Director’s Corner: The Compelling, Emotional Complex Sentence

jeanne

Jeanne 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.

Jeanne has run the Odyssey Writing Workshop for the last 26 years, and this year announced the breakthrough new program Your Personal Odyssey Writing Workshop.

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

Jeanne’s article below, “The Compelling, Emotional Complex Sentence,”originally appeared at Writer Unboxed on January 17, 2020.


If you’re like me, you struggle to find the best sentence structure to express each idea in your story. Would a long sentence that draws readers in be best? Or a short one that carries impact? Would it be stronger to have one independent clause with several dependent clauses attached? Or would two independent clauses better convey the situation?

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Interview: Graduate P. A. Cornell

P. A. Cornell is a Chilean-Canadian writer who penned her first speculative fiction story as a third-grade assignment (a science fiction piece about shape-shifting aliens). While her early publications were in non-fiction, she has been steadily selling her short fiction since 2016. An active member of SFWA and a 2002 graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop, her stories have appeared in several professional anthologies and genre magazines, including Galaxy’s Edge, Cossmass Infinities, and Little Blue Marble. A complete bibliography can be found at pacornell.com.


You attended the Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2002. What made you decide to attend? 

When I started writing seriously, I didn’t know any writers, so I was isolated from the community. Because of this, I’d never even heard of writing workshops. It wasn’t until I picked up Odyssey Director Jeanne Cavelos’ book, The Science of Star Wars, that this changed. Jeanne had included her contact information in the book, so I wrote to her. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I must’ve mentioned I was a science fiction writer. Jeanne wrote back and told me about Odyssey. At the time I didn’t know the number of applications Odyssey receives or how few people get in. Had I known, I might’ve been too intimidated to apply, so I guess ignorance is bliss.

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Odyssey Podcast #148: Melissa Scott

mp3 Odyssey Podcast #148

Award-winning author Melissa Scott was a guest lecturer at the 2021 Odyssey Writing Workshop. Podcast #148 is an excerpt from her lecture on worldbuilding.

Melissa was born and raised in Little Rock, Arkansas, and studied history at Harvard College. She earned her Ph.D. from Brandeis University in the comparative history program with a dissertation titled “The Victory of the Ancients: Tactics, Technology, and the Use of Classical Precedent.” She also sold her first novel, The Game Beyond, and quickly became a part-time graduate student and an—almost—full-time writer.

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Interview: Graduate Vikram Ramakrishnan

Vikram Ramakrishnan is an alumnus of the University of Pennsylvania and enthusiastic member of the Odyssey Writing Workshop’s class of 2020, where he received the Walter & Kattie Metcalf Scholarship. He is the winner of the 17th Annual Gival Short Story Award. His stories have been published or are forthcoming in Meridian, Eclectica, and Asimov’s Science Fiction. He can be found at https://vikramramakrishnan.com.


You attended Odyssey in 2020, the first year it was held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you talk about your pre-Odyssey writing process? What kind of writing schedule, if any, did you keep? 

I have a friend who is very good at learning languages. He ran a language learning program in Berlin a while back. One thing he mentioned that stuck with me is that language learners fit into two categories: aspirational or required. The latter kind are the ones that make the furthest progress. Maybe they have to learn a language because they moved to a new country, it’s a requirement for their job, and so on. There’s something about deadlines and requirements that get them moving. Thinking about writing this way made me realize I’d been spending a bit too much time on the aspirational side and less on the required side. I looked at my stack of writing books and they were squarely on aspirational, and I realized I needed some help on the craft side to move forward.

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Odyssey Podcast #147: Gregory Ashe (Part 2)

mp3 Odyssey Podcast #147

Odyssey graduate and bestselling author Gregory Ashe was a guest lecturer at the 2021 Odyssey Writing Workshop. Podcast #147 is part 2 of an excerpt from his lecture about scene and sequel.

Gregory is a longtime Midwesterner. He has lived in Chicago, Bloomington (IN), and Saint Louis, his current home. He primarily writes contemporary mysteries, with forays into romance, fantasy, and horror. Predominantly, his stories feature LGBTQ protagonists. When not reading and writing, he is an educator. For more information, visit his website: www.gregoryashe.com.

The text of this recording is copyright © 2021 by Gregory Ashe. The sound recording is copyright ℗ 2022 by Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust.

For more Odyssey podcasts, visit:
https://www.odysseyworkshop.org/resources/podcasts/

Interview: Graduate Mars Hawthorne

Mars Hawthorne is a writer of dark fiction based in Portland, Oregon, as well as a 2021 graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop, for which she was the recipient of the Miskatonic Scholarship. Her passion for storytelling began in kindergarten when she informed a teacher that, during nap-time, she’d witnessed a monster eat the little girl next to her and then spit out her bones. She’s a member of the Brooklyn Speculative Fiction Writers. In her free time, Mars likes to patronize her favorite art-house movie theaters, take meandering walks, and watch her beloved local soccer clubs.


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

Before Odyssey, my writing process was a mixed bag. I became serious about improving my writing in 2017, but I mostly worked in highly caffeinated sprints where I’d get excited about a project and work on it for 1-2 hours a day for 3-5 days a week for a couple months, followed by weeks or months-long lulls in between. I was lucky to have an active, supportive writing group to meet up with and submit work to (hi, Brooklyn Speculative Fiction Writers!), where I also critiqued the work of other members, which helped me assess my own work better. However, I didn’t have a varied toolbox of techniques to draw upon when problems arose, except for whatever I gleaned from the craft books I read in my free time. My process was mostly 1) draft, 2) receive critique, 3) reflect on critique, then 4) revise until a piece “felt” done. But, spoiler alert, I usually wasn’t done! Instead, I’d often put a story on indefinite hold in frustration when I got stuck on a problem that I couldn’t identify or address.

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Odyssey Podcast #146: Gregory Ashe (Part 1)

mp3 Odyssey Podcast #146

Odyssey graduate and bestselling author Gregory Ashe was a guest lecturer at the 2021 Odyssey Writing Workshop. Podcast #146 is an excerpt from his lecture about scene and sequel.

Gregory is a longtime Midwesterner. He has lived in Chicago, Bloomington (IN), and Saint Louis, his current home. He primarily writes contemporary mysteries, with forays into romance, fantasy, and horror. Predominantly, his stories feature LGBTQ protagonists. When not reading and writing, he is an educator. For more information, visit his website: www.gregoryashe.com.

The text of this recording is copyright © 2021 by Gregory Ashe. The sound recording is copyright ℗ 2022 by Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust.

For more Odyssey podcasts, visit:
https://www.odysseyworkshop.org/resources/podcasts/

Graduate Essay: “Into the Deep End” by Malcolm Carvalho

Malcolm Carvalho is a graduate of the 2021 Odyssey Writing Workshop.  He writes science fiction and poetry. His work has been featured in several literary journals and magazines, including 365 Tomorrows, Kitaab, Bengaluru Review, and Muse India. Most recently, his poetry has been featured in the anthology A Letter, A Poem, A Home. He blogs at grainsofthought.wordpress.com. He also facilitates poetry workshops and performs improv comedy in his adopted city, Bangalore.

Malcolm was the 2021 recipient of 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.


When I came to Odyssey, I had made a small list of the skills I wanted to work on. I wanted to focus on creating stronger characters and better plot resolutions. I wanted to know what I was missing in my stories.

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Odyssey Podcast #145: P. Djèlí Clark

mp3 Odyssey Podcast #145

Award-winning author Phenderson Djèlí Clark was a guest lecturer at the 2021 Odyssey Writing Workshop. In this excerpt from a question and answer session, he answers questions about incorporating history into fiction, gaps in history, and originality.

Phenderson is the award-winning and Hugo-, Nebula-, Sturgeon-, and World Fantasy-nominated author of the novellas The Black God’s Drums and The Haunting of Tram Car 015. His stories have appeared in online venues such as Tor.com, Daily Science Fiction, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, Apex, Lightspeed, Fireside Fiction, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and in print anthologies including Griots, Hidden Youth and Clockwork Cairo. He is a founding member of FIYAH Literary Magazine and an infrequent reviewer at Strange Horizons.

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