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”

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: Writing Resources

OdboatThank you to all who have applied to the summer Odyssey Writing Workshop!  The deadline for the 2016 June-July Workshop has now passed. Applicants should receive word by May 1.

Writers, there is a variety of free writing resources available on the Odyssey Workshop site. Here are just a few:

–Salon (noun): 1. a place of business that specializes in beauty techniques and products  2. the room in a large house used for the reception and entertainment of guests 3. a gathering of writers, artists, and creative thinkers.

Director Jeanne Cavelos hosts an online writing salon every second Wednesday, from 7.30-8.30 Eastern time (the next one is this Wednesday, April 13). Check out more information, as well as the technical requirements, here, and make plans to join other writers and readers in an online discussion. No experience necessary other than a love for writing and a desire to discuss the craft.

–Manuscript Formatting: Do you need to know about spacing, indents, best fonts, and overall manuscript preparation? See the FAQs of manuscript presentation.

–Literary Agents: Go here for advice about starting your agent search.

Other free offerings: writing exercises and almost one hundred podcasts of authors’ and editors’ lectures from the Workshops, on a variety of subjects from plotting to worldbuilding to submitting and much more.

Stay tuned for notifications about online courses and webinars!

And above all–keep writing.

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”