Graduate Essay: “Is Odyssey the Right Workshop for You?” by Libby Barringer

Libby Barringer is a 2020 graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. She writes fantasy and science fiction, and she lives in the New York Hudson Valley with her husband and their excellent cat. She earned her PhD in political science in 2016 from UCLA, and when not writing, she teaches courses in political philosophy and literature with Bard College and with the Bard Prison Initiative.


If you are thinking about attending Odyssey, chances are you are grappling with a few big questions: Is this the right workshop for me? Will this help my writing, and will this help me in my professional career? What do attendees actually do for all six weeks of classes? How much more is there really to learn about writing, and can the workshop really deliver? Is it really as intense as everyone says?

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2021 Odyssey Writing Workshop Scholarship Winners

MISKATONIC SCHOLARSHIP

George R. R. Martin, New York Times bestselling author, created the Miskatonic Scholarship to support a promising new writer of Lovecraftian cosmic horror attending the Odyssey Writing Workshop each year. Martin discovered the work of H. P. Lovecraft when he was a boy and found that no other writer could give him “chills to equal those provided by the cosmic horrors that Lovecraft evoked.” With the scholarship, Martin hopes to encourage and inspire a new generation of writers to explore the genre of cosmic horror. To one outstanding writer, Martin is offering the opportunity to study at the Odyssey Writing Workshop, one of the top programs in the world for writers of the fantastic.

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Interview: Graduate Arley Sorg

Arley Sorg is co-editor-in-chief at Fantasy Magazine, senior editor at Locus Magazine, associate editor at both Lightspeed and Nightmare Magazines, and a columnist for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science FictionHe takes on multiple roles, including slush reader, movie and book reviewer, and interviewer, at multiple venues, including Clarkesworld Magazine and his own site: arleysorg.com. Arley grew up in England, Hawaii, and Colorado and studied Asian Religions at Pitzer College. He lives in Oakland and, in non-pandemic times, usually writes in local coffee shops. He is a 2014 Odyssey Writing Workshop graduate.


You attended the Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2014. Can you talk about your pre-Odyssey writing process? What kind of writing schedule, if any, did you keep?

I was a “push yourself” kind of writer. I had a couple of regular writing groups, both for co-working sessions and for critique.

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Interview: Graduate Linden A. Lewis

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Linden A. Lewis (she/they) is a queer writer and world wanderer currently living in Madrid with a couple of American cats who have little kitty passports. Tall and tattooed, Linden exists only because society has stopped burning witches.

Linden attended the Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2016, and their short fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. They are represented by Alexandra Machinist at ICM Partners in New York City. Their first novel, The First Sister, was released in August 2020.

While there is a 95% chance Linden is a cryptid, they can often be spotted in the wild cosplaying or acting (yes, they appeared in an episode of The Walking Dead). Nowadays, they are most frequently found lurking on both Instagram and Twitter @lindenalewis.


You’re a 2016 graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. What made you decide to attend?

In 2015, I wrote and began querying a book, but I knew, even before I started getting rejections, that someone was wrong with it. Something was missing. After a year of hearing the same thing from agents, I decided to apply to the Odyssey Writing Workshop, hoping I’d be able to discover what I lacked. Turned out I was right!

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Interview: Guest Lecturer P. Djèlí Clark

Phenderson Djèlí Clark will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. He 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.

Born in New York and raised mostly in Houston, Texas, he spent the early formative years of his life in the homeland of his parents, Trinidad and Tobago. When not writing speculative fiction, P. Djèlí Clark works as an academic historian whose research spans comparative slavery and emancipation in the Atlantic World. He melds this interest in history and the social world with speculative fiction, and has written articles on issues ranging from racism and H.P. Lovecraft to critiques of George Schuyler’s Black Empire, and has been a panelist and lecturer at conventions, workshops, and other genre events. At the current time, he resides in a small Edwardian castle in New England with his wife, infant daughters, and pet dragon (who suspiciously resembles a Boston Terrier). When so inclined he rambles on issues of speculative fiction, politics, and diversity at his aptly named blog The Disgruntled Haradrim.


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?

To have faith in your own writing and imagination. That story that you’re uncertain about, that you think might be too “out there,” might just be what readers are waiting to see.

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Interview: Guest Lecturer David Brin

David Brin will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. David is a scientist, inventor, and New York Times bestselling author. With books translated into 25 languages, he has won multiple Hugo, Nebula, and other awards. A film directed by Kevin Costner was based on David’s novel The Postman. David’s science-fictional Uplift Saga explores genetic engineering of higher animals, like dolphins, to speak. His near-future novels Earth and Existence explore possible consequences of onrushing technologies on people’s lives. As a scientist/futurist, David is seen frequently on television shows such as The ArchiTechs, Universe, and Life After People (most popular show ever on the History Channel)—with many appearances on PBS, BBC, and NPR. An inventor with many patents, he is in-demand to speak about future trends, keynoting for IBM, Google, Procter & Gamble, SAP, Microsoft, Qualcomm, the Mauldin Group, and Casey Research, all the way to think tanks, Homeland Security, and the CIA. With degrees from Caltech and the University of California-San Diego, Dr. Brin serves on advisory panels ranging from astronomy, NASA innovative concepts, nanotech, and SETI to national defense and technological ethics. His nonfiction book The Transparent Society explores the dangers of secrecy and loss of privacy in our modern world. It garnered the prestigious Freedom of Speech Prize from the American Library Association. His next nonfiction work (May 2021) is Vivid Tomorrows: Science Fiction and Hollywood.


You’ll be a guest at Odyssey this year, participating in a Q&A and providing critiques. What do you think is the most important advice you can give to developing writers?

Humans reflexively dislike and avoid the one thing that can help them to get better at anything—criticism. Workshopping helps you get it. In person is good. Even community college “writing classes” at least provide a captive audience of readers to say “I didn’t get that” or “I had to read that passage three times.” I offer more advice at http://www.davidbrin.com/advice.htm.

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Odyssey Podcast #138: Sheila Williams

mp3 Odyssey Podcast #138

Award-winning editor Sheila Williams was a guest lecturer at the 2020 Odyssey Writing Workshop. In this excerpt from a question and answer session, she answers questions about her editorial process, story endings, and what differentiates a good story from a story that she buys.

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.

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

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

Interview: Guest Lecturer Sheree Renée Thomas

Sheree Renée Thomas will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. Sheree is an award-winning editor and the author of three collections, Nine Bar Blues: Stories from an Ancient Future (Third Man Books, May 2020), Sleeping Under the Tree of Life (Aqueduct Press, 2016) and Shotgun Lullabies: Stories & Poems (Aqueduct Press, 2011). She is the editor of the groundbreaking anthologies, Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora (2000) and Dark Matter: Reading the Bones (2004), which earned the 2001 and 2005 World Fantasy Awards for Year’s Best Anthology, making her the first Black author to win the award since its inception in 1975. Sheree is the editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, founded in 1949. She also edited for Random House and for magazines like Apex, Strange Horizons, and is the Associate Editor of the historic literary journal, Obsidian: Literature & Arts in the African Diaspora.

As a fiction writer and poet, her work has been supported with fellowships and residencies from Smith College as the Lucille Geier-Lakes Writer-in-Residence, the Cave Canem Foundation, Bread Loaf Environmental, the Millay Colony of Arts, VCCA, the Wallace Foundation, the New York Foundation of the Arts, the Tennessee Arts Commission, ArtsMemphis, and others. Widely anthologized, her work also appears in The Big Book of Modern Fantasy and The New York Times. Sheree was honored as a 2020 World Fantasy Award Finalist for her contributions to the genre and will serve as a Special Guest and a co-host of the 2021 Hugo Awards Ceremony with Malka Older at Discon III in Washington, DC.


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 advise you can give to developing writers?

The most important thing that we can do as writers, particularly at the beginning of our journey, is to read widely. You will probably get more out of reading than you would out of any workshop, to be honest. But workshops help you create a shortcut, in a way, to some of the hard-earned lessons you would eventually find out on your own, and it’s good to have people who have been on that journey before you to give you some pointers on how to get where you’re trying to go.

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Odyssey Podcast #137: Carrie Vaughn

mp3 Odyssey Podcast #137

Bestselling author Carrie Vaughn was a guest lecturer at the 2020 Odyssey Writing Workshop. In this excerpt from a question and answer session, she answers questions about revision, plot, and point of view.

Carrie’s latest novels include the post-apocalyptic murder mystery, Bannerless, winner of the Philip K. Dick Award, and its sequel, The Wild Dead. She wrote the New York Times bestselling series of novels about a werewolf named Kitty, along with several other contemporary fantasy and young adult novels, and upwards of 80 short stories, two of which have been finalists for the Hugo Award. She’s a contributor to the Wild Cards series of shared world superhero books edited by George R. R. Martin, and a graduate of the Odyssey Fantasy Writing Workshop. An Air Force brat, she survived her nomadic childhood and managed to put down roots in Boulder, Colorado. Visit her at www.carrievaughn.com.

The text of this recording is copyright © 2020 by Carrie Vaughn. 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 #136: John Joseph Adams

mp3 Odyssey Podcast #136

John Joseph Adams was a guest lecturer at the 2020 Odyssey Writing Workshop. In this excerpt from a question and answer session, he talks about worldbuilding and what he’d most like to see in submissions.

John is the editor of John Joseph Adams Books, a science fiction and fantasy imprint from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. He is also the series editor of Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, as well as the bestselling editor of more than thirty anthologies, including Dead Man’s HandRobot UprisingsOz ReimaginedThe Mad Scientist’s Guide to World DominationOther Worlds Than TheseArmoredUnder the Moons of MarsBrave New WorldsWastelandsThe Living DeadThe Living Dead 2By Blood We LiveFederationsThe Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and The Way of the Wizard.

Recent books include Cosmic PowersWhat the #@&% Is That?Operation ArcanaPress Start to PlayLoosed Upon the World, and The Apocalypse Triptych.

John is a two-time winner of the Hugo Award (for which he has been a finalist twelve times) and an eight-time finalist for the World Fantasy Award. He has been called “the reigning king of the anthology world” by Barnes & Noble, and his books have been lauded as some of the best anthologies of all time.

In addition to his anthology work, John is also the editor and publisher of the magazines Lightspeed and Nightmare. Prior to taking on that role, John worked for nine years in the editorial department of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

John has written reviews for Publishers WeeklyKirkus ReviewsLocus MagazineAmazing StoriesAudible.comStrange Horizons, and Intergalactic Medicine Show. His other nonfiction writing has appeared in venues such as io9Syfy WireTor.com, and Wired.com. John is also currently a producer for WIRED’s The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. He also served as a judge for the 2015 National Book Award.

For more information, visit his website at johnjosephadams.com, and you can find him on Twitter @johnjosephadams.

The text of this recording is copyright © 2020 by John Joseph Adams. The sound recording is copyright ℗ 2020 by Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust.

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