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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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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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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Director’s Corner: Introducing Your Personal Odyssey, a One-On-One Online Writing Workshop

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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.


Your Personal Odyssey Writing Workshop is such an exciting new opportunity for writers! What are some of the best ways for potential students to maximize the possibility of being selected for the workshop?

The most important thing a writer can do to improve their chances of being accepted into Your Personal Odyssey is to apply. Writers often pre-reject themselves, deciding not to apply to a program or not to submit their story to a particular magazine because they think they have no chance of success. And it’s true that they have no chance, if they never try. So I would encourage interested writers to apply. 

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Interview: Graduate Larry Hodges (Part 2 of 2)

Larry Hodges is a science fiction and fantasy writer, as well as a table tennis coach. (Yes, that’s a strange combination.) Larry is a graduate of the 2006 Odyssey Writing Workshop, the 2007 Orson Scott Card Literary Boot Camp, and the 2008 Taos Toolbox Writers Workshop. He’s an active member of SFWA with over 100 short story sales, including ones to Analog, Amazing Stories, and Escape Pod, and 18 to Galaxy’s Edge. He’s also published several novels (When Parallel Lines Meet, co-written with Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn; Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions; Sorcerers in Space; and The Spirit of Pong) and short story collections (Pings and Pongs, More Pings and Pongs, and Still More Pings and Pongs). In the world of non-fiction, Larry’s a full-time writer with 17 books and over 1,900 published articles in over 170 different publications. You can visit him online at www.larryhodges.com.


Part 1 of this interview, posted last Sunday, is available here.


One of your most recent publications is “Ninety-Nine Sextillion Souls in a Ball,” in the November/December 2021 issue of Dark Matter Magazine. What led you to write this story?

I like to take ideas to their logical extremes. I took the passage from the Bible, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth,” and wondered what would happen if the world were taken over by religious fanatics who took this to its logical conclusion. Assume they have advanced technology that can convert matter into food and other necessities, and other needed technologies. Let’s assume every woman from age 13 on is forced to have a baby every nine months, and nobody dies. Then population would eventually start doubling every six years. (It’s a little more complicated than that—fortunately, I have a degree in math, and I had a math professor check my work.) The numbers go up exponentially—believe it or not, it would take only about 250 years to convert the entire Earth’s mass into humans, and they would number about 99 sextillion! So that was the story I wrote. (99 Sextillion is 99,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.)

Continue reading “Interview: Graduate Larry Hodges (Part 2 of 2)”

Interview: Graduate Larry Hodges (Part 1 of 2)

Larry Hodges is a science fiction and fantasy writer, as well as a table tennis coach. (Yes, that’s a strange combination.) Larry is a graduate of the 2006 Odyssey Writing Workshop, the 2007 Orson Scott Card Literary Boot Camp, and the 2008 Taos Toolbox Writers Workshop. He’s an active member of SFWA with over 100 short story sales, including ones to Analog, Amazing Stories, and Escape Pod, and 18 to Galaxy’s Edge. He’s also published several novels (When Parallel Lines Meet, co-written with Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn; Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions; Sorcerers in Space; and The Spirit of Pong) and short story collections (Pings and Pongs, More Pings and Pongs, and Still More Pings and Pongs). In the world of non-fiction, Larry’s a full-time writer with 17 books and over 1,900 published articles in over 170 different publications. You can visit him online at www.larryhodges.com.


You’re a 2006 graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. What made you decide to attend? What insights did you gain into your own work?

I did some research and asked around, and Odyssey seemed the most recommended workshop. (Having Robert J. Sawyer as a “Writer in Residence” that year greatly helped!) Probably the biggest insight I learned about my own work was that I’m an “idea” and “humor/satire” writer who needs to focus on character and other aspects equally. I also went in knowing that I had little feel for description, and so have spent years working to overcome that. One thing that helped: Robert and Odyssey Director Jeanne Cavelos suggested writing a story that was all about description, and so I wrote and sold “In the Belly of the Beast,” where the whole story takes place in the belly of a dragon that has swallowed a bunch of people, including a wizard who creates a field to protect them in the dragon’s stomach—and much of the story revolved around vivid descriptions of the “venue.” It also became a character story about the wizard.

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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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