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!

ODYSSEY WRITING WORKSHOP
ANNOUNCES ITS 19th SUMMER SESSION

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.

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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.

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.)

State of the Hildey: 2012 edition

I haven’t posted to this blog for a year and four days, but…

I HAVE REASONS.

I went through this phase of not knowing what to talk about, for months, and it makes me uncomfortable to post things when I feel like I don’t have anything to contribute to anyone else’s brainfeeds. So I didn’t.

Truthfully, in hindsight, that sounds like bullshit. 2012 was busy.  Let’s recap:

Val and I got married! We “eloped” to D.C. with the parents and some very close friends in tow, then held a reception three days later for the rest of our loved ones, and decorated our own cake.  The reception was crammed into a brick and copper-tabled room at Lancaster Brewing Company, which is awesome and run by great people, providing not only great beer but fantastic food, and they deserve a shout-out.

We honeymooned in Napa Valley soon afterwards.  California as a destination was a first for both of us. More shout-outs go to The Inn on First for one of the best experiences we’ve ever had staying somewhere, and to Trahan Winery for making my favorite wine of the trip and for letting us play with their dog, Sadie, in the tasting room.

Then came the other weddings. First one friend, then another. Then my brother. Then Val’s sister. Then my cousin. Then another pair of friends. We weren’t alone in having a full wedding plate: friends of friends, my boss, other relatives, seems like everybody picked 2012 as their year. (We called dibs back in 2010, so there.)

There was work, too. There’s the day job, writing, more writing, helping out with a summer workshop, editing, editing, editing.

The Hildemobile died last January. It was a 1996 Saturn SL2 and it gimped along and its tires and brake assembly were a frigging money pit, so it was finally time to put it to pasture (where it was crushed into a cube, presumably). It got this close to hitting 200,000 miles, but didn’t quite make it. I loved that old car.  But I do like the new car.  I hate having a car loan.  But I finally own a car where all four windows work.  I call the new one my Spruce Moose.

The 6-year old laptop died a couple months after the Hildemobile.  I was less emotionally invested in that piece of virus-bait.

We tried the year-of-no-TV thing, and made it as far as March before we caved. We did, however go an entire year without Netflix streaming, which we’ve since restarted. Netflix is like a hostile takeover of one’s reading time. I did read more last year, and when we first started I was writing more, but I actually noticed a decline in my drawing output. That has to do with wanting to step back from my fan art and start working on originals. I’m working on a graphic novel, but I’m mostly devoted to the script part of it right now.

I missed out on applying for a (small) potential comic artist gig because I didn’t have an online portfolio at the ready.  I could have kicked myself. So, hindsight and all that, I now have an art blog at Hildebrand-Art.

I visited the Deep South for the first time, taking a trip to see family in Alabama. There were gators. There was the Gulf.  And the food… oh my god, the food.  And I discovered that I really enjoy boiled peanuts, despite making fun of the notion for years. (Come on, it sounds disgusting.) They taste a little like beans.

Val and I adopted a dog. He was a stray found in Gettysburg and almost didn’t make it until a rescue took him in. His given name is Snickerdoodle, which was shortened to Snickers, and now he’s Snick, in addition to his thousand other nicknames, including Two-Poops Magoo because of certain bathroom habits. Here’s a picture Val took of him at Christmas:

Snick67897_817928348270_186049499_n

Getting a dog wasn’t my idea. I grew up in a household crammed uncomfortably full of pets, and I’ve been enjoying my pet-free adulthood for over a decade.  Before we got him, I didn’t want one, and I was kind of a brat about the subject. But I could not imagine life without him now. He’s my sweet boy.

Oh! And I turned 30.

So that was my year, though I’m sure I am forgetting something. I may have been a quiet ‘netizen, but the year was anything but quiet.

Odyssey Writing Workshop 2012

If you are a writer of science fiction, fantasy, or horror, and are considering a workshop to devote time to your writing, you should apply to Odyssey.   It’s a six-week summer workshop in New Hampshire.

I can’t recommend it highly enough, speaking as a graduate.  Not only do you get six whole weeks to devote to learning about, practicing, and developing your craft, but you learn how to recognize your strengths, how to address your weaknesses, and how to critique with a scalpel-sharp eye.  You also–this is the best part–meet other writers and make new friends who share the same passion as you.

The deadline for this year’s applications is April 7th.

Here is the press release with all relevant info:

ODYSSEY WRITING WORKSHOP

ANNOUNCES ITS 17th SUMMER SESSION

About Odyssey

Since its founding in 1996, Odyssey has become one of the most respected workshops in the science fiction, fantasy, and horror writing community.  Odyssey is for developing writers whose work is approaching publication quality and for published writers who want to improve their work.  The six-week workshop combines advanced lectures, exercises, 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, Shawna McCarthy, Carrie Vaughn, and Dan Simmons.  Fifty-six percent of Odyssey graduates go on to professional publication.

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

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.  Cavelos said, “I’ve worked with many different writers, and I know that each writer thinks and works differently.  We limit attendance at Odyssey to sixteen, so I can become deeply familiar with the work of each student and provide assessments of strengths and weaknesses.  I work individually with each student, helping each one to find the best writing process for him, suggesting specific tools to target weaknesses, and charting progress over the six weeks,” Cavelos said.  Her typewritten critiques average over 1,200 words, and her handwritten line edits on manuscripts are extensive.

Odyssey class time is split between workshopping sessions and lectures.  An advanced, comprehensive curriculum covers the elements of fiction writing in depth.  While feedback reveals the weaknesses in students’ manuscripts, lectures teach the tools and techniques necessary to strengthen them.

The workshop runs from June 11 to July 20, 2012.  Class meets for four hours in the morning, five days a week.  Students spend about eight hours more per day writing and critiquing each other’s work.  Prospective students, aged eighteen and up, apply from all over the world.  The early admission application deadline is JANUARY 31, and the regular admission deadline is APRIL 7.  Tuition is $1920, and housing is $790 for a double room in a campus apartment and $1580 for a single room.

Meet Our 2012 Writer-in-Residence

Odyssey’s 2012 writer-in-residence, Jeanne Kalogridis, is the New York Times best-selling author of more than thirty books ranging from historical novels to dark fantasy to novelizations.  She has written in many different genres, and has even written several nonfiction titles.  Her novels are renowned for their detail and evocativeness.  Her trilogy The Diaries of the Family Dracul was described as “authentically arresting” by the New York Times and “terrifying” by Robert Bloch, the author of Psycho. Kalogridis is also an amazing teacher and mentor, who has taught at the American University in Washington, D.C.

Other Guest Lecturers

Lecturers for the 2012 workshop include some of the best teachers in the field:  acclaimed authors Paul Park, Elaine Isaak, Barbara Ashford, and Craig Shaw Gardner; and top agent Jennifer Jackson.

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 Realms of Fantasy, Analog, Asimov’s, Weird Tales, Lightspeed, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, and Fantasy Magazine.  Some of the recent novels published by Odyssey graduates are Kitty’s Big Trouble by Carrie Vaughn, published by Tor Books; Spellcast by Barbara Ashford, published by DAW; Jane and the Raven King by Stephen Chambers, published by Sourcebooks; and Sword of Fire and Sea, by Erin Hoffman, published by Pyr Books.

Martin Larsson, from the class of 2011, had this to say about his Odyssey experience:  “The six weeks of Odyssey were a roller-coaster ride of inspiration, inadequacy issues, laughter, tears, learning and despair.  Somehow, with Jeanne at the helm, we navigated through all this and came out the other side, forever changed into better writers and better people.  I came away from Odyssey with knowledge I didn’t know existed and inspiration I’ve never felt before.  Apply.  Apply now.”

Comments from the Class of 2011

“I have a bachelor’s in Spanish literature, an M.F.A. in writing, and a Ph.D. in linguistics, but nobody has ever taught me about writing the way I’ve been taught at Odyssey.”  –Donna Glee Williams

“The Odyssey course is amazing!  What a privilege to be able to experience this level of teaching!  The incredible amount of progress that each participant made during the course speaks for itself.  Fantastic, inspiring teaching in a supportive and encouraging environment!”  –K. V. Lavers

Other Odyssey Resources and Services

The Odyssey Web site, www.odysseyworkshop.org, offers many resources for writers, including online classes, a critique service, free podcasts, writing and publishing tips, and a monthly LiveJournal, as well as more information about how to apply.  Those interested in applying to the workshop should visit the Web site, phone (603) 673-6234, or e-mail jcavelos@sff.net.