Odyssey Writing Workshop: A Life-Changing Educational Experience

Picture1About Odyssey

Over its 25-year history, the Odyssey Writing Workshop has become known as one of the most effective programs in the world for writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. Graduates commonly describe Odyssey as inspiring and transformative and say they learned more in their 6 weeks at Odyssey than they did in “3 years of creative writing classes” or “an entire MFA program” or “30 years of reading the ‘How to Write’ books.” Fifty-nine percent of Odyssey’s graduates have gone on to professional publication, and they include award winners, Amazon bestsellers, and New York Times bestsellers. Continue reading “Odyssey Writing Workshop: A Life-Changing Educational Experience”

Interview: Graduate Erin Roberts

erinrobertsOdyssey graduate Erin Roberts is a speculative fiction writer who tells stories across formats: her short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in publications including The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume 4,The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2019, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Clarkesworld, The Dark, and THEN AGAIN: Vintage Photography Reimagined by One Artist and Thirty Writers; her interactive fiction has been published in Sub-Q Magazine and is forthcoming from Choice of Games; and her non-fiction essays and reviews have appeared on Tor.com and in Cascadia Subduction Zone, People of Colo(u)r Destroy Fantasy, and Strange Horizons, among others.

Erin is a 2015 graduate of the Odyssey Writers Workshop. She later earned an MFA from the Stonecoast program at the University of Southern Maine and was the recipient of a 2019 Individual Artist Award from the Maryland State Arts Council and the Speculative Literature Foundation’s 2017 Diverse Worlds and Diverse Writers awards.

To learn more about her work or read her musings on writing and life, follow her on Twitter at @nirele, support her on Patreon at patreon.com/nirele, or visit her website at writingwonder.com.


You attended the Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2015. What made you decide to attend Odyssey?

The cocktail party version of my decision is that I met Odyssey Director Jeanne Cavelos at the Boston SFF convention Boskone and fell under her brilliant spell. The longer version is that I was in the right place at the right time at a moment when I was just figuring out I could call myself a writer. I was a bit of a writing late bloomer overall—I studied playwriting in college, but aside from a few NaNoWriMos, a soap opera writing class, and one general creative writing class, I didn’t write much of anything until my early 30s when I took a class in science fiction and fantasy writing at Gotham Writers’ Center with the wonderful Paul Witcover. Continue reading “Interview: Graduate Erin Roberts”

Interview: Graduate & Guest Lecturer Sara King (Part 2 of 3)

SaraAuthorpicAlaskan writer Sara King will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. She is the bestselling author of The Legend of ZEROOuter BoundsGuardians of the First Realm, and her latest urban fantasy series, Sunny Day, Paranormal Badass, among others. She’s an alumna of the 2008 Odyssey Writing Workshop and has spent the last six years forging a successful career in independent publishing in the sci-fi and fantasy genres. To her chagrin, she is owned by four 120-plus-pound Tibetan Mastiffs, cautiously maintains a flock of ninja chickens, and has so many literary irons in the fire that she’s losing count. Thankfully, whenever she needs writing inspiration, she can step out her front door to go wandering in the Alaskan wilderness until she gets cold or almost dies—usually one or the other, but sometimes both—and then stumble home with fresh stories to tell and a new respect for falling, drowning, hypothermia, disorientation, and aggressive 1,500-pound wildlife.


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

For the past four years, you have sponsored the Parasite Publications Character Awards, which provide scholarships to three character-based writers attending Odyssey. Thank you for your generosity! What draws you to character-driven fiction? What do you think plot-driven writers could learn from writers of character-driven fiction?

Uh oh. You asked The Question. (Warning: What follows is a rant on the state of science fiction as an art form, how it lags behind the other genres in both readership and author diversity because it is actually less evolved creatively than the other genres, and how it needs to be brought up to par with all the other genres by intrepid people like you.) Well, for one, I can’t believe you’re asking this question. It’s my humble opinion (f*** it, I’m not very humble) that character-driven fiction is the best kind, hands down, because it allows readers to fully submerge themselves in the minds, situations, and psyches of another human being, enriching them for life afterwards. Name me one other medium that can do that. It allows people to live lives they haven’t lived, experience emotions they otherwise wouldn’t experience, and make friends they otherwise wouldn’t have had. The most gripping stories are character driven. Stephen King, Dean Koontz, George Lucas, George R.R. Martin, Patricia Cornwell, Orson Scott Card, David Baldacci. Every thriller I’ve ever read has been character driven, and they have to be—otherwise people won’t have any investment in whether the character lives or dies, and the end result of the thriller would be moot. Same for romance or fantasy. Continue reading “Interview: Graduate & Guest Lecturer Sara King (Part 2 of 3)”

Interview: Guest Lecturer Neil Clarke

neilclarkeAward-winning editor and publisher Neil Clarke will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. He is best known as the editor and publisher of the Hugo and World Fantasy Award-winning Clarkesworld Magazine. Launched in October 2006, the online magazine has been a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine four times (winning three times), the World Fantasy Award four times (winning once), and the British Fantasy Award once (winning once). Neil is also a six-time finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Editor-Short Form and two-time winner of the Chesley Award for Best Art Director.

Additionally, Neil edits Forever—a digital-only, reprint science fiction magazine he launched in 2015—and The SFWA Bulletin—a non-fiction periodical published by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. His anthologies include Upgraded, Galactic Empires, Touchable Unreality, More Human than Human, The Final Frontier, and The Best Science Fiction of the Year series. His most recent anthology, Not One of Us, was published in November 2018 and will be followed by The Eagle has Landed in July 2019.


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?

I don’t think there’s anything I’d raise to that level, but I do often recommend that developing writers and editors volunteer as slush readers somewhere. The experience gives you insight into the common mistakes most writers are making and the distance you might need to start recognizing them in your own work. You’ll also see the current trends and get a good sense of your own place in the field. I’ve yet to meet a slush reader who hasn’t underestimated their skill level. The rule for writers is to quit when you stop learning. Potential editors should keep going a few more months, just to see if they can hack the experience when it becomes routine.

Continue reading “Interview: Guest Lecturer Neil Clarke”

Interview: Guest lecturer Brendan DuBois

Brendan DuBoisGuest lecturer Brendan DuBois is an award-winning mystery, suspense and science-fiction author. Mr. DuBois is a former newspaper reporter and a lifelong resident of New Hampshire, where he lives with his wife Mona, their hell-raising cat Bailey, and one happy English Springer Spaniel named Spencer.

He is at work on his seventeenth novel, and his latest Lewis Cole novel, Fatal Harbor, was published in May 2014. Last year, he published his science fiction trilogy, The Empire of the North, made up of The Noble Warrior, The Noble Prisoner, and The Noble Prince. His recent thriller, Twilight, received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. DuBois has been published in ten countries by such publishers as St. Martin’s Press; Little, Brown; Time Warner UK; Houghton Mifflin; Pegasus Books, and many more.

His most widely published suspense-thriller, Resurrection Day, has received world-wide acclaim. It takes place in October 1972, ten years after the Cuban Missile Crisis erupted into a full-scale atomic war, destroying the Soviet Union and decimating the United States. Called “one of the most inventive novels of alternative history since Robert Harris’ Fatherland,” Resurrection Day is a chilling tale of what might have been. At the 58th World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago, Resurrection Day received the Sidewise Award for Best Alternative History Novel.

His short fiction has been awarded the Shamus Award from the Private Eye Writers of America and the Berry Award for Best Mystery Short Story of the Year, has been nominated three times for an Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America, and has been nominated for the Anthony Award for Best Mystery Short Story of the Year.

He is also a one-time Jeopardy! game show champion.


You write mainly mysteries, including your popular Lewis Cole mysteries, and suspense. What drew you to write in those genres? You also write science fiction. Does writing SF appeal to you in the same way as writing mysteries and thrillers? Continue reading “Interview: Guest lecturer Brendan DuBois”

Interview: Nancy Holder

Nancy Holder will be the writer-in-residence at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. She is an award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of adult, young adult, middle grade, and early reader work, both fiction and nonfiction. She has sold approximately 80 novels and 200 short stories, comic books, and essays in various genres. She has taught creative writing classes at the University of California at San Diego, the Maui Writers Retreat and Conference, and other conferences and colleges, and has been on the faculty of the Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing for seven years. She has also served on the boards of Clarion (San Diego) and the Horror Writers Association. You can learn more about Nancy and her work at her website: http://nancyholder.com/


You are an incredibly busy and successful writer, writing in different genres, for different ages, in different formats. How do you keep up? Is there ever a danger of having too much on the go? Continue reading “Interview: Nancy Holder”

Interview: Alex Hughes

Alex has written since early childhood, and loves great stories in any form including science fiction, fantasy, and mystery. Over the years, Alex has lived in many neighborhoods of the sprawling metro Atlanta area. Decatur, the neighborhood on which Clean is centered, was Alex’s college home.

On any given week you can find Alex in the kitchen cooking gourmet Italian food, watching hours of police procedural dramas, and typing madly.

Alex is a graduate of the 2011 Odyssey Writing Workshop. You can learn more about Alex at www.ahugheswriter.com.


Congratulations on the upcoming launch of Clean! It’s been great to see so many success stories among the Odyssey alumni. Can you tell us about this dystopian thriller? Continue reading “Interview: Alex Hughes”

Interview: Paul Park

Paul Park will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. He has written a dozen novels in a variety of genres. His most recent work includes a steampunk story in an upcoming anthology, an apocalyptic science-fiction Icelandic Edda, and a Forgotten Realms novel called The Rose of Sarifal, to be published under the pseudonym Paulina Claiborne. His novella Ghosts Doing the Orange Dance, nominated for the 2010 Nebula and Sturgeon Awards, will soon appear in an expanded, illustrated version from PS Publishing. He teaches writing and literature at Williams College in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, where he lives with his wife and two children.


Your books often deal with religion. What fascinates you about the subject? Do you have specific themes in mind when you begin working on a piece?

Continue reading “Interview: Paul Park”

Podcast #33: Jeffrey A. Carver

Podcast #33 is now available for download here.

Jeffrey A. Carver was a guest lecturer at Odyssey 2009, where he lectured on Story Structure: Conflict and Plot. In this podcast, Jeffrey explains the importance of structure. Structure supplies the skeleton for your story; without it, your story becomes a jellyfish. But structure is more than the organization and skeleton. It gives your story its purpose, movement, life. Jeffrey discusses the different components of structure and how they interact with each other. He especially stresses the interaction of plot and character in the structure, and explains that to discover plot, one must discover character. He offers various techniques for creating structure, from outlining in advance to discovering and recording it as your write. He also provides a checklist to help you examine your structure after you have a draft, so you can discover weaknesses and make necessary changes.

Jeffrey A. CarverJeffrey A. Carver is the author of sixteen science fiction novels, including Sunborn (Tor Books, November 2008). Prior to that, his most recent books were Battlestar Galactica: the Miniseries (a novelization), and Eternity’s End, a grand-scale epic of conflict and mystery in the far future, which was a finalist for the Nebula Award.

Continue reading “Podcast #33: Jeffrey A. Carver”

Director’s Corner: The Pleasures of Science Fiction

Jeanne Cavelos is the director of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. She was a senior editor at Bantam Doubleday Dell, where she worked for eight years, editing the fantasy/science fiction program, the Abyss horror line, and other fiction and nonfiction. Jeanne is also the bestselling author of seven books and numerous short stories and articles. She has won the World Fantasy Award and twice been nominated for the Stoker Award.


The Pleasures of Science Fiction

When you are writing within a genre, it’s important to understand that genre–its definition and boundaries, the varied works within it, and the pleasures it provides to readers. Reading a wide range of works within the genre is key, but you can also gain major insights by reading genre analyses: essays and books that study and describe the genre. “On Fairy-Stories” is J. R. R. Tolkien’s analysis of the genre of fairy-stories, or more generally, fantasy. If you haven’t read “On Fairy-Stories,” I highly recommend it. It is required reading for all Odyssey students. Tolkien explores the origins of fantasy, searches for a definition of the genre, and describes the unique pleasures that fantasy stories provide.

Continue reading “Director’s Corner: The Pleasures of Science Fiction”