Odyssey Announces 2014 Workshop

We continue to get pummeled by winter storms here.  I’m ready to toss up the white flag and cry ‘Uncle.’  Summer can’t come soon enough.

PS You know what happens in summer, right?  Writing workshops!

Below is the official announcement for this year’s Odyssey Writing Workshop.  Start filling out your applications!


About Odyssey
Odyssey is one of the most highly respected workshops for writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. Each year, adult writers from all over the world apply. Only fifteen are admitted. Odyssey is for developing writers whose work is approaching publication quality and for published writers who want to improve their work. The six-week program combines an advanced curriculum with extensive writing and in-depth feedback on student manuscripts. Top authors, editors, and agents have served as guest lecturers, including George R. R. Martin, Harlan Ellison, Jane Yolen, Terry Brooks, Robert J. Sawyer, Ben Bova, Nancy Kress, Elizabeth Hand, Jeff VanderMeer, Donald Maass, Sheila Williams, Carrie Vaughn, and Dan Simmons. Fifty-eight percent of Odyssey graduates go on to professional publication.

This summer’s workshop runs from JUNE 9 to JULY 18, 2014. Class meets for at least four hours each morning, five days a week. Odyssey class time is split between workshopping sessions and lectures. While feedback reveals the weaknesses in students’ manuscripts, lectures teach the tools and techniques necessary to strengthen them. Intensive, detailed lectures cover the elements of fiction writing in depth. Students spend about eight hours more per day writing and critiquing each other’s work.

The program is held on Saint Anselm College’s beautiful campus in Manchester, NH. Saint Anselm is one of the finest small liberal arts colleges in the country, and its campus provides a peaceful setting and state-of-the-art facilities for Odyssey students. College credit is available upon request.

The early action application deadline is JANUARY 31, and the regular admission deadline is APRIL 8. Tuition is $1,965, and housing in campus apartments is $812 for a double room in a campus apartment and $1,624 for a single room.

This year, Odyssey graduate Sara King is sponsoring the Parasite Publications Character Awards to provide financial assistance to three character-based writers wishing to attend. The Parasite Publications Character Awards, three scholarships in the amounts of $1,965 (full tuition), $500, and $300, will be awarded to the three members of the incoming class who are deemed extraordinarily strong character writers, creating powerful, emotional characters that grab the reader and don’t let go. Several other scholarships and a work/study position are also available.

Jeanne Cavelos, Odyssey’s director and primary instructor, is a best-selling author and a former senior editor at Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing, where she won the World Fantasy Award for her work. As an editor, Cavelos gained a reputation for discovering and nurturing new writers. She provides students with detailed, concrete, constructive critiques of their work. They average over 1,500 words, and her handwritten line edits on manuscripts are extensive. Cavelos said, “I also meet individually with students several time over the course of the six weeks. We discuss the student’s writing process and his strengths and weaknesses, and then explore ways in which his writing process might be altered to improve his weak areas. These discussions often lead to breakthrough realizations and new strategies.”

Meet Our 2014 Writers-in-Residence
Melanie Tem’s work has received the Bram Stoker, International Horror Guild, British Fantasy, and World Fantasy Awards. She has published numerous short stories, eleven solo novels, two collaborative novels with Nancy Holder, and two with her husband Steve. She is also a published poet, an oral storyteller, and a playwright. Steve Rasnic Tem is widely considered one of the top short story writers working today. He is the author of over 400 published short stories and winner of the Bram Stoker, International Horror Guild, British Fantasy, and World Fantasy Awards. He has had numerous short story collections published as well as six novels. Melanie and Steve served as writers-in-residence at Odyssey 2005, and the result was an amazing, insight-filled week that the class still talks about to this day. They are amazing teachers and mentors.

Other Guest Lecturers
Lecturers for the 2014 workshop include some of the best teachers in the field: authors Elizabeth Hand, Catherynne M. Valente, Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman, and Alexander Jablokov; and editor Gordon Van Gelder.

Odyssey Graduates
Graduates of the Odyssey Writing Workshop have been published in the top fiction magazines and by the top book publishers in the field. Their stories have appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Analog, Asimov’s, Weird Tales, Lightspeed, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, and Clarkesworld. Some recent novels published by Odyssey graduates are Kitty in the Underworld by Carrie Vaughn, published by Tor Books; Elisha Barber by E. C. Ambrose, published by DAW; Shadowlark by Meagan Spooner, from Carolrhoda Books; Tarnished by Rhiannon Held, from Tor Books; and Sharp: A Mindspace Investigations Novel by Alex Hughes, published by Roc Books.

Comments from the Class of 2013
“There are so many courses that pass around the same rules of writing. At Odyssey, I learned far more than I thought there ever could be to know, in greater depth and detail than I thought possible. Odyssey has transformed how I view the act of writing, and how I view myself as a writer and a person.”
–Sofie Bird

“You hear the term ‘life-changing experience’ tossed around a lot, and usually it doesn’t mean much. Usually, it’s a marketing cliché. But with Odyssey, I can’t think of a more accurate descriptor. My life has been changed. Amazing course, amazing lectures, amazing classmates, and an amazing instructor–I’ll never forget my time here.”
–J. W. Alden

Other Odyssey Resources and Services
The Odyssey Web site, http://www.odysseyworkshop.org, offers many resources for writers, including online classes, a critique service, free podcasts, writing and publishing tips, and a monthly blog. Those interested in applying to the workshop should visit the site or e-mail jcavelos@sff.net.


State of the Hildey: midyear edition

Poor neglected blog. Meanwhile, things have happened.

First up, my story “Jack Magic” was published in the summer issue of Kaleidotrope.  It’s about spiky-haired sea pirates and magic cats and crazy quests.

I’m a couple weeks back from The Never-Ending Odyssey, an 8-day alumni workshop for graduates of the Odyssey Writing Workshop.  It was a fantastic, incomparable experience, as always. Old friends. New friends. At least one crazy caper. I’ve come away with a supercharged novel critique group, some great fixes for the opening chapters of the novel, and a game plan for what I thought was an unfixable short story.

Speaking of the novel rewrite, we’re chugging right along through the beginning of Act 2. Progress!  As I look ahead to the chapters to come, I’m astonished at the difference between those and the freshly revised ones in my wake.  More than anything, the biggest changes have been to vary and enrich the homogenous, minimalist worldbuilding of the previous draft.  The feedback tells me it’s working.  Biggest obstacle with this is to keep it from hijacking the plot, but so far, it seems to be helping. But we are our own worst judges.

So, fingers crossed, but things are good.

Since the last time I was on here was to provide a golf-clap for Man of Steel, I thought I’d mention I found the best movie of the summer, possibly ever: PACIFIC RIM!  No reviews, as the internet already has those aplenty. It isn’t perfect, but I’m so desperately in love with it. I grew up starry-eyed on robot lions and zords and Gundam suits, so it was the mecha aspect, more than the kaiju, that drew me to the movie. I can’t keep going. I’ll start gushing. I hope you saw it.

And if you’re a comics fan, you should be reading LAZARUS by Greg Rucka, who has reunited with Gotham Central artist Michael Lark for a sci fi near-future thriller about genetic enhancements and wealth-based economic oligarchy.  Give me this and give me SAGA, and I’ll never go hungry for a good comic.

Fall is right around the corner.  Apple cider. Seasonally appropriate stout. Crisp air. Hoodies. Football. And pumpkin-flavored EVERYTHING.

Still, I will be sad to see summer go.  I haven’t even had a chance to eat Maryland crabs yet. Better get on that.

Writers, who do you hate?

Recently, my good professorial friend invited me to speak to her English comp classes at the University of Delaware.

I visited three classes in rapid succession, each in a different building on this pretty campus, and as we walked from building to building, my friend and I brainstormed some ways to fine-tune the class time, and we decided that since a Q&A seemed to work best, we’d devote the bulk of the final class to that.  There were a lot of good questions of the flavor I’d been expecting, stuff like “where do you get your ideas” and “how do you get out of writer’s block” and “how do you find time to write,” etc. etc.  By the time we reached the last class, I was feeling almost like an old hand at the game.

So in the last class, I had a few back-and-forths with the students and started to gauge the pulse of the room.  Smooth sailing.  One student asked me to name an author I loved, and I went on a little about Rudyard Kipling.  Then, right after that, a guy nearly stumped me with a question I’d never expected: “what author do you hate?”

What did he mean by “hate”?  As in, professional jealousy?  We’d just covered the fact that writing isn’t the best way to make money, so is he referring to more successful writers?  While I stalled to think, I figured I’d troll the room.  I’d guessed from the discussion that a lot of them enjoyed Stephanie Meyer, so I gently joked about her a little. (I don’t think it went over well.)

My real answer was this: I don’t hate anybody.  I don’t think “hating” writers, or their work, is germane to my own work or to a discussion about writing as a whole. There are authors out there with huge visibility, who get lambasted with criticism over the quality of their work, but that’s the nature of the beast.  With more exposure comes more fans and also more criticism.  But that doesn’t make an author any less successful, and I applaud anyone who reaches that kind of success.  I’m not in this as a race against anybody; I’m only racing myself and a ticking clock.  I don’t believe in nursing hatred, or in fanning jealousy, or any other pitiable, self-absorbed behavior.  I believe in celebrating someone’s success, in fostering community, and in taking inspiration from someone else’s triumphs to make myself work all that much harder.

I hoped that answered his question with some semblance of grace.

And then I somehow launched into this diatribe about predatory contracts and told them the story of that time James Frey went shelling out his shitty sharkish deals to unsuspecting MFA students.

But after some reflection, I think the student who posed the question probably just meant whose work don’t I like reading.  To answer that, I’m not really sure.  If I don’t like reading somebody’s work, I just don’t read it.  This equitable practice makes for a less grumpy Hildey.

(There was that one time I slogged through 50 Shades of Grey, but that’s another story…)

Roger Ebert passed away yesterday after a battle with cancer.  Salon reprinted an article of his; it is cogent and beautiful, and like many reflections on the nature of death, is one of those bright flashes that lets you achieve mental escape velocity from the daily grind, if only for just a moment.  Read it here.

Get to the roof

I have one writing goal today, and it’s this: get to the roof.

My passion project, my baby, is this big fantasy novel that has emerged for another round of revisions.  It’s one of those projects best left to ferment in the depths for a while, like kimchi in pots, before it comes out for another fix. (Fingers crossed, it’ll be marketable after this.)  Digging up my “get to it later” notes from the last round of revisions, past-me left instructions that the first dozen or so chapters were so thoroughly broken that the opening needed to be rewritten entirely, which is what I’ve been doing lately.

The chapters are getting longer, new characters are finagling their way into bigger speaking roles, but I’m still on course, and parts of the old opening still echo here in the new one.  It can’t change too much, after all, else I’ll never make it back to the original plot.  In the current chapter, our protagonist is in a warehouse where she shouldn’t be, and is about to be chased out by some nasty folk, only to run into unexpected captors at the end of the chapter.  Originally, this chapter ended on a roof.  Now, it ends inside the warehouse.  At the end of my editing session I let out a breath and declared it done and new.

But after some thought and reading ahead to later events, it makes more sense for her to be on the roof.

It’s not that big a change; it means pushing the physical advancement a little farther, which will add a few more paragraphs and move the scene.  Elsewhere the chapter will have to slim down to make room for it, but it’s doable.  She can make it to the roof.

Without goals, nothing would ever get done here.  Goals are the one thing that can guilt me into action.  That, and the inexorable march of death, but that’s way too depressing and not as concrete as an attainable goal schedule.  After all, why have goals if you can’t make them?  You’d just be setting yourself up for failure, and you’re not a very good friend to yourself if that’s your aim.

I don’t work too well with time goals.  Some writers can aim for an hour, two hours, three hours per day and whatever productivity arises from that scheduling is what they’re left with at the end of the day.  This works for some people.  This is also a great way to see just how much time you can carve out of the day for your writing.  I.e., you claim you’re “too busy” but if you can find 20 minutes a day, 15 even, in which to pound the keys, you can still produce content.  Again, this is great for some writers, but not for me.  I’m too good at distracting myself from the task at hand with Internet, ah, “research” and I’m too good at convincing myself it counts.

Production goals, on the other hand, that’s where it’s at.  I shoot for 600 words most days, and 1000 when I’m feeling pretty good about the project.  The earlier in the day I’m able to start, the better my chances of making the goal.  I like the 1k days, because I find that I usually hit a wall around the 650-700 point, and if I can push through, I’ll go well past 1k.

But some days, there’s one specific thing I want to get done.  Something that story advancement hinges on.  It’s not a blanket production goal; it’s a plot goal.  Like making it to a game’s save point.  No matter how close or how far you are from a certain plot point, you make that plot point your finish line, no matter what.  Let’s say you are trying to get character from Point A to the castle.  You won’t rest for the day until you hit that save point in your story.  So you start typing, and instinctively realize that the road is too boring and quiet, so you have to interject a monster or some other obstacle.  Maybe the bridge gives out and your character gets stuck in the moat and discovers a brigade of toad people have taken over the castle whereas before they thought everything was fine.  You keep pushing them towards the castle until either A) they make it, or B) the story dictates a change in character goal (i.e., infiltrate the toad people).

The best thing about plot goals is the “no matter what.”  You’re committed to advancing the plot as far as that, no matter what.  You might end up writing an extra 2k more than you expected; you might discover that that plot goal wasn’t even the right plot goal, and veer accordingly.  Once you have scaled the day’s mountain, you can catch your breath at the summit and reevaluate your course.  And sometimes you might not make it.  But that’s okay! Because you tried, and wherever you get to is still further than from where you started.

The week in links

The other day I pan-seared some salmon for dinner, and the whole house began to smell like fish (and lasted for days), and I regretted not taking the laundry off the racks and putting it away first.  Beyond that, my neck is better and I got a nice chunk of wordage written.  How’s things with you?

First up, I made an appearance yesterday at Rebecca Roland’s Spice of Life blog for her interview series “Thumbnail Thursdays,” which is here.  (Don’t ask about the space rabbits, it took a dark turn.)

Random House’s sci fi e-book imprint Hydra (and you’d think they would not have chosen a name synonymous with comic book villains) is offering undesirable contract terms for … well, any writer, really:  no advances; a “profit sharing” split between author and publisher that takes publishing costs out of the author’s share, at Hydra’s discretion; and gobbling up all sorts of rights in perpetuity, or at least for life-of-copyright (WHAT.) John Scalzi took them to task for it on Wednesday.  Random House responded in a letter yesterday.  Anyway, that’s going on.  Moral of the story: read your contracts.

Here’s a fun example of how other authors’ actions sometimes serve best as a warning to others: 29 Ways NOT To Submit To An Agent by Carole Blake

Finally, there’s only one month left to apply for this year’s Odyssey Writing Workshop, an awesome six-week bootcamp for writers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror.  You get to immerse yourself in a supportive environment of writing, workshopping, and critiquing while you enjoy New Hampshire in the summertime.  This year’s guest lecturers are authors Jack Ketchum, Patricia Bray, Adam-Troy Castro, Holly Black, editor Sheila Williams, and writer-in-residence Nancy Holder.  So get your applications in.

I’ll be at the alumni program that follows the workshop, so come to Odyssey and we’ll get to meet face-to-face! Fair warning, I’m a hugger.

And now, I’m off to see whether packing tomato soup for lunch and wearing my favorite white shirt on the same day will go down in history as a classic bad decision or not.

Laziness now hurts productivity (and yourself!) later

There’s always something to do.

There’s the day job. A house to clean. Laundry to put away. The opening chapters of a novel to rewrite. A short story to revise. A dog that needs walked.  Normally I’m up to the task, but today, the thought of doing any of that makes me want to lie down and run up the white flag.

Yesterday I wrenched my neck. I’m recovering, but slowly, and it’s really painful.  Plus it’s my own damn fault.  If I were to rewind this little episode, I wrenched my neck because…

…my neck muscles have become weak and flimsy…

…because I haven’t been stretching like I should…

…because I’ve been avoiding workouts and physical activity…

…because I got lazy and stopped doing them.  Combine that with a worsening posture (also the result of no exercise) and it was only a matter of time before some pin came loose.  Writing isn’t exactly a strenuous physical activity. Sitting for hours on end, bad posture, lack of blood flow, strain on your poor tired eyes … one might call that downright dangerous to your health.  It’s bad for circulation, digestion, the immune system, and recovery time.  If you’re not moving, you’re aging.

I want to be doing all of the above tasks. Some tasks (like the day job, taking the dog out, etc.) must be performed, non-negotiable.  I want to dive back into Chapter 3 of the new opening.  I want to be taking notes on the series.  Mentally, I want to do it all, and maintain the pace I’ve managed for 2013 so far.

My neck and shoulder, on the other hand, want nothing more than to curl up under a couch blanket with some Icy-Hot, a glass of wine, and Netflix all night.  It’s a tempting siren song, but I will fight this urge to cast away productivity.

I will write tonight.

And I will pick up the weights.  I will take this as a wake-up call to get back on a consistent physical routine.  Because I want to get back into fighting trim.  Because I want to regain my balance and coordination.  And because I hate the smell of Icy-Hot.

Seriously, I reek of menthol.

Bylines, etc.

Since I’m updating the blog, here’s a couple of things.

First, my story “Akashiyaki (Octopus dumplings, serves two)” was published in the January issue of LCRW, found here.  It’s a buddy story about an octopus who escapes a restaurant tank for a night out on the town, and the restaurant worker who follows him.

And second, I’m a guest blogger at the Potomac Review today.  My guest post is here.  Its alternate title is “In Defense of Jan Brady.” (Not really, but, y’know.)