Interview: Graduate Adria Laycraft

Adria_Author Photo 2Freelance editor, fiction author, and wood artisan Adria Laycraft earned honours in Journalism in 1992 and has always worked with words and visual art. She co-edited the Urban Green Man anthology in 2013, which was nominated for an Aurora Award, and launched her debut novel Jumpship Hope in 2019. Look for her short stories in various magazines and anthologies, both online and in print. Adria is a grateful member of Calgary’s Imaginative Fiction Writers Association (IFWA) and a proud survivor of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. Learn more at adrialaycraft.com, or follow her YouTube channels Carving the Cottonwood and Girl Gone Ground.


You attended the Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2006. What made you decide to attend?

A big-name author told me I was ready, that it would do me good if I was up for the commitment. I had only ever heard of Clarion at that point. I wanted to prove to myself that I had what it took. I actually did my own personal Odyssey the winter before, following the syllabus I found online, just to test myself and my discipline. Continue reading “Interview: Graduate Adria Laycraft”

Interview: Graduate Alec Hutson

AlecHutsonAlec Hutson is a 2003 graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. He lives in Shanghai and is the author of the epic fantasy trilogy The Raveling. The first novel in the trilogy, The Crimson Queen, was named one of Booknest’s Top 100 Fantasy Books of Our Century.


You attended Odyssey in 2003. Can you talk about your pre-Odyssey writing process? What kind of writing schedule, if any, did you keep?

I had none! I had just graduated college, and although I’d dreamed of being a writer, I hadn’t written more than a few short stories. Continue reading “Interview: Graduate Alec Hutson”

Interview: Graduate Corry L. Lee

Corry L Lee glasses pensive 5-2019 squareCorry L. Lee is a 2009 graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. She is a science fiction and fantasy author, Ph.D. physicist, award-winning science teacher, data geek, and mom. Her debut novel, Weave the Lightning (Solaris, April 2020), “infuses magical resistance with a Russian flair” (Lightspeed Magazine). In Ph.D. research at Harvard, Corry shed light on the universe fractions of a second after the Big Bang. At a major tech company, she connected science to technology, improving the customer experience through online experimentation. A transplant to Seattle, Washington from sunny Colorado, she is learning to embrace rainy days. Learn more at corrylee.com or on Twitter @CorryLLee.  

Weave the Lightning is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indie-Bound, and Powell’s. You can read an excerpt here.


You attended Odyssey in 2009. Can you talk about your pre-Odyssey writing process? What kind of writing schedule, if any, did you keep?

Before Odyssey, I snuck writing into the cracks of my life. I was working on my Ph.D., and so tended to write in odd hours and weekends…whenever I could escape problem sets and research. It wasn’t so much a schedule as the thing I did to decompress. Continue reading “Interview: Graduate Corry L. Lee”

Interview: Graduate & Guest Lecturer E.C. Ambrose

Elaine IsaacAuthor and Odyssey graduate E.C. Ambrose will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. She writes knowledge-inspired adventure fiction including The Dark Apostle series about medieval surgery, The Singer’s Legacy fantasy series (as Elaine Isaak), and the Bone Guard international thrillers (as E. Chris Ambrose). Her latest releases are Bone Guard Two: The Nazi Skull, and The King of Next Week (Guardbridge). In the process of researching her books, Elaine learned how to hunt with a falcon, clear a building of possible assailants, and pull traction on a broken limb. Her short stories have appeared in Fireside, Warrior Women, and Fantasy for the Throne, among many others, and she has edited several volumes of New Hampshire Pulp Fiction. A graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop, Elaine has returned there to teach, as well as at conventions and writer’s groups across the country. She has judged writing competitions from New Hampshire Literary Idol to the World Fantasy Award.

Elaine dropped out of art school to found her own business. A former professional costumer and soft sculpture creator, Elaine now works as a part-time adventure guide. In addition to writing, Elaine creates wearable art employing weaving, dyeing, and felting into her unique garments. To learn about all of her writing, check out RocinanteBooks.com.


As a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Workshop, you’ll be lecturing, workshopping, and meeting individually with students. What do you think is the most important advice you can give to developing writers?

The most important thing about your first works are to FINISH THEM. We tend to obsess about where to start, how to start, how to handle this or that thing, or (heaven forbid!) which publisher or agent to send this book to when it turns out to be brilliant, because of course it will be. Or we fret that it just won’t ever be good enough and polish the same three chapters over and over every time we feel we have leveled up as a writer. But here’s the deal. You can’t level up until/unless you finish things. The only way to really learn how to write a story arc is to complete one. Then another. Then another, then get feedback on them and write another one. Then study some of your favorite stories with your newly jaundiced writer’s eyes, then write another. Finish things. The first ones won’t be great things, most likely, but they will teach you how to middle and how to end. Learning how to middle and how to end will help you understand where and how to begin. Focus less on polishing and revising and more on delivering words of story on the page. Bonus: when you finish a thing, it feels really good! Continue reading “Interview: Graduate & Guest Lecturer E.C. Ambrose”

Special Announcement: 2020 Odyssey Writing Workshop Scholarship Winners

MISKATONIC SCHOLARSHIP

New York Times bestselling author George R. R. Martin created the Miskatonic Scholarship to support to a promising new writer of Lovecraftian cosmic horror attending the Odyssey Writing Workshop. As a boy, Martin came across his first story by H. P. Lovecraft. He says, “I had never read a story that scared me more . . . so of course I sought out more Lovecraft wherever I could find it.” Martin’s love of weird fiction grew, and he found that “No werewolf, no vampire, no thing going bump in the night could give me chills to equal those provided by the cosmic horrors that Lovecraft evoked.”

With the annual Miskatonic Scholarship, Martin hopes to provide “encouragement and inspiration to a new generation of writers.” And to one special scholarship candidate, Martin wants to offer the opportunity to learn and improve at the Odyssey Writing Workshop, one of the top programs in the world for writers of the fantastic. The scholarship covers full tuition and housing at the workshop.

2020scholarship1The 2020 winner of the Miskatonic Scholarship is Scott Gray. Scott is a passionate writer living in New Hampshire. He developed a love of stories as a young boy, especially those that transported him to other worlds. To this day, Anne McCaffrey’s dragon riders and J. R. R. Tolkien’s hobbits hold a special place in his heart.

Scott’s love of fantasy drove him to try his hand at writing. He discovered that the magic found in the reading of a great story also existed in its telling. Since then, he has written short stories and is working on his fantasy novel.

Scott hopes that in the future, teenagers and adults get lost in the worlds that he creates.

Scott’s winning story, “The Path,” follows a man mourning his dead wife and struggling to adjust to life without her. Of his inspiration for the story, Scott says, “My wife is my heart and compass, and I cannot imagine a world without her. My love for her inspired me to write a story about a man navigating to adjust to his new reality while battling his beliefs and discovering there is life after loss.”

Jeanne Cavelos, one of the scholarship judges and director of the Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust, says, “The other judges and I loved the unique way that Scott’s story brought heart and a deep sense of humanity to this tale of cosmic horror. It evoked not only fear but also hope and joy.”

THE WALTER & KATTIE METCALF SINGING SPIDER SCHOLARSHIP

Funded by Pam Metcalf Harrington, Odyssey class of 2001, the Walter & Kattie Metcalf Singing Spider Scholarship is offered in honor of Pam’s parents, who encouraged a lifelong passion for reading and writing fantasy. The scholarship is also named for the infamous singing spiders, fictional characters who appeared in a novel excerpt submitted at Odyssey 2001. The scholarship is awarded to a fantasy writer whose novel excerpt shows great skill and promise, and it covers full tuition.

2020scholarship2This year’s winner is Vikram Ramakrishnan, a Tamil-American writer and computer programmer who lives in New York City. He loves to write fiction about fantastic worlds imbued with South Asian elements. When he’s not writing, he’s either playing flamenco guitar or visiting arboretums with his Siberian Husky, Kratos. His short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Newfound, SAND Journal, and AE–The Canadian Science Fiction Review.

The winning novel excerpt, from Godmen Are Dropping Like Flies, impressed the judges with its strong world-building, well-chosen descriptive details, and intriguing magic system.

Vikram describes the key experience that triggered the writing of the novel, which is about a magic-user named Hari who works for the police: “A few years ago, I was trekking through southern India visiting temples with my father and we came across mystics who were convinced they had magical powers. They were captivating and I couldn’t stop thinking about them. I started picturing one of them leaving their temple-bound life behind to become a big city detective, which is how Godmen was born.”

Pam Metcalf Harrington says, “I absolutely loved the detailed descriptions of the characters and the setting. Hari’s magic is unique, and the story grabbed me from the first page.”

THE FRESH VOICES SCHOLARSHIP

Funded anonymously by an Odyssey graduate, the Fresh Voices Scholarship provides support to an outstanding writer of color each year. It seeks to offer opportunities for underrepresented racial and ethnic minority writers to learn at Odyssey and enrich the fantasy, science fiction, and horror genres as a result. The scholarship awards $2,000 toward tuition.

2020scholarship3The winner of the Fresh Voices Scholarship is Rona Wang, a junior studying mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her debut novel, You Had Me at Hello World, will be published by Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster in spring 2022. Her short story “Imitation Game”, the recipient of the Fresh Voices Scholarship, won the 2020 Dell Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction & Fantasy Writing and is forthcoming in Asimov’s. It was inspired by her computer science background and her parents’ citizenship tests. She sends special thanks to CMS.307 fall 2019 for workshopping the first draft!

Award-winning author R. F. Kuang, one of the judges and a graduate of Odyssey 2016, said of the winning story, “The Imitation Game,” “What a clever idea and tribute to Turing’s legacy. I really enjoyed this and want to read more!”

THE ENCHANTED BOND SCHOLARSHIP

Funded anonymously by an Odyssey supporter, this scholarship provides support to an outstanding fantasy writer each year. The scholarship awards $1,000 toward tuition.

2020scholarship4The winner of the Enchanted Bond Scholarship is Francesca P. Rahe, a student currently living in Michigan. Her work has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. She is an alumna of the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio, and is looking forward to her Odyssey experience in the coming months.

Her winning short story, “Ashes and Dust,” was inspired by a combination of N. K. Jemisin’s fabulous Dreamblood Duology and an hour spent looking at her family’s photo albums.

The judging panel praised the story’s compelling voice, complex protagonist, and the emotional impact of the protagonist’s decision at the climax.

THE QUANTUM ENTANGLEMENT SCHOLARSHIP

Funded anonymously by an Odyssey graduate, the Quantum Entanglement Scholarship provides support to an outstanding writer of science fiction each year. The scholarship awards $1,000 toward tuition.

2020scholarship5The 2020 winner of the Quantum Entanglement Scholarship is Maurice Haeems. Maurice has a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering from the University of Mumbai and an MBA in Finance from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Over the last 30 years, he has enjoyed successful careers in mechanical/fluid engineering, investment banking, and software entrepreneurship.

Thereafter, Maurice turned to his fourth career and first love–Writing, Storytelling, and Filmmaking. His first project, the multi-award-winning sci-fi feature film Chimera, which Maurice wrote and directed, was released in April 2019. Maurice is delighted and honored to be a part of the 2020 class of the Odyssey Writing Workshop.

Of his winning story, “The Third Incarnation,” Maurice says it represents his attempt at coming to terms with the practical and physical limitations of mass-positive superluminal travel, though he desperately hopes that he will be proven wrong within his lifetime. In the meantime, he continues to dream of Tachyons, Warp Fields, Worm Holes, and other equally cool conceptual conundrums.

Jeanne Cavelos, director of Odyssey, says, “Maurice’s story combines an unusual scientific premise with a fresh, vivid world and a character who excited me every time he appeared.”

Interview: Graduate & Guest Lecturer Scott H. Andrews

WFC2012-ScottA
Photo credit: Al Bogdan

Odyssey graduate Scott H. Andrews will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. Scott lives in Virginia with his wife, two cats, thirteen guitars, a dozen overflowing bookcases, and hundreds of beer bottles from all over the world. He writes, teaches college chemistry, and is Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of the seven-time Hugo Award finalist online fantasy magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

Scott’s literary short fiction has won a $1,000 prize from the Briar Cliff Review, and his genre short fiction has appeared in Space & Time, Crossed Genres, and Ann VanderMeer’s Weird Tales.

He has lectured on short fiction, secondary-world fantasy, editing, magazine publishing, audio podcasting, beer, and heavy metal on dozens of convention panels at multiple Worldcons, World Fantasy Conventions, and regional conventions in the Northeast and Midwest, and he has taught fiction writing for Clarion West, The Cat Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers, Houston Writefest, and at Odyssey. He is a seven-time World Fantasy Award finalist and 2019 winner for his work at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and he celebrates International Stout Day at least once a year.


You’re the editor-in-chief and publisher of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, a magazine for literary adventure fantasy. What do you look for in the stories you buy?

The major thing I love to see in all stories is “the human heart in conflict with itself,” which is a quote from Faulkner’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech. I want to see a character who is dealing with some sort of conflict, whether an external struggle like plot obstacles or an internal one like trying to overcome flaws or to grow in relationships, or ideally both external and internal. But the story also needs to make me FEEL something about that character who is in conflict. I get many stories, by writers who’ve been to workshops, that have a character in an interesting situation, but the writer isn’t executing the story such that the writing makes me feel what it means to be who that character is. For me it’s not enough just to see the character or focus on them; the story has to resonate off the page and make me feel for the character. Continue reading “Interview: Graduate & Guest Lecturer Scott H. Andrews”

Odyssey Podcast #128: Nisi Shawl on Dialect & Representation (Part 2)

mp3 Odyssey Podcast #128

Nisi Shawl, the Jeff Pert Memorial Lecturer at Odyssey 2019, lectured on dialect and representation. In this excerpt, the second of two parts, Nisi explains techniques to reveal that a character speaks in dialect without using phoneticization. Word omission and word order (syntax) can show non-standard speech patterns and evoke the feeling of dialect while using standard spellings. Nisi discusses examples from her story “Black Betty.” Word choice is another technique that can reveal a person’s experience, cultural background, and expectations. It can also undercut stereotypes and reveal power differentials between characters. The rhythm of a word, sentence, or passage can also show non-standard speech patterns. Copying a poem or transcribing speech from someone native to the pattern you want to mimic can reveal rhythmic patterns. Cultural references can also help reveal a character’s non-standard speech. Nisi discusses several examples. But she wants writers to remember that difference is not monolithic.

Hewlett-Packard

Nisi Shawl wrote the 2016 Nebula finalist and Tiptree Honor novel Everfair (Tor), an alternate history in which the Congo overthrows King Leopold II’s genocidal regime; and the 2008 Tiptree Award-winning story collection Filter House (Aqueduct). In 2005 she co-wrote Writing the Other: A Practical Approach (Aqueduct), now the standard text on diverse character representation in the imaginative genres, and the basis of her years of online and in-person classes of the same name. She is a founder of the inclusivity-focused Carl Brandon Society and has served on the Clarion West Writers Workshop’s board of directors for twenty years.

Shawl’s dozens of acclaimed stories have appeared in Analog and Asimov’s Magazines and other publications; her “Everfair-adjacent” story “Vulcanization” was selected as one of twenty offered in Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2017. Two recent collections highlight her writing: A Primer on Nisi Shawl (Dark Moon) and Talk Like a Man (PM Press). In 2019 she edited New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color (Solaris), shortlisted for the New Words Award. Her Middle Grade historical fantasy Speculation is forthcoming from Lee and Low in Spring 2021. Currently she is writing Kinning, an Everfair sequel.

The text of this recording is copyright © 2019 by Nisi Shawl. The sound recording is copyright ℗ 2020 by Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust.

For more Odyssey podcasts, visit: odysseyworkshop.org/podcasts.html

Interview: Guest Lecturer Sheila Williams

Sheila WilliamsSheila Williams will be a guest lecturer via Skype at this summer’s Odyssey Workshop. Sheila is the multiple Hugo Award-winning editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine. She is also the winner of the 2017 Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award for distinguished contributions to the science fiction and fantasy community.

Sheila started at Asimov’s in June 1982 as the editorial assistant. Over the years, she was promoted to a number of different editorial positions at the magazine, and she also served as the executive editor of Analog from 1998 until 2004. With Rick Wilber, she is the co-founder of The Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy. This annual award has been bestowed on the best short story by an undergraduate student at the International Conference on the Fantastic since 1994. She has served as an instructor at Clarion, Clarion West, Odyssey, and other writing workshops. In addition, she coordinates the Asimov’s website (www.asimovs.com).

In addition, Sheila is the editor or co-editor of twenty-six anthologies. Her newest anthology, Entanglements: Tomorrow’s Lovers, Families, and Friends, is the 2020 volume of MIT’s Twelve Tomorrow’s anthology series.

Sheila received her bachelor’s degree from Elmira College in Elmira, New York, and her MA in philosophy from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. During her junior year she studied at the London School of Economics. Sheila is the mother of two daughters. She lives in New York City with her husband, David Bruce.


You talked about appealing story openings during your lecture in 2013 at Odyssey. What makes for a satisfying ending to a story?

It’s a huge relief when an unfamiliar author lands the ending. In a great ending, the multiple layers of a story come together in a satisfying way. A well-thought-out ending shows me that I’m in the hands of a professional or budding professional. Generally, a good ending is not one that the author tacked on to their story. Sometimes I realize that the ending was foretold in the opening paragraphs, but that doesn’t mean that it was predictable, just that the groundwork was laid. Although an ending can develop organically from the tale being told, many authors begin their story with an understanding of exactly where and how the story will conclude. Sometimes they even write it first. Continue reading “Interview: Guest Lecturer Sheila Williams”

Odyssey Podcast #127: Nisi Shawl on Dialect & Representation (Part 1)

mp3 Odyssey Podcast #127

Nisi Shawl was the Jeff Pert Memorial Guest Lecturer at Odyssey 2019 and spoke about dialect and representation. In this excerpt, the first of two parts, Nisi discusses dialogue, what dialogue can reveal, and the special concerns and challenges that arise when using dialect. Nisi explains that dialogue is idealized and compressed speech. Dialogue can “tell,” as with “as you know, Bob” dialogue, when one character tells another something they both know. This can feel more natural when characters talk at cross purposes or argue. When dialogue “shows,” it can reveal setting, action, and character. Dialogue can reveal a character’s ethnicity, class, country of origin, gender, ability and more. All this can be done without attempting to write in dialect. Nisi leads the class in an exercise to explore these concepts. Then she discusses some concerns surrounding dialect. If you’re only depicting certain speech patterns phonetically, you’re privileging all the rest. You also run the risk that your audience will misunderstand your intent and imbue the passage with qualities you didn’t intend to be present. Nisi relates a problem she had with one of her own stories. Phoneticized dialect may distract readers from your story because they are puzzling out the speech. Many writers recommend limiting this to a word or two or a line at the beginning of a passage. But whole novels written in dialect can be successful.

Hewlett-Packard

Nisi Shawl wrote the 2016 Nebula finalist and Tiptree Honor novel Everfair (Tor), an alternate history in which the Congo overthrows King Leopold II’s genocidal regime; and the 2008 Tiptree Award-winning story collection Filter House (Aqueduct). In 2005 she co-wrote Writing the Other: A Practical Approach (Aqueduct), now the standard text on diverse character representation in the imaginative genres, and the basis of her years of online and in-person classes of the same name. She is a founder of the inclusivity-focused Carl Brandon Society and has served on the Clarion West Writers Workshop’s board of directors for twenty years.

Shawl’s dozens of acclaimed stories have appeared in Analog and Asimov’s Magazines and other publications; her “Everfair-adjacent” story “Vulcanization” was selected as one of twenty offered in Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2017. Two recent collections highlight her writing: A Primer on Nisi Shawl (Dark Moon) and Talk Like a Man (PM Press). In 2019 she edited New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color (Solaris), shortlisted for the New Words Award. Her Middle Grade historical fantasy Speculation is forthcoming from Lee and Low in Spring 2021. Currently she is writing Kinning, an Everfair sequel.

The text of this recording is copyright © 2019 by Nisi Shawl. The sound recording is copyright ℗ 2020 by Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust.

For more Odyssey podcasts, visit: odysseyworkshop.org/podcasts.html

Odyssey Writing Workshop: A Life-Changing Educational Experience

Picture1About Odyssey

Over its 25-year history, the Odyssey Writing Workshop has become known as one of the most effective programs in the world for writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. Graduates commonly describe Odyssey as inspiring and transformative and say they learned more in their 6 weeks at Odyssey than they did in “3 years of creative writing classes” or “an entire MFA program” or “30 years of reading the ‘How to Write’ books.” Fifty-nine percent of Odyssey’s graduates have gone on to professional publication, and they include award winners, Amazon bestsellers, and New York Timesbestsellers. Continue reading “Odyssey Writing Workshop: A Life-Changing Educational Experience”