll encourage you to develop—and stick to—a submission strategy for each story or novel.