Interview: Guest Lecturer & Graduate J. A. White

J. A. White (or just Jerry, when he’s not being fancy) will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. Jerry attended Odyssey in 1996, its very first year. He is the author of the middle-grade fantasy series The Thickety, including A Path Begins (Winner of the Children’s Choice Debut Author Award, Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2014), The Whispering Trees (Booklist Top 10 SF/Fantasy/Horror for Youth 2015), as well as two more sequels. He has also published a book of essays about the Japanese filmmaker Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Jerry lives and teaches in New Jersey. Learn more about Jerry and his work jawhitebooks.com.


You write scripts for Escape Goat Pictures, a company that makes book trailers, commercials, and short films. How has writing for visual media changed how you write novels?

When you write screenplays, you have to strip story to its barest form. There isn’t room for any fat whatsoever. I think that has made the transition to writing children’s novels pretty easy for me. I’ve had a lot of practice communicating information in as concise a way as possible. Continue reading “Interview: Guest Lecturer & Graduate J. A. White”

Interview: Guest Lecturer & Graduate 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 The Dark Apostle historical fantasy series about medieval surgery, which began with Elisha Barber (DAW, 2013), continuing with Elisha Magus, Elisha Rex, Elisha Mancer, and the final volume, Elisha Demon (forthcoming in 2018). As Elaine Isaak, she is also the author of The Singer’s Crown and its sequels. Her writing how-to articles have appeared in The Writer magazine and online. A three-time instructor at the Odyssey Writing Workshop, she has led workshops across the country on topics like “Crafting Character from the Inside Out” and “10 Mistakes I’ve Made in my Writing Career so That You Don’t Have To.” 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. She blogs about the intersections between fantasy and history at ecambrose.wordpress.com and can also be found at facebook.com/e.c.ambroseauthor or on Twitter at @ecambrose. Under any name, you still do NOT want to be her hero. Learn more at www.TheDarkApostle.com.


Once you started writing seriously, how long did it take you to sell your first piece? What were you doing wrong in your writing in those early days?

Well, first I have to figure out when I started writing seriously. I’ve wanted to be a writer for a very long time (I have stories I wrote when I was in the first grade). As for serious, let’s say it was the summer of my sophomore year of high school when I went away to writing camp and returned with new determination. I sold a couple of those juvenile pieces, but my first decent sale was after college. Continue reading “Interview: Guest Lecturer & Graduate E.C. Ambrose”

Graduate Essay: Rebecca Kuang, “Changing Everything”

kuangRebecca Kuang is a graduate of the 2016 Odyssey Writing Workshop. She studies Chinese history at Georgetown University. Her debut novel The Poppy War, the first in a trilogy, will be released from Harper Voyager in Spring 2018.


I came to Odyssey on the verge of a horrible case of writer’s block. I had just sold my first novel. I was now under contract to write two more. I had to finish a 200,000-word project in a little over a year. I’d been trying for weeks to tackle it. I couldn’t write a word. Continue reading “Graduate Essay: Rebecca Kuang, “Changing Everything””

Graduate Essay: Richard Errington, “Leveling Up”

picture1Richard James Errington attended the 2016 Odyssey Writing Workshop. He is an American/British writer born in Japan. He focuses on a variety of different genres and bounces between YA and adult fiction. He has written for an independent comic book publishing company where he published under six different title series. He has a completely unnecessary Honors BA in Creative Writing from the University of Leeds in the UK. He’s worked at banks, non-profit organizations, comic book publishers, media outlets, and had a brief stint as a postman which ended disastrously. Though he has sought them out, he has never seen any evidence of ghosts, which is leading him to believe that they may, in fact, not be real.


I’ve known for years that when you became serious about writing you considered workshops. I’d heard of Odyssey back when I was still a teenager while attending the ALPHA Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Workshop. We had an Odyssey graduate as one of our guest lecturers. I’ll always remember how enthusiastic and excited she was about it. She recommended that we apply in the future if we wanted to keep on honing our craft as writers. Continue reading “Graduate Essay: Richard Errington, “Leveling Up””

Graduate Essay: Author David H. Hendrickson, “Blending Genre and Experience,” Part 2

dave-hendricksonAuthor David H. Hendrickson is a 2006 graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. His first novel, Cracking the Ice, was praised by Booklist as “a gripping account of a courageous young man rising above evil.” He has since published four more novels, including most recently, No Defense and Offside.

His award-winning short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines, most recently Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and the Fiction River anthology series. His titles have populated multiple Kindle bestseller lists.

Hendrickson has published well over one thousand works of nonfiction ranging from sports journalism to humor and essays. He’s been honored with the Joe Concannon Hockey East Media Award and the Murray Kramer Scarlet Quill Award.

For more information about his writing, visit him online at http://www.hendricksonwriter.com where you can sign up for his mailing list and be notified of new releases.


This is Part Two of an essay; Part One was published last Sunday, and you can read it here.

Ten years ago, I’d never read a single romance, much less considered writing one. Not to put too fine a point on it, but romances were… for women.

Once again, though, workshops by Kris Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith opened my eyes to wider horizons. As part of assigned reading for one of them, I read my first romance, a novel by Nora Roberts. I found I enjoyed it more than its counterparts in the thriller genre by James Patterson and Clive Cussler. The experience showed me that I read primarily for the characters, not the plot and action, and romance is all about the characters.

So every now and then I tossed in a romance novel into my reading (ignoring the curious looks I got when friends in the fitness center spied the bare-chested hunk on my book’s cover). But I didn’t give it any more thought until another Kris Rusch-assigned reading list included a hockey romance novella.

A hockey romance.

It was close to love at first sight. Hockey romances! Who’d-a thunk it?

The novella was pretty good and I enjoyed it, but there was one detail that wasn’t quite right to my finely trained eye. That got me thinking. Why not me?

I figured I’d write a short story around 10,000 words, put it up electronically, and see what happened. I imagined a female sportswriter who’d never, ever cross the line into dating a player she covered, only to find that an old flame from college had been traded to her team. An old flame that she still burned for. While I was at it, I figured I’d use my own experience and that of my colleagues to provide an inside look at the world of a sportswriter.

body-check-cover-webWhat I had thought would be 10,000 words, however, became 20,000 and then 40,000 words, with no end in sight. The final manuscript for Body Check weighed in at over 120,000 words. Off by only 110,000. That was, of course, far, far too long for a contemporary romance. Almost twice the ideal size. Almost certainly, any New York editor who even considered it would require major surgery.

Fortunately, with the wonderful advent of indie publishing, I could release the book as I envisioned it. The manuscript went out to my first readers, then after incorporating their feedback, to the professional editor I hired, and…

Body Check sold like crazy.

All because, once again, I had looked outside my comfort zone—my newly expanded comfort zone, this time—and I’d taken a chance.
                                                                       * * *
My second YA title, Offside, which was adopted by Lynn English High School for its entire school to read this summer, looks at the same era as Cracking the Ice, but from the eyes of a naïve young, white boy whose family moves from rural Maine to the terrifying “Lynn, Lynn, City of Sin.”

I had wanted to look at some of the same racial issues as Cracking the Ice, only from the flip side in terms of race, and wound up including a surprising number of my own personal experiences growing up in Lynn. This time, I stayed away from hockey; my protagonist, “Rabbit” Labelle, is a football fanatic with some baseball thrown in for seasoning. Why? I’m not sure, it just felt right.

My latest novel, No Defense, returned to the hockey romance no-defense-cover-webgenre, but in a surprising setting. I’d taken the trip of a lifetime to Tanzania and couldn’t help but write about the wonders of the Serengeti. So I took a goalie escaping to Africa after giving up the worst goal imaginable in overtime of the Stanley Cup Championship Game 7.
                                                                      * * *
I suppose in some ways, I’ve followed that loathsome advice “write what you know” more often than I’d care to admit. I know hockey, I know what it’s like to move to “Lynn, Lynn, City of Sin,” and I now know the Serengeti.

But I don’t know what it was like to be a black teenager in the sixties, much less one leaving home for prep school. I don’t know what it’s like to be a female journalist. Or a professional hockey player. Those required research, interviews, and imagination.

So no, I didn’t just write what I knew.

I wrote what I was passionate about. Hockey. That wonderful African safari. The Civil Rights era. And in a love-hate sort of way, my tumultuous, sometimes violent years in “Lynn, Lynn, City of Sin.” And I wrote in genres I enjoy.

My advice is this: give yourself the freedom to explore new genres and new avenues of your imagination. Don’t limit yourself to autobiographically “write what you know.” You might find yourself slowly cannibalizing your life experiences, as I have done at times, but it’ll be the natural result of your storytelling, not some paint-by-numbers autobiography masquerading as fiction.

You’ll have the most fun writing—and your readers will have the most fun reading your work—when you do one thing above all.

Follow your passion.

Graduate Essay: Author David H. Hendrickson, “Blending Genre and Experience,” Part 1

dave-hendricksonAuthor David H. Hendrickson is a 2006 graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. His first novel, Cracking the Ice, was praised by Booklist as “a gripping account of a courageous young man rising above evil.” He has since published four more novels, including most recently, No Defense and Offside.

His award-winning short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines, most recently Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and the Fiction River anthology series. His titles have populated multiple Kindle bestseller lists. 

Hendrickson has published well over one thousand works of nonfiction ranging from sports journalism to humor and essays. He’s been honored with the Joe Concannon Hockey East Media Award and the Murray Kramer Scarlet Quill Award.

For more information about his writing, visit him online at http://www.hendricksonwriter.com where you can sign up for his mailing list and be notified of new releases.


Do you always write within your comfort zone? How widely do your stories vary?

So many writers constrain themselves within a narrow area of interest, creating stories that seem not only similar to each other but similar to other stories within that sub-genre. Sometimes breaking free of that ‘comfort zone’ and realizing you are a person with many interests and many different types of stories to tell can bring new energy and originality into your work.

I didn’t used to think so. I used to cling to my comfort zone. But I learned better, and perhaps my experience can help you. Let me start at the beginning.

Write what you know.

That’s what some long-forgotten book told me to do shortly after, at the age of twenty, I read my first Harlan Ellison short story and said, “Ohmigod, that’s what I want to do!”

I was horrified at the book’s advice. Write what I know? I didn’t know anything. Oh, I’d been captain of the math team and chess team in high school, and as an MIT student, I was learning a lot about computers. But I sure didn’t want to write about any of that. All that was software career stuff. I didn’t want to read fiction about math and computers, and I sure didn’t want to write about it.
Continue reading “Graduate Essay: Author David H. Hendrickson, “Blending Genre and Experience,” Part 1″

Interview: Odyssey Online Graduate and Author Jenise Aminoff

jenise-headshotDianna Sanchez is the not-so-secret identity of Jenise Aminoff, whose superpower is cooking with small children. She is an MIT alumna, graduate of the 1995 Clarion Workshop and Odyssey Online, active member of SCBWI, and a former editor of New Myths magazine (www.newmyths.com).

Aside from 18 years as a technical and science writer, she has taught science in Boston Public Schools, developed curricula for STEM education, and taught Preschool Chef, a cooking class for children ages 3-5. A Latina geek originally from Albuquerque, NM, she now resides near Boston, MA with her wonderfully geeky husband and two daughters.

Her debut novel is A WITCH’S KITCHEN, forthcoming from Dreaming Robot Press in September 2016.


Congratulations on the sale of your first novel, A Witch’s Kitchen, coming out from Dreaming Robot Press on September 25, 2016! How many stages did your novel go through before you sent it to the publisher? How much of your time was spent writing the first draft, and how much was spent in revising? What sort of revisions did you do on the novel?

Thanks! All told, A Witch’s Kitchen took me two years, three months to complete. I started it just before Thanksgiving 2013 and completed the first draft on March 25, 2014. Luckily, I had signed up for Odyssey Online’s Powerful Dialogue in Fantastic Fiction, intending to use it for a completely different project, so that helped a great deal. Even so, I knew it was nowhere near ready to send out. Continue reading “Interview: Odyssey Online Graduate and Author Jenise Aminoff”