Interview: Graduate Kate Marshall (Part 2 of 2)

kateportraitOdyssey 2005 graduate Kate Marshall is the author of the young adult novels I Am Still Alive and Rules for Vanishing (Viking Children’s). Her science fiction and fantasy fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Crossed Genres, and elsewhere. She lives outside of Seattle with her husband, a dog named Vonnegut, and two small children. They all conspire to keep her on her toes.


Part 1 of this interview, posted last Sunday, is available here.

You used to read slush for Beneath Ceaseless Skies. What were some of the things you learned from reading all of those stories? 

The main thing I learned was that there’s a whole lot of “fine” and even “good” writing out there, far more than there is “bad” (in the slush, at least). The competently written stories abounded, and at first it was very hard to turn those down. There was nothing wrong with them, after all. But eventually, I learned to recognize the gulf between competent writing and a great story. There wasn’t one thing that set every great story apart; it wasn’t that clear-cut. It might be a killer voice, a grab-you-by-the-throat opening, an ending that left you feeling downright emotionally wobbly. Every one of those stories had something that provoked a reaction, and studying the difference between the death scene that was merely competent and the one that felt like a knife to the gut helped me start to think about what the true core of my stories was.

I also learned just how true it was that rejections can mean more about the magazine or the editor than the story. Stories just didn’t quite fit with BCS for one reason or another—or I’d just read another, similar story that did the same thing, which made this one less fresh. And sometimes I made mistakes! Continue reading “Interview: Graduate Kate Marshall (Part 2 of 2)”

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Interview: Graduate Kate Marshall (Part 1 of 2)

kateportraitOdyssey 2005 graduate Kate Marshall is the author of the young adult novels I Am Still Alive and Rules for Vanishing (Viking Children’s). Her science fiction and fantasy fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Crossed Genres, and elsewhere. She lives outside of Seattle with her husband, a dog named Vonnegut, and two small children. They all conspire to keep her on her toes.


You graduated from the Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2005. What made you decide to attend the workshop? 

I’m one of those writers who never wanted to do anything else. I declared that I was going to be a novelist when I was four (though there was a brief period when I was going to be a marine biologist, as my mother had informed me this was how one got to have a pet otter). I started submitting stories for publication when I was twelve (without success) and read every book on writing I could get my hands on. When I found out about Odyssey in my junior year of high school, it was a bit like finding out that Narnia was real. A place to go and write and learn about writing and talk about writing and be taken seriously? I had a good dose of that teenage sense of invincibility and destiny, so I was sure I would get in. Of course, I also had an equal dose of crippling self-doubt (endemic to writers and teenagers both, I suppose) and so I had to have someone else read the acceptance email to make sure it really said I could go.

I didn’t decide to attend Odyssey so much as I never considered the possibility that I might not attend. Occasionally it’s useful to channel your inner teenager! Continue reading “Interview: Graduate Kate Marshall (Part 1 of 2)”

Interview: Graduate Farah Naz Rishi

FarahRishi_NewHeadshot2016 Odyssey graduate Farah Naz Rishi is a Pakistani-American Muslim writer and voice actor, but in another life, she’s worked stints as a lawyer, a video game journalist, and an editorial assistant. She received her B.A. in English from Bryn Mawr College, her J.D. from Lewis & Clark Law School, and her love of weaving stories from the Odyssey Writing Workshop. When she’s not writing, she’s probably hanging out with video game characters. You can find her at home in Philadelphia, or on Twitter at @far_ah_way.


You attended Odyssey in 2016. Can you talk about your pre-Odyssey writing process? What kind of writing schedule, if any, did you keep? 

Before Odyssey, I had no writing process to speak of; I wrote sporadically, at best, writing down a few sentences and phrases that I thought were interesting and would spur a greater story. Of course, they never did; my interest quickly waned and I’d give up. I also wasn’t exactly sure how one turned a few sentences into an entire book. As a result, I kept no writing schedule at all and only wrote during lulls in law school classes. Continue reading “Interview: Graduate Farah Naz Rishi”

Interview: Graduate Travis Heermann (Part 2 of 2)

Heermann-hi-resFreelance writer, novelist, award-winning screenwriter, editor, poker player, poet, biker, and roustabout Travis Heermann is a 2009 graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. He is the author of The Ronin Trilogy, Rogues of the Black Fury, and co-author of Death Wind, and has had short fiction pieces published in anthologies and magazines such as Apex Magazine, Alembical, the Fiction River anthology series, Historical Lovecraft, and Cemetery Dance’s Shivers VII. As a freelance writer, he has produced a metric ton of role-playing game work both in print and online, including the Firefly Roleplaying Game, Battletech, Legend of Five Rings, d20 System, and the MMORPG, EVE Online.

He has a Bachelor of Science in Engineering, a Master of Arts in English, and teaches science fiction literature at the University of Nebraska Omaha. He enjoys cycling, martial arts, torturing young minds with otherworldly ideas, and monsters of every flavor, especially those with a soft, creamy center. He has three long-cherished dreams: a produced screenplay, a NYT bestseller, and a seat in the World Series of Poker.


Part 1 of this interview, posted last Sunday, is available here.

How do you feel your writing and writing process changed as a result of having attended Odyssey? What insights did you gain into your own work?

The biggest thing that I got from Odyssey was being able to apply a working vocabulary to aspects of writing that I had been mostly doing only intuitively. Story structure is a good example. I was vaguely aware that stories had an act structure, but I’d never applied myself to learning all that before. Continue reading “Interview: Graduate Travis Heermann (Part 2 of 2)”

Interview: Graduate Travis Heermann (Part 1 of 2)

Heermann-hi-resFreelance writer, novelist, award-winning screenwriter, editor, poker player, poet, biker, and roustabout Travis Heermann is a 2009 graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. He is the author of The Ronin Trilogy, Rogues of the Black Fury, and co-author of Death Wind, and has had short fiction pieces published in anthologies and magazines such as Apex Magazine, Alembical, the Fiction River anthology series, Historical Lovecraft, and Cemetery Dance’s Shivers VII. As a freelance writer, he has produced a metric ton of role-playing game work both in print and online, including the Firefly Roleplaying Game, Battletech, Legend of Five Rings, d20 System, and the MMORPG, EVE Online.

He has a Bachelor of Science in Engineering, a Master of Arts in English, and teaches science fiction literature at the University of Nebraska Omaha. He enjoys cycling, martial arts, torturing young minds with otherworldly ideas, and monsters of every flavor, especially those with a soft, creamy center. He has three long-cherished dreams: a produced screenplay, a NYT bestseller, and a seat in the World Series of Poker.


Your latest novel, The Hammer Falls, was funded on Kickstarter in only twelve hours. Congratulations on both a successful Kickstarter and on the release of a new novel! You wrote a post in 2016 for the Odyssey blog on running a Kickstarter. Would you share some tips for getting the word out about Kickstarters? How did you encourage people to participate?

The key is stoking up your friends, family, and fans. 90% of this campaign’s backers were friends, family, fans, and repeat business people who had supported my Kickstarters in the past. And then you have to ask. For many of us, that’s the hardest part. Continue reading “Interview: Graduate Travis Heermann (Part 1 of 2)”

Director’s Corner: Unifying Your Story around a Meaningful Theme

jeanneJeanne Cavelos is the director of the Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust. She was a senior editor at Bantam Doubleday Dell, where she worked for eight years, editing the fantasy/science fiction program, the Abyss horror line, and other fiction and nonfiction. Jeanne is also the bestselling author of seven books and numerous short stories and articles. She has won the World Fantasy Award and twice been nominated for the Stoker Award.

Find out more about Jeanne here and more about the Odyssey Writing Workshop here.


When I’m teaching at the Odyssey Writing Workshop and I bring up theme, some writers balk. They’re eager to learn about setting, character, point of view, plot, and more, but theme, to some, seems like an abstract, mysterious, high-school English class torture device that doesn’t relate to what they’re writing. Even those few who have fond memories of discussing the theme of Romeo and Juliet in high school often do little more than jot down a theme for their story, set it aside, and forget it. Continue reading “Director’s Corner: Unifying Your Story around a Meaningful Theme”

Graduate Essay: Rebecca Kuang, “Changing Everything”

Kuang HeadshotCongratulations to 2016 Odyssey graduate Rebecca F. Kuang on the success of her debut novel, The Poppy War, the first installment in a Chinese-history inspired epic fantasy trilogy about empire, warfare, shamanism, and opium.

Since its release in May 2018, The Poppy War has won the Crawford Award and the r/Fantasy Stabby Award for Best Debut and has become a finalist for the Goodreads Choice Award, the Compton Crook Award, and the Nebula Award. Rebecca is also a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

The following essay about Rebecca’s Odyssey experience was originally published here on April 9, 2017.


I came to Odyssey on the verge of a horrible case of writer’s block. I had just sold my first novel. I was now under contract to write two more. I had to finish a 200,000-word project in a little over a year. I’d been trying for weeks to tackle it. I couldn’t write a word. Continue reading “Graduate Essay: Rebecca Kuang, “Changing Everything””