Interview: Guest Lecturer Joshua Bilmes

bilmesLiterary agent Joshua Bilmes will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Workshop. He is the founder and president of JABberwocky Literary Agency, which will celebrate its 25th anniversary this fall. Prior to founding his own agency, he spent a chunk of his high school years writing monthly critiques of Analog magazine to its editor, Stan Schmidt. He spent summers in college doing freelance work at Baen Books; his letters to Analog caught the eye of Betsy Mitchell, who was lured from the #2 spot at Analog to be Jim Baen’s deputy. And ten weeks after graduating college, he was hired at the Scott Meredith Agency, which launched the careers of at least a half dozen leading agents in science fiction and fantasy.

Top JABberwocky clients include #1 bestselling authors Brandon Sanderson and Charlaine Harris. The agency’s other NY Times bestselling and/or award-winning clients include Peter V. Brett, Jack Campbell, Elizabeth Moon, Walter Jon Williams, Simon R. Green, Suzanne Palmer, Marie Brennan, and Daniel José Older.

Bilmes is known for his hands-on editorial work with his clients. In recent years, he’s been leading a quixotic charge against inappropriate use of smiles, shrugs, sighs, grimaces, nods, winces, blanching, quirking, eye-rolling, gritting of teeth, smirks, snorts and other “head and shoulders” gestures. For the avoidance of doubt, by “inappropriate” Bilmes means “almost all.”

Joshua Bilmes spends a good chunk of his spare time watching movies and watching tennis.


At this summer’s Odyssey Workshop, you’ll be interacting with students as a virtual guest lecturer via Skype. What do you think is the most important advice you can give to developing writers?

You have to be prepared to put in the “hard yards.” There are lots of authors and agents in the world, and some of them have paired up when the author put the perfect manuscript on the agent’s desk the agent’s very first day on the job. That hasn’t happened very often with me! Most of the first novels I’ve sold, they’re on a third or fifth or sometimes close to a tenth draft before they go out on submission. And then for all the work done on those earlier drafts, when the book is sold the editors still have more suggestions to make. An author should never be a weather vane, blowing every which way with each passing editorial comment, but you need to be prepared to work. Continue reading “Interview: Guest Lecturer Joshua Bilmes”

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Interview: Guest Lecturer Mark Gottlieb

20121130-trident-mark_153_grey_highres-agentMark Gottlieb is a literary agent with Trident Media Group who will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. He attended Emerson College and was President of its Publishing Club, establishing the Wilde Press. After graduating with a degree in writing, literature and publishing, he began his career with Penguin’s Vice President. Mark’s first position at Publishers Marketplace’s #1-ranked literary agency, Trident Media Group, was in foreign rights. Mark was Executive Assistant to Trident’s chairman and ran the Audio Department. Mark is currently working with his own client list, helping to manage and grow author careers with the unique resources available to Trident. He has ranked #1 among Literary Agents on publishersmarketplace.com in Overall Deals and other categories.


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 advice I can give to writers just starting out is to learn and grow from constructive criticism and rejection, rather than being discouraged by that feedback. It is not an editor or literary agent saying the author’s writing is not good—we’re saying the writing is not good enough, at least not yet. So, hang in there… Continue reading “Interview: Guest Lecturer Mark Gottlieb”

Special Announcement: Odyssey Podcasts #76 (Alex Jablokov) and #75 (Holly Black)

Jablokov Black podcastEvery month or two, the Odyssey Writing Workshop releases new podcasts created from excerpts from lectures given by guest writers, editors, and agents at the Odyssey Writing Workshop. Each one is ten to fifteen minutes long.

Our two newest podcasts feature authors and guest lecturers Alexander Jablokov (Brain Thief), from the 2014 summer workshop, and Holly Black (The Spiderwick Chronicles), from the 2013 summer workshop.  Alexander discusses how a character functions within a plot, and the many conventions authors use to present believable characters, while Holly explains how to create a magic system.

Other available podcasts include:

  • Carrie Vaughn: Goal-setting for writers (#38)
  • Lori Perkins: Agents, what they do, and what to look for in an agent (#37)
  • Sheila Williams: Qualities of short story openings (#74)
  • Nancy Holder: Short fiction and novel contracts; advances and royalties (#72 & #73)
  • Lane Robins: Outlining techniques (#64)
  • Craig Shaw Gardner: Writing humor in science fiction and fantasy (#18)
  • Melissa Scott: Worldbuilding techniques (#5 & #21)

These podcasts and many more are available for free on the OdboatcleanedupOdyssey Podcast page at http://www.sff.net/odyssey/podcasts.html.  Here you may browse and download podcasts, or subscribe to podcasts so you automatically receive them upon release.

Odyssey Podcasts can also be found in the iTunes store (for free): https://itunes.apple.com/podcast/odyssey-sf-f-writing-workshop/id213992784?mt=2.

Interview: Jennifer Jackson

Jennifer Jackson will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. She is Vice President of the Donald Maass Literary Agency, which she joined in 1993. Growing up reading science fiction and fantasy led naturally to a concentration in that genre, which she continues to champion. After pioneering the expansion of the agency into the areas of romance and women’s fiction, she is now developing her list in the mystery and suspense genres. She is also looking for YA fiction, both literary and commercial, in all genres.

Her current roster includes New York Times best-selling fantasy writer Jim Butcher, Hugo Award-winning science fiction author Elizabeth Bear, USA Today best-selling author Anne Bishop, Anthony Award finalist Chris F. Holm, and Nebula and Hugo finalist Cherie Priest. Previously, she worked as a bookseller for Waldenbooks, and also for Forbidden Planet, the retail division of London’s Titan Books. She maintains a personal website at http://www.jenniferjackson.org/ and blogs at http://arcaedia.wordpress.com/.


What is the one thing you would like to convey above all else to authors who are preparing to submit material to you? Is there one particular requirement in your submission guidelines that authors tend to overlook or ignore?

Continue reading “Interview: Jennifer Jackson”

Podcast #37: Lori Perkins

Podcast #37 is now available for download here.

Lori Perkins was a guest lecturer at Odyssey 2003, where she worked with students, critiqued manuscripts, and lectured on what agents do and how they do it. In this podcast, Lori explains why the importance of agents has increased and how agents currently fit into the publishing industry. Agents now do the job editors used to do. Most publishers no longer read the slush pile, so agents are left to do that, discover the promising new writers, and help them get their manuscripts into shape. Editors have little time to work with developing writers on manuscripts these days, since they spend most of their work day attending meetings and acquire 20-75 books a year. Editors wants agents to provide manuscripts in publishable shape and are willing to pay more money for them. Lori describes the different types of agents, the traits to look for in an agent, and the best way to get an agent. She gives advice on query letters and on where to find good information on agents. She also explains how not to approach an agent.

Lori PerkinsThe L. Perkins Agency is a New York-based literary agency with 4 staff agents and agents in 11 foreign countries, as well as Hollywood affiliates.

The agency represents approximately 150 clients in such diverse areas as romance, erotica, science fiction, fantasy, horror, mysteries and thrillers, as well as popular culture nonfiction.

Since its inception in 1999, the agency has had 8 books on the New York Times Best-Seller List.

Lori Perkins can be reached at lori@lperkinsagency.com

Lori Perkins writes a blog about agenting at agentinthemiddle.blogspot.com.


For more information about Odyssey, its graduates and instructors, please visit our website at http://www.odysseyworkshop.org.

Podcast #24: Jenny Rappaport

Podcast #24 is now available for download here.

In her guest lecture at Odyssey 2008, literary agent Jenny Rappaport provided so much useful information that we’ve chosen to make a second excerpt from her talk available as another podcast (for her first excerpt, see Podcast #23). In this podcast, Jenny explains how to write a strong query letter. Jenny first discusses what a query letter shouldn’t do and what information shouldn’t be included. You can find an example of what Jenny considers a bad query letter on her blog, here: http://litsoup.blogspot.com/2008/01/huh-or-plot-does-not-make-sense.html (you need to scroll down). Jenny explains the importance of a strong hook to open a query letter and reads examples of weak hooks and strong hooks. The query letter then needs to establish the novel’s conflict and get the reader engaged with the main character and the plot. Jenny discusses how to describe your novel–what makes a middle grade book, a young adult book, or an adult book–and whether to compare your book to other books.

Jenny Rappaport is the owner of The Rappaport Agency, LLC, a boutique literary agency specializing in the genres of science fiction and fantasy, young adult, and romance. She has previously worked at Folio Literary Management and the L. Perkins Agency. Jenny attended Carnegie Mellon University where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing. She is a 2002 graduate of Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp. Her nonfiction has appeared in Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, and her microfiction in Thaumatrope. She is currently working on a novel in her free time.

Podcast #23: Jenny Rappaport

Podcast #23 is now available for download here.

February’s podcast is an excerpt from literary agent Jenny Rappaport’s lecture at Odyssey 2008. In her lecture, Jenny gave her assessment of the publishing industry and explained how an author can break into publishing, navigate the changing marketplace, and survive. In this podcast, she explains step-by-step how to get an agent: how to write a strong synopsis; the best strategy for sending queries to agents; how to get your work into the hands of as many agents at once as possible. She also discusses what to do when an agent says she wants to represent you: what to look for in a representation agreement, what fees you should agree to, and how to form a positive relationship with your agent. How important it is to get an agent? What can an agent do for you, and what can’t an agent do? Jenny describes the various publishers and imprints currently buying fantasy, science fiction, and horror. She also discusses how well the various genres are selling, the cyclical nature of genres, and how the genre of a work influences a publisher’s decision whether or not to publish that work.

Jenny Rappaport is the owner of The Rappaport Agency, LLC, a boutique literary agency specializing in the genres of science fiction and fantasy, young adult, and romance. She has previously worked at Folio Literary Management and the L. Perkins Agency. Jenny attended Carnegie Mellon University where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing. She is a 2002 graduate of Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp. Her nonfiction has appeared in Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, and her microfiction in Thaumatrope. She is currently working on a novel in her free time.