Graduate Essay: Richard Errington, “Leveling Up”

picture1Richard James Errington attended the 2016 Odyssey Writing Workshop. He is an American/British writer born in Japan. He focuses on a variety of different genres and bounces between YA and adult fiction. He has written for an independent comic book publishing company where he published under six different title series. He has a completely unnecessary Honors BA in Creative Writing from the University of Leeds in the UK. He’s worked at banks, non-profit organizations, comic book publishers, media outlets, and had a brief stint as a postman which ended disastrously. Though he has sought them out, he has never seen any evidence of ghosts, which is leading him to believe that they may, in fact, not be real.


I’ve known for years that when you became serious about writing you considered workshops. I’d heard of Odyssey back when I was still a teenager while attending the ALPHA Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Workshop. We had an Odyssey graduate as one of our guest lecturers. I’ll always remember how enthusiastic and excited she was about it. She recommended that we apply in the future if we wanted to keep on honing our craft as writers.

Fourteen years later, I took the plunge and applied. Upon getting to Saint Anselm College, meeting the outrageously talented fellow students, and receiving my first critiques from Odyssey Director Jeanne Cavelos, I realized that my guest lecturer had undersold the workshop.

There had been some part of me that thought Odyssey would be about making contacts and figuring out ways to get the work I’d already written published. I had that notion driven out of my head quickly as I learned more about my strengths and weaknesses as a writer than I had during my entire Bachelor’s Degree program.

Odyssey is a place where Jeanne brutally yet carefully turns a group of fifteen writing enthusiasts into better writers who have all the tools that they need to be successful professionals. Some of us came into Odyssey without publishing credits, some had sold short stories, others had sold books. But all of us had plenty to learn about writing as a craft and more importantly, about the areas we needed to improve.

Together we braved Odyssey, critiquing multiple manuscripts each night while contending with the homework that Jeanne assigned us, not to mention writing our own stories to meet our submission dates. Many of us lost sleep, worried about finishing our pieces on such a strict timeline. Others lamented critiquing such brilliant and long pieces each night. But we pushed through.

By focusing on writing out of our comfort zones, hitting deadlines, and bringing a new critical eye on each other’s pieces we were slowly transformed over the weeks. Each new piece submitted became stronger than the last. Our own critiques became thoughtful and insightful in ways that they hadn’t been in the first week.

At Odyssey I’ve met the most talented, funny, and genuinely good people. All of them are writers and all of them are determined to succeed in this journey. Though we may have scattered all over the world, we’ll always have this experience to tie us together. I’m sure that we’ll be critiquing and talking to each other for the rest of our lives.

Jeanne Cavelos is the heart and soul of the workshop. Without her it wouldn’t exist. Her passion, knowledge, and good spirits drive us all to be better writers. It’s a testament to her willpower that she’s kept Odyssey not only going but thriving for twenty-one years. I would be stuck in a rut in my writing without her, not knowing what was wrong. I’ll be forever grateful to her for that.

I know at the end of the day that it was Odyssey that gave me the tools to finally level up my writing. Now the only thing that prevents me from becoming a professional writer? Myself.

Some of you who are reading this might think I’m overselling Odyssey. How could it be as good as what I’ve said? Apply. Come to Odyssey and discover the writer that you’ve always known you could be.

You’ll find I’ve undersold the experience.

You can always thank me at a future convention.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s