Interview: Graduate Vikram Ramakrishnan

Vikram Ramakrishnan is an alumnus of the University of Pennsylvania and enthusiastic member of the Odyssey Writing Workshop’s class of 2020, where he received the Walter & Kattie Metcalf Scholarship. He is the winner of the 17th Annual Gival Short Story Award. His stories have been published or are forthcoming in Meridian, Eclectica, and Asimov’s Science Fiction. He can be found at https://vikramramakrishnan.com.


You attended Odyssey in 2020, the first year it was held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you talk about your pre-Odyssey writing process? What kind of writing schedule, if any, did you keep? 

I have a friend who is very good at learning languages. He ran a language learning program in Berlin a while back. One thing he mentioned that stuck with me is that language learners fit into two categories: aspirational or required. The latter kind are the ones that make the furthest progress. Maybe they have to learn a language because they moved to a new country, it’s a requirement for their job, and so on. There’s something about deadlines and requirements that get them moving. Thinking about writing this way made me realize I’d been spending a bit too much time on the aspirational side and less on the required side. I looked at my stack of writing books and they were squarely on aspirational, and I realized I needed some help on the craft side to move forward.

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Graduate Essay: “My Odyssey Experience” by F. P. Rahe

F. P. Rahe is a 2020 graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. She is an alumna of the 2019 Iowa Young Writers’ Studio and has been recognized at the national level by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. When not reading or writing, she enjoys making omelets, criticizing Socrates, and hanging out with her family.


I applied to Odyssey in March of 2020 because I wanted to make a serious improvement in my writing. I had been working on my writing for years before that point, hammering away at novels and short stories each day. My writing was competent prose-wise, but not exceptional. I had only a slight instinctual grasp of the vagaries of character and plot. Causal chains were a concept I was utterly unfamiliar with. This ignorance of the conscious craft of writing impacted my work in many extremely negative ways. Among other things, I was unable to recognize or address many of the problems in my stories, preventing me from making valuable progress. I knew I needed to improve; I hoped Odyssey would show me how.

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Graduate Essay: “Is Odyssey the Right Workshop for You?” by Libby Barringer

Libby Barringer is a 2020 graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. She writes fantasy and science fiction, and she lives in the New York Hudson Valley with her husband and their excellent cat. She earned her PhD in political science in 2016 from UCLA, and when not writing, she teaches courses in political philosophy and literature with Bard College and with the Bard Prison Initiative.


If you are thinking about attending Odyssey, chances are you are grappling with a few big questions: Is this the right workshop for me? Will this help my writing, and will this help me in my professional career? What do attendees actually do for all six weeks of classes? How much more is there really to learn about writing, and can the workshop really deliver? Is it really as intense as everyone says?

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Odyssey Podcast #138: Sheila Williams

mp3 Odyssey Podcast #138

Award-winning editor Sheila Williams was a guest lecturer at the 2020 Odyssey Writing Workshop. In this excerpt from a question and answer session, she answers questions about her editorial process, story endings, and what differentiates a good story from a story that she buys.

Sheila is the multiple Hugo Award-winning editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine. She is also the winner of the 2017 Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award for distinguished contributions to the science fiction and fantasy community.

Sheila started at Asimov’s in June 1982 as the editorial assistant. Over the years, she was promoted to a number of different editorial positions at the magazine, and she also served as the executive editor of Analog from 1998 until 2004. With Rick Wilber, she is the co-founder of The Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy. This annual award has been bestowed on the best short story by an undergraduate student at the International Conference on the Fantastic since 1994. She has served as an instructor at Clarion, Clarion West, Odyssey, and other writing workshops. In addition, she coordinates the Asimov’s website (www.asimovs.com).

In addition, Sheila is the editor or co-editor of twenty-six anthologies. Her newest anthology, Entanglements: Tomorrow’s Lovers, Families, and Friends, is the 2020 volume of MIT’s Twelve Tomorrow’s anthology series.

Sheila received her bachelor’s degree from Elmira College in Elmira, New York, and her MA in philosophy from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. During her junior year she studied at the London School of Economics. Sheila is the mother of two daughters. She lives in New York City with her husband, David Bruce.

The text of this recording is copyright © 2020 by Sheila Williams. The sound recording is copyright ℗ 2020 by Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust.

For more Odyssey podcasts, visit:
https://www.odysseyworkshop.org/resources/podcasts/

Odyssey Podcast #137: Carrie Vaughn

mp3 Odyssey Podcast #137

Bestselling author Carrie Vaughn was a guest lecturer at the 2020 Odyssey Writing Workshop. In this excerpt from a question and answer session, she answers questions about revision, plot, and point of view.

Carrie’s latest novels include the post-apocalyptic murder mystery, Bannerless, winner of the Philip K. Dick Award, and its sequel, The Wild Dead. She wrote the New York Times bestselling series of novels about a werewolf named Kitty, along with several other contemporary fantasy and young adult novels, and upwards of 80 short stories, two of which have been finalists for the Hugo Award. She’s a contributor to the Wild Cards series of shared world superhero books edited by George R. R. Martin, and a graduate of the Odyssey Fantasy Writing Workshop. An Air Force brat, she survived her nomadic childhood and managed to put down roots in Boulder, Colorado. Visit her at www.carrievaughn.com.

The text of this recording is copyright © 2020 by Carrie Vaughn. The sound recording is copyright ℗ 2020 by Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust.

For more Odyssey podcasts, visit:
https://www.odysseyworkshop.org/resources/podcasts/

Odyssey Podcast #136: John Joseph Adams

mp3 Odyssey Podcast #136

John Joseph Adams was a guest lecturer at the 2020 Odyssey Writing Workshop. In this excerpt from a question and answer session, he talks about worldbuilding and what he’d most like to see in submissions.

John is the editor of John Joseph Adams Books, a science fiction and fantasy imprint from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. He is also the series editor of Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, as well as the bestselling editor of more than thirty anthologies, including Dead Man’s HandRobot UprisingsOz ReimaginedThe Mad Scientist’s Guide to World DominationOther Worlds Than TheseArmoredUnder the Moons of MarsBrave New WorldsWastelandsThe Living DeadThe Living Dead 2By Blood We LiveFederationsThe Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and The Way of the Wizard.

Recent books include Cosmic PowersWhat the #@&% Is That?Operation ArcanaPress Start to PlayLoosed Upon the World, and The Apocalypse Triptych.

John is a two-time winner of the Hugo Award (for which he has been a finalist twelve times) and an eight-time finalist for the World Fantasy Award. He has been called “the reigning king of the anthology world” by Barnes & Noble, and his books have been lauded as some of the best anthologies of all time.

In addition to his anthology work, John is also the editor and publisher of the magazines Lightspeed and Nightmare. Prior to taking on that role, John worked for nine years in the editorial department of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

John has written reviews for Publishers WeeklyKirkus ReviewsLocus MagazineAmazing StoriesAudible.comStrange Horizons, and Intergalactic Medicine Show. His other nonfiction writing has appeared in venues such as io9Syfy WireTor.com, and Wired.com. John is also currently a producer for WIRED’s The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. He also served as a judge for the 2015 National Book Award.

For more information, visit his website at johnjosephadams.com, and you can find him on Twitter @johnjosephadams.

The text of this recording is copyright © 2020 by John Joseph Adams. The sound recording is copyright ℗ 2020 by Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust.

For more Odyssey podcasts, visit:
https://www.odysseyworkshop.org/resources/podcasts/

Odyssey Podcast #135: Brandon Sanderson

mp3 Odyssey Podcast #135

Brandon Sanderson was a guest lecturer at the 2020 Odyssey Writing Workshop. In this excerpt from his lecture, Brandon talks about story progress, promise, and payoff.

Brandon was born in 1975 in Lincoln, Nebraska. By junior high he had lost interest in the novels suggested to him, and he never cracked a book if he could help it. Then an eighth grade teacher, Mrs. Reeder, gave him Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly.

Brandon was finishing his thirteenth novel when Moshe Feder at Tor Books bought the sixth he had written. In 2005 Brandon held his first published novel, Elantris, in his hands. Tor also published six books in Brandon’s Mistborn series, along with Warbreaker and then The Way of Kings, Words of Radiance, and Oathbringer, the first three in the planned ten-volume series The Stormlight Archive. Five books in his middle-grade Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians series were released by Starscape. Brandon was chosen to complete Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series; the final book, A Memory of Light, was released in 2013. That year also marked the releases of YA novels The Rithmatist from Tor and Steelheart from Delacorte—the first book of the Reckoners trilogy, which concluded in 2016 with Calamity—who also published his most recent work Skyward in late 2018.

Currently living in Utah with his wife and children, Brandon teaches creative writing at Brigham Young University. He also hosts the Hugo Award-winning writing advice podcast Writing Excuses with Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler, and Dan Wells.

The text of this recording is copyright © 2020 by Brandon Sanderson. The sound recording is copyright ℗ 2020 by Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust.

For more Odyssey podcasts, visit:
https://www.odysseyworkshop.org/resources/podcasts/

Odyssey Podcast #134: JG Faherty

mp3 Odyssey Podcast #134

JG Faherty was a guest lecturer at the 2020 Odyssey Writing Workshop. In this excerpt from his question-and-answer session, JG answers questions about his biggest career break and his biggest dislike about the writing life.

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A life-long resident of New York’s haunted Hudson Valley, JG is the author of seven novels, ten novellas, and more than seventy-five short stories, and he’s been a finalist for both the Bram Stoker Award (The Cure, Ghosts of Coronado Bay) and ITW Thriller Award (The Burning Time). He writes adult and YA horror, science fiction, dark fantasy, and paranormal romance, and his works range from quiet, dark suspense to over-the-top comic gruesomeness.

Since 2011, JG has been a Board Trustee for the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and a Mentor. He launched their Young Adult program, and also their Library & Literacy program, which he still runs. Recently, he co-founded the HWA’s Summer Scares reading initiative in conjunction with Becky Spratford and several library organization, and he teaches local teen writing programs at libraries. In 2019, he was recognized with the Mentor of the Year Award by the HWA.

As a child, his favorite playground was a seventeenth-century cemetery, which many people feel explains a lot. You can follow him at www.twitter.com/jgfaherty, www.facebook.com/jgfaherty, and www.jgfaherty.com.

The text of this recording is copyright © 2020 by JG Faherty. The sound recording is copyright ℗ 2020 by Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust.

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

Odyssey Podcast #133: JG Faherty

mp3 Odyssey Podcast #133

JG Faherty was a guest lecturer at the 2020 Odyssey Writing Workshop. In this excerpt from his question-and-answer session, JG answers questions about writing advice and beta readers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A life-long resident of New York’s haunted Hudson Valley, JG is the author of seven novels, ten novellas, and more than seventy-five short stories, and he’s been a finalist for both the Bram Stoker Award (The Cure, Ghosts of Coronado Bay) and ITW Thriller Award (The Burning Time). He writes adult and YA horror, science fiction, dark fantasy, and paranormal romance, and his works range from quiet, dark suspense to over-the-top comic gruesomeness.

Since 2011, JG has been a Board Trustee for the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and a Mentor. He launched their Young Adult program, and also their Library & Literacy program, which he still runs. Recently, he co-founded the HWA’s Summer Scares reading initiative in conjunction with Becky Spratford and several library organization, and he teaches local teen writing programs at libraries. In 2019, he was recognized with the Mentor of the Year Award by the HWA.

As a child, his favorite playground was a seventeenth-century cemetery, which many people feel explains a lot. You can follow him at www.twitter.com/jgfaherty, www.facebook.com/jgfaherty, and www.jgfaherty.com.

The text of this recording is copyright © 2020 by JG Faherty. The sound recording is copyright ℗ 2020 by Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust.

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

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.

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