Interview: Guest Lecturer Melissa Scott

Award-winning author Melissa Scott will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. 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.

Over the next thirty years, she published more than thirty original novels and a handful of short stories, most with queer themes and characters, as well as authorized tie-in work for Star Trek: DS9, Star Trek: Voyager, Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis, Star Wars Rebels, and Rooster Teeth’s anime series gen:LOCK. She won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1986, and won Lambda Literary Awards for Trouble and Her Friends, Shadow Man, Point of Dreams (with longtime partner and collaborator, the late Lisa A. Barnett), and Death By Silver, written with Amy Griswold. She has also been shortlisted for the Tiptree Award. She won Spectrum Awards for Death by Silver, Fairs’ Point, Shadow Man, and for the short story “The Rocky Side of the Sky.”

Lately, she has collaborated with Jo Graham on the Order of the Air, a series of occult adventure novels set in the 1930s (Lost Things, Steel Blues, Silver Bullet, Wind Raker, and Oath Bound) and with Amy Griswold on a pair of gay Victorian fantasies with murder, Death by Silver and A Death at the Dionysus Club. She has also continued the acclaimed Points series, fantasy mysteries set in the imaginary city of Astreiant, most recently with Point of Sighs. Her latest short story, “Sirens,” appeared in the collection Retellings of the Inland Seas, and her text-based game for Choice of Games, A Player’s Heart, came out in 2019. Her most recent solo novel, Finders, was published at the end of 2018, and she is currently at work on the next book in the sequence, Fallen.


Your first novel was published in 1984. What advice do you have for writers looking to achieve a long career?

I think for me the most important thing has been to stay active in and involved with the genre, as a reader and a fan as well as a writer. By staying involved as a fan, I mean making an effort to find new works that I can get fannish about, that spark of pure delight, that make you want to stay up all night reading or spend hours parsing all the details with your friends. It’s finding the next book that’s going to go on my “re-read every year” list. Without renewing that spark, there’s a danger of getting bored or falling out of step with the field. That’s not to say that you have to join every new trend—for example, I’m not very excited by YA as a writer, though I’ll happily read it; the singularity was a fascinating concept but did nothing for me as a storyteller—but it’s vital to know what’s happening and why. The genre is constantly evolving. To stay active, you have to evolve with it.

Continue reading “Interview: Guest Lecturer Melissa Scott”

Sponsored Post Learn from the experts: Create a successful blog with our brand new courseThe WordPress.com Blog

Are you new to blogging, and do you want step-by-step guidance on how to publish and grow your blog? Learn more about our new Blogging for Beginners course and get 50% off through December 10th.

WordPress.com is excited to announce our newest offering: a course just for beginning bloggers where you’ll learn everything you need to know about blogging from the most trusted experts in the industry. We have helped millions of blogs get up and running, we know what works, and we want you to to know everything we know. This course provides all the fundamental skills and inspiration you need to get your blog started, an interactive community forum, and content updated annually.

Odyssey Podcast #135: Brandon Sanderson

mp3 Odyssey Podcast #135

Brandon Sanderson was a guest lecturer at the 2020 Odyssey Writing Workshop. In this excerpt from his lecture, Brandon talks about story progress, promise, and payoff.

Brandon was born in 1975 in Lincoln, Nebraska. By junior high he had lost interest in the novels suggested to him, and he never cracked a book if he could help it. Then an eighth grade teacher, Mrs. Reeder, gave him Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly.

Brandon was finishing his thirteenth novel when Moshe Feder at Tor Books bought the sixth he had written. In 2005 Brandon held his first published novel, Elantris, in his hands. Tor also published six books in Brandon’s Mistborn series, along with Warbreaker and then The Way of Kings, Words of Radiance, and Oathbringer, the first three in the planned ten-volume series The Stormlight Archive. Five books in his middle-grade Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians series were released by Starscape. Brandon was chosen to complete Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series; the final book, A Memory of Light, was released in 2013. That year also marked the releases of YA novels The Rithmatist from Tor and Steelheart from Delacorte—the first book of the Reckoners trilogy, which concluded in 2016 with Calamity—who also published his most recent work Skyward in late 2018.

Currently living in Utah with his wife and children, Brandon teaches creative writing at Brigham Young University. He also hosts the Hugo Award-winning writing advice podcast Writing Excuses with Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler, and Dan Wells.

The text of this recording is copyright © 2020 by Brandon Sanderson. The sound recording is copyright ℗ 2020 by Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust.

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

Odyssey Podcast #134: JG Faherty

mp3 Odyssey Podcast #134

JG Faherty was a guest lecturer at the 2020 Odyssey Writing Workshop. In this excerpt from his question-and-answer session, JG answers questions about his biggest career break and his biggest dislike about the writing life.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A life-long resident of New York’s haunted Hudson Valley, JG is the author of seven novels, ten novellas, and more than seventy-five short stories, and he’s been a finalist for both the Bram Stoker Award (The Cure, Ghosts of Coronado Bay) and ITW Thriller Award (The Burning Time). He writes adult and YA horror, science fiction, dark fantasy, and paranormal romance, and his works range from quiet, dark suspense to over-the-top comic gruesomeness.

Since 2011, JG has been a Board Trustee for the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and a Mentor. He launched their Young Adult program, and also their Library & Literacy program, which he still runs. Recently, he co-founded the HWA’s Summer Scares reading initiative in conjunction with Becky Spratford and several library organization, and he teaches local teen writing programs at libraries. In 2019, he was recognized with the Mentor of the Year Award by the HWA.

As a child, his favorite playground was a seventeenth-century cemetery, which many people feel explains a lot. You can follow him at www.twitter.com/jgfaherty, www.facebook.com/jgfaherty, and www.jgfaherty.com.

The text of this recording is copyright © 2020 by JG Faherty. The sound recording is copyright ℗ 2020 by Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust.

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

Interview: Graduate & Guest Lecturer Gregory Ashe

Odyssey graduate and bestselling author Gregory Ashe will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. 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.


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 writers can do is keep trying. That’s not just general encouragement, although I do believe that persistence and hard work will probably pay greater dividends than waiting for genius, talent, or inspiration. I also mean keep trying new things: new genres, new points of view, new narrative structures, new character types, new lengths. As with so many crafts, failures in writing often teach more than successes, and trying new things will force you to stretch and grow—and it may help you see your own strengths and weaknesses.

Continue reading “Interview: Graduate & Guest Lecturer Gregory Ashe”

Interview: Guest Lecturer David Farland

David Farland will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. David is an international bestselling author with over 50 novels in print.

He has won the Philip K. Dick Memorial Special Award for Best SF novel of the year, the Whitney Award for Book of the Year, and the International Book Award for Best Young Adult Novel of the year, among others. He is best known, however, for his New York Times bestselling fantasy series The Runelords.

He is the lead judge for one of the world’s largest writing competitions and has helped dozens of writers launch their careers, including such well-known names as Brandon Sanderson, James Dashner, Brandon Mull, and Stephenie Meyer.

You can learn about his workshops and sign up for his free advice column at www.mystorydoctor.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?

There isn’t one piece of advice that everyone needs. Putting together a writing career is like putting together a puzzle. So I try to talk to a writer and figure out what the one piece of advice that author needs is.

For example, with Brandon Sanderson, he really just needed to believe that he could make writing a career, so we worked on that. For Stephenie Meyer, we analyzed her intended market and how to break into it. For James Dashner, he needed to transition from a low-paying market writing sports tie-ins to writing science fiction for a wider audience, and so on.

Continue reading “Interview: Guest Lecturer David Farland”

Odyssey Podcast #133: JG Faherty

mp3 Odyssey Podcast #133

JG Faherty was a guest lecturer at the 2020 Odyssey Writing Workshop. In this excerpt from his question-and-answer session, JG answers questions about writing advice and beta readers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A life-long resident of New York’s haunted Hudson Valley, JG is the author of seven novels, ten novellas, and more than seventy-five short stories, and he’s been a finalist for both the Bram Stoker Award (The Cure, Ghosts of Coronado Bay) and ITW Thriller Award (The Burning Time). He writes adult and YA horror, science fiction, dark fantasy, and paranormal romance, and his works range from quiet, dark suspense to over-the-top comic gruesomeness.

Since 2011, JG has been a Board Trustee for the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and a Mentor. He launched their Young Adult program, and also their Library & Literacy program, which he still runs. Recently, he co-founded the HWA’s Summer Scares reading initiative in conjunction with Becky Spratford and several library organization, and he teaches local teen writing programs at libraries. In 2019, he was recognized with the Mentor of the Year Award by the HWA.

As a child, his favorite playground was a seventeenth-century cemetery, which many people feel explains a lot. You can follow him at www.twitter.com/jgfaherty, www.facebook.com/jgfaherty, and www.jgfaherty.com.

The text of this recording is copyright © 2020 by JG Faherty. The sound recording is copyright ℗ 2020 by Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust.

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

OdBlog Flashback: “My Odyssey Online Experience” by Kodiak Julian

This winter, Odyssey Online is once again offering the course One Brick at a Time: Crafting Compelling Scenes, taught by award-winning novelist Barbara Ashford. The following essay, in which author and Odyssey Online graduate Kodiak Julian talks about her experience with the class, was originally published here on September 9, 2018.

The application deadline for this winter’s Odyssey Online courses is December 7, 2020.


Kodiak-headshot

Kodiak Julian is a graduate of Reed College and the Clarion Writers’ Workshop. Together with Jamaica Zoglman, she cohosts the weekly podcast, Spirit of the Endeavor, which explores the pursuit of beauty, mystery and the sublime in everyday life. She lives with her husband and son in Yakima, Washington, where she teaches truly magnificent high school students. Her work appears in Lightspeed, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Grimoire Magazine, the Writers of the Future anthology, and in the Witches, Stitches, and Bitches anthology. She is frequently mesmerized by watching chickens.

Continue reading “OdBlog Flashback: “My Odyssey Online Experience” by Kodiak Julian”

2021 Odyssey Online Classes

ODYSSEY ONLINE OFFERS LIVE, INTENSIVE CLASSES WITH IN-DEPTH FEEDBACK

“I’ve taken other online writing classes before and gained a few useful insights here and there, but this class does more than just lecture—it gives you tools and forces you to practice using those tools. Then it shows you how to incorporate those tools into writing an actual story. I felt welcomed and supported in every stage of the class and am thrilled at how my writing network has expanded from this class. I was astounded at the amount and quality of the critiques I received from the instructor and my classmates on assignments I turned in. I learned so much from them! And I was just as astounded at the amount and quality of critique I was giving to other students—I’d been giving critiques for years, but this class taught me how to look at the big picture.” —Caitlin Jacobs

The Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust has announced its Winter 2021 online classes: One Brick at a Time: Crafting Compelling Scenes, taught by award-winning novelist Barbara Ashford; Emotional Truth: Making Character Emotions Real, Powerful, and Immediate to Readers, taught by award-winning editor-in-chief and publisher Scott H. Andrews; and Worldbuilding in Fantasy and Science Fiction, taught by New York Times bestselling author Patricia C. Wrede.

Continue reading “2021 Odyssey Online Classes”

Odyssey Podcast #132: Barbara Ashford on Crafting Compelling Scenes

mp3 Odyssey Podcast #132

In Winter 2018, award-winning novelist Barbara Ashford taught the Odyssey Online course One Brick at a Time: Crafting Compelling Scenes, and she’ll be teaching the class again this winter. In this excerpt from the first class, Barbara talks about techniques writers can use to evaluate the effectiveness of their scenes. Scenes are made out of moments. Moments can be bittersweet, funny, shocking—the best ones grab our attention because they feature characters we care about, involve indelible imagery or worldbuilding, and show dramatic conflict that keeps us reading. All writers use the same ingredients for scenes, but writing is not about following a recipe but about mixing the ingredients as appropriate for the story and scene. We need to be aware of the effect we’re striving to create and the impact we want to have on readers. A dramatic scene requires conflict. The conflict in a scene needs to relate to the conflicts in the story as a whole. When analyzing the effectiveness of scenes, don’t just look for conflict, but whether that conflict pushes the plot forward and whether it impacts future events. Look at whether the POV character has a clear scene objective. If the scene is about several things rather than a single objective, it becomes unfocused. The short-term scene objective has to relate to the character’s long-term goal, the super-objective. The scene needs to put obstacles between the protagonist and the super-objective. Having a clear scene objective raises anticipation and makes the reader want to know how the situation will be resolved. The scene must have something at stake for the POV character. More than anything, a scene must change the situation for the POV character in a dramatic way. If the POV character is in the same emotional place at the beginning of the scene and the end, you should ask yourself if the scene is necessary. You can skip over unimportant scenes or roll scenes together. The best scenes do more than just change the situation; they show how the POV character is changed as a result of the action.

Continue reading “Odyssey Podcast #132: Barbara Ashford on Crafting Compelling Scenes”

Graduate Essay: “What to Expect from Odyssey Online” by J.A. Schimmel

headshot2020J.A. Schimmel is a 2018 graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop, as well as several of the Odyssey Online Classes. When the world is not on fire, she divides her time between Illinois and Michigan while writing speculative fiction and slowly racking up rejections.


Once upon a time, I worked on writing creative fiction mostly on my own. Inevitably, I came to the end of where writing in isolation and studying published works would allow me to grow as a writer. I could see that in my work, but I couldn’t identify where my weaknesses were and improve on them. So… how to solve this issue? Continue reading “Graduate Essay: “What to Expect from Odyssey Online” by J.A. Schimmel”