Interview: Graduate Rebecca F. Kuang

Kuang HeadshotRebecca F. Kuang studies modern Chinese history at Georgetown University and will be pursuing her graduate studies at the University of Cambridge as a Marshall Scholar. She graduated from the Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2016 and the CSSF Novel Writers Workshop in 2017. Her debut novel The Poppy War is about empire, drugs, shamanism, and China’s bloody twentieth century. It will be published by Harper Voyager in May 2018. She tweets at @kuangrf and blogs at www.rfkuang.com.


You attended the Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2016. Can you talk about your pre-Odyssey writing process? What kind of writing schedule, if any, did you keep

Before Odyssey, I gave myself just one hard and fast rule: write 2,000 words a day, every day, no matter how bad they are. (To be fair, I was on a work schedule where I could make time to do this, whereas now I count myself lucky if I can squeeze 1,000 words in on a good day.) I’d never taken a creative writing class before, so had absolutely no understanding of craft, plot structure, or world-building before I dove in. I bought some books on writing genre fiction and read them along the way, but it was very much a DIY approach to writing. Continue reading “Interview: Graduate Rebecca F. Kuang”

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Interview: Graduate & Guest Lecturer Meagan Spooner

SpoonerNew York Times bestselling author and Odyssey graduate Meagan Spooner will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. She is the author of Hunted, Unearthed, and the Starbound Trilogy (These Broken Stars, This Shattered World, and Their Fractured Light). She attended Odyssey in 2009 and sold her first novel a year and a half later.

She grew up in Virginia, reading and writing every spare moment of the day, while dreaming about life as an archaeologist, a marine biologist, and an astronaut. She’s traveled all over the world to places like Egypt, Australia, South Africa, Antarctica, and the Galapagos, and there’s a bit of every trip in every story she writes.

She currently lives and writes in Asheville, North Carolina, but the siren call of travel is hard to resist, and there’s no telling how long she’ll stay there.

In her spare time she plays guitar, plays video games, plays with her cat, and reads.


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?

One of the things I tell developing writers is to get used to sharing your work as early as you can. Learning to receive both praise AND critique is an invaluable skill, and like any skill, it takes practice! Leaving aside the emotional component that makes sharing work and receiving critique difficult, one of the hardest things to learn as a writer is the ability to pick and choose what elements of a critique serve you and your story. Not every suggestion is right for you—and what might work well for one writer’s style may not work for another. You can’t accept and implement every suggestion you get, but neither can you reject it all out of hand! This skill is one that simply takes practice, and a lot of it! Continue reading “Interview: Graduate & Guest Lecturer Meagan Spooner”

Interview: Graduate Jason S. Ridler (Part 2 of 2)

ridler2005 Odyssey Writing Workshop graduate Jason S. Ridler is a writer, improv actor, and left-wing military historian. His novels include Hex-Rated, the first installment of the Brimstone Files series for Night Shade Books; Rise of the Luchador; and Death Match. He’s also published over sixty stories and numerous academic publications. FXXK WRITING! A Guide for Frustrated Artists collects the best of his column of the same name, and his next historical work, Mavericks of War, is forthcoming from Stackpole Books. A former punk rock musician and cemetery groundskeeper, Mr. Ridler holds a Ph.D. in War Studies from the Royal Military College of Canada. He lives in Berkeley, CA and is a Teaching Fellow for Johns Hopkins University.


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

Your latest novel, Hex-Rated, is about a PI investigating supernatural happenings in the 1970s Hollywood porn industry. As a historian, what drew you to writing about the 1970s and the porn industry? How did you handle mashing multiple genres together?

The 1970s, especially the early 70s, are about dreams and hopes dying and being reborn (a theme in my own work and life). It’s the end of the Love Generation and the birth of the Manson murders, of peace movements helping end Vietnam and the return of soldiers with PTSD, of drugs eating through the hearts and minds of people as much as expanding their consciousness. Heavy metal and proto-punk is screaming at the sincerity of the folk-rock and Woodstock crew. It’s the shifting sands of violence in the civil rights movement as desegregation takes hold and black nationalism refuses to bow to white power and privilege and searches for alternatives to the power structures that abide. And it’s the emergence of the modern adult film industry.  Continue reading “Interview: Graduate Jason S. Ridler (Part 2 of 2)”

Interview: Graduate Jason S. Ridler (Part 1 of 2)

ridler2005 Odyssey Writing Workshop graduate Jason S. Ridler is a writer, improv actor, and left-wing military historian. His novels include Hex-Rated, the first installment of the Brimstone Files series for Night Shade Books; Rise of the Luchador; and Death Match. He’s also published over sixty stories and numerous academic publications. FXXK WRITING! A Guide for Frustrated Artists collects the best of his column of the same name, and his next historical work, Mavericks of War, is forthcoming from Stackpole Books. A former punk rock musician and cemetery groundskeeper, Mr. Ridler holds a Ph.D. in War Studies from the Royal Military College of Canada. He lives in Berkeley, CA and is a Teaching Fellow for Johns Hopkins University.


You’re a writer, a historian, and also an improv actor. How has doing improv impacted your writing? What lessons have you taken from improv and applied to writing?

Improv has provided many things that help me be a writer: being socially engaged in creating art with others; the nature of performance and stagecraft in reaching an audience; tools for brainstorming; a life outside of “all I f***ing do is write and be in my head,” which acted as an antidote to a lot of the writer b***s*** about being special because you’re a loner who does art (writing is also a great way to AVOID dealing with people and problems: improv helped me crack that code); improv uses less conventional storytelling tools and tactics that allow you to play with the absurd and normalcy and break expectation; improv also champions mistakes and failures as awesome means to new ideas (writing …. not so much); and it’s fun as hell. Improv and its gifts are now just a part of the complex lab of the imagination that exists in my storytelling brain. Continue reading “Interview: Graduate Jason S. Ridler (Part 1 of 2)”

Interview: Graduate & Guest Lecturer Theodora Goss

TheodoraGossAward-winning author and Odyssey graduate Theodora Goss will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. She was born in Hungary and spent her childhood in various European countries before her family moved to the United States. Although she grew up on the classics of English literature, her writing has been influenced by an Eastern European literary tradition in which the boundaries between realism and the fantastic are often ambiguous. Her publications include the short story collection In the Forest of Forgetting (2006); Interfictions (2007), a short story anthology coedited with Delia Sherman; Voices from Fairyland (2008), a poetry anthology with critical essays and a selection of her own poems; The Thorn and the Blossom (2012), a novella in a two-sided accordion format; the poetry collection Songs for Ophelia (2014); and her debut novel The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter (2017). Her work has been translated into twelve languages. She has been a finalist for the Nebula, Crawford, Locus, Seiun, and Mythopoeic Awards, and on the Tiptree Award Honor List. Her poems “Octavia is Lost in the Hall of Masks” (2003) and “Rose Child” (2016) won the Rhysling Award, and her short story “Singing of Mount Abora” (2007) won the World Fantasy Award. Her next novel, European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman, will be published in 2018 by Saga Press.


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 are all sorts of things students can learn from teachers and workshops, but in the end, the most important advice I can give them is that at some point, they’ll need to stop listening to other people, or perhaps listen very selectively. Not anytime soon—there’s still plenty to learn. But they’ll get to a point where they’ll need to start selecting, or perhaps creating, their own paths, making their own decisions about what they want to write and how. They’ll decide when to break what they’ve been taught are the rules, or when to throw aside the entire rulebook. They’ll see other writers doing things they’ve never seen before, and they’ll say, “Yes, I want to do something like that, but in my own way.” And that will be wonderful. In the end, every writer is different—we all have our own stories, we all decide how to tell them, and none of us have exactly the same careers. Continue reading “Interview: Graduate & Guest Lecturer Theodora Goss”

Graduate & Guest Lecturer E.C. Ambrose: “Crafting the Series”

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 Daemon (forthcoming February 6, 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.


In February of 2018, Elisha Daemon, the fifth volume of my Dark Apostle series, will hit the bookstores, thereby achieving something that many fantasy series never do: ending. I look upon that day with both excitement for the fulfilment of my plans and trepidation because I can no longer say quite what will happen next. The characters I’ve been living with for ten years now will be left behind. It’s like breaking off a longstanding relationship. “It’s not you, Elisha, it’s me—I have to move on.” But it will also be the moment I can reveal the ending I’ve been working toward for so long.

Continue reading “Graduate & Guest Lecturer E.C. Ambrose: “Crafting the Series””

“Odyssey Online Writing Courses: Intense Focus, Great Results” by Marianne Knowles

MPKnowles (2)Marianne Knowles writes young adult novels with a science fiction slant, runs an SCBWI critique group, and serves as co-admin for the group blog Writers’ Rumpus. By day, she helps develop science curriculum for use by students in elementary, middle, and high school. Marianne is represented by Emily Mitchell of Wernick & Pratt Literary.


Two winters ago my novel got wrung out, taken apart, and put back together. It was praised and constructively critiqued by classmates from nearby towns and faraway countries. I found the emotional heart of my main character and discovered the spine on which to hang all the other elements of the story—all the elements worth keeping, that is. I had to throw out some due to the “kitchen sink syndrome.” I worked more intensely on my writing than I had in years and learned things I didn’t even know I needed to.

In short, I took an online writing course with Odyssey Writing Workshops.

» Odyssey Writing Workshops is a nonprofit based in New England, in the U.S.

» Their main focus is fantasy, science fiction, and horror, but their courses cover the basics of good writing, and any writer can benefit regardless of genre.

» Odyssey runs a six-week residential writing workshop each summer, but the online courses can be attended by anyone with an Internet connection, email address, and phone.

» Courses have a number of live meetings in the evening, Eastern Time, but don’t let time zones limit you. We had an Australian attending on her lunch hour last year, and a night-owl European too.

» Plan on several hours each week outside of class to complete assignments.

Three courses are offered this year (see below). Classes meet in January and February, 2018. Application deadlines are all in early December, and applications may take a bit of time to complete, so don’t delay.

Standing Out: Creating Short Stories with That Crucial Spark
Course Meets: January 11 – February 8, 2018
Instructor: Scott H. Andrews
Level: Intermediate to Advanced
Application Deadline: December 15, 2017

Saying the Unsayable:  Building Meaning and Resonance Through Subtext
Course Meets: January 4 – February 1, 2018
Instructor: Donna Glee Williams
Level: Intermediate to Advanced
Application Deadline: December 8, 2017

One Brick at a Time:  Crafting Compelling Scenes
Course Meets: January 3 – January 31, 2018
Instructor: Barbara Ashford
Level: Intermediate
Application Deadline: December 7, 2017

Barbara Ashford taught the novel revision course I took in Winter 2016. She will drive you hard, keep you on task, and make you justify what you think you know about your own story and its emotional heart. Between classes you may wish you could spend all day, most days, just applying everything you’ve learned so far to your own writing.

Each course is a bargain at under $250. Once you’ve completed an Odyssey Online course, you’re welcomed into an online Odyssey community—a very active, prolific, supportive, online group of writers. Some of Dianna Sanchez’s posts on Writers’ Rumpus started out as weekly pep talks to the Odyssey group, and she’s just one member.

Do you write middle grade, young adult, or new adult? You WILL learn something from one of these classes, even if you write realistic fiction instead of science fiction, fantasy, or horror. Be aware that the courses are demanding. If you fall behind in your assignments, it will be noticed! But isn’t that a good thing?

A previous version of this blog post appeared on Writers’ Rumpus on December 6, 2016.


OdboatThe professional-level Odyssey Writing Workshop is dedicated to helping writers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror grow in the craft of writing through winter online classes and a six-week summer workshop in New Hampshire. There is nothing like Odyssey—exceptional writing classes, critiques, and community encourages you to move outside your comfort zone and build new skills.

Apply by December 7 through 15 for the online classes. This year’s topics are Compelling Scenes, Meaning and Resonance Through Subtext, and Short Stories With That Crucial Spark.

Apply by April 7, 2018 for the summer in-person workshop.