Driftwood Seminar Series

Editors & Writers Seminar

Overview: Driftwood Press is excited to announce an updated version of our Editors & Writers Seminar! Instead of being offered on specific dates with large groups of students, you are now able to begin the seminar on any Monday you'd like! Read below to see what this new seminar offers, and don't miss the glowing testimonials at the bottom of the page.

This five-week seminar will be most useful to three types of writers: (1) writers who are submitting to magazines and want tips and tricks to fight through the slush pile to round two; (2) writers who want to be editors of short fiction or run a literary magazine; (3) writers who want to become better editors of their own and others’ work.

Each week, the you will receive a pre-recorded video lesson from the instructor (Driftwood Press’ Managing Fiction Editor James McNulty) and a few reading assignments. Throughout the course, you will also receive four total writing or revision assignments and detailed feedback on each of these four assignments. Those who take the class will also receive a copy of the brilliant craft essay collection On Writing Fiction (David Jauss), shipped directly to them near the beginning of the course.

Application: Once you've paid the fee and told us which Monday you'd like to begin the course on, we'll confirm your date or discuss alternates if we have a conflict. To apply, please provide the following:

  • Statement of Interest: A 200-word statement of interest detailing how this online course would benefit you or why you are interested.

  • Brief Biography: A short, 100-word biographical statement outlining any work history, editorial experience, publications, or upcoming projects you are involved in.

Cost: Cost for the entire five-week course is $250.00 USD. The course-cost includes:

  • Five video lectures available exclusively to students.

  • Four assignments, two of which will be revision assignments.

  • Detailed instructor feedback on <500 words of prose assignments each week for all four assignments.

  • Digital reading assignments.

  • A copy of On Writing Fiction by renowned craft writer David Jauss delivered directly to you near the beginning of the course.

  • Open communication with Managing Fiction Editor James McNulty. While taking the course, feel free to shoot over craft and career questions and concerns, and James will be happy to help as he can.

Lectures: Most lectures are approximately one-hour, but some are much longer. These lectures were recorded when the seminar was offered as a multi-person class, so I may very briefly address a body of students at one or two points. The lecture topics are as follows:

  1. Common Missteps (1hr.): Here, we’ll be looking through a hodgepodge of different mistakes that flag submitters as amateurish. This first lecture will be a head-spinning crash course on the most frequently botched craft issues at play in submissions. We’ll cover everything from the four modes of fiction (description, action, dialogue, and interiority) to stories that lack specificity to repetitive sentence structures.

  2. On Beginnings (1hr.): Next up, we’ll work through roughly a dozen opening paragraphs and pages, looking for why an unforgiving editor could kick a story from consideration early on. We’ll also talk through some submissions that caught our eye on the first page and what made those stories stand out.

  3. From the Editor (1hr.): An exploration of what it looks like on the editor’s side. This includes an explanation of how Driftwood is run as well as a walkthrough of the submissions manager from the editor’s perspective. We’ll talk about what exactly it takes for a submission to be rejected or accepted, and we’ll cap the lecture with a brief discussion of the financials of a literary magazine.

  4. Editorial Philosophies I (1hr.) & II (2hrs.): What are the philosophies of an editor? Here’s a quick rundown on our philosophical editorial policies at Driftwood, including a talk on prescriptivism/descriptivism, the five types of drafts, mandatory changes, overstepping, and other related topics that will be useful to writers, too. We’ll wrap up the lecture by showing—in detail—a writer’s path to acceptance with us. In the bonus two-hour lecture, I'll go even more in-depth to show how our revisions process works with our published authors.

  5. Personalized Lecture (1.5hrs.): Based on questions and counterpoints brought to my attention by previous classes, this lecture is a hodgepodge of miscellaneous but relevant mini-lectures and questions answered.

Timeline: The class timeline is as follows:

  • Mondays: I will send you a lecture, the week's prompt, and the week's reading assignment (often alongside optional, additional readings).

  • Sundays: You will turn in your <500 word prompt response, which I will return with comments before the following prompt is due. 

About the Instructor: James McNulty holds an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. He’s been the Managing Fiction Editor of Driftwood Press for nearly a decade. For more about James and Driftwood, you can read this recent interview or scroll down for previous student testimonials.

Student Testimonials

“[Instructor James’] sincerity and love for the "craft" (and for literature itself) came through loud and clear in this seminar. It is clearly a daily labor of love to maintain an exemplary literary journal like Driftwood. And it was eye opening to learn that you are committed to doing it with integrity, with respect for your submitting writers (actually giving their stories multiple readings), and with an uncommon amount of editing commitment as you work closely with your selected writers to fine tune EVERY story to make it the best it can be for publication. That's a lot of superlatives. I don't come in contact with literary journal editors, but my overall impression of them is something like the Wizard of Oz, an omnipotent being behind a control panel, pulling a lever endlessly, sending thousands of stories every year into slush pile perdition. You have given us a candid glimpse behind the curtain.”

-Richard Ellett Mullin

“James is a what I would call a writers' ambassador. I mean he’s the kind of reader that sees the work you’ve laid down for what and where it is and can direct you to the next step without any bullshit or postulating — a real straight shooter who knows his stuff without any bombastic posturing. Sadly that kind of reader is hard to find. He is a feedback treasure. This course was one of the best gifts I gave my writing in years.” 

-Anonymous

I feel like I have an MFA now! And after only five weeks, part time. Loved this course so much! I will definitely do this again, maybe every year! Absolutely worth the time and money! [...] I have worked with several editors, and James is absolutely the best, especially when it comes to the craft.”

-Josh Francis

“Thanks for all your help, and I'd like you to know that this seminar has turned out to be the most beneficial exercise for both my craft and career goals that I've ever undertaken, even more so than my creative writing courses! [...] Each lecture was more informative than anything I learned in my creative writing courses at university.”

-Dylan Clark

"I have taken online courses from Stanford U., U. California at Los Angeles and Berkeley. It may simply be that I now have enough experience as a writer to absorb your information, but your course has influenced my writing more than all of them combined. Thank you. Thank you very much."

 

-Jeri Howitt

“James McNulty has crafted a unique course about the soup-to-nuts process of writing to publish. I learned techniques and processes I didn't even know I needed, and I am confident what I learned in this course will help me get published faster and more often than I would have without it.”

 

-Danielle Passno

“I want to express how much I enjoyed this seminar and how much I got out of it. Even not taking into account the nuggets of wisdom interspersed throughout, the intensive focus on editing was immensely helpful to how I’ve started approaching the editing process over the past few weeks. Like I think I mentioned when I signed up, I made it through primary and secondary school and have a bachelors in a writing-focused degree while never being formally taught editing technique from start to finish (even within the more academic writing classes I took), instead having to piece it together myself from bits of advice here and there. By contrast, this course was a very thorough primer on the subject. The same goes for the publishing-focused lectures. Even though I don’t plan to start a magazine or press myself, the look behind the curtain was very informative and, I think, will greatly benefit my submission process moving forward.”

-Tim Rousseau

“Thank you for a great seminar. You shared a great deal of information and resources in a short amount of time. I am very grateful for your comments and edits of the prompts. You paid much attention to every line and gave precise suggestions from which I gained more skill as a writer. I am always trying to learn and am glad to have found your seminar. I appreciate the time you invested in me. I will always be interested in any future seminars or classes that you take the time to offer.”

– Ann Piper

“Here are my thoughts on how unique this course is, in my experience. (First, a note on my experience: I do not have an MFA. I have taken MANY fiction writing classes and would be glad to give you a list of them if you are curious.) Your transparency in your "look behind the curtain" is very unique and informative, as is your presentation of some of the abstract ideas around writing and editing such as revising vs rewriting and prescriptive vs descriptive. What really stood out for me was your unique combo of 1) reading a story accepted by Driftwood; 2) reading an interview with that story's author on craft; 3) a behind-the-scenes look at the editing of that story; 4) all the craft tips freshly reviewed as this was presented. Wow. That combo blew my wee brain. Honestly, I had to reread and rewatch a few times to capture it all.”

-Katie Dickson

I LOVED the critiques. It was the closest anyone has read/edited my work, and really made me aware of some of my weaknesses. I thought your feedback was incredibly personal and concise, and that you did a great job of trying to cater the course to what the students wanted to get out of it.”

 

-Shanan Wolfe

James McNulty is one of the best editors I have worked with: incisive yet kind, he really knows how to help a writer unleash her world onto the page. I am so happy I took this course, as James has saved me from making the same errors over and over again (at least, if I'm attentive, he will have). I would have happily paid more for the privilege.”

-Anonymous

“Here are my thoughts on how unique this course is, in my experience. (First, a note on my experience: I do not have an MFA. I have taken MANY fiction writing classes and would be glad to give you a list of them if you are curious.) Your transparency in your "look behind the curtain" is very unique and informative, as is your presentation of some of the abstract ideas around writing and editing such as revising vs rewriting and prescriptive vs descriptive. What really stood out for me was your unique combo of 1) reading a story accepted by Driftwood; 2) reading an interview with that story's author on craft; 3) a behind-the-scenes look at the editing of that story; 4) all the craft tips freshly reviewed as this was presented. Wow. That combo blew my wee brain. Honestly, I had to reread and rewatch a few times to capture it all.”

-Katie Dickson

“Thank you so much for your insightful critiques and well-thought-out lectures. I’ve recommended the class to my writer’s group should you offer it again. I am already more aware of my bad habits and will try my best to incorporate your advice as I go along. It was a unique experience, and I’m so glad I participated. [...] James delivers so much information in this workshop, you'll come away with a keen sense of the editing process and a renewed enthusiasm for your own second drafts.”

-Mimi Drop

“The content was quite good, and I learned things I didn't know I needed to learn (such as the entire backside of submitting). I'm much clearer now on how I need to submit and what happens after I do so. I'm also very impressed with how the Driftwood editors work with writers, and I will look for publications that do the same in the future. [...] I loved [the critiques]. They were sound, thorough, and appropriate. I will use the editing service in the future because of what I saw in the critiques. [...] I appreciated James's ability to be direct but also to add in humor. He clearly is very knowledgeable, and I think he crafted an entirely unique course. I'm very pleased that I took it.”

-Danielle Passno

“[The critiques were] detailed, insightful, enormously helpful in pinpointing weaknesses—and strengths for that matter. [...] I loved the surgical precision of your edits because of how encouraging you were even as you sliced things into pieces. I wish you could edit every one of my stories, but as that can't happen, I feel more confident about how to move forward on my own.”

-Anonymous

“The Editors & Writers Seminar is crash course in crafting and revising high quality sentences. James was knowledgeable, personable, and, helpful in every regard. For those who want to get some insight on what it takes to get published or what goes on behind the scenes in a literary magazine, I can't recommend this course highly enough. It was well worth the investment!”

 

-Jason Arehart

“[The critiques] were incredibly helpful - always felt like real time and effort had been taken by James with every piece and had actionable suggestions to take into my next submissions.”

-Tom Milner

“The level James' precision at the word, sentence, and paragraph level blew me away."

-Ken