Talking Scars with Jack Ketchum


On September 16th I began a four week online course called Talking Scars, taught by Jack Ketchum. Here is the class description:

“In this four-week intensive online class, grand master of horror and suspense, Jack Ketchum, will take you by the hand and lead you through the dark side, revealing the working dynamics for how to craft compelling horror and suspense stories.

Just as his own work both helps define and ultimately transcends contemporary horror fiction, Jack will share his deepest personal insights into finding your own path to character depth and thematic unity, all while crafting stories that thrill and delight a hungry audience.

You’ll find Jack’s extensive experience and mastery of the dark tale rivaled only by his generosity and appreciation for students and emerging authors.”

If you are not familiar with Jack Ketchum’s fiction, grab a copy of Peaceable Kingdom and give it a read. It’s a short story collection, and one hell of a ride through some very strong and intense dark fiction. Jack was named the Grand Master of the 2011 World Horror Convention.

The class is hosted by LitReactor, an online writing community. It is one among many wonderful online courses that they offer. I’ve seen Talking Scars offered in the past, and it always caught my eye, especially because of its instructor and the subject matter of the course. When I saw that it was going to be offered again this past September, I could no longer resist and took the plunge.

And now, 3 weeks in, I am happy to say it has been an amazing experience. I have never struggled as hard to craft a story as I have in the three assignments I have so far completed. He’s challenged us to dig deep, and to embed what truly frightens, angers, and motivates us into our fiction. And the feedback from both Jack and my peers in the class has all be incredible. And … well, I’m getting story notes from Jack Ketchum.

I’m allowed to be starstruck right?

One thing I have learned about Jack Ketchum in the last three weeks is that he is not only an accomplished master of dark fiction and suspense, but also a devoted instructor. His notes on each and every student’s work have been honest, thoughtful, and above all encouraging. There are twenty students in this class, and he reads every one of the stories with care and provides the same level of straight-up, no bullshit criticism for all of them.

If you are curious about whether or not to sign up for Talking Scars, I’d say keep your eye out for the next time it is offered and DO IT. But remember that a class, no matter where or how it’s taught, and no matter the instructor, is only as good as you want it to be. It’s only four weeks long, and you have roughly 4 days to complete each assignment of a NEW SHORT STORY each week (Or, in some cases, a revised one). Work hard, go crazy (I know I have been), and you’ll come out a better writer for the effort. Two of the three stories I’ve written for the class so far are, in my opinion, the two strongest works of fiction I’ve written yet.

And if your group is anything like mine, be prepared to discover 19 new writer classmates who each bring something original and compelling to the table, and who are all worth keeping track off when the class is over.

Take this class.

The final lecture and assignment is being posted tomorrow. I’m sad to know it’s already almost over, but excited to get some new and better stories out there.


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