“Teacher’s Corner: Five Reasons I Recommend Odyssey Online Classes” by Barbara Ashford

barbara ashfordAward-winning novelist Barbara Ashford  will be teaching the upcoming Odyssey Online class, One Brick at a Time: Crafting Compelling ScenesShe has been praised by reviewers and readers alike for her compelling characters, heartfelt storytelling, and powerful scenes.

Barbara’s first published series was the dark fantasy trilogy Trickster’s Game (written as Barbara Campbell). Published by DAW Books, Trickster’s Game was a finalist for the Mythopoeic Society’s 2010 Fantasy Award for adult literature.

Barbara’s background as a professional actress, lyricist, and librettist has helped her delve deeply into character and explore the complexities of human nature on the stage as well as on the page. Her musical adaptation of Far from the Madding Crowd has been optioned for Broadway. 

She drew on her musical theatre roots for her second series, the award-winning Spellcast and its sequel Spellcrossed, set in a magical summer stock theatre. In 2014, DAW Books released the two novels in an omnibus edition: Spells at the Crossroads.

A graduate of the Odyssey workshop, Barbara has taught five previous online courses for Odyssey and has served on the staff of the Odyssey Critique Service for more than ten years. You can visit her dual selves at barbara-campbell.com and barbara-ashford.com.


Online classes. There are lots of them out there. You read the promos. Consider the content.  And agonize over whether to plunk down your hard-earned money. How do you know if that investment will pay off?

I can’t compare and contrast every online class available. But having taught five classes for Odyssey (with a sixth beginning this January), I can speak to the quality of its program.

Okay, I’m prejudiced. I attended the Odyssey Workshop in 2000. And several of the workshops for Odyssey graduates after that. Without them, I never could have developed my vague story idea into a novel—or wrestled my hopelessly wandering first draft into a novel that would sell.

As a student and a teacher who has learned a lot from Odyssey, here are the key reasons I think Odyssey’s online classes stand out:

1) The Philosophy

Odyssey isn’t about telling you how to write or giving you formulas to follow. In my classes, I like to offer insights from various writers because one approach may resonate with you more than another. And I prefer to talk about concepts that have worked for many writers rather than Rules You Must Obey. We all have different approaches to writing. My job is to offer support, guidance, and suggestions to help you create a compelling story and move forward on your writing journey.

2) The Mix

I’ve taught writers from all over the world. Senior citizens and college students. Short story writers and novelists. Writers of fantasy, science fiction, horror, historical fiction, contemporary thrillers, and romance. Writers for adult audiences, young adults, and middle grade readers. Some already have publication credits while others are looking to crack the pro market, but all go through a rigorous application process (which includes submitting a writing sample) to ensure that they’re equipped to handle the work required. Developing a supportive environment is a must for me. So I was especially pleased to see this quote on a student evaluation: “The other students were all great. No workshop trolls.”

3) The Work

If you expect to attend a live, online lecture for 90 minutes and then sit at home until the next class, don’t apply for Odyssey! Plan on devoting a minimum of five hours a week to the homework assignments and critiques. The assignments give you a chance to apply the concepts discussed in class to your own project. Each of your submissions will be critiqued by 3-4 of your classmates as well as your teacher. I like to mix up the critique groups each week so students can get feedback from others working in the same genre and/or writing for the same target audience.

4) The Discussion Group

Often, it’s only when you try applying new concepts to your story that questions arise. The online discussion group gives you a chance to ask those questions, for teacher and students to dig deeper into the topics discussed in class, and to share approaches to overcome challenges.

5) The Fellowship of the Web

Odyssey isn’t just a class. It’s a community you’ll join once the class is over. The Odyssey Salon offers live chat sessions on various writing topics. The online discussion group is a place to ask questions, report progress, and share struggles, market information, and insights. The online critique group allows you to have your manuscripts critiqued by other members. You can also submit your manuscript to the Odyssey Critique Service where one of the published writers (like me) will offer in-depth feedback about all aspects of your short story or novel—world building and characters, plot and scene structure, dialogue, theme, and pacing.

6) The Repeat Business

I know, I know…I said I’d give you five reasons, but here’s another: every year, I discover that at least a third of my students have already taken one or more online classes from Odyssey. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of my students multiple times. (It’s great to revisit their projects and see their progress or discover what new project they’ve started working on.) To me, that speaks volumes about the dedication of these writers to their craft and their positive experience with Odyssey’s online classes.


OdboatThe professional-level Odyssey Writing Workshop is dedicated to helping writers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror grow in the craft of writing through winter online classes and a six-week summer workshop in New Hampshire. There is nothing like Odyssey—exceptional writing classes, critiques, and community encourages you to move outside your comfort zone and build new skills.

Apply by December 7 through 15 for the online classes. This year’s topics are Compelling Scenes, Meaning and Resonance Through Subtext, and Short Stories With That Crucial Spark.

Apply by April 7, 2018 for the summer in-person workshop.

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Interview: Odyssey Online Graduate and Author Jenise Aminoff

jenise-headshotDianna Sanchez is the not-so-secret identity of Jenise Aminoff, whose superpower is cooking with small children. She is an MIT alumna, graduate of the 1995 Clarion Workshop and Odyssey Online, active member of SCBWI, and a former editor of New Myths magazine (www.newmyths.com).

Aside from 18 years as a technical and science writer, she has taught science in Boston Public Schools, developed curricula for STEM education, and taught Preschool Chef, a cooking class for children ages 3-5. A Latina geek originally from Albuquerque, NM, she now resides near Boston, MA with her wonderfully geeky husband and two daughters.

Her debut novel is A WITCH’S KITCHEN, forthcoming from Dreaming Robot Press in September 2016.


Congratulations on the sale of your first novel, A Witch’s Kitchen, coming out from Dreaming Robot Press on September 25, 2016! How many stages did your novel go through before you sent it to the publisher? How much of your time was spent writing the first draft, and how much was spent in revising? What sort of revisions did you do on the novel?

Thanks! All told, A Witch’s Kitchen took me two years, three months to complete. I started it just before Thanksgiving 2013 and completed the first draft on March 25, 2014. Luckily, I had signed up for Odyssey Online’s Powerful Dialogue in Fantastic Fiction, intending to use it for a completely different project, so that helped a great deal. Even so, I knew it was nowhere near ready to send out. Continue reading “Interview: Odyssey Online Graduate and Author Jenise Aminoff”

Special Announcement: Upcoming Winter Online Classes + Webinar

Odboat

Start the new year by leveling up your writing skills! 

The Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust, widely known for its highly praised, six-week, in-person workshop, is offering three intensive online writing classes this winter, as well as Odyssey’s first webinar. 

Odyssey Online helps you to learn new techniques and build your skills, and provides in-depth feedback to guide you.  If you’re ready to hear about the weaknesses in your writing and ready to work to overcome them, you’d be welcome to apply.

The online classes being offered are:

  • Three-Act Structure in Fantastic Fiction, taught by Odyssey director and bestselling author Jeanne Cavelos;
  • Getting the Big Picture: The Key to Revising Your Novel, taught by award-winning author Barbara Ashford; and
  • Point of View: The Intersection of Character and Plot, taught by award-winning author David B. Coe.

Continue reading “Special Announcement: Upcoming Winter Online Classes + Webinar”

Special Announcement: Online Classes for Winter 2015

**ODYSSEY WRITING WORKSHOPS ANNOUNCES INTENSIVE, LIVE, ONLINE CLASSES FOR WINTER 2015**

This winter, the Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust is offering three live online courses with the same high quality and rigorous approach as its acclaimed, in-person Odyssey workshop: Showing versus Telling in Fantastic Fiction, One Brick at a Time: Crafting Compelling Scenes, and Effective Endings in Speculative Fiction.

Since learning is an active process, all Odyssey Online courses involve live online class meetings, allowing students to ask questions and participate in discussions. Jeanne Online Class captureEach course is designed to provide intensive focus on a particular aspect of fiction writing. Challenging homework assignments allow students to practice new techniques, while feedback from the instructor and from classmates helps students to make strong improvements. Each student also has an individual meeting with the instructor. Courses provide a supportive yet challenging, energizing atmosphere, with class size limited to fourteen students. While courses are designed for adult writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror, interested writers of all genres are welcome to apply. Continue reading “Special Announcement: Online Classes for Winter 2015”

Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust Announces Winter 2014 Online Classes

Odboatcleanedup Since its inception in 1996, the Odyssey Writing Workshop has become one of the most highly respected programs for writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror in the world. Through an advanced curriculum, intensive focus, directed study, and detailed feedback, students gain a much deeper understanding of the elements of fiction writing and make major improvements in their work.

To further our mission of helping developing writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror, we have taken the techniques that are so effective at the workshop and adapted them to create online classes. We’ve worked very hard to ensure that our online classes are of the same quality and caliber as our in-person workshop and that they deserve to carry the name of Odyssey.

In this tradition, we are proud to announce our Winter 2014 online writing courses. Instructors Jeanne Cavelos, Barbara Ashford, and Nancy Holder will talk about ways to craft powerful dialogue, imbue emotional resonance into your story, and let you in on some secrets of storytelling.

Course Offerings for Winter 2014:

jeannePowerful Dialogue in Fantastic Fiction
Course Meets: January 2 – January 30, 2014
Instructor: Jeanne Cavelos
Application Deadline: December 7, 2013

 

barbara ashfordThe Heart of the Matter: Bringing Emotional Resonance to Your Storytelling
Course Meets: January 6 – February 3, 2014
Instructor: Barbara Ashford
Application Deadline: December 10, 2013

 

nancy-purpleThe Secrets of a Satisfying Short Story
Course Meets: January 23 – February 20, 2014
Instructor: Nancy Holder
Application Deadline: December 27, 2013

 

For more information on class size, technology requirements, and details on how to apply, visit www.sff.net/odyssey/online.html.

Interview: Barbara Ashford

Barbara Ashford will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. She abandoned a career in educational administration to pursue a life in the theatre, working as an actress in summer stock and dinner theatre and later, as a lyricist and librettist. She’s written everything from cantatas to choral pieces, one-hour musicals for children to full-length ones for adults. Her musicals have been performed throughout the world, including such venues as the New York Musical Theatre Festival and the Edinburgh International Festival.

In 2000, after Barbara began writing fiction, she attended Odyssey. The workshop provided the supportive feedback and immersion in the craft of writing speculative fiction that she needed to create Heartwood, the first book of her Trickster’s Game trilogy (written as Barbara Campbell). Published by DAW Books, Trickster’s Game went on to become a finalist for the Mythopoeic Society’s 2010 Fantasy Award for adult literature.

Barbara returned to her theatre roots for her most recent novel, Spellcast, a contemporary fantasy set in a magical summer stock theatre in Vermont. She is currently at work on the sequel—Spellcrossed—to be published in June 2012.

Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies After Hours: Tales from the Ur-Bar and The Modern Fae’s Guide to Surviving Humanity (March 2012). When she’s not writing, she critiques manuscripts for the Odyssey Critique Service.

Barbara lives in New Rochelle, New York, with her husband, whom she met while performing in the play Bedroom Farce. You can visit her dual selves at barbara-campbell.com and barbara-ashford.com.


How would you compare your pre-Odyssey writing to your post-Odyssey writing? What changed the most for you?

Continue reading “Interview: Barbara Ashford”

Graduate’s Corner: The Dangers of Writing What You Know by Barbara Ashford

A lot of Barbara Ashford’s life ended up in the pages of her new fantasy novel Spellcast. Like Maggie Graham, she grew up in Wilmington, Delaware, began performing at an early age, and–after a series of jobs in educational administration–ran away to the theatre.

Barbara worked as an actress in summer stock and dinner theatre and later, as a lyricist and librettist. She’s written everything from cantatas to choral pieces, one-hour musicals for children to full-length ones for adults.

After several attempts at writing a novel, she attended the Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2000. It provided the supportive feedback and immersion in the craft of writing speculative fiction that she needed to create Heartwood, the first book of her Trickster’s Game trilogy. Published by DAW Books, Trickster’s Game went on to become a finalist for the Mythopoeic Society’s 2010 Fantasy Award for adult literature.

Spellcast is her first contemporary fantasy and is inspired by her years as an actress. You can visit Barbara at her websites: http://www.barbaraashford.com and at http://www.barbara-campbell.com .


Writers of speculative fiction rarely follow the old adage “write what you know.” We’re writing about worlds that exist in Rod Serling’s “middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition.” Continue reading “Graduate’s Corner: The Dangers of Writing What You Know by Barbara Ashford”