Welcome to SPACE, our adult continuing education program which offers interactive monthly courses for personal enrichment! Learn more here.

Sparrow F. Alden

Signum Clubs PreceptorSignum MA FacultySPACE PreceptorSPACE Team

Encourager of Stories

Sparrow encourages seedling stories to grow and flourish through the Creative Writing modules of SPACE. As a precepting professor in the Graduate School, she loves to facilitate students' exploration of the world's finest tales. She enjoys creating her own works as well, from high fantasy and paranormal novellas to the ongoing romantic comedy of life. [see full bio...]

All Modules

Creative Writing: Creating Interactive Fiction Games with Inform

This will be a beginner's guide to creating text-based, first person interactive (computer) fiction using the Inform software. We'll discuss what kinds of stories work, how to make interlocking loops of choices for our readers/players, and how to create a world with only a small text box to work with! From installing the program through learning a core group of commands, from designing a non-frustrating game through adapting to the fast-paced nature of these games, we will laugh, try things, and have fun. How do we help our readers create the ending that's best for them?

Note: For more information about the Collaborative Feedback Method in SPACE, please check out our video here.

Creative Writing: Emotional Stakes (Novel in a Year)

Discussion-based Format
Congratulations! You have Characters in a Setting enacting a Plot!

In this workshop you'll explore how your motivations for writing and the themes which worry or puzzle or fascinate you shape your stories. You’ll identify your methods for exploring these themes and consider other methods consonant with your authorial voice. How are your characters changing and responding to their own explorations? You'll examine tools for finding what elements have already slipped into your stories, possibly subconsciously, and tools for intentionally using such emotional connection points to bring more strength to your stories. Each class will introduce a few new tools, offer in-class prompts for trying them, and open the floor to discuss our discoveries and their relevance to our works in progress.

Novel in a Year Note: Anyone is welcome to join our Novel in a Year modules at any time (the only exception is Tree Workshop (Novel in a Year 11) which, while open to all who have a mature writing project ready for close scrutiny, is designed specifically for students who have completed at least 4 previous modules in the Novel in a Year sequence). Each module is designed to stand alone without prerequisites. However, for the richest experience, the full twelve-month sequence of modules will carry you from blank page through to completing your novel. In a writing journal, you will track your progress and moments of unexpected, joyful discovery as you continue your novel. Whether you are looking to publish commercially or simply writing for yourself, our program is designed to nurture your individual writing journey. Our workshops place kindness first, lifting up excellence and encouraging you to tell your story in your own voice. For more information about our Collaborative Feedback model, check out our video here.

Creative Writing: Long Project Preparation

Mixed Lecture/Discussion Format
Well-prepared writers enjoy more completion success! We will build worlds, plan character arcs, and try to define the bones of our stories during a month of glorious sub-creation! When you declare your intentions to the group, that act of bravery alone adds momentum to your writing efforts after the month is over. (This Module is great preparation before National Novel Writing Month)


Note: For more information about the Collaborative Feedback Method in SPACE, please check out our video here.

Creative Writing: One Month Story

Mixed Lecture/Discussion Format
We will walk through a complete project from pre-writing through writing, revising, editing, (revising, revising, revising), proofreading, and talking about publication options. Are you interested in finally getting down that memoir of your childhood? making a storybook for your grands? turning that daydream into a novelette? This adventure is for you! Whether your story is a draft, an outline, or a daydream, your project is welcome here in a place where we are aiming to finish it!

Note: For more information about the Collaborative Feedback Method in SPACE, please check out our video here.

Creative Writing: Oral Storytelling

Discussion-based Format
Storytelling might just be our oldest art, crossing time, cultures, and continents. Crafting a story suitable for telling demands a heightened awareness of audience, medium, and meaning. Telling a story requires fluidity in a register both intimate and stylized. We'll create, practice, and tell our short tales in a month of cooperative fun and work. We will use a collaborative and encouraging mode of feedback to focus both on the construction of your story and on its performance. You will end the month having written an original tale, fiction or memoir or drawn from myth and legend, which has been written specifically to be shared aloud. You will also carry forward a toolkit for exploring this art.
Note: For more information about the Collaborative Feedback Method in SPACE, please check out our video here.

Creative Writing: Plot & Structure (Novel in a Year)

Discussion-based Format
Are you up for an adventure? Whether you plan ahead or improvise, begin right here with as little as a blank page and a vague idea. You will learn about two characteristics of a story this month: developing your plot threads and designing a story structure that will serve your unique tale. We’ll examine how plot threads can influence each other to amplify your story’s impact. By studying different story structure methods, you’ll discover or possibly invent the right structure to carry your tale. Using a very simple writing journal, you’ll identify your strengths as an author and techniques for your toolbox. Every session will feature discussion, writing exercises, and — best of all — Collaborative Feedback on our stories.

Novel in a Year Note: Anyone is welcome to join our Novel in a Year modules at any time (the only exception is Tree Workshop (Novel in a Year 11) which, while open to all who have a mature writing project ready for close scrutiny, is designed specifically for students who have completed at least 4 previous modules in the Novel in a Year sequence). Each module is designed to stand alone without prerequisites. However, for the richest experience, the full twelve-month sequence of modules will carry you from blank page through to completing your novel. In a writing journal, you will track your progress and moments of unexpected, joyful discovery as you continue your novel. Whether you are looking to publish commercially or simply writing for yourself, our program is designed to nurture your individual writing journey. Our workshops place kindness first, lifting up excellence and encouraging you to tell your story in your own voice. For more information about our Collaborative Feedback model, check out our video here.

Creative Writing: Stories in the Darkness

Discussion-based Format
Join the amazing Jennie Starstuff: NASA Solar System Ambassador with Sparrow F. Alden to talk about the coolest, trippiest space physics to inspire our fiction! We’ll learn stuff on one day to use as writing prompts for peer-review on the second day. The plan is to explore star lore and archaeoastronomy; gravity and relativity (things get really weird); stars and cosmic life cycles; and life in the cosmos (alien contact? Heck, yes!). What about the amazing spaces between? We will have wonderful sonifications (sound pictures) of some of the most wonder-filled, hard to believe astro science out there—just imagine the stories we’ll create!


Note: For more information about the Collaborative Feedback Method in SPACE, please check out our video here.

Creative Writing: The Different Body Problem (Novel in a Year)

Discussion-based Format
It's a sometimes inconvenient fact that characters have bodies, and sometimes, those bodies directly affect the stories we write about them. Writing characters who live in bodies that do not perform according to the cultural standard is a skill like any other part of the writer's craft.

In this course, we will look at examples from literature of how authors have dealt with what we usually call disabilities. Some have done well, others have materially harmed people with their writing.

We will also work with one another to hone our craft as writers who are telling stories so that we can find the new and inspirational, while leaving behind the worn-out clichés that make the lives of people like your preceptor materially harder.



Novel in a Year Note: Anyone is welcome to join our Novel in a Year modules at any time (the only exception is Tree Workshop (Novel in a Year 11) which, while open to all who have a mature writing project ready for close scrutiny, is designed specifically for students who have completed at least 4 previous modules in the Novel in a Year sequence). Each module is designed to stand alone without prerequisites. However, for the richest experience, the full twelve-month sequence of modules will carry you from blank page through to completing your novel. In a writing journal, you will track your progress and moments of unexpected, joyful discovery as you continue your novel. Whether you are looking to publish commercially or simply writing for yourself, our program is designed to nurture your individual writing journey. Our workshops place kindness first, lifting up excellence and encouraging you to tell your story in your own voice. For more information about our Collaborative Feedback model, check out our video here.

Creative Writing: Weekend Intensive

Discussion-based Format
A Feast of Writing!

In one weekend, we're going to celebrate creativity by attempting a complete short story, novelette, or novella! Our format will include SPACE class sessions, WriterSpace focused writing time in excellent company, Bandersnatch Breakout room for talking about our craft and peer feedback, and an enthusiastic celebration of Story. So sharpen your quills, line up the inkpots, make a BIG casserole to last the weekend.

Here's the plan:
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Friday from 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM Eastern
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Saturday from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM Eastern
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Saturday from 3:00 PM to 9:00 PM Eastern:
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Sunday from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM Eastern
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Our goal is to create a completed first draft in one weekend! Prompts, planning, focus methods, peer encouragement, machete editing, character crucibles — we’ll do it all. Writers will write between sessions as well as during.

You are going to end this amazing experience with a complete first draft of your story!


Note: For more information about the Collaborative Feedback Method in SPACE, please check out our video here.

Creative Writing: Weekend Retreat

Discussion-based Format
Write Our Hearts

Come for gentle writing. Introspection. Self expression in a circle of caring and community. Come gather virtually in the Cottage in the Woods with Sparrow: she literally wants us to prep food ahead and get away from the family and the dishes for forty eight hours to write our stories. It's so hard to find time for ourselves, so let's intentionally make that time. From Friday evening through Sunday afternoon there will be writing to prompts, conversation, ideas, blocks of free writing time. Does your heart ache to express a private grief on the page? Is your subconscious telling you to rewrite a story? Do you need to rewrite your story?

Here's the plan:
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Friday from 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM Eastern
8p - Community, Evening pages, and Escape
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Saturday from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM Eastern
9a - Morning session: affirmations and choices
10a - WriterSpace & Bandersnatch (that's "quiet space and talking space")
11a - WriterSpace & Bandersnatch
12noon - Noon session: Shedding Light & Writing Metaphors
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Saturday from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM Eastern:
Nap time.
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Saturday from 3:00 PM to 9:00 PM Eastern:
3p - Group session: Recovery
4p - WriterSpace & Bandersnatch
5p - WriterSpace & Bandersnatch
6p - Group session: Encouragement and Deeper Dives
7p - WriterSpace & Bandersnatch
8p - Group session: Leaning In to the Circle of Our Community
9p - Sweet dreams until tomorrow
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Sunday from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM Eastern
1p - Group session: Our Story, Our Song
2p - WriterSpace & Bandersnatch (envisioning our stories' growth)
3p - Consolation & wrap up at 4p.
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Our goal is to write our hearts. Is that memoir? Is that a new story just for yourself? Is that a long, long prayer in the form of a poem? Writers might write between sessions as well as during.

You are going to end this amazing experience with something that is uniquely yours. Whether this turns out to be a narrative, creative nonfiction, or a huge list of Be-Happy-Attitudes, this deserves to be on your page, just for you.


Note: For more information about the Collaborative Feedback Method in SPACE, please check out our video here.

Creative Writing: Workshop

Discussion-based Format
We will meet to blend learning, discussion, and playing games with reading, appreciating, and commenting on one another’s work as it is submitted for peer review. Writers are encouraged—but never required—to submit new pieces in any state of draftiness or readiness up to 2,000 words each week for peer reading and feedback. Our Collaborative Feedback method, developed here at Signum University, asks us to comment at the author's comfort level through a structured reader (not editor) response. We gather to encourage the story that the author wants to tell. Our philosophy of kindness first might just turn around your previous experience of writing groups.





A seat has been reserved in this module for any writer (especially a beginner) of marginalized identity to support them finding their voice. Please simply write to [email protected] to identify yourself if you wish to join the class.





Note: For more information about the Collaborative Feedback Method in SPACE, please check out our video here.

Creative Writing: Workshop (Novel in a Year)

Discussion-based Format
Using a kindness-first approach, we will read, appreciate, and comment on each other’s work as we deepen our understanding of writing craft. You will be encouraged to submit new works in progress at any level of development for peer reading and feedback. Our Collaborative Feedback method guides you to comment at the author's comfort level through a structured reader response. This workshop will foster a positive and encouraging environment to support our growth both as individuals and as a writing community. We gather to encourage the story that you want to tell.

Novel in a Year Note: Anyone is welcome to join our Novel in a Year modules at any time (the only exception is Tree Workshop (Novel in a Year 11) which, while open to all who have a mature writing project ready for close scrutiny, is designed specifically for students who have completed at least 4 previous modules in the Novel in a Year sequence). Each module is designed to stand alone without prerequisites. However, for the richest experience, the full twelve-month sequence of modules will carry you from blank page through to completing your novel. In a writing journal, you will track your progress and moments of unexpected, joyful discovery as you continue your novel. Whether you are looking to publish commercially or simply writing for yourself, our program is designed to nurture your individual writing journey. Our workshops place kindness first, lifting up excellence and encouraging you to tell your story in your own voice. For more information about our Collaborative Feedback model, check out our video here.

Creative Writing: Writing Computers

What does a computer scientist wish that writers knew? That we are building aliens right here on Earth? That perception is not what we think it is? Join us for four weeks of learning, writing, and feedback. In "How Does Hacking Actually Work?" we'll learn to write far more complex and realistic scenes than Hollywood. In "Computer Perception" we'll talk about detecting the simple presence of volts and the most subtle patterns of the cosmos. In "Computer Interfaces" we're going to cook up stories about the Alien, the Understander, and the Quality of Misunderstanding. Finally in "Atemporal Decision Theory" we're going to ask enough questions about Truth, sentience, and honor to fill adventure after adventure with artificial and artisanal intelligences. Each week we'll have a learning and discussion day plus a day to reflect on "This idea made me ask 'what if?' and reach for my keyboard."

Note: For more information about the Collaborative Feedback Method in SPACE, please check out our video here.

Creative Writing: Writing for Children

Discussion-based Format
What makes a good children’s story? We’re going to address chapter books, cultural stories, and learning tales all through a lens of moral, cultural, and spiritual human development. Trying our hands at these forms should lead us to a nice folder full of works-in-progress at the end of the month. The December iteration of this module is designed to complete one treasured story gift for the holidays.

Note: For more information about the Collaborative Feedback Method in SPACE, please check out our video here.

Creative Writing: Writing the Hero

Discussion-based Format
We need good tales of good people making heroic choices. Whether we write memoir, pure fiction, or a what-if-it-had-ended-well personal speculations, this module is about creating the characters whom we can admire, trust, emulate, and become. Writing these short scenes during difficult times balances our minds and hearts, and can be part of a personal path to hope. This module specifically allows us to write our inner heroes within a place of safety. When believing in heroes is hard, we need to write them anyway. Explore your own traumas, toils, and fears even if your bad situation is right now, and write your own next chapter, your terrified heroic first step.

Note: For more information about the Collaborative Feedback Method in SPACE, please check out our video here.

Fairy Tales: An Adventure from the Writer's Perspective

Mixed Lecture/Discussion Format
Come explore Fairy Tales from the inside! In the first meeting each week Pilar Barrera will lift up a Fairy Tale technique, character archetype, or trope. We'll discuss the story at hand and how that story technique makes meaning. Then, students try their own hands at that technique! What do we learn when we push these ideas to their logical extremes? In the second meeting, Sparrow Alden will facilitate a workshop-style discussion of our original tale-telling work; we'll encourage one another as writers and appreciate one another as readers! Our goal is to complete the month with a deeper appreciation for the tales we all love and a folder with one to four good drafts of original tales.

Note: For more information about the Collaborative Feedback Method in SPACE, please check out our video here.

FanFiction: Middle-earth

Discussion-based Format
Do you imagine other tales set in Tolkien's beautiful Middle-earth? First person? FRP campaign design? Screen plays? Other minds and hands will come together to create and discuss "what if" for our own fanfiction. We will use a little peer-reading and a lot of focused discussion to move each writer deeper into the story they love. Expect to end the month with a folder full of story seeds or big progress on one big project.

Novel in a Year: Creative Writing Series

Discussion-based Format
Are you ready for an adventure in writing? Over the course of twelve months, you and your story will go from the beginnings of planning, through the stages of creating your first draft, and revising that draft, all the way to emerging with a novel that is finished and ready to submit for publication or personal accomplishment or family enjoyment. Each class in the series will draw upon lessons from the previous classes. In addition, we will build a community of writers who go through the experience together, encouraging each other and being sounding boards for each other.

Note: Anyone is welcome to join our Novel in a Year modules at any time (the only exception is Novel in a Year 11: Tree Workshop, which is designed specifically for the cohort). Each module is designed to stand alone without prerequisites. However, for the richest experience, the full twelve-month sequence of modules will carry you from blank page through to completing your novel. In a writing journal, you will track your progress and moments of unexpected, joyful discovery as you continue your novel. Whether you are looking to publish commercially or simply writing for yourself, our program is designed to nurture your individual writing journey. Our workshops place kindness first, lifting up excellence and encouraging you to tell your story in your own voice. For more information about our Collaborative Feedback model, check out our video here.

The Andre Norton Nebula Award

Mixed Lecture/Discussion Format
Join Dr. Sara Brown and Sparrow Alden as they read their way through the winners and nominees of the Andre Norton Nebula Award for Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction. How do these books speak to their special audience? What do they reflect about changing society? How do they build or break down their readers' connection to modern culture? How do they use heritage and world mythology to bring their stories to life?

Each time this module is presented, we will choose two different Norton Award novels to read, enjoy, discuss, and analyze with various critical tools. Mostly we're going to read great books and have fun working to understand them at deeper and deeper levels.

Writers' Workshop: Storycrafting with the “Mutinous Crew” of Ursula K. Le Guin

Discussion-based Format
What are the tools of the writer’s craft, and how can we sharpen them? In this module, we will learn about the writer’s toolkit through guided writing exercises and group discussion. We will use exercises from Ursula K Le Guin’s book Steering the Craft: A 21st-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story to explore tools like pacing, narration, point of view, syntax, and diction. Practice your writing technique, hone your craft, and embark on a journey with us through the “Sea of Story.”


Note: For more information about the Collaborative Feedback Method in SPACE, please check out our video here.

Writing Your Memoir

Discussion-based Format
Your story is unique. Do you want to set it down on paper for yourself? For your family? No other person has accumulated your experiences; no other person has had your potential, learning, drive, disappointments, challenges, triumphs, and quiet joys. We'll explore a variety of media and forms for memoir writing, from picture books to blogs. We'll interview one another with kindness and encouragement and draw amazing stories out of each other—and ourselves.


Note: For more information about the Collaborative Feedback Method in SPACE, please check out our video here.
If you have any questions about the SPACE program, please reach out to [email protected].