“My Odyssey Online Experience” by Kodiak Julian

Kodiak-headshotKodiak Julian is a graduate of Reed College and the Clarion Writers’ Workshop. Together with Jamaica Zoglman, she cohosts the weekly podcast, Spirit of the Endeavor, which explores the pursuit of beauty, mystery and the sublime in everyday life. She lives with her husband and son in Yakima, Washington, where she teaches truly magnificent high school students. Her work appears in Lightspeed, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Grimoire Magazine, the Writers of the Future anthology, and in the Witches, Stitches, and Bitches anthology. She is frequently mesmerized by watching chickens.


The best courses give me more than my brain can handle. They linger with me for years as I gradually process the content. Barbara Ashford’s Odyssey Online course, One Brick at a Time: Crafting Compelling Scenes, was one such class.

I was preparing to revise a novel when I learned about the course. I knew the class would help me craft scenes from their early draft mess into structured units, but I was floored by the tools Barbara provided.

I learned how to control the tension and pace, ways to hook a reader early, and how to keep the reader wanting more. I write with a literary voice, so I’m always interested in making my work more commercial for the genre world. I believe that Barbara’s class has given me tools to make my writing more entertaining while being true to my voice. I expect to grow from these tools for years to come.

Barbara and Odyssey Director Jeanne Cavelos take the class seriously, and they expect the same of their students. The homework started even before the first class: reading assigned texts on the craft of writing, analyzing scenes from acclaimed writers, studying the film Casablanca. Barbara referenced the homework during classes as we deepened our understanding of each text’s authorial magic.

Barbara talks fast and you’ll want to capture every word. Fortunately, she assembles substantial handouts of her talking points prior to each class. I have my handouts printed, in a three-ring binder, covered with notes, indexed, and on a high shelf to keep them safe from flooding. They are valuable. I will refer to them repeatedly.

Classes were lectures and Q&A sessions, meeting on alternating weeks via GoToMeeting. For our first assignment, Barbara asked us to apply the tools discussed in class by writing an opening scene.

I chose to revise the opening scene of my novel. You know when you’re in good physical shape but then do a new kind of workout that awakens different muscles? That’s what this revision process felt like. I looked for ways to communicate my story’s promise and build intensity as the scene progressed. With my literary style, my characters live lives of rich internal conflict, but I’ve always struggled to increase the external conflicts. This class pushed me out of my comfort zone of internal monologues and into the less familiar territory of tangible action.

Next, we critiqued the work of several classmates. I love what I learn from critiquing, and Jeanne provided helpful guidance on the critique process. Barbara asked us to analyze specific qualities of the work: What was the protagonist’s goal? What was the promise of the scene? What were the internal and external conflicts? What was the turning point? These questions focused my attention on aspects of storytelling that I usually don’t consider.

Giving critiques is often more valuable than receiving them, but in this case, both were tremendously helpful. The guidance from Jeanne and Barbara led my classmates to produce illuminating critiques, and then there were the critiques from Barbara herself: thoughtful, insightful, and wise.

After our second GoToMeeting class, Barbara asked us to write a scene with significant tension so that classmates could analyze the beats. I felt I’d learned so much between the first two classes that it was already time to revise my opening scene once more. I rewrote the scene from start to finish, responding to the feedback I had received from the first set of critiques. This time we critiqued scenes from a new group of classmates and also met for individual GoToMeeting sessions with Barbara. With this new revision, the feedback I received highlighted significant issues that needed to be fixed in my novel, specifically regarding the magic. This was a key quality that I had been unable to see on my own, and I’m so grateful that the course brought it to light.

How did this class shape me as a writer? I now consider a protagonist’s change as the central element. Each scene is another step along my protagonist’s journey of change, and I’m placing more emphasis on translating internal changes into a character’s external actions. I know where, how, and why to tighten scenes, and I know much more about making a reader want to pick up a story and keep reading. And maybe the class will help this literary writer become more commercial in a genre world.


Odyssey Online Classes are announced on the Odyssey site each October with application deadlines in December. Classes are held in January and February. To receive a notice about the upcoming classes, sign up for the Odyssey newsletter.

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Interview: Graduate & Odyssey Online Instructor Donna Glee Williams

Donna Glee headshot2011 Odyssey graduate and Odyssey Online instructor Donna Glee Williams was born in Mexico, the daughter of a Kentucky farm-girl and a Texas Aggie large-animal veterinarian. She’s been a lot of places; now she makes her home in the mountains of western North Carolina, but the place she lived the longest and still calls home is New Orleans. These days, she earns her daily bread by writing and helping other writers bring their creative visions to light, but in the past she’s done the dance as turnabout crew (aka, “maid”) on a schooner, as a librarian, as an environmental activist, as a registered nurse, as a teacher and seminar leader, and for a long stint as a professional student. The craft societies in her novels The Braided Path (Edge, 2014) and Dreamers (Edge, 2016) owe a lot to the time she’s spent hanging out in villages in Mexico, Spain, Iceland, Norway, Croatia, Italy, Israel, Turkey, India, and Pakistan. As a finalist in the 2015 Roswell Short Science Fiction Awards, her short story “Saving Seeds” was performed onstage in Hollywood by Jasika Nicole. Her speculative fiction has been recognized by Honorable Mentions from both the Writers of the Future competition and Gardner Dozois’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction collection. She earned an MFA and PhD from Louisiana State University, knows how to brain-tan a deer hide, drives a stick-shift, and has eaten roadkill more than once.


You attended the Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2011. How do you feel your writing and writing process changed as a result of having attended Odyssey?

Odyssey is like the Big Bang: it’s hard to imagine a state before it. But imagination is what we are all about, so here goes. I’d been writing all my life—my first poem in second grade—in a sort of scattershot way: introspective contemporary realist fiction, poetry, journalism, scholarship, song lyrics, and random acts of drama. Odyssey focused my energies like a gigantic magnifying glass in the sun. It was an intensive professional induction to the specific genre that had first wooed me to words. I treasured the personal conversations, conferences, and small-group lunches with Odyssey Director Jeanne Cavelos. That summer I was in the middle of selling my first novel, The Braided Path, over the transom to Edge, and Jeanne coached me in how to use the offer on the table to get an agent. Richard Curtis not only represented me for the arrangements on The Braided Path, but also applied his fine editorial eye to getting Dreamers ready to sell.

What insights did you gain into your own work?

I’d never read much horror. Sure, the occasional Stephen King audiobook when I needed to stay awake on a really long drive, but I’d never really had that much respect for the genre before Odyssey. That changed after hearing our writer-in-residence, Gary A. Braunbeck, read us his horror “manifesto.” His understanding of the functions of horror in storytelling gave the form new meaning and dignity in my eyes. And then, at our last private conference of the workshop, Jeanne pointed out very gently that the majority of what I’d written over the summer was, in fact, horror. She was right, and I’ve enthusiastically embraced my Inner Creepo since then. While I still don’t actually think of myself as a denominational “horror writer,” my second novel, Dreamers, has some ugly sadism in it. (And someone gets buried alive. That’s pretty diagnostic, right?) My short story “Dancing,” which I actually drafted during Odyssey and then sold to Pseudopod, involves an age-obsessed bug-lady who gets imprisoned inside an eternal exercise machine. “Come and Get It,” which I read at the Odyssey slam and sold to Psychological Perspectives, involves the classic woman-chained-to-the-rock-and-eaten-yum-yum-by-a-monster. “Absence Makes the Heart,” which—thanks to Jeanne—I just sold to Judith K. Dial and Tom Easton for their forthcoming Fantasy for the Throne anthology, involves a depressed amphibian trying to commit suicide. So, yeah—Horror ‘R’ Us.

Donna Glee book cover2A critical part of Odyssey, both during the summer residential program and in the online classes, is critiquing the work of your colleagues. Through the intensive critiquing of that summer, I learned that my fifty years of writing, MFA in fiction, PhD in linguistics, skills as a poet, and sprawling life experience all added up to being able to help other authors bring their visions to life. Eventually I wound up joining my sister Odfellow Karen Lacey in her remarkable editing/coaching/ghostwriting boutique, The Uncommon Octopus, and I’ve been happily earning my daily crumb by polishing other writers’ silver ever since.

What made you decide to attend the Odyssey Writing Workshop? 

It wasn’t really a decision—on the plotter-pantser gradient, I’m El Pantser Supreme. I learned about Odyssey; I applied, never thinking I’d be accepted. I got the letter; I made it happen. One step at a time: Apply. Get accepted. Find the money. Make the time.

You came full circle when you became a lecturer for one of Odyssey’s online classes this year on subtext. Can you briefly explain what subtext is and offer a way for writers to start incorporating subtext into their stories?

Me? Brief? About subtext? I love your dry sense of humor.

Subtext is everything you communicate without explicitly stating it. When humans are face to face, some of this below-the-surface communication comes through non-verbal cues and some of it comes through actual words that invite or insist that the listener fill in the blanks with information the speaker never said. In writing, we can manipulate those verbal cues in the same way that speakers do, forcing our readers to know things we never state. The non-verbals are a little more complex for writers, because our medium doesn’t let people see our gestures or facial expressions. But, as the Bad Guy Captor always says, ve haf vays . . .

(Ways that can be taught!)

What are some books or short stories you’ve read recently that offer good examples of subtext?

The absolute classic example is Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, in which the main trouble of the book (that the love-struck protagonist is impotent because of a war wound) is never, ever explicitly stated. More recently, Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried also buries its real story like a truffle in the deep dark woods and leaves the reader to sniff it out. While I was pulling examples for my Odyssey Online subtext class, I also found myself turning a lot to mysteries like Elizabeth Brundage’s All Things Cease to Appear—mystery writers, of course, often need to make sure their readers know things that don’t, technically, appear on the page.

Both of your novels, The Braided Path and Dreamers, are young adult fantasy. What drew you to write for a young audience? What were some of the challenges you encountered while writing your novels?

Ever since Wilder Penfield’s experiments with electrodes on the brain, we’ve known that all of us contain every single age we’ve ever been, and it seems that a lot of my passion for Story lives in the Me that’s about 12-13 years old. Whatcha gonna do?

Donna Glee book cover1One of the challenges for me has been discerning what, exactly, comprises YA literature these days. It’s not, as I was told by some, the age of the protagonists—Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See features youngsters, but the book is pretty clearly not YA. It’s not subject matter or how graphic the sex and/or violence is—YA rule-breakers like John Green shatter these boundaries with every book they publish. And it turns out the membranes that separate YA from Adult are even more permeable in fantasy than in other types of fiction. Adults happily read Harry Potter and kids devour Game of Thrones. This is fortunate for me, because I am a great fence-straddler when it comes to categories. The Braided Path had three main characters, two teens and one woman in early middle age. I call it a “three-way coming of age story,” and I really do think it’s valuable for my young readers to know that middle-aged people have to deal with growing up, too. The Night Field, the novel I’m working on now, which has a teen protagonist, isn’t YA at all. I’m coming down to a “feel” test for YA; like Justice Stewart, “I know it when I see it.”

You have published numerous poems in addition to novels and short stories. What can writers of prose learn from poets? What are some poetic devices that fiction writers can use in their prose?

On the craft side, a fiction writer with any ambition at all is going to want to provoke strong emotions in readers. Ipso facto—and how often do you get to work an ipso into a blog post?—that writer is going to need ways to communicate to the other-than-rational parts of the mind: the gut, the heart, the subconscious, however you name it. The technology for doing that exists in three places I know of: poetry, clinical hypnosis, and advertising. (I include political propaganda in advertising.) I’ve studied clinical hypnosis, neuro-linguistic programming, and therapeutic storytelling and learned a lot, especially about pacing and the power of metaphor. Studying advertising makes me feel like I need a bath. Reading and studying poetry immerses you in the power of super-refined language-craft—the tricks of our trade—while opening your heart to a deeper experience of life and its sensations.

What’s the biggest weakness in your writing these days, and how do you cope with it?

Ouch. My bugaboo these days is my work habits. I’ve got a big ole discovery draft of my next novel, tentatively called The Night Field, which I dutifully put away for a while to grow some fresh eyes before starting my revisions. But the trouble with putting something away for a while is that it’s hard to get back into the butt-in-chair routine. Any excuse, right?

What I’ve done to defeat my inertia is to plan some time at writers’ residencies this year, one month at Jentel in Wyoming and one at Messen in Norway. This is essentially like locking yourself in a room with nothing to do but write or go crazy. It really works; I started The Braided Path at The Hambidge Center in North Georgia and finished it on my Fulbright to India.

Another thing I’ve done is to get a developmental edit from Karen Lacey. Sometimes you just need some dynamite to blast you out of your stuck place.

And then there is always patience. I try not to be too harsh with myself, and to make sure I’m filling the time with other productive work (like submitting things and pulling together my first book-length poetry manuscript.) I’ve been here before often enough to know that what feels like procrastination is often just the Chaos Cave where we are doomed to flail until we are truly ready to take the next step.

“Odyssey Online Writing Courses: Intense Focus, Great Results” by Marianne Knowles

MPKnowles (2)Marianne Knowles writes young adult novels with a science fiction slant, runs an SCBWI critique group, and serves as co-admin for the group blog Writers’ Rumpus. By day, she helps develop science curriculum for use by students in elementary, middle, and high school. Marianne is represented by Emily Mitchell of Wernick & Pratt Literary.


Two winters ago my novel got wrung out, taken apart, and put back together. It was praised and constructively critiqued by classmates from nearby towns and faraway countries. I found the emotional heart of my main character and discovered the spine on which to hang all the other elements of the story—all the elements worth keeping, that is. I had to throw out some due to the “kitchen sink syndrome.” I worked more intensely on my writing than I had in years and learned things I didn’t even know I needed to.

In short, I took an online writing course with Odyssey Writing Workshops.

» Odyssey Writing Workshops is a nonprofit based in New England, in the U.S.

» Their main focus is fantasy, science fiction, and horror, but their courses cover the basics of good writing, and any writer can benefit regardless of genre.

» Odyssey runs a six-week residential writing workshop each summer, but the online courses can be attended by anyone with an Internet connection, email address, and phone.

» Courses have a number of live meetings in the evening, Eastern Time, but don’t let time zones limit you. We had an Australian attending on her lunch hour last year, and a night-owl European too.

» Plan on several hours each week outside of class to complete assignments.

Three courses are offered this year (see below). Classes meet in January and February, 2018. Application deadlines are all in early December, and applications may take a bit of time to complete, so don’t delay.

Standing Out: Creating Short Stories with That Crucial Spark
Course Meets: January 11 – February 8, 2018
Instructor: Scott H. Andrews
Level: Intermediate to Advanced
Application Deadline: December 15, 2017

Saying the Unsayable:  Building Meaning and Resonance Through Subtext
Course Meets: January 4 – February 1, 2018
Instructor: Donna Glee Williams
Level: Intermediate to Advanced
Application Deadline: December 8, 2017

One Brick at a Time:  Crafting Compelling Scenes
Course Meets: January 3 – January 31, 2018
Instructor: Barbara Ashford
Level: Intermediate
Application Deadline: December 7, 2017

Barbara Ashford taught the novel revision course I took in Winter 2016. She will drive you hard, keep you on task, and make you justify what you think you know about your own story and its emotional heart. Between classes you may wish you could spend all day, most days, just applying everything you’ve learned so far to your own writing.

Each course is a bargain at under $250. Once you’ve completed an Odyssey Online course, you’re welcomed into an online Odyssey community—a very active, prolific, supportive, online group of writers. Some of Dianna Sanchez’s posts on Writers’ Rumpus started out as weekly pep talks to the Odyssey group, and she’s just one member.

Do you write middle grade, young adult, or new adult? You WILL learn something from one of these classes, even if you write realistic fiction instead of science fiction, fantasy, or horror. Be aware that the courses are demanding. If you fall behind in your assignments, it will be noticed! But isn’t that a good thing?

A previous version of this blog post appeared on Writers’ Rumpus on December 6, 2016.


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.

“The Odyssey to Where I Am Now” by Linda Maye Adams

lonely-planet-cover2Linda Maye Adams was probably the least likely person to be in the Army—even the Army thought so! She was an enlisted soldier and served for twelve years and was one of the women who deployed to Desert Storm. But she’d much prefer her adventures to be in books. She is the author of the military-based GALCOM Universe series, including the novels Crying Planet and Lonely Planet. She’s also received three honorable mentions in the Writers of the Future contest and an honorable mention in Alfred Hitchcock Magazine‘s contest. Linda is a native of Los Angeles, California, and currently lives in Northern Virginia. Find out more about Linda Maye Adams on her website at www.lindamayeadams.com.


I had a very bleak point back in 2010: I was about to give up writing novels. I’d come out of a cowriter relationship that had blown up spectacularly, and I’d taken a hit to my confidence.

I’d had problems with my writing going in, and he’d promised his strengths could shore them up. I always ran too short and struggled with subplots. The result was that I spent several years not trying to figure out what the problem was. When we broke up, I had to relearn my craft.

I knew I needed to get back up on the horse, and that novel was Rogue God (though it was called Miasma at the time of my Odyssey Online class).

It was important that I finish a novel—without the cowriter.

But all the same problems that had plagued me for years returned, and the early versions were really broken. I remember one writer asking me if I wanted her to have a look at it, trying to be helpful, and I couldn’t do it. I thought she was going to think I was a horrible writer!

I could do short stories. I didn’t understand why it was different for novels. I was about to throw in the towel and just stick with short stories.

Then I found one of Holly Lisle’s workshops, right over Thanksgiving. It helped me see some of the problems that had crept into the novel. But she was an outliner, and her methods were based on the assumption I was outlining, so they didn’t really work that well for me. But it got me far enough along that the story didn’t look like a UFO had crashed and taken out an entire city. Maybe a freeway…

In 2013, I ran across the Odyssey classes for that year. Barbara Ashford’s class Getting the Big Picture hit me in the right way, so I asked if it involved outlining or not. She doesn’t outline, so I was willing to try and submitted the application. If you haven’t done it before, you have to get referrals and submit a sample of your writing.

In the back of my head, I expected to be turned down. My writing had been so messed up, it was hard for me to see what was good about it. I still thought: UFO crashing and taking out a city.

Then I got accepted!

The class was actually quite grueling for me. It was in January, and I got a cold and stayed sick for the entire class. But I did all the course work in spite of how I felt because you have to do the exercises to really stick the learning.

Especially if the exercises are hard.

I had to go back over my notes from the class to refresh my memory. I can see things in it now that I struggled to grasp then. But I understood enough that it got me on the next leg of my journey. I was able to finish Rogue God, and the only disasters happened in the story, not at the story.


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.

“Odyssey Online: Honing Your Craft” by Jenise Aminoff

jenise-headshotDianna Sanchez is the not-so-secret identity of Jenise Aminoff, also known to her children as the Queen of Sarcasm. Her middle-grade fantasy novel, A Witch’s Kitchen, debuted September 2016 from Dreaming Robot Press. Her short fiction appears in the 2017 and 2018 Young Explorers’ Adventure Guides. A Latina geek originally from New Mexico, she now lives in the Boston area with her husband and two daughters. Follow her on Facebook and at www.diannasanchez.com.


The day after Thanksgiving 2013, a novel fell on my head.

I didn’t know it was a novel at the time. I thought it was ten pages at best. My six-year-old daughter asked me to write her a story about fairies and unicorns as a Christmas present. I did my best not to roll my eyes. I was, at that time, struggling with a hard-SF YA novel idea and getting nowhere fast. Fairies and unicorns were the opposite of everything I was trying to accomplish. I thought I’d just jot something down and be done. Two days later, my nine-year-old decided to bake a cake, which she usually did without bothering to consult a recipe, and the idea struck: What if there was a young witch who was terrible at magic but really good at cooking?

By Christmas, I had three chapters. Three months later, I completed the manuscript, all 50,000 words of it. A Witch’s Kitchen was published in September 2016 (under my pen name, Dianna Sanchez), and it never would have happened without Odyssey Online, because I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.

I had studied writing. I have a poetry degree from MIT (yes, wrap your brain around THAT one). I attended the Clarion Workshop in 1995, before Odyssey even existed. I’d been writing since I was eight years old, and writing seriously since 1993. I made one pro sale in 2003 before I had children and they ate my life. But in all that time, I never once took a class or read a book or even really considered the craft of writing long-form fiction.

When I wrote A Witch’s Kitchen, it was like feeling my way through a maze in the dark with my elbows. I needed help, and I needed it fast. So I turned to that most trusty of resources, the Internet, for online classes on writing novels, and luckily I found Odyssey Online.

In the winter of 2014, Jeanne Cavelos was teaching Powerful Dialogue in Fantastic Fiction. If I had an Achilles’ heel in writing at that time, it was dialogue. Critique partners excoriated the clumsy, wooden, utterly inauthentic diction of my characters. After taking the class, my dialogue improved so much that I now receive consistent compliments on the smooth, natural flow of conversation between my characters. Who are sometimes six-inch-tall pixies and sentient trees. Not hard at all, right?

After I landed the contract for A Witch’s Kitchen, I had to confront my biggest writing nemesis: revision. I was terrible at it, infamous for rewriting good stories right into their graves. I didn’t know how to edit. I’d just rewrite the entire story from scratch, and somehow, despite correcting flaws, it was never, ever better the second time. But my publisher had requested a substantial revision, and I needed help.

I took Odyssey Online’s revision course, Getting the Big Picture, with Barbara Ashford in the winter of 2016, with my deadline looming in the middle of February. Thanks to Barbara and my amazing classmates, I not only got the revision done, I finally began to understand the subtleties of revision, how to discover the strengths of your story and enhance them. As I now revise the sequel, A Pixie’s Promise, I find myself returning to the lessons I learned in that class again and again.

Odyssey Online classes give you the opportunity to focus on one particular aspect of your writing craft, be it dialogue or character or plot arc or scene, and you come away having a whole array of techniques at your disposal to make that aspect really shine. On the other hand, as you’re focusing on that one topic, you become aware of how all the other aspects of writing feed into it, how plot arc is driven by character, how setting can support theme, how dialect can enrich worldbuilding. Jeanne Cavelos kindly introduced me to the three-act plot structure, even though it had almost nothing to do with dialogue. Last winter, I took Worldbuilding with Patricia Wrede, and it completely changed my understanding of character development.

As all authors know, writing is a process. You build your writing skills gradually over time, improving with every story and poem and novel and blog post you create. You learn the tools and tricks of the trade, and eventually, you master those skills. I have come to regard Odyssey Online as critical to my professional development as a writer. Every class I take improves my craft, often in ways I never expect and always appreciate.

I encourage you to take your writing craft to the next level with Odyssey Online.


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.

“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: Graduate Holly Schofield

Holly Schofield travels through time at the rate of one second per second, oscillating between the alternate realities of city and country life. She is the author of over fifty short stories, some of which are used in university curricula and have been translated into several languages. Her works have appeared in LightspeedTesseracts, the Aurora-winning Second Contacts, and many other publications throughout the world. She hopes to save the world through science fiction and homegrown heritage tomatoes. Watch for new stories soon in Brave New Girls, The Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide, and Analog. For more of her work, visit hollyschofield.wordpress.com.


You attended the Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2014. How do you feel your writing and writing process changed as a result of having attended Odyssey? What insights did you gain into your own work?

In 2014, I was struggling to piece together a “toolbox” of craft skills. I could see that writing SFF short stories (I’m not a novel writer) involved a very large amount of very small techniques, but I only had the vaguest idea of what those techniques were and how to apply them.

Jeanne’s curriculum is designed to cover everything. I filled in gaps that I hadn’t even known existed. Continue reading “Interview: Graduate Holly Schofield”