P. A. Cornell is a Chilean-Canadian writer who penned her first speculative fiction story as a third-grade assignment (a science fiction piece about shape-shifting aliens). While her early publications were in non-fiction, she has been steadily selling her short fiction since 2016. An active member of SFWA and a 2002 graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop, her stories have appeared in several professional anthologies and genre magazines, including Galaxy’s Edge, Cossmass Infinities, and Little Blue Marble. A complete bibliography can be found at pacornell.com.
You attended the Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2002. What made you decide to attend?
When I started writing seriously, I didn’t know any writers, so I was isolated from the community. Because of this, I’d never even heard of writing workshops. It wasn’t until I picked up Odyssey Director Jeanne Cavelos’ book, The Science of Star Wars, that this changed. Jeanne had included her contact information in the book, so I wrote to her. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I must’ve mentioned I was a science fiction writer. Jeanne wrote back and told me about Odyssey. At the time I didn’t know the number of applications Odyssey receives or how few people get in. Had I known, I might’ve been too intimidated to apply, so I guess ignorance is bliss.
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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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Mars Hawthorne is a writer of dark fiction based in Portland, Oregon, as well as a 2021 graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop, for which she was the recipient of the Miskatonic Scholarship. Her passion for storytelling began in kindergarten when she informed a teacher that, during nap-time, she’d witnessed a monster eat the little girl next to her and then spit out her bones. She’s a member of the Brooklyn Speculative Fiction Writers. In her free time, Mars likes to patronize her favorite art-house movie theaters, take meandering walks, and watch her beloved local soccer clubs.
Can you talk about your pre-Odyssey writing process? What kind of writing schedule, if any, did you keep?
Before Odyssey, my writing process was a mixed bag. I became serious about improving my writing in 2017, but I mostly worked in highly caffeinated sprints where I’d get excited about a project and work on it for 1-2 hours a day for 3-5 days a week for a couple months, followed by weeks or months-long lulls in between. I was lucky to have an active, supportive writing group to meet up with and submit work to (hi, Brooklyn Speculative Fiction Writers!), where I also critiqued the work of other members, which helped me assess my own work better. However, I didn’t have a varied toolbox of techniques to draw upon when problems arose, except for whatever I gleaned from the craft books I read in my free time. My process was mostly 1) draft, 2) receive critique, 3) reflect on critique, then 4) revise until a piece “felt” done. But, spoiler alert, I usually wasn’t done! Instead, I’d often put a story on indefinite hold in frustration when I got stuck on a problem that I couldn’t identify or address.
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Malcolm Carvalho is a graduate of the 2021 Odyssey Writing Workshop. He writes science fiction and poetry. His work has been featured in several literary journals and magazines, including 365 Tomorrows, Kitaab, Bengaluru Review, and Muse India. Most recently, his poetry has been featured in the anthology A Letter, A Poem, A Home. He blogs at grainsofthought.wordpress.com. He also facilitates poetry workshops and performs improv comedy in his adopted city, Bangalore.
Malcolm was the 2021 recipient of The Quantum Entanglement Scholarship. Funded anonymously by an Odyssey graduate, The Quantum Entanglement Scholarship provides support to an outstanding writer of science fiction each year. The scholarship awards $1,000 toward tuition.
When I came to Odyssey, I had made a small list of the skills I wanted to work on. I wanted to focus on creating stronger characters and better plot resolutions. I wanted to know what I was missing in my stories.
Continue reading “Graduate Essay: “Into the Deep End” by Malcolm Carvalho”
Larry Hodges is a science fiction and fantasy writer, as well as a table tennis coach. (Yes, that’s a strange combination.) Larry is a graduate of the 2006 Odyssey Writing Workshop, the 2007 Orson Scott Card Literary Boot Camp, and the 2008 Taos Toolbox Writers Workshop. He’s an active member of SFWA with over 100 short story sales, including ones to Analog, Amazing Stories, and Escape Pod, and 18 to Galaxy’s Edge. He’s also published several novels (When Parallel Lines Meet, co-written with Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn; Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions; Sorcerers in Space; and The Spirit of Pong) and short story collections (Pings and Pongs, More Pings and Pongs, and Still More Pings and Pongs). In the world of non-fiction, Larry’s a full-time writer with 17 books and over 1,900 published articles in over 170 different publications. You can visit him online at www.larryhodges.com.
You’re a 2006 graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. What made you decide to attend? What insights did you gain into your own work?
I did some research and asked around, and Odyssey seemed the most recommended workshop. (Having Robert J. Sawyer as a “Writer in Residence” that year greatly helped!) Probably the biggest insight I learned about my own work was that I’m an “idea” and “humor/satire” writer who needs to focus on character and other aspects equally. I also went in knowing that I had little feel for description, and so have spent years working to overcome that. One thing that helped: Robert and Odyssey Director Jeanne Cavelos suggested writing a story that was all about description, and so I wrote and sold “In the Belly of the Beast,” where the whole story takes place in the belly of a dragon that has swallowed a bunch of people, including a wizard who creates a field to protect them in the dragon’s stomach—and much of the story revolved around vivid descriptions of the “venue.” It also became a character story about the wizard.
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Katherine McMullen Yañez is a graduate of the 2021 Odyssey Writing Workshop. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Bluegrass Writers Studio at Eastern Kentucky University. Her work has been featured in Parhelion Literary Magazine, Aurora Online, and in the short story anthology from KY Press, Scary Story: An Anthology. Her short story, “The People Tree: An American Fable” was nominated for Best of the Net. A proud native Kentuckian, she is currently freezing her @ss off in Northeastern Ohio.
I applied to Odyssey when my writing had come to a stand-still and nothing I tried was able to jumpstart it. Convinced I had writer’s block, I hoped the frantic pace and harsh deadlines would spur me out of my rut. Within the first few days (maybe even hours!) I realized I didn’t have writer’s block—I just sucked at plotting. My writing was stalled because I didn’t have a firm grasp what the events of the story were supposed to be. Having an MFA degree, it was humbling to realize I was lacking in such fundamental aspects of story.
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Sam Weiss is a graduate of the 2007 Odyssey Writing Workshop and the 2021 Odyssey Online class “Emotional Truth: Making Character Emotions Real, Powerful, and Immediate to Readers.” She is an applied mathematician who works in Boston with her husband and two cats. Her first professional sale, “There Will Be No Alien Invasion,” was published in Fireside in August 2021.
When I first started writing, I got a lot of “pretty writing but this isn’t really a story” critiques. I didn’t have a clue how to fix those stories or even what underlying problem those critiques pointed to. Once I wrapped my head around active main characters working toward a specific goal, obstacles, causal chains, and the framing of character change, those criticisms abruptly stopped. My stories fared better in my attempts to publish them (and caused less pain to those reading them), but I acquired a new set of criticisms: that my point of view was too distant, that I was telling and not showing, that I was showing but not telling, that the emotions my characters felt seemed inauthentic or inappropriate for their situations, or that the emotions were too on the nose.
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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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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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Linden A. Lewis (she/they) is a queer writer and world wanderer currently living in Madrid with a couple of American cats who have little kitty passports. Tall and tattooed, Linden exists only because society has stopped burning witches.
Linden attended the Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2016, and their short fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. They are represented by Alexandra Machinist at ICM Partners in New York City. Their first novel, The First Sister, was released in August 2020.
While there is a 95% chance Linden is a cryptid, they can often be spotted in the wild cosplaying or acting (yes, they appeared in an episode of The Walking Dead). Nowadays, they are most frequently found lurking on both Instagram and Twitter @lindenalewis.
You’re a 2016 graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. What made you decide to attend?
In 2015, I wrote and began querying a book, but I knew, even before I started getting rejections, that someone was wrong with it. Something was missing. After a year of hearing the same thing from agents, I decided to apply to the Odyssey Writing Workshop, hoping I’d be able to discover what I lacked. Turned out I was right!
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