My Odyssey Workshop Experience 2020: The Prep

I wrote most of this back at the beginning of my Odyssey Journey and then got incredibly busy. Just imagine this from the end of May/beginning of June time period:

Now onto the true beginning!

After being accepted, and choosing to attend virtually on account of COVID, I had to send in two assignments. One was a newly written story (which ended up naturally falling below 4k words when I wrote it and immediately got ear-marked for Odyssey for that reason alone) and the other was a favorite short story written by someone else (I chose Playscape by Diana Peterfreund in case you were wondering because seriously, it’s awesome and you should read it).

Over the next two weeks I received a textbook and a bunch of emails for typical things you’d have for a class (schedule, syllabus, questions, assignments, etc.) plus a few that likely were specially for this year’s virtual alteration for the workshop (like how we’re going to communicate and upload documents, etc.).

Then, in the weeks right before class was to start I worked on readings with my trusty pink and blue highlighters (because yellow is just so…ugh), while cramming disagreements (and agreements) in margins (harder to fit disagreements though; so much more to explain). I ended up filling an entire small notebook with all my thoughts and had to move on to another, so that seems to be a setting stage for this workshop. Maybe I won’t have any free notebooks left by the time it’s over (unlikely, since I have a crass amount of them, but you never know).

My handwriting is already jumping between seamless and even to barely legible.

I already had a small office setup that I could use as my “lecture hall” so to speak, so I cleaned it up, set up one of the signs that Jeanne Cavelos sent me in the window and sat my kids down to explain that they were to NOT DISTURB ME UNLESS THEY WERE DYING, which I think may have gotten the point across.

And then…I thought I was ready.

<3 Marie C.

May 2020 Recommended Books

Where last time I recommended all fantasy books, this month I decided to go in the complete opposite direction and talk up some science-fiction books I’ve read recently.


NINEFOX GAMBIT

by Yoon Ha Lee
(Science-Fiction)

The biggest compliment I can say about Ninefox Gambit is, I wish I’d picked it up sooner. Far sooner. Back when it’d first come out sooner. On the other hand, then I wouldn’t be able to immediately have access to its sequels, so there’s a huge positive about waiting until the trilogy is complete.

This story takes science-fiction world-building and turns it inside out and upside down, in a unique way, yet using older, easily grasped ideas. For instance, it’s a combination of military fiction with religious zealotry, using the fantastical element of never-ending life with political drama, all within a blow-by-blow space-siege operation. Continue reading

My Odyssey Workshop Experience 2020: The Application

Before I talk about my May prep, I feel I have to go backward, all the way to last year. Pre-corona, pre-quarantine, to when the world didn’t seem so bleak and 2020 was the epitome of hope, excitement, and expectation.

The idea of attending a workshop (I’ve attended two prior: a fiction writing one at 18 at a local college, and the Writers of the Future week-long one) came up in an email exchange with a friend, with us discussing some of the shorter, more accessible and doable workshops. For years, I’ve been stunted in this possibility, for logistically and financially my family just couldn’t make a six week course happen.

And yet, when I looked at the smaller, shorter workshops, I felt something snag inside me because what I really wanted, truly needed, wasn’t to be told how to write, but to have people look at my work, story after story, week after week, and tell me exactly where I personally struggled, where my specific weaknesses are, so I can focus on them and improve collectively, across all my work.

I started saving. Maybe for ConZealand, maybe for a short workshop, I wasn’t sure, but I saved regardless. Continue reading

February 2020 Recommended Books

This month has been more spring than winter where I live. Can’t complain about that XD Yet, I worry there won’t be that final frost to kill all the bugs and we’ll be beset with a gnat and mosquito swarmed, spider-cloud explosion in a month or two.

You know those days where the air is filled with delightful floating cotton balls reminiscent of Charlotte’s Web? We might have a difficult time dodging them this year. Ah, well.

I’ve recently joined SWFA (yay!). Now I’m officially a member!

Also just hosted a sixth book club meeting at my house, which means that it’s been successful for an entire year and looking strong. Going to have to come up with something fun for our anniversary meeting in two months. We shall see…


THE TEN THOUSAND DOORS OF JANUARY

by Alix E. Harrow

The meta portal fantasy I never knew I wanted.

This epistolary novel is told from the perspective of a girl who has always felt in between. About the many doors to other worlds we, as readers, have always experienced, so there’s an instant ability to empathize. There are slow revelations and deeply insidious dangers that mimic the realities of most dangers of our world better than the average novel.

Thematically, the novel is about change. About clinging to, or running from change. About choosing the change we want, rejecting the change that doesn’t suit us. Even more, it’s about the fear of change that exists in every one of us and all the different ways we face it.

As much as Ten Thousand Doors is a portal fantasy, it’s less about the worlds themselves and more about the possibility of worlds and all they might contain.


STARLESS

by Jacqueline Carey

Starless is divided into three main parts, with these parts being so uniquely different from one another that it’s necessary to mention. The first section centers on Khai’s training, the second his introduction to court life, and the third an oceanic adventure. Part one is by far my favorite of the three, delving into a setting where the gods are physical beings that grant their blessings specifically and with an eternal reason behind it. While each of the sections is divided by tone and purpose and even cast to some extent, I greatly enjoyed the entire process, from child-in-training, to the dangers of court and city, and the travels beyond.

There are larger aspects dealt with in the novel, especially that of knowing and accepting oneself, though it’s done primarily through the scope of Khai and one other who is introduced in the second part of the novel. However, though there might be a few interesting questions and a couple of characters that add to the great diversity in the fantasy and science-fiction realm these days, Starless is much more an adventure fantasy from start to finish, which I happened to love.


SPINNING SILVER

by Naomi Novik

I picked up Spinning Silver in response to having read Uprooted and though I admit to loving Uprooted just a little more than Spinning Silver, that’s not in any way a complaint against this novel. For Spinning Silver is a beautiful fairy tale-esque story revolving around a moneylender and the people in her life as she strives to not just overcome the struggles of her family, but to best those conflicts entirely.

There’s an entire parallel world, one filled with a cold fae people and their own unique culture, that is brought to the forefront during this journey, as well as an enemy far closer to home. All the pieces of this novel expand across numerous characters and settings and yet, every single thread is interwoven tightly and meaningfully.

One of those books that starts slow by necessity because of all the introduced characters, but builds and builds into a rush of a climax. A really fun book.

Historical Nebula Nomination Read Series [1965] Check-In #1

My first Check-In post in this auspicious quest. I’m going to admit, I thought this would be a breeze given word count in books in the 1960s were far and away less than the current average word count. What I didn’t take into account was the -isms. Sexism, racism, etc. And some of that can be…difficult.

Now, I’m going to do my best to consider the time period in an effort to be a little more fair since it’s truly impossible to judge certain things by today’s standards when thinking of yesterday, especially when I obviously wasn’t around fifty-sixty years ago to have personally experienced the world then. So certain instances, like calling all women “girls” or the invisibility of certain races, I will strive to overlook.

However, I’m human and my beliefs will very likely get in the way sometimes.

So far, I’ve read four of the 1965 Nebula Nominations:


The first book I read was Rogue Dragon by Avram Davidson, a small, chapbook-sized science fiction novel about an Earth that had been turned into a hunting ground for unintelligent creatures titled dragons. In reality, the descriptions and writing of these dragons resembled large theropods. (And, in fact, there’s a scene that heavily reminds me of Jurassic Park, though of course that book wasn’t published until the 90s.)

The lead character goes on a discovery adventure where he lands within one group of characters after another, becoming acquainted with different sides of the entire story there on future Earth. His journey is a haphazard series of events though, with much of his autonomy stolen from him often enough that it’s comical to discover just how he would stumble into the next phase of the story. He is not a typical hero for the bulk of the story; he’s more of an information gatherer. Continue reading