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”

Special Announcement: 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 “Special Announcement: 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”

Odyssey Podcasts #129 (Holly Black), #130 (E.C. Ambrose) & #131 (Scott H. Andrews)

mp3 Odyssey Podcast #129

Holly Black was a guest lecturer at the 2019 Odyssey Writing Workshop. In this excerpt from her question-and-answer session, Holly answers questions about writing young adult and middle grade fiction. One student points out that some people think fantastic creatures must be a certain way. How do you deal with those expectations? Holly says that when writing in a tradition, you’re adding to a conversation. Bring your own perspective into the conversation based on who you are. Another student asks how you get into a teen’s head and see things through their eyes? Holly suggests writers try to remember being a teen. Think of what you did, how you felt. The error writers tend to make is to write about teens or children who are very concerned with the adults in their lives when they should be thinking about themselves and their peers. When asked the difference between middle grade and young adult, Holly explains that the readers are very different. You need a protagonist of the appropriate age. Middle grade stories are generally about family and friendship. Harry Potter and Percy Jackson are examples. Young adult stories are usually about self-definition, friendship, and love, as the protagonist ventures outside of childhood into independence. YA should not involve an adult character looking back at her teen years. Middle grade and young adult fiction usually have a single viewpoint character; it is rare to have more.

Holly Black is the author of bestselling contemporary fantasy books for kids and teens. Some of her titles include The Spiderwick Chronicles (with Tony DiTerlizzi), The Modern Faerie Tale series, the Curse Workers series, Doll BonesThe Coldest Girl in Coldtown, the Magisterium series (with Cassandra Clare), The Darkest Part of the ForestThe Cruel Prince and The Wicked King. She has been a finalist for an Eisner Award, and the recipient of the Andre Norton Award, the Mythopoeic Award and a Newbery Honor. She currently lives in New England with her husband and son in a house with a secret door.

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


mp3 Odyssey Podcast #130

E. C. Ambrose was a guest lecturer at Odyssey 2020. In this excerpt from her lecture on generating plot from the heart of your story, Elaine talks about “How to Middle,” how to use plot turns to avoid getting mired in the muddy middle. Many writers get stuck after the opening section of their novel or story. Once the characters and situation have been introduced, we need to start playing with those elements, using plot turns and plotting tools. Plot turns change the trajectory of a plot or change the meaning of the story in the mind of the reader. Elaine explains different types of plot turns: the time bomb, the time trap, the crucible, the dilemma, the reversal, the revelation, the confrontation, and natural elements. A lot of flash fiction has a single plot turn, usually a reversal or a revelation. Plot turns can be presented in different ways: through dialogue, action, thought, or narration. The rate of plot turns is a significant factor in the pace of a story.

E. C. Ambrose, writes knowledge-inspired adventure fiction including the five-volume Dark Apostle series about medieval surgery, The Singer’s Legacy fantasy series as by Elaine Isaak, and the Bone Guard international thrillers as by E. Chris Ambrose. The Dark Apostle started with Elisha Barber (DAW, 2013), described in a starred Library Journal review as, “beautifully told, painfully elegant.” Her latest releases are Bone Guard Two: The Nazi SkullThe Singer’s Crown: The Author’s Cut, and historical fantasy novella The King of Next Week (Guardbridge, April 2020). Her short stories have appeared in FiresideWarrior Women and Fantasy for the Throne, among many others, and she has edited several volumes of New Hampshire Pulp Fiction.

The text of this recording is copyright © 2020 by E. C. Ambrose. The sound recording is copyright ℗ 2020 by Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust.


mp3 Odyssey Podcast #131

In Winter 2019, Scott H. Andrews, editor and publisher of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, taught the Odyssey Online course Emotional Truth: Making Character Emotions Real, Powerful, and Immediate to Readers, and he’ll be teaching an expanded version of the class this winter. In this excerpt from the first class, Scott shares an example from Angela Hunt, in which she describes how reading the sequel to Gone with the Wind had her in tears after a few pages. A character died, one that she had a strong attachment to from the first book. The sequel tapped into the well of emotion she already had. That’s what stories need to do; they need to make the reader feel something by leveraging readers’ past experiences. For writers, this task breaks into two parts. First, the writer needs to get the emotion into the story so the reader understands it. That means making the emotion clear and obvious enough that the reader picks it up. Many writers tend to be overly subtle or oblique about emotion, so it doesn’t come through. Second, the writer needs to make the reader feel the emotion. This involves using concrete images, using the physical rather than the cerebral, and conveying emotion through the prose. Common weaknesses include lack of specificity, ambiguity, and lack of honesty. Writers may flinch from what something really feels like.

Photo credit: Al Bogdan

Scott H. Andrews 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 eight-time Hugo Award finalist and World Fantasy Award-winning online fantasy magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

Scott is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop; his literary short fiction has won a $1000 prize from the Briar Cliff Review, and his genre short fiction has appeared in Space & TimeCrossed 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.

The text of this recording is copyright © 2019 by Scott H. Andrews. The sound recording is copyright ℗ 2020 by Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust.


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

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.”