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)”

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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”

Special Announcement: George R.R. Martin Establishes Scholarship for Horror Writers

GeorgeMartinNew York Times bestselling author George R. R. Martin announces an exciting new Odyssey Writing Workshop scholarship to help a horror writer with financial need attend the acclaimed, six-week residential program. Martin explains, “Odyssey has become legendary for the challenges it sets for students and the enthusiasm with which they meet those challenges. And all that writing, learning, critiquing, and sweat yields great results. Among Odyssey’s alumni are New York Times bestsellers, Amazon bestsellers, and award winners.”

The Miskatonic Scholarship will be awarded each year to a promising new writer of Lovecraftian cosmic horror, a type of fiction Martin loves and wants to encourage. The scholarship will cover full tuition, textbook, and housing. Martin says, “It’s my hope that this new scholarship will offer an opportunity to a worthy applicant who might not otherwise have been able to afford the Odyssey experience.”

2004_Odgroup
George R.R. Martin with the Odyssey Class of 2004

A separate application is required to demonstrate financial need. A panel of three judges will select the winner from among the applicants who have demonstrated financial need, using the short story or novel excerpts sent with the workshop applications. Martin notes, “we are not looking for Lovecraft pastiches, nor even Cthulhu Mythos stories. References to Arkham, Azathoth, shoggoths, the Necronomicon, and the fungi from Yuggoth are by no means obligatory…though if some candidates choose to include them, that’s fine as well. What we want is the sort of originality that H. P. Lovecraft displayed in his day, something that goes beyond the tired tropes of werewolves, vampires and zombies, into places strange and terrifying and never seen before. What we want are nightmares new and resonant and profound, comic terrors that will haunt our dreams for years to come.”

Contact Odyssey Director Jeanne Cavelos (email jcavelos@odysseyworkshop.org ) for the Mistakonic application, which is due April 7.

Along with the new Mistakonic Scholarship, there are other financial assistance opportunities, scholarships, and one work/study position. For more information, visit www.odysseyworkshop.org/workshop.html.

Interview: Guest Lecturer Nisi Shawl

Hewlett-PackardAward-winning author Nisi Shawl will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. She wrote the 2016 Nebula finalist and Tiptree Honor novel Everfair, and the 2008 Tiptree Award-winning collection Filter House. In 2005 she co-wrote Writing the Other: A Practical Approach, a standard text on inclusive representation in the imaginative genres. Her short stories have appeared in Analog and Asimov’s magazines, and many other publications. Shawl is a founder of the Carl Brandon Society and a Clarion West board member.


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?

Listen to your inner bell. That’s a maddeningly vague tip, I know, but it’s the closest I can come to describing what it’s like to understand when something just is not working, or when something needs a little tweak to make it work smashingly well, or when you’re laboring over something that is not going to ever work, no matter how you tweak and nudge and sweat and polish it. I’m an aural writer, so I think of it in terms of sound; others may metaphorize the idea differently, but most of you will recognize it. For me, it’s “clunk” versus “bonggg.” Continue reading “Interview: Guest Lecturer Nisi Shawl”

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.

“The Odyssey to Where I Am Now” by Linda Maye Adams

lonely-planet-cover2Linda Maye Adams was probably the least likely person to be in the Army—even the Army thought so! She was an enlisted soldier and served for twelve years and was one of the women who deployed to Desert Storm. But she’d much prefer her adventures to be in books. She is the author of the military-based GALCOM Universe series, including the novels Crying Planet and Lonely Planet. She’s also received three honorable mentions in the Writers of the Future contest and an honorable mention in Alfred Hitchcock Magazine‘s contest. Linda is a native of Los Angeles, California, and currently lives in Northern Virginia. Find out more about Linda Maye Adams on her website at www.lindamayeadams.com.


I had a very bleak point back in 2010: I was about to give up writing novels. I’d come out of a cowriter relationship that had blown up spectacularly, and I’d taken a hit to my confidence.

I’d had problems with my writing going in, and he’d promised his strengths could shore them up. I always ran too short and struggled with subplots. The result was that I spent several years not trying to figure out what the problem was. When we broke up, I had to relearn my craft.

I knew I needed to get back up on the horse, and that novel was Rogue God (though it was called Miasma at the time of my Odyssey Online class).

It was important that I finish a novel—without the cowriter.

But all the same problems that had plagued me for years returned, and the early versions were really broken. I remember one writer asking me if I wanted her to have a look at it, trying to be helpful, and I couldn’t do it. I thought she was going to think I was a horrible writer!

I could do short stories. I didn’t understand why it was different for novels. I was about to throw in the towel and just stick with short stories.

Then I found one of Holly Lisle’s workshops, right over Thanksgiving. It helped me see some of the problems that had crept into the novel. But she was an outliner, and her methods were based on the assumption I was outlining, so they didn’t really work that well for me. But it got me far enough along that the story didn’t look like a UFO had crashed and taken out an entire city. Maybe a freeway…

In 2013, I ran across the Odyssey classes for that year. Barbara Ashford’s class Getting the Big Picture hit me in the right way, so I asked if it involved outlining or not. She doesn’t outline, so I was willing to try and submitted the application. If you haven’t done it before, you have to get referrals and submit a sample of your writing.

In the back of my head, I expected to be turned down. My writing had been so messed up, it was hard for me to see what was good about it. I still thought: UFO crashing and taking out a city.

Then I got accepted!

The class was actually quite grueling for me. It was in January, and I got a cold and stayed sick for the entire class. But I did all the course work in spite of how I felt because you have to do the exercises to really stick the learning.

Especially if the exercises are hard.

I had to go back over my notes from the class to refresh my memory. I can see things in it now that I struggled to grasp then. But I understood enough that it got me on the next leg of my journey. I was able to finish Rogue God, and the only disasters happened in the story, not at the story.


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.