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″

Graduate Essay: Travis Heermann–Crowdfunding for Authors

Heermann-6Freelance writer, novelist, award-winning screenwriter, editor, poker player, poet, and biker, Travis Heermann is a 2009 graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop and the author of Death Wind, The Ronin Trilogy (which begins with Heart of the Ronin), The Wild Boys, and Rogues of the Black Fury, plus short fiction pieces in anthologies and magazines such as Apex Magazine, Alembical, the Fiction River anthology series, Historical Lovecraft, and Cemetery Dance’s Shivers VII.  As a freelancer, he has produced a metric ton of role-playing game work both in print and online for properties including the Firefly Roleplaying Game, Battletech, Legend of Five Rings, d20 System, and EVE Online.

He enjoys cycling, martial arts, torturing young minds with otherworldly ideas, and zombies. He has three long-cherished dreams: a produced screenplay, a NYT best-seller, and a seat in the World Series of Poker.

In 2016, he returned to the U.S. after living in New Zealand for a year with his family, toting more Middle Earth souvenirs and photos than is reasonable.


If you haven’t heard of the crowdfunding sites Kickstarter or Indiegogo, you may be living under an Internet-free rock (for which I would blame no one nowadays). Crowdfunding is the idea that a crowd of people, each contributing just a little bit, can pay the costs to bring a creative project to life. It’s been an exciting new way for filmmakers, graphic artists, game designers, and oh yes, authors, to make their visions become reality—but it’s not without its potential pitfalls.

This article is intended to provide an outline of how crowdfunding works, plus the pros and cons of crowdfunding projects so that you can decide whether it’s right for you. Continue reading “Graduate Essay: Travis Heermann–Crowdfunding for Authors”

Graduate Essay: J.W. Alden–Submitting Short Fiction to Professional Markets

J.W.Alden_8x10_300dpi_3J.W. Alden is fascinated with the fantastic. He lives near West Palm Beach, Florida with his wife Allison, who doesn’t mind the odd assortment of musical instruments and medieval weaponry that decorate his office (as long as he brandishes the former more often than the latter).

Alden is a 1st Place Writers of the Future winner, an active member of SFWA, and a graduate of the 2013 class of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. His fiction has appeared in Nature, Daily Science Fiction, the Unidentified Funny Objects anthology series, and various other publications.

Read more from him at http://www.AuthorAlden.com.


When you’re just starting, the prospect of selling fiction can be an exciting goal. There’s nothing more validating than an editor paying you actual money for your work. But there’s a question every new author faces when they start submitting stories for publication: to pro or not to pro? The road to publication is paved with rejections, and the bigger the market, the thicker the competition. But that doesn’t mean you should sell yourself short! If you’ve written a story you feel is ready for publication, that means your amateur days are behind you. It’s time to turn pro.

 

Don’t Self-Reject–Start at the Top

You’ll never make a sale if you don’t submit. Selling to the pros (or anywhere else) starts first and foremost with having the guts to send your story out into the wild. And that’s easier said than done! It’s no small feat to take something you’ve labored over, a piece of yourself, and send it off to be judged by strangers. If you think about that too hard, you might find yourself coming up with excuses to keep it tucked away, out of the light. The more prestigious the market, the greater that temptation can become. Continue reading “Graduate Essay: J.W. Alden–Submitting Short Fiction to Professional Markets”

Graduate’s Corner: Odyssey–The Journey, by B. Lynch

Brian LynchB. Lynch is a YA/MG fantasy writer from New Jersey and a 2015 Odyssey Writing Workshop graduate. His latest book, King Callie, can be found on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.com; since his Odyssey classmates challenged him to become the Michael Bay of fantasy novels, he’s currently working on an MG manuscript involving goat-poop powered mechas and gratuitous amounts of explosions.


There were three things I noticed immediately about the Odyssey Writing Workshop class of 2015: we weren’t short on creativity, odd careers, or punctuality. Continue reading “Graduate’s Corner: Odyssey–The Journey, by B. Lynch”

Graduate’s Corner: Rebecca Roland–Working With a Small Press

Becky Roland headshotRebecca Roland is a 2007 graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop (and chief correspondent for this blog).

She is the author of the Shards of History series, and The King of Ash and Bones, and Other Stories, all published with World Weaver Press, as well as The Necromancer’s Inheritance series. Her short fiction has appeared in publications such as Nature, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Stupefying Stories, Plasma Frequency, and Every Day Fiction.

You can find out more about her and her work at rebeccaroland.net, her blog Spice of Life, or follow her on Twitter @rebecca_roland.

This post is a bookend to our June essay by Eileen Wiedbrauk, Editor-in-Chief of World Weaver Press.


When I was offered the chance to write a guest post on what it was like to work with a small publisher, I jumped at the opportunity because I’ve been wanting to write this up for a long time. I’ve had a great experience working with a small press, and I want to share that so people can figure out if a small press might be a good fit for them.

My first published book came out in 2012 with World Weaver Press. To say I was nervous about the entire experience would be like saying that Bruce Banner might have a teensy anger issue. Although I knew what the process was to take a book through all the steps of publication, more or less, I was scared of somehow messing up.

But the nice thing about being a brand-spanking-new author with nervous tendencies fractured days and working with a small press is that I worked directly with editor and publisher Eileen Weidbrauk. She answered all my silly questions and guided me through the process of edits, line edits, cover reveal, social media posts, and so much more. Her business partner, Elizabeth Wagner, works in marketing and set me up with a blog tour.  She gently nudged me into starting a blog of my own and walked me through what to do on social media. Eileen designed bookmarks for me to hand out, and she pointed out a podcast opportunity I never would have noticed on my own.

Initially I thought the novel they published would be a standalone, but a couple of years later I wrote a sequel and approached them with it. I didn’t have any sort of obligation to write the sequel, and I certainly didn’t have a deadline other than the one I imposed on myself. This worked out extremely well for me since I wrote the sequel in snatches of time here and there, while working part-time and while my son was a toddler.

Speaking of a standalone novel, one of the cool things about small publishers is that they’re often more willing to publish a standalone, where big publishers have a tendency to publish series. So if you have a strange, niche novel, or if you have one that will stand by itself, then you may be able to find a home for it with a small publisher because they often have more flexibility.

king of ash and bonesI anticipate publishing with one of the big publishers some day. I definitely believe that working with a small press will carry over in terms of discipline (I strive to work within deadlines when they do exist… even my own self-imposed ones), professionalism, feeling confident with putting my ideas forward for the project, marketing, and designing a timeline/career for myself.

I have to admit, one of the coolest things about working with WWP from the time they started publishing was watching them grow. And yet, they’re still small enough that it feels like a family. My publisher sends me holiday cards and cards commemorating the release of my books. She knows that I adore corgis and chocolate, and I enjoy her stories of brutal Michigan winters (as I am usually enjoying a temperate Southwest season, ha ha ha! Ahem.) I cheer for other WWP authors when they publish something new, I host them on my blog (or they host me on theirs), and best of all, I get to read some great stories by great authors before they even come out.

Working with a small press is a great way to ease into the publishing world. You learn the ins and outs of publishing, and you meet some fabulous people along the way who will support you and your writing career for a long time to come.