Welcome to the Adventure Writing Academy! If you’re here, you must have a deep desire to write. Maybe you want to write stories about faraway lands and the strange people inhabiting them, or the magic hidden in everyday life. Maybe you want to develop these stories as short fiction pieces or long novels. Maybe you envision them as expansive settings for a roleplaying game. Either way, you’re in the right place—AWA can help you realize those visions on the page!
So enjoy taking your first steps toward realizing your vision of the future, and learning more about the Adventure Writing Academy.
AWA’s Origin Story
The origins of the Adventure Writing Academy swirl around a series of online conversations between former classmates Maggie Ritchie and Keith Ryan Kappel. The two attended Columbia College Chicago’s Fiction Writing program in the late ‘aughts, where Maggie received her MFA and Keith a BA, both in fiction. Maggie went on to focus on teaching and comedy, while Keith landed himself a regular freelance job writing Star Wars Roleplaying Game books for Fantasy Flight Games.
Over a series of discussions with friends, Keith realized that, while Columbia College Chicago’s fiction department equipped him with the necessary craft and tools for writing roleplaying game text, there was virtually no collegiate program in America teaching RPG writing as a singular creative writing medium. Influenced by the Joe Kubert School of Sequential art (which discovered a similar absence of comic book writing and illustration courses), Keith set to creating his own online school.
So, Keith partnered with Maggie, who now had years of experience teaching, and a certificate to teach the Story Workshop Method, the hallmark of the fiction department’s (and Keith’s own) success at Columbia College Chicago. Together, the two set to creating a program that applies the Story Workshop Method toward the purpose of teaching genre creative writing, as well as the many forms of RPG writing. We select in-class readings and assignments that speak to the sci-fi/fantasy fan culture of most tabletop gaming. The result was the Adventure Writing Academy.
Adventure Writing Academy seeks to create graduates ready to enter the world of genre writing, be it as a freelance writer or as an in-house editor or developer. To accomplish this, AWA employs a variety of Story Workshop techniques, readings, and discussions about professionalism and the business of writing, taught online through Google Classroom. AWA also brings in guest students to participate alongside the rest of the students, and a special guest lecturer to give a seminar at the end of the year.
What You’ll Learn
Good writing can seem a big, mysterious, confusing thing. How do those writers make those words sing on the page like that? How can you make your stories achieve similar on-the-page miracles?
AWA gives students a vocabulary to discuss writing, and “read like a writer”. Students spend a significant amount of time reading aloud in class, discussing what mechanical techniques writing uses to achieve specific effects on the page. By picking writing apart like this, students can mimic the tone and format of other writing, which is a vital skill for working on an existing IP product line (such as a tabletop roleplaying game line).
AWA also puts a focus on learning how to write in your own, unique, authentic voice. Before humans wrote stories, we told them orally in caves and around campfires. To unlock a student’s authentic voice, AWA (via the Story Workshop Method) creates a connection between your oral storytelling skills and writing; if you can tell a story, you can write a story. We also utilize a variety of pre-visualization techniques, to help students “see’ the events of their story clearly before writing. Often, students who find their voice and use the pre-visualization techniques find themselves able to draft new content at a much faster pace, and in many cases, “writer’s block” evaporates.
The previsualization techniques often take the form of fun, sometimes strange activities in class. These word games and oral tellings of snippets of story serve to awaken creative areas of the brain and put students in the mental space to write. These techniques directly precede in-class writing, which is then often read aloud to the class. Sharing first drafts help de-mystify writing to an extent, exposing that good writing is a process, not a mystical gift from an ethereal muse.
Who You’ll Meet
The most important connections students make at AWA are with their classmates. As the saying goes, “iron sharpens iron”, and nowhere is this more true than in a serious writing program. Having peers serious about breaking into the world of professional writing is a boon to students. Classmates can be sounding boards, early readers, peer reviewers, and down the road, as students begin finding work in the field, important professional contacts.
However, aside from classmates, Adventure Writing Academy features a guest student in most sessions (barring unexpected cancellations, but students can generally expect to meet eight different guest students). These guest students are all working, industry professionals. We aim to bring in a variety of short story authors, novelists, freelance writers, editors, and RPG developers and freelancers. Guest students participate in class as a student, elevating both the discourse in class, and providing valuable perspective on how things work in the publishing world right now.
Guest students also provide an invaluable opportunity for students to network with working professionals. We’ve had a number of high-profile guest students since launching in 2017, including Eric Cagle (freelancer and former WOTC in-house developer), Katrina Ostrander (FFG Fiction Editor), Christopher Rowe (Hugo and Nebula finalist author), and many more.
Finally, after ten classes, AWA hosts a guest speaker from the RPG industry, who gives a four-hour game design seminar. Our current guest speaker for the Introduction to Creative Writing courses is Jay Little, a former GenCon guest of Honor and renowned creator of the X-Wing Miniatures Game, the Star Wars Roleplaying Game for Fantasy Flight Games, and the 2D20 TTRPG system. Jay provides a peek behind the curtain, thoughts on game design and development, and the business of gaming. Meeting one of the titans of the gaming industry in such a small setting is a priceless opportunity for students looking to get real advice on breaking into the industry.
Students can join the official AWA Alumni Discord Server upon graduation, where they can maintain their connections with classmates and guest students, and meet many more.
What It’ll Cost
The biggest investments students make in AWA is time. By enrolling, students commit to attending a four-hour class once a month for ten months, and one lecture by our featured speaker. Students should also be prepared to spend close to an hour a day (5-10 hours a week) doing homework. This includes reading, writing, and journaling. Students who don’t keep up with homework will find it difficult to participate in class.
Financially speaking, all AWA classes cost 99 USD a month, plus one additional payment for books (which are shipped to the student to keep). For our 11-month courses, this comes to 1,188 USD over the course of a year. Students can save by paying the entire fee up front.
Enrollment is open, and classes begin a month or two after we have at least 6 pre-registrations for a course. New students must start with our Introduction to Creative Writing course. Though once completed, a number of other specialized program tracks can open up for further education. Class sizes are limited to ten students, so enroll today!
Good luck, and enjoy this time of adventure and discovery!