City Stories

Palo Alto Odyssey
The first chapter of Palo Alto Odyssey published in the Palo Alto Daily Post
The once sleepy university town of Palo Alto, Calif. now takes center stage as one of the country’s most innovative, competitive and tech savvy cities. The quick shift from small town to booming Silicon Valley powerhouse sounds like the perfect setting for a novel, right? That’s exactly what Dave Price, editor for the Palo Alto Daily Post, and John Angell Grant, theater critic for the Daily Post thought too.

John Angell Grant
John Angell Grant, author of Palo Alto Odyssey and theater critic for the Palo Alto Daily Post.

Inspired by Charles Dickens and the 1978 serialized novel “Tales of the City” published in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Daily Post decided to tell the story of Palo Alto through its own serialized novel, “Palo Alto Odyssey.”

The novel was written in 400 to 500 word chapters and was published six days a week in the Daily Post starting in September. The novel was originally meant to be a 24 part series but due to its popularity among readers, it was extended to 48 chapters.

The story follows Miranda, a woman originally from Palo Alto, who left the city for New York. She returns years later to find a much different city then she left. The story follows her journey in rediscovering Palo Alto as it is today. The story ties in local hotspots, issues and real life challenges facing the citizens of Palo Alto.

Author Grant has also written 12 stage plays and a novel. With “Palo Alto Odyssey,” he said he wanted to capture the essence of the city in the novel by focusing on hyper-local details to draw in readers.

“I think it’s the chance to tell the city’s story deeper…I don’t think a news story or a feature story can do that as deeply,” Grant said. “There’s something about writing about this small town that has such a big impact on the world.”

While the series has been popular with the Daily Post’s readers, receiving 5,400 page views online alone, Grant said writing a serialized novel was a learning process.

He said each chapter needed to have its own conflict and resolution, just like a newspaper column. Although “Palo Alto Odyssey” is a fictional, it is published in chapters in the daily newspaper, and Grant said it’s important to “take into account all those journalistic elements.”

“Each chapter has to stand alone, but it has to be part of the sequence,” he said. “Finding a balance is really important.”

While the Daily Post didn’t have advertisers set up for “Palo Alto Odyssey” Price said he could see that being a possibility for future serialized novels.

To read “Palo Alto Odyssey,” visit johnangellgrant.com.

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Published: December 21, 2015

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