Alpha is a 10 day writing workshop for teens geared specifically towards speculative fiction writers. Students attend lectures on everything from dialogue to tone given by a variety of staff and guest lecturers. Admission is based solely on the strength of the 2000-6000 word short story you apply with, and while you’re there, you work on another short story, which you get critiqued and then revise for submission to publications. At the end of the program, you attend Confluence, a three day sci-fi convention in Pittsburgh.
Now that I’ve gotten the basics out of the way, I can tell you why it’s so much fun.
For starters, your fellow students are a diverse and interesting bunch, who teach you that the writing community is filled with kind, smart, easygoing, fun and talented people. Another great thing about alpha is the staff, who treat you like adults and dispense writerly wisdom (and humor) left right and center. Most (if not all) of the staffers are also published authors, and some write for a living, so they’re great sources of information about the industry and craft.
Alpha also hosts a slew of distinguished author guests, and I was lucky enough to meet David Levine, Scott Johnson, Ellen Kushner and Tamora Pierce. All author guests stay for two days and give two lectures a day. Some of them also participate in readings at Barnes and Noble where students are able to read their own work. It’s a low-stress, fulfilling experience and I highly recommend it.
I think one of the most valuable things about the workshop is the intense yet relaxed and fun atmosphere- the focus on pure writing, specifically in relation to short fiction, is very strong. There’s also a huge emphasis on writing for publication, with a lot of discussion about saleability, markets, and the publishing industry. It’s a welcome and thorough introduction to the real world, especially if you’re considering writing as a career!
Alpha really is unique among workshops, and anyone who’s serious about writing genre fiction should consider applying.