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.

Holly Black is the author of bestselling contemporary fantasy books for kids and teens. Some of her titles include The Spiderwick Chronicles (with Tony DiTerlizzi), The Modern Faerie Tale series, the Curse Workers series, Doll BonesThe Coldest Girl in Coldtown, the Magisterium series (with Cassandra Clare), The Darkest Part of the ForestThe Cruel Prince and The Wicked King. She has been a finalist for an Eisner Award, and the recipient of the Andre Norton Award, the Mythopoeic Award and a Newbery Honor. She currently lives in New England with her husband and son in a house with a secret door.

The text of this recording is copyright © 2019 by Holly Black. The sound recording is copyright ℗ 2020 by Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust.


mp3 Odyssey Podcast #130

E. C. Ambrose was a guest lecturer at Odyssey 2020. In this excerpt from her lecture on generating plot from the heart of your story, Elaine talks about “How to Middle,” how to use plot turns to avoid getting mired in the muddy middle. Many writers get stuck after the opening section of their novel or story. Once the characters and situation have been introduced, we need to start playing with those elements, using plot turns and plotting tools. Plot turns change the trajectory of a plot or change the meaning of the story in the mind of the reader. Elaine explains different types of plot turns: the time bomb, the time trap, the crucible, the dilemma, the reversal, the revelation, the confrontation, and natural elements. A lot of flash fiction has a single plot turn, usually a reversal or a revelation. Plot turns can be presented in different ways: through dialogue, action, thought, or narration. The rate of plot turns is a significant factor in the pace of a story.

E. C. Ambrose, writes knowledge-inspired adventure fiction including the five-volume Dark Apostle series about medieval surgery, The Singer’s Legacy fantasy series as by Elaine Isaak, and the Bone Guard international thrillers as by E. Chris Ambrose. The Dark Apostle started with Elisha Barber (DAW, 2013), described in a starred Library Journal review as, “beautifully told, painfully elegant.” Her latest releases are Bone Guard Two: The Nazi SkullThe Singer’s Crown: The Author’s Cut, and historical fantasy novella The King of Next Week (Guardbridge, April 2020). Her short stories have appeared in FiresideWarrior Women and Fantasy for the Throne, among many others, and she has edited several volumes of New Hampshire Pulp Fiction.

The text of this recording is copyright © 2020 by E. C. Ambrose. The sound recording is copyright ℗ 2020 by Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust.


mp3 Odyssey Podcast #131

In Winter 2019, Scott H. Andrews, editor and publisher of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, taught the Odyssey Online course Emotional Truth: Making Character Emotions Real, Powerful, and Immediate to Readers, and he’ll be teaching an expanded version of the class this winter. In this excerpt from the first class, Scott shares an example from Angela Hunt, in which she describes how reading the sequel to Gone with the Wind had her in tears after a few pages. A character died, one that she had a strong attachment to from the first book. The sequel tapped into the well of emotion she already had. That’s what stories need to do; they need to make the reader feel something by leveraging readers’ past experiences. For writers, this task breaks into two parts. First, the writer needs to get the emotion into the story so the reader understands it. That means making the emotion clear and obvious enough that the reader picks it up. Many writers tend to be overly subtle or oblique about emotion, so it doesn’t come through. Second, the writer needs to make the reader feel the emotion. This involves using concrete images, using the physical rather than the cerebral, and conveying emotion through the prose. Common weaknesses include lack of specificity, ambiguity, and lack of honesty. Writers may flinch from what something really feels like.

Photo credit: Al Bogdan

Scott H. Andrews lives in Virginia with his wife, two cats, thirteen guitars, a dozen overflowing bookcases, and hundreds of beer bottles from all over the world. He writes, teaches college chemistry, and is Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of the eight-time Hugo Award finalist and World Fantasy Award-winning online fantasy magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

Scott is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop; his literary short fiction has won a $1000 prize from the Briar Cliff Review, and his genre short fiction has appeared in Space & TimeCrossed Genres, and Ann VanderMeer’s Weird Tales.

He has lectured on short fiction, secondary-world fantasy, editing, magazine publishing, audio podcasting, beer, and heavy metal on dozens of convention panels at multiple Worldcons, World Fantasy conventions, and regional conventions in the Northeast and Midwest, and he has taught fiction writing for Clarion West, The Cat Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers, Houston Writefest, and at Odyssey. He is a seven-time World Fantasy Award finalist and 2019 winner for his work at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and he celebrates International Stout Day at least once a year.

The text of this recording is copyright © 2019 by Scott H. Andrews. The sound recording is copyright ℗ 2020 by Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust.


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

Interview: Graduate Kate Marshall (Part 1 of 2)

kateportraitOdyssey 2005 graduate Kate Marshall is the author of the young adult novels I Am Still Alive and Rules for Vanishing (Viking Children’s). Her science fiction and fantasy fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Crossed Genres, and elsewhere. She lives outside of Seattle with her husband, a dog named Vonnegut, and two small children. They all conspire to keep her on her toes.


You graduated from the Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2005. What made you decide to attend the workshop? 

I’m one of those writers who never wanted to do anything else. I declared that I was going to be a novelist when I was four (though there was a brief period when I was going to be a marine biologist, as my mother had informed me this was how one got to have a pet otter). I started submitting stories for publication when I was twelve (without success) and read every book on writing I could get my hands on. When I found out about Odyssey in my junior year of high school, it was a bit like finding out that Narnia was real. A place to go and write and learn about writing and talk about writing and be taken seriously? I had a good dose of that teenage sense of invincibility and destiny, so I was sure I would get in. Of course, I also had an equal dose of crippling self-doubt (endemic to writers and teenagers both, I suppose) and so I had to have someone else read the acceptance email to make sure it really said I could go.

I didn’t decide to attend Odyssey so much as I never considered the possibility that I might not attend. Occasionally it’s useful to channel your inner teenager! Continue reading “Interview: Graduate Kate Marshall (Part 1 of 2)”

Graduate Essay: Author David H. Hendrickson, “Blending Genre and Experience,” Part 1

dave-hendricksonAuthor David H. Hendrickson is a 2006 graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. His first novel, Cracking the Ice, was praised by Booklist as “a gripping account of a courageous young man rising above evil.” He has since published four more novels, including most recently, No Defense and Offside.

His award-winning short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines, most recently Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and the Fiction River anthology series. His titles have populated multiple Kindle bestseller lists. 

Hendrickson has published well over one thousand works of nonfiction ranging from sports journalism to humor and essays. He’s been honored with the Joe Concannon Hockey East Media Award and the Murray Kramer Scarlet Quill Award.

For more information about his writing, visit him online at http://www.hendricksonwriter.com where you can sign up for his mailing list and be notified of new releases.


Do you always write within your comfort zone? How widely do your stories vary?

So many writers constrain themselves within a narrow area of interest, creating stories that seem not only similar to each other but similar to other stories within that sub-genre. Sometimes breaking free of that ‘comfort zone’ and realizing you are a person with many interests and many different types of stories to tell can bring new energy and originality into your work.

I didn’t used to think so. I used to cling to my comfort zone. But I learned better, and perhaps my experience can help you. Let me start at the beginning.

Write what you know.

That’s what some long-forgotten book told me to do shortly after, at the age of twenty, I read my first Harlan Ellison short story and said, “Ohmigod, that’s what I want to do!”

I was horrified at the book’s advice. Write what I know? I didn’t know anything. Oh, I’d been captain of the math team and chess team in high school, and as an MIT student, I was learning a lot about computers. But I sure didn’t want to write about any of that. All that was software career stuff. I didn’t want to read fiction about math and computers, and I sure didn’t want to write about it.
Continue reading “Graduate Essay: Author David H. Hendrickson, “Blending Genre and Experience,” Part 1″