My first writing teacher was my high school’s gym teacher. What could go wrong?

There we were: a small group of sensitive, bespectacled book nerds, our heads full of poetry, our thoughts a jumble of hormones and innocence, eager to pursue our dream of becoming a writer.

Toss in an angry meathead who doesn’t want to teach writing or have any respect for the craft. Boom. Mentally dismembered young writers, their unwritten stories bleeding on the linoleum floor, wondering what the hell hit them.

The experience turned me off writing classes for decades.  I wrote here and there for the following year, a twinge of remembered horror with every word. That passed with time, and writing became a joy again.

After my first small publications, I wanted my writing to grow further and faster than craft books and critique partners could take me. I took a deep breath and hunted around for a class.

I ended up taking a short story class with Gamut (horror fiction magazine) editor Richard Thomas at Litreactor. I did my research to make sure I respected his work, finding some of his short stories, reading his Storyville column, and asking writers I know if they’d had the experience of working with or learning from him. The responses I got were favorable, so I signed up for the class.

And I got so much out of it.

Richard picked out my weaknesses and addressed them. He pointed out my strengths and built upon them. At multiple points in his lectures I had a ‘eureka!’ moment where I figured out what was making some of my stories fall short (and how to fix them). Never once in his critiques did he try to make my voice sound like his voice, and that’s what impressed me the most.

Now that the class is done, I’m going back to stories I’d given up on and getting excited about them again.

What the heck is your point, Jenn? I couldn’t find actual reviews of writing classes when I was hunting for one. There’s kajillions of them out there, and they cost money. For a struggling writer, money is often an issue and every hack with a wifi signal is onto the ‘masterclass’ buzzword. It can feel like a gamble.

I believe most writers will benefit from a class with Richard. The value is well worth the cost. Yes, this is an honest review. I’m not getting any compensation for it.

Richard Thomas has another Litreactor class starting up in late July, this one focusing on flash fiction. Check out his website and you’ll see even more. My kid’s got cavities we need to fix, so I can’t take another class for a while. Don’t be like us. Brush, floss, and take Richard Thomas classes.

he may look grumpy, but he’s no phys. ed. teacher. (Photo from

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some short stories to work on.





9 thoughts on “review: Short Story Mechanics with Richard Thomas

  1. I thought about taking some writing classes. It’s been ages since I took classes in college. (I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in the subject.) But because I didn’t develop a healthy writing habit, I feel there’s so much I need to improve upon. And besides, the landscape has changed. A writing class would totally be beneficial. As with everyone else, time and money are factors, but I shouldn’t let them be hinderances in becoming a better writer.


    1. Well, it sounds as though you’ve got a solid foundation under you. I agree that a healthy writing habit is key. I’m at my best writing every day, and if I slip up its hard to get back on track.


      1. Me too. I’ve been in a few as well. I attended a workshop on Joseph Campbell’s mythical archetypes once, and the person running the workshop started off by admitting she’d only learned about this stuff the week before.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Ouch. What a way to ruin Joseph Campbell. Yikes. I had the luck of having an anthropology professor who was passionate about Campbell’s work teach it to us with this amazing passion and fascination. There’s some good films out there too! The books are a bit thick but I did try.
    I know where you’re coming from, once I signed up for a martial arts class and found out the sensei had just travelled to Asia and learned it all two weeks past. Um … not the droids I was looking for, thanks. Why do people do this?


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