Interview: Graduate Jason S. Ridler (Part 1 of 2)

ridler2005 Odyssey Writing Workshop graduate Jason S. Ridler is a writer, improv actor, and left-wing military historian. His novels include Hex-Rated, the first installment of the Brimstone Files series for Night Shade Books; Rise of the Luchador; and Death Match. He’s also published over sixty stories and numerous academic publications. FXXK WRITING! A Guide for Frustrated Artists collects the best of his column of the same name, and his next historical work, Mavericks of War, is forthcoming from Stackpole Books. A former punk rock musician and cemetery groundskeeper, Mr. Ridler holds a Ph.D. in War Studies from the Royal Military College of Canada. He lives in Berkeley, CA and is a Teaching Fellow for Johns Hopkins University.

You’re a writer, a historian, and also an improv actor. How has doing improv impacted your writing? What lessons have you taken from improv and applied to writing?

Improv has provided many things that help me be a writer: being socially engaged in creating art with others; the nature of performance and stagecraft in reaching an audience; tools for brainstorming; a life outside of “all I f***ing do is write and be in my head,” which acted as an antidote to a lot of the writer b***s*** about being special because you’re a loner who does art (writing is also a great way to AVOID dealing with people and problems: improv helped me crack that code); improv uses less conventional storytelling tools and tactics that allow you to play with the absurd and normalcy and break expectation; improv also champions mistakes and failures as awesome means to new ideas (writing …. not so much); and it’s fun as hell. Improv and its gifts are now just a part of the complex lab of the imagination that exists in my storytelling brain. Continue reading “Interview: Graduate Jason S. Ridler (Part 1 of 2)”


Interview: Guest Lecturer Nisi Shawl

Hewlett-PackardAward-winning author Nisi Shawl will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. She wrote the 2016 Nebula finalist and Tiptree Honor novel Everfair, and the 2008 Tiptree Award-winning collection Filter House. In 2005 she co-wrote Writing the Other: A Practical Approach, a standard text on inclusive representation in the imaginative genres. Her short stories have appeared in Analog and Asimov’s magazines, and many other publications. Shawl is a founder of the Carl Brandon Society and a Clarion West board member.

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?

Listen to your inner bell. That’s a maddeningly vague tip, I know, but it’s the closest I can come to describing what it’s like to understand when something just is not working, or when something needs a little tweak to make it work smashingly well, or when you’re laboring over something that is not going to ever work, no matter how you tweak and nudge and sweat and polish it. I’m an aural writer, so I think of it in terms of sound; others may metaphorize the idea differently, but most of you will recognize it. For me, it’s “clunk” versus “bonggg.” Continue reading “Interview: Guest Lecturer Nisi Shawl”

Interview: Guest Lecturer & Graduate J. A. White

J. A. White (or just Jerry, when he’s not being fancy) will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. Jerry attended Odyssey in 1996, its very first year. He is the author of the middle-grade fantasy series The Thickety, including A Path Begins (Winner of the Children’s Choice Debut Author Award, Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2014), The Whispering Trees (Booklist Top 10 SF/Fantasy/Horror for Youth 2015), as well as two more sequels. He has also published a book of essays about the Japanese filmmaker Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Jerry lives and teaches in New Jersey. Learn more about Jerry and his work

You write scripts for Escape Goat Pictures, a company that makes book trailers, commercials, and short films. How has writing for visual media changed how you write novels?

When you write screenplays, you have to strip story to its barest form. There isn’t room for any fat whatsoever. I think that has made the transition to writing children’s novels pretty easy for me. I’ve had a lot of practice communicating information in as concise a way as possible. Continue reading “Interview: Guest Lecturer & Graduate J. A. White”