Special Announcement: 2021 Odyssey Online Classes

ODYSSEY ONLINE OFFERS LIVE, INTENSIVE CLASSES WITH IN-DEPTH FEEDBACK

“I’ve taken other online writing classes before and gained a few useful insights here and there, but this class does more than just lecture—it gives you tools and forces you to practice using those tools. Then it shows you how to incorporate those tools into writing an actual story. I felt welcomed and supported in every stage of the class and am thrilled at how my writing network has expanded from this class. I was astounded at the amount and quality of the critiques I received from the instructor and my classmates on assignments I turned in. I learned so much from them! And I was just as astounded at the amount and quality of critique I was giving to other students—I’d been giving critiques for years, but this class taught me how to look at the big picture.”

Caitlin Jacobs

The Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust has announced its Winter 2021 online classes: One Brick at a Time: Crafting Compelling Scenes, taught by award-winning novelist Barbara Ashford; Emotional Truth: Making Character Emotions Real, Powerful, and Immediate to Readers, taught by award-winning editor-in-chief and publisher Scott H. Andrews; and Worldbuilding in Fantasy and Science Fiction, taught by New York Times bestselling author Patricia C. Wrede.

Continue reading “Special Announcement: 2021 Odyssey Online Classes”

Odyssey Podcast #132: Barbara Ashford on Crafting Compelling Scenes

mp3 Odyssey Podcast #132

In Winter 2018, award-winning novelist Barbara Ashford taught the Odyssey Online course One Brick at a Time: Crafting Compelling Scenes, and she’ll be teaching the class again this winter. In this excerpt from the first class, Barbara talks about techniques writers can use to evaluate the effectiveness of their scenes. Scenes are made out of moments. Moments can be bittersweet, funny, shocking—the best ones grab our attention because they feature characters we care about, involve indelible imagery or worldbuilding, and show dramatic conflict that keeps us reading. All writers use the same ingredients for scenes, but writing is not about following a recipe but about mixing the ingredients as appropriate for the story and scene. We need to be aware of the effect we’re striving to create and the impact we want to have on readers. A dramatic scene requires conflict. The conflict in a scene needs to relate to the conflicts in the story as a whole. When analyzing the effectiveness of scenes, don’t just look for conflict, but whether that conflict pushes the plot forward and whether it impacts future events. Look at whether the POV character has a clear scene objective. If the scene is about several things rather than a single objective, it becomes unfocused. The short-term scene objective has to relate to the character’s long-term goal, the super-objective. The scene needs to put obstacles between the protagonist and the super-objective. Having a clear scene objective raises anticipation and makes the reader want to know how the situation will be resolved. The scene must have something at stake for the POV character. More than anything, a scene must change the situation for the POV character in a dramatic way. If the POV character is in the same emotional place at the beginning of the scene and the end, you should ask yourself if the scene is necessary. You can skip over unimportant scenes or roll scenes together. The best scenes do more than just change the situation; they show how the POV character is changed as a result of the action.

Continue reading “Odyssey Podcast #132: Barbara Ashford on Crafting Compelling Scenes”

Interview: Graduate & Guest Lecturer Barbara Ashford

barbara ashfordBarbara Ashford will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Workshop. Barbara has been praised by reviewers and readers alike for her compelling characters and her “emotional, heartfelt” storytelling. Her 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.

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.

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

A 2000 graduate of the Odyssey workshop, Barbara has taught eight online courses for Odyssey and has served on the staff of the Odyssey Critique Service for more than a decade. You can visit her dual selves at barbara-campbell.com and barbara-ashford.com.


You’re one of several authors who provide in-depth critiques for the Odyssey Critique Service. What are some of the common weaknesses you see in submissions?

Often, writers do not think about how the various “big picture” elements—plot, character, theme, world—relate to each other. To me, it’s critical to understand the heart of the story you’re telling. Whether you call that the story’s promise or its theme, without a clear understanding of the “message” you want readers to take away, the story can devolve into a series of plot incidents instead of evolving into a unified whole where all the “big picture” elements work together to create a story that is more cohesive and compelling. Continue reading “Interview: Graduate & Guest Lecturer Barbara Ashford”

“Make Your Big Moments Sing!” by Barbara Ashford

barbara ashfordAward-winning novelist and librettist Barbara Ashford will be teaching the Odyssey Online class “The Heart of the Matter: Bringing Emotional Resonance to Your Storytelling” this winter (application deadline: December 7, 2019). Barbara has been praised by reviewers and readers alike for her compelling characters and her “emotional, heartfelt” storytelling. Her 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.

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.

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

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


Before I began writing fiction, I worked as an actress in musical theatre. Those years not only gave me the inspiration for my novel Spellcast, but taught me a lot about creating memorable moments in fiction. Continue reading ““Make Your Big Moments Sing!” by Barbara Ashford”

“Don’t Lose Sight of the Big Picture” by Barbara Ashford

barbara ashfordBarbara Ashford is the award-winning author of six novels published by DAW Books. She is also a developmental editor and teacher. Her online course “Getting the Big Picture: The Key to Revising your Novel” will be offered in January-February 2019 through the Odyssey Writing Workshop, application deadline December 4.


When I began revising my first novel, I believed my story had good conflict, complex characters, and a world that was pretty cool. Okay, the plot was a bit of a scavenger hunt. And the novel was way too long. But trimming and refining was what revising was all about, right?

Well…that depends on your interpretation of “refining.” I ended up rewriting two-thirds of the novel and cutting 80,000 words from the final manuscript. But my biggest revelation occurred early in revisions: while my protagonist was blazing a trail through a magical forest, I realized that I had lost sight of the forest for the trees. What was this story about?

Continue reading ““Don’t Lose Sight of the Big Picture” by Barbara Ashford”

“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.

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”

Interview: Barbara Campbell

Barbara Campbell attended Odyssey in 2000. She is the author of the Trickster’s Game trilogy published by DAW Books. (Heartwood — 2005, Bloodstone — 2006, Foxfire — 2009). A lyricist and librettist as well as a novelist, her musicals have been performed throughout the world. She is a member of SFWA and ASCAP. Visit her website at www.barbara-campbell.com.

Can you talk about your pre-Odyssey writing process? What kind of writing schedule, if any, did you keep?

Continue reading “Interview: Barbara Campbell”