Interview: Guest Lecturer Gemma Files

gemma-filesFormer film critic, teacher, and screenwriter turned award-winning horror author Gemma Files will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey workshop. Her most recent book, Experimental Film (ChiZine Publications), won both y 2015 Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel and the 2016 Sunburst Award for Best Adult Novel. Her other works include the Weird Western Hexslinger series (A Book of Tongues, A Rope of Thorns and A Tree of Bones), a dark fantasy story-cycle (We Will All Go Down Together: Stories of the Five-Family Coven), two short fiction collections (Kissing Carrion and The Worm in Every Heart), and two chapbooks of speculative poetry, along with over eighty short stories, novellas, and novelettes. Five of her stories were adapted into episodes of the dark erotica anthology series The Hunger (1997-1999 on Showtime, produced by Tony and Ridley Scott), two by herself.


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?

Don’t censor yourself—all writing is useful writing, even if you don’t think it is at the time. Basically, it’s far easier to fix bad writing than it is to generate writing from the ground up, however good, especially under pressure. My own process tends to start with notes that slowly grow into sections of prose, develop a spine and blend together like fungus. I write maybe three unnecessary words for each necessary one, but unless you do your due diligence, you won’t have anything to cut down to. Letting go of the impulse to edit before you can proceed is the single most important lesson I’ve learned as a professional writer. Continue reading “Interview: Guest Lecturer Gemma Files”

Interview: Guest Lecturer Alexander Jablokov

jablokovAuthor Alexander Jablokov, who will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey workshop, writes science fiction for readers who won’t give up literate writing or vivid characters to get the thrills they demand. He is a natural transition for non-SF readers interested in taking a stroll with a dangerous AI or a neurosurgeon/jazz musician turned detective, while still giving hardcore SF fans speculative flash, incomprehensible aliens, and kitchen appliances with insect wing cases. From his well-regarded first novel, Carve the Sky, an interplanetary espionage novel set in a culturally complex 25th century, through the obscenely articulate dolphins with military modifications of a Deeper Sea, the hardboiled post-cyberpunk of Nimbus, the subterranean Martian repression of River of Dust, and the perverse space opera of Deepdrive, his last book was Brain Thief, a contemporary high-tech thriller with a class clown attitude. He has recently written a YA alternate universe adventure novel.

His day job is as a marketing manager. He does his writing during the mornings, and on weekends. It took him several years to figure out how to get any writing done at all, particularly since he hates getting up early and hates working on weekends, but has somehow managed it. Visit www.ajablokov.com to learn more about the author and his books.


On your blog you say that, “writing is rewriting.” How do you maintain excitement for that original idea as you work through various drafts?

Sometimes I don’t and have to let it rest for a while. But I consider the first draft as something akin to ore. Smelting and refinement are the next steps. Now, that’s just me—my initial drafts are tangled, full of blind alleys, notes to myself, and repeated sentences where I try to get something right. I’ve learned that attempting to revise while I write stops me dead. That kind of revision can be like cleaning your desk or doing your laundry—a useful task that has wandered into the wrong place. Continue reading “Interview: Guest Lecturer Alexander Jablokov”

Interview: Guest Lecturer Michael J. Sullivan (Part 2 of 2)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPublishing veteran Michael J. Sullivan will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. He is the author of 29 novels and uses a wide range of publishing options, including self-publishing, small-press, big-five, Kickstarter, print-only, foreign translations, and audio. He’s sold more than 850,000 books, been translated into 15 foreign languages, and appeared on more than 150 “best of” or “most anticipated” lists, including those compiled by Library Journal, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Goodreads, and Audible.com. His most recent novel, Age of Myth, hit #2 on the Washington Post Best Seller’s List for hardcovers. Because of his wide range of publishing experience, Michael has taught several courses with Writer’s Digest and been a guest speaker at multiple fantasy conventions, as well as BookExpo America (the largest publishing tradeshow in the world). He’s currently working on his fourth Riyria Chronicles novel. The second book in his Legends of the First Empire series, Age of Swords, will be released by Del Rey in the summer of 2017.


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

How many stages does your work go through before you send it off to a publisher? How much of your time is spent writing the first draft, and how much time is spent in revision? What sort of revisions do you do?

Part of the problem in discussing the writing process is there are so many terms that mean different things to different people. For instance, I don’t re-write (which to me means starting the book over once you know where it ends up), but I do make a lot of changes through editing. There are some books where what was once on page one moved back to page fifty, and I cut some openings altogether. Is that re-writing or editing? For me, I consider that work editing, even though it may require rewriting parts of the book.

Okay, the process is rather long but here goes: Continue reading “Interview: Guest Lecturer Michael J. Sullivan (Part 2 of 2)”

Interview: Guest Lecturer Michael J. Sullivan (Part 1 of 2)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPublishing veteran Michael J. Sullivan will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. He is the author of 29 novels and uses a wide range of publishing options, including self-publishing, small-press, big-five, Kickstarter, print-only, foreign translations, and audio. He’s sold more than 850,000 books, been translated into 15 foreign languages, and appeared on more than 150 “best of” or “most anticipated” lists, including those compiled by Library Journal, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Goodreads, and Audible.com. His most recent novel, Age of Myth, hit #2 on the Washington Post Best Seller’s List for hardcovers. Because of his wide range of publishing experience, Michael has taught several courses with Writer’s Digest and been a guest speaker at multiple fantasy conventions, as well as BookExpo America (the largest publishing tradeshow in the world). He’s currently working on his fourth Riyria Chronicles novel. The second book in his Legends of the First Empire series, Age of Swords, will be released by Del Rey in the summer of 2017.


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’s so much advice to give!! Hopefully, we can get into this more during the workshop, but I’m going to narrow my focus to two equally important pieces of advice…and they go hand in hand. The first relates to developing your craft, which doesn’t happen overnight. It can take years (or decades) to find your voice and get your writing skills up to a ready-for-prime-time level. Art, all art, takes time and practice, so this isn’t a sprint but a marathon. Stephen King says you should treat your first 1,000,000 words as practice, and Malcolm Gladwell said it takes 10,000 hours working at a task to get proficient. I think these numbers are about right. For me, I wrote for a decade and created 13 novels (most of which were utter trash), but they taught me a great deal. So my advice is to prepare yourself for a long haul, and never stop focusing on continued improvement. Persistence is the most important trait of the “writing business,” and the only way to guarantee failure is to stop trying. Continue reading “Interview: Guest Lecturer Michael J. Sullivan (Part 1 of 2)”

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”

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”

Interview: Graduate and Author J.A. White

Jerry WhiteAuthor Jerry White is a 1996 graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. He teaches writing, math and science to middle grade students in New Jersey, where he lives with his wife, three sons, and a hamster named Ophelia that doesn’t like him very much. Jerry also works for a production company that makes short films and book trailers.

We interviewed Jerry back in 2014 when his first book, the middle-grade fantasy The Thickety: A Path Begins, kicked off The Thickety series. A second book, The Thickety: The Whispering Trees, was published in 2015, and The Thickety: Well of Witches, joined them this past February. The fourth book will be released in January 2017.

Learn more about Jerry and The Thickety series and peruse Jerry’s teaching blog at http://www.jawhitebooks.com.


Congratulations on the third installment in your Thickety series, The Thickety: Well of Witches, which came out earlier this year. What drew you to write for middle grade readers? What are some challenges unique to writing for a younger audience?

J.A. White Thickety-3-Well-of-Witches-Cover-220x281Thanks!  There were a few different factors that led to me to write for middle-grade readers.  I’ve been a classroom teacher for 17 years now, mostly 5th and 6th grade.   Since I enjoy spending time with kids of that age, I suppose it makes sense that I would enjoy spending time with fictional kids of that age as well!  Continue reading “Interview: Graduate and Author J.A. White”