Odyssey Podcasts #129 (Holly Black), #130 (E.C. Ambrose) & #131 (Scott H. Andrews)

mp3 Odyssey Podcast #129

Holly Black was a guest lecturer at the 2019 Odyssey Writing Workshop. In this excerpt from her question-and-answer session, Holly answers questions about writing young adult and middle grade fiction. One student points out that some people think fantastic creatures must be a certain way. How do you deal with those expectations? Holly says that when writing in a tradition, you’re adding to a conversation. Bring your own perspective into the conversation based on who you are. Another student asks how you get into a teen’s head and see things through their eyes? Holly suggests writers try to remember being a teen. Think of what you did, how you felt. The error writers tend to make is to write about teens or children who are very concerned with the adults in their lives when they should be thinking about themselves and their peers. When asked the difference between middle grade and young adult, Holly explains that the readers are very different. You need a protagonist of the appropriate age. Middle grade stories are generally about family and friendship. Harry Potter and Percy Jackson are examples. Young adult stories are usually about self-definition, friendship, and love, as the protagonist ventures outside of childhood into independence. YA should not involve an adult character looking back at her teen years. Middle grade and young adult fiction usually have a single viewpoint character; it is rare to have more.

Holly Black is the author of bestselling contemporary fantasy books for kids and teens. Some of her titles include The Spiderwick Chronicles (with Tony DiTerlizzi), The Modern Faerie Tale series, the Curse Workers series, Doll BonesThe Coldest Girl in Coldtown, the Magisterium series (with Cassandra Clare), The Darkest Part of the ForestThe Cruel Prince and The Wicked King. She has been a finalist for an Eisner Award, and the recipient of the Andre Norton Award, the Mythopoeic Award and a Newbery Honor. She currently lives in New England with her husband and son in a house with a secret door.

The text of this recording is copyright © 2019 by Holly Black. The sound recording is copyright ℗ 2020 by Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust.


mp3 Odyssey Podcast #130

E. C. Ambrose was a guest lecturer at Odyssey 2020. In this excerpt from her lecture on generating plot from the heart of your story, Elaine talks about “How to Middle,” how to use plot turns to avoid getting mired in the muddy middle. Many writers get stuck after the opening section of their novel or story. Once the characters and situation have been introduced, we need to start playing with those elements, using plot turns and plotting tools. Plot turns change the trajectory of a plot or change the meaning of the story in the mind of the reader. Elaine explains different types of plot turns: the time bomb, the time trap, the crucible, the dilemma, the reversal, the revelation, the confrontation, and natural elements. A lot of flash fiction has a single plot turn, usually a reversal or a revelation. Plot turns can be presented in different ways: through dialogue, action, thought, or narration. The rate of plot turns is a significant factor in the pace of a story.

E. C. Ambrose, writes knowledge-inspired adventure fiction including the five-volume Dark Apostle series about medieval surgery, The Singer’s Legacy fantasy series as by Elaine Isaak, and the Bone Guard international thrillers as by E. Chris Ambrose. The Dark Apostle started with Elisha Barber (DAW, 2013), described in a starred Library Journal review as, “beautifully told, painfully elegant.” Her latest releases are Bone Guard Two: The Nazi SkullThe Singer’s Crown: The Author’s Cut, and historical fantasy novella The King of Next Week (Guardbridge, April 2020). Her short stories have appeared in FiresideWarrior Women and Fantasy for the Throne, among many others, and she has edited several volumes of New Hampshire Pulp Fiction.

The text of this recording is copyright © 2020 by E. C. Ambrose. The sound recording is copyright ℗ 2020 by Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust.


mp3 Odyssey Podcast #131

In Winter 2019, Scott H. Andrews, editor and publisher of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, taught the Odyssey Online course Emotional Truth: Making Character Emotions Real, Powerful, and Immediate to Readers, and he’ll be teaching an expanded version of the class this winter. In this excerpt from the first class, Scott shares an example from Angela Hunt, in which she describes how reading the sequel to Gone with the Wind had her in tears after a few pages. A character died, one that she had a strong attachment to from the first book. The sequel tapped into the well of emotion she already had. That’s what stories need to do; they need to make the reader feel something by leveraging readers’ past experiences. For writers, this task breaks into two parts. First, the writer needs to get the emotion into the story so the reader understands it. That means making the emotion clear and obvious enough that the reader picks it up. Many writers tend to be overly subtle or oblique about emotion, so it doesn’t come through. Second, the writer needs to make the reader feel the emotion. This involves using concrete images, using the physical rather than the cerebral, and conveying emotion through the prose. Common weaknesses include lack of specificity, ambiguity, and lack of honesty. Writers may flinch from what something really feels like.

Photo credit: Al Bogdan

Scott H. Andrews lives in Virginia with his wife, two cats, thirteen guitars, a dozen overflowing bookcases, and hundreds of beer bottles from all over the world. He writes, teaches college chemistry, and is Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of the eight-time Hugo Award finalist and World Fantasy Award-winning online fantasy magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

Scott is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop; his literary short fiction has won a $1000 prize from the Briar Cliff Review, and his genre short fiction has appeared in Space & TimeCrossed Genres, and Ann VanderMeer’s Weird Tales.

He has lectured on short fiction, secondary-world fantasy, editing, magazine publishing, audio podcasting, beer, and heavy metal on dozens of convention panels at multiple Worldcons, World Fantasy conventions, and regional conventions in the Northeast and Midwest, and he has taught fiction writing for Clarion West, The Cat Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers, Houston Writefest, and at Odyssey. He is a seven-time World Fantasy Award finalist and 2019 winner for his work at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and he celebrates International Stout Day at least once a year.

The text of this recording is copyright © 2019 by Scott H. Andrews. The sound recording is copyright ℗ 2020 by Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust.


For more Odyssey podcasts, visit: odysseyworkshop.org/podcasts.html

Interview: Graduate & Guest Lecturer Scott H. Andrews

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Photo credit: Al Bogdan

Odyssey graduate Scott H. Andrews will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. Scott lives in Virginia with his wife, two cats, thirteen guitars, a dozen overflowing bookcases, and hundreds of beer bottles from all over the world. He writes, teaches college chemistry, and is Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of the seven-time Hugo Award finalist online fantasy magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

Scott’s literary short fiction has won a $1,000 prize from the Briar Cliff Review, and his genre short fiction has appeared in Space & Time, Crossed Genres, and Ann VanderMeer’s Weird Tales.

He has lectured on short fiction, secondary-world fantasy, editing, magazine publishing, audio podcasting, beer, and heavy metal on dozens of convention panels at multiple Worldcons, World Fantasy Conventions, and regional conventions in the Northeast and Midwest, and he has taught fiction writing for Clarion West, The Cat Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers, Houston Writefest, and at Odyssey. He is a seven-time World Fantasy Award finalist and 2019 winner for his work at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and he celebrates International Stout Day at least once a year.


You’re the editor-in-chief and publisher of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, a magazine for literary adventure fantasy. What do you look for in the stories you buy?

The major thing I love to see in all stories is “the human heart in conflict with itself,” which is a quote from Faulkner’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech. I want to see a character who is dealing with some sort of conflict, whether an external struggle like plot obstacles or an internal one like trying to overcome flaws or to grow in relationships, or ideally both external and internal. But the story also needs to make me FEEL something about that character who is in conflict. I get many stories, by writers who’ve been to workshops, that have a character in an interesting situation, but the writer isn’t executing the story such that the writing makes me feel what it means to be who that character is. For me it’s not enough just to see the character or focus on them; the story has to resonate off the page and make me feel for the character. Continue reading “Interview: Graduate & Guest Lecturer Scott H. Andrews”

Interview: Graduate Kate Marshall (Part 2 of 2)

kateportraitOdyssey 2005 graduate Kate Marshall is the author of the young adult novels I Am Still Alive and Rules for Vanishing (Viking Children’s). Her science fiction and fantasy fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Crossed Genres, and elsewhere. She lives outside of Seattle with her husband, a dog named Vonnegut, and two small children. They all conspire to keep her on her toes.


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

You used to read slush for Beneath Ceaseless Skies. What were some of the things you learned from reading all of those stories? 

The main thing I learned was that there’s a whole lot of “fine” and even “good” writing out there, far more than there is “bad” (in the slush, at least). The competently written stories abounded, and at first it was very hard to turn those down. There was nothing wrong with them, after all. But eventually, I learned to recognize the gulf between competent writing and a great story. There wasn’t one thing that set every great story apart; it wasn’t that clear-cut. It might be a killer voice, a grab-you-by-the-throat opening, an ending that left you feeling downright emotionally wobbly. Every one of those stories had something that provoked a reaction, and studying the difference between the death scene that was merely competent and the one that felt like a knife to the gut helped me start to think about what the true core of my stories was.

I also learned just how true it was that rejections can mean more about the magazine or the editor than the story. Stories just didn’t quite fit with BCS for one reason or another—or I’d just read another, similar story that did the same thing, which made this one less fresh. And sometimes I made mistakes! Continue reading “Interview: Graduate Kate Marshall (Part 2 of 2)”

Special Announcement: World Fantasy Award Nominations for Jeanne Cavelos and Scott H. Andrews

We here at the Odyssey Blog and pretty much anyone ever associated with Odyssey Writing Workshops are ecstatic! Why?

Because Jeanne Cavelos, the founder and director of the Odyssey Writing Workshops, and Scott H. Andrews, Odyssey graduate and founder and editor of Beneath Ceaseless Skies Magazine, have each been nominated for World Fantasy Awards! The World Fantasy Convention and award ceremony will take place next month in Saratoga Springs, New York–and until then we’re all on the edge of our seats.

Without further ado, we Odfellows present a tribute to Jeanne and Scott.

Ode to Jeanne

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Jeanne Cavelos

Odyssey just concluded its 20th workshop, and its two decades of operation have spawned such writers as Carrie Vaughn, Theodora Goss, James Maxey, Alex Hughes, Rebecca Shelley, Lyn Benedict, Barbara Webb, Mike Grinti, J.A. White, Meagan Spooner, and David J. Schwartz, and editors such as Scott H. Andrews and Douglas Cohen–and many more, and more to come.

Jeanne Cavelos, nominated in the Special Award–Professional division for creating and running the Odyssey Writing Workshops, is one of the most humble, unassuming people I know–all the better to get her sneaky editor claws in you, because she has lived quite the varied life, and she brings all of her experience plus a critical eye toward editing, critiquing, and writing, whether she’s assessing her work or someone else’s. She’s an astrophysicist who worked for NASA, then was a senior editor at Bantam Doubleday Dell where she started an award-winning line of books, and now is a college professor who runs a full-service freelance company on the side. She is the author of several books, both fiction and nonfiction (The Science of the X-Files was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award), and has also edited an anthology. (She swears she has not cloned herself.)

But those are all the jobs she gets paid for.

I can say with all honesty that creating and running Odyssey is the jewel in Jeanne’s crown. I’ve gotten to know her a little over the last eight years and in that time I can’t say her enthusiasm for Odyssey has ever flagged. She works tirelessly to promote and host the annual six-week on-site summer Workshop, and even expanded Odyssey’s offerings to include online winter writing courses and themed free online salons.  There is always something to do and someone to see, and when an Odyssey workshop comes around, plots to fix and characters to revive.

Jeanne lives and breathes Odyssey, at great sacrifice to herself and others. She has made it her life’s work to educate amateur, up-and-coming science fiction, fantasy and horror writers, and introduce us to the world of writing and publishing. The caliber of instruction at Odyssey is always high because Jeanne sets the bar high and makes good on that promise, year after year. If something doesn’t work, she acknowledges it, fixes it, and does better.

In Odyssey, Jeanne has crafted an atmosphere that fosters collaboration and community over competition. Many graduates return year after year for TNEO (The Neverending Odyssey)–ten days of critiquing, story writing and all things science fiction–for more of that same community and support. Most of us stay in contact with each other, encouraging writerly habits.

Jeanne doesn’t do any of this for fame. She is always looking for better ways to serve amateur writers and give us the tools we need to become professional writers. She does it for the students, for all the people she sees who are writers. Whether Jeanne wins an award or not (but hint: we think she should), we thank her for everything that she does for us–and she should know we wouldn’t ask for a better evil overlord.

~Ronya F. McCool (Odyssey 2007) is the managing editor for the Odyssey Workshops Blog. She lives, works, writes and renovates in the Midwest and can sometimes be heard on the Libraryland podcast.~


A Toast to Scott upon the Event of his WFA Nomination

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Scott H. Andrews (photo courtesy of Al Bogdan)

My pal, drinking buddy and fellow 2005 Odfellow Scott H. Andrews is up for a World Fantasy Award! Permit me to briefly bask in the credit of his association and raise a glass of something frothy in his honor as I elucidate why it couldn’t have happened to a better editor.

Scott is a great, meticulous, thoughtful, perceptive, respectful editor. As far as I’m concerned, he’s like nobody else working in the field. If you’ve ever submitted to Beneath Ceaseless Skies, you know how routinely generous he is with his time. He provides actual feedback in practically every rejection. He asks for way more rewrites than is good for him. When he buys a story, all too often it’s because he helped the author make it better. This has certainly been the case with all five of the stories I’ve sold him. He’s made me a better writer.

As a reader, he has an uncanny ability to inhabit a character inhabiting a world that isn’t our own, to see that world through their eyes and feel what they feel. As an editor, that ability helps him keep me honest. Often it seems like he knows my world and my characters better than I do. I’m not saying I’ve never been frustrated working with him–I think every writer loves their own words too much for their own good–but he knows that as well as I do, and he’s always ready to work through it. And the story is better for it. He is the only editor I’ve worked with willing to go to those lengths. In fact, I’d argue no other short fiction editor in the field contributes as much has he does to making the stories they buy as good as they can be.

Contrary to what we’ve heard from different quarters over the past few years, short fiction is not dying. But neither does it pay an editor’s bills; novels do that. In an era when many top markets for short fiction act as loss-leaders for novel sales, BCS is an end in itself. The purview is narrow: character-driven, secondary world adventure fantasy. But that narrow focus allows Scott to be the best at what he does. And in doing so, he’s forged a legitimacy for that kind of fiction without which by now it might have faded away completely. When BCS came on the scene in 2008, Realms of Fantasy was the only professional-rate market dedicated to short fantasy, and it was in its death throes. Eight years later, thanks to Scott, BCS is the top market for fantasy.

I’m really proud of him for the nomination. In fact, I think it’s overdue. But if this year has taught us anything, it’s that there’s no accounting for awards politics. So by way of closing, let me just suggest that in the event he doesn’t win the award (and here let me express profound relief Scott and Jeanne aren’t in the same category), next time you run into him, you should really ask him to recap his acceptance speech.

Here’s to Scott and BCS!

 

~Michael J. DeLuca’s (Odyssey 2005) short fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Apex, Interfictions, Pseudopod and Clockwork Phoenix. He guest-edited Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet #33, an ecologically-themed issue that came out this July 2015. He narrates occasionally for the Beneath Ceaseless Skies fiction podcast, operates Weightless Books with Gavin J. Grant, and blogs at mossyskull.com.~