Interview: Guest Lecturer Michael J. Sullivan (Part 1 of 2)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPublishing veteran Michael J. Sullivan will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. He is the author of 29 novels and uses a wide range of publishing options, including self-publishing, small-press, big-five, Kickstarter, print-only, foreign translations, and audio. He’s sold more than 850,000 books, been translated into 15 foreign languages, and appeared on more than 150 “best of” or “most anticipated” lists, including those compiled by Library Journal, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Goodreads, and His most recent novel, Age of Myth, hit #2 on the Washington Post Best Seller’s List for hardcovers. Because of his wide range of publishing experience, Michael has taught several courses with Writer’s Digest and been a guest speaker at multiple fantasy conventions, as well as BookExpo America (the largest publishing tradeshow in the world). He’s currently working on his fourth Riyria Chronicles novel. The second book in his Legends of the First Empire series, Age of Swords, will be released by Del Rey in the summer of 2017.

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?

There’s so much advice to give!! Hopefully, we can get into this more during the workshop, but I’m going to narrow my focus to two equally important pieces of advice…and they go hand in hand. The first relates to developing your craft, which doesn’t happen overnight. It can take years (or decades) to find your voice and get your writing skills up to a ready-for-prime-time level. Art, all art, takes time and practice, so this isn’t a sprint but a marathon. Stephen King says you should treat your first 1,000,000 words as practice, and Malcolm Gladwell said it takes 10,000 hours working at a task to get proficient. I think these numbers are about right. For me, I wrote for a decade and created 13 novels (most of which were utter trash), but they taught me a great deal. So my advice is to prepare yourself for a long haul, and never stop focusing on continued improvement. Persistence is the most important trait of the “writing business,” and the only way to guarantee failure is to stop trying. Continue reading “Interview: Guest Lecturer Michael J. Sullivan (Part 1 of 2)”


Graduate’s Corner: When Is It Time to Move On? by James Maxey

James Maxey attended the Odyssey Writing Workshop in 1998. He’s gone on to publish stories in a score of magazines and anthologies, and eight novels to date. His currently available novels are the superhero tales Nobody Gets the Girl and Burn Baby Burn, and two fantasy series, the Dragon Age trilogy of Bitterwood, Dragonforge, and Dragonseed, and the Dragon Apocalypse series that debuted in 2012 with Greatshadow, Hush, and the soon to be released Witchbreaker. For more information on his writing, visit

I never sold the first novel I wrote. Continue reading “Graduate’s Corner: When Is It Time to Move On? by James Maxey”

Director’s Corner: Gaining Distance to Revise

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.

You don’t care about my protagonist? You don’t find my plot to be a page-turning masterwork of suspense? You think my sentences are awkward and my point of view inconsistent? Writers are often quite surprised by the feedback they receive on manuscripts. Continue reading “Director’s Corner: Gaining Distance to Revise”

Graduate’s Corner: Torture Your Character, Capture Your Reader by Elaine Isaak

Elaine Isaak is the author of The Singer’s Crown (Eos, 2005), and sequels The Eunuch’s Heir (Eos, 2006), and The Bastard Queen (Swimming Kangaroo, 2010). Her short fiction has recently appeared in Live Free or Undead and Escape Clauses. A graduate of the Odyssey Speculative Fiction Workshop, Elaine writes traditional fantasy in a mythic and historic vein, harrowing tales of complex human relationships in the realms of fantasy. Magic may offer the choice of transcendence–or tragedy–and the quest never leaves you untouched. Above all else, know this: you do not want to be her hero. She has written how-to articles for the Writer Magazine, and authored the Lady Blade fantasy writing column at AlienSkin magazine for three years. Her speaking engagements have included local chapters of Romance Writers of America, the World Science Fiction and World Fantasy conventions.

I am a strong advocate for the abuse of imaginary people–not because I am, by nature, cruel and wicked (at least–I hope not), but because it will make your characters stronger, your stories better, and you–a better writer. Continue reading “Graduate’s Corner: Torture Your Character, Capture Your Reader by Elaine Isaak”

Graduate’s Corner: The Sprint or the Marathon? by Carrie Vaughn

Carrie Vaughn is the bestselling author of a series of novels about a werewolf named Kitty who hosts a talk radio advice show. The ninth book in the series, Kitty’s Big Trouble, has just been released from Tor Books. She’s also written young adult (Voices of Dragons, Steel) and stand-alone fantasy (Discord’s Apple, After the Golden Age). Her short stories can be found in many publications and anthologies, and one of her short stories has been nominated for the Hugo Award in 2011. She graduated from Odyssey in 1998, and returned as writer-in-residence in 2009. Visit her website at

I never made a conscious decision to transition from writing short stories to novels or vice versa. Continue reading “Graduate’s Corner: The Sprint or the Marathon? by Carrie Vaughn”

Graduate’s Corner: The Dangers of Writing What You Know by Barbara Ashford

A lot of Barbara Ashford’s life ended up in the pages of her new fantasy novel Spellcast. Like Maggie Graham, she grew up in Wilmington, Delaware, began performing at an early age, and–after a series of jobs in educational administration–ran away to the theatre.

Barbara worked as an actress in summer stock and dinner theatre and later, as a lyricist and librettist. She’s written everything from cantatas to choral pieces, one-hour musicals for children to full-length ones for adults.

After several attempts at writing a novel, she attended the Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2000. It provided the supportive feedback and immersion in the craft of writing speculative fiction that she needed to create Heartwood, the first book of her Trickster’s Game trilogy. Published by DAW Books, Trickster’s Game went on to become a finalist for the Mythopoeic Society’s 2010 Fantasy Award for adult literature.

Spellcast is her first contemporary fantasy and is inspired by her years as an actress. You can visit Barbara at her websites: and at .

Writers of speculative fiction rarely follow the old adage “write what you know.” We’re writing about worlds that exist in Rod Serling’s “middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition.” Continue reading “Graduate’s Corner: The Dangers of Writing What You Know by Barbara Ashford”

Graduate’s Corner: The Growth of a Protagonist in a Series by Lane Robins

Lane Robins was born in Miami, Florida, the daughter of two scientists, and grew up as the first human member of their menagerie. When it came time for a career, it was a hard choice between veterinarian and writer. It turned out to be far more fun to write about blood than to work with it. She attended Odyssey in 1999, and currently lives in Lawrence, Kansas, with an ever-fluctuating number of dogs and cats. She is the author of The Antyre Chronicles (Maledicte and Kings & Assassins) published by Del Rey. Under the name Lyn Benedict, she is writing the Shadows Inquiries series for Ace, which includes Sins & Shadows, Ghosts & Echoes, and the just-released Gods & Monsters. You can visit Lane’s website at

My standard comment on character goes like this: Character is the intersection of personality and plot. That’s a fancy way of saying that your carefully constructed person has to care about what’s going on in your book, and has to be changed by the events. Like plot, a character has an arc that should begin, progress, and come to a resolution. Continue reading “Graduate’s Corner: The Growth of a Protagonist in a Series by Lane Robins”