The days at Alpha will consist of lectures, writing exercises, activities, time for writing, and time for just hanging out. Some topics we typically cover are:

  • creating new ideas
  • character creation and portrayal
  • plot – the glue that keeps those nice characters attached and in motion
  • conflict and tension
  • dialogue, description and narrative exposition (including setting and ways to work back story into the narrative)
  • pacing, mood, and imagery
  • poetry
  • the structural bones of the commercial novel, novella, short story, and flash story
  • money matters
  • scams, cons, vanity presses, and bad agents
  • marketing and manuscript preparation (manuscript mailing party on Friday!)

Here’s the schedule for the latest Alpha. Information about author guests is posted here as guests are announced.


The workshop fee for 2015 is $1200. This fee includes Alpha meals, housing, airport/bus/train pickup, and transport to and from events during Alpha. The fee does not cover travel to and from Pittsburgh. Our detailed parental information page provides additional data on what the fee includes, plus information on housing and meals.


To apply to Alpha, please click on Apply and complete the online application form, send in the $10 application fee, and submit your application short story.

Submission story

Your submitted work does not have to be perfect. What we look for in the stories is promise, not experience. Send us what you feel is your best work. We encourage every young writer who is interested to apply.

You will need to submit a science fiction, fantasy, or horror story, 2000 to 6000 words long, to be submitted electronically to story-submit@spellcaster.org. You may not submit fan fiction (fiction using existing characters or worlds, such as Star Trek), and you must submit a short story, not an excerpt from a longer work.

We encourage international or disabled students to inquire at an early date in order for Alpha to make any necessary arrangements for accommodation, meals, etc. Contact us if you have any special needs.