About the Workshop
A Message from Jeanne Cavelos, Director
Since its inception in 1996, the Odyssey Writing Workshop has become one of the most highly respected workshops for writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror in the world. Top authors, editors and agents have served as guests at Odyssey. Fifty-nine percent of graduates have gone on to be professionally published. Among Odyssey's graduates are award winners, Amazon bestsellers, and New York Times bestsellers.
Every year, we have worked to improve Odyssey, to make it more helpful and effective. In 2022, that meant transforming the program in a major way.
Holding Odyssey online in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic revealed to me that a huge number of talented writers want an in-depth, challenging program to build their skills but can't attend a six-week, in-person workshop. More than that, the last 28 years have taught me that a 6-week program is not the best format for all students. All writers do not write or learn at the same pace. While Odyssey students step up and make their deadlines, all-nighters don't always produce work that best reflects the student's progress. I've also learned the great value of one-on-one sessions, to generate learning goals and plans; discuss concepts and writing exercises; suggest resources and techniques; brainstorm solutions to story problems; address a student's questions, problems, and needs; focus on a student's unique writing strengths and weaknesses; and get to know each student so I can do my best to help them move ahead in their writing journey. Odyssey's previous structure allowed me only about three hours of one-on-one time per student, which just wasn't enough to do all that.
So the Odyssey Writing Workshop transformed into a breakthrough new experience: Your Personal Odyssey Writing Workshop.
YOUR PERSONAL ODYSSEY
Have you ever wished that you could attend your own private writing workshop that would teach you exactly what you need to know, at the right pace for you, and respond to your questions, problems, and needs in extensive one-on-one sessions?
That's what Your Personal Odyssey Writing Workshop is. It's an online, one-on-one intensive workshop experience. Students taking Your Personal Odyssey receive the top-quality learning experience Odyssey is known for, but that experience is customized to be more responsive to how each writer works and what each writer needs.
The renowned Odyssey lectures are broken into modules on different topics. To complete a module, a student watches the lecture recordings; does readings, journal entries, and critiques; works with me to create and complete an individualized assignment; and writes a story or novel excerpt. Penetrating, detailed feedback by myself and guest critiquers is provided, and I interact one-on-one with students in a deep mentoring experience. Students complete modules in whatever order they feel will be most helpful, and may repeat a module and go deeper into the content to work on a particular problem area.
Students can choose how long they want to complete Your Personal Odyssey. Those who want to fit their learning into six weeks can apply for the first session, starting June 3. Those who feel they could learn and improve more with an experience spread over more time can apply for the second session, starting August 12 and lasting twelve weeks; or the third session, starting November 25 and lasting eighteen weeks. Working at a sustainable pace should also help students continue their progress after they complete their Odyssey.
In 2022 and 2023, Your Personal Odyssey has succeeded beyond all expectations. The flexibility of the program makes it a possibility for a wider range of writers, so we are able to help a more diverse group of writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror across the globe. The experiences I've had working with students thus far have been incredible. One student, for example, had major problems with point of view. The one-on-one nature of the workshop allowed us to focus on point of view far more intensely than we would have been able to in a classroom setting. She studied works by professional writers that had the point of view she was aiming for, dissected the POV problems in her own work, and revised and revised, until she had much better control of her POV. Another student was struggling with the character arcs in her novel. We did some intense study, tracking the protagonist's change through a sample novel, which helped her understand how a character can evolve over the course of a novel and how to tie character change to the character's personality, goals, and internal and external struggles. Students have made an amazing amount of progress. Taking the intensive Odyssey experience and focusing it on the individual strengths, weaknesses, interests, and concerns of each writer allows us to better discuss key concepts, build skills, explore complexities, and highlight those qualities that make each writer’s work stand out.
For Your Personal Odyssey Writing Workshop 2024, we'll be accepting 10-12 writers total in the 3 sessions, 3-4 in each session, to ensure that each writer receives an intensive, personalized, one-on-one online workshop experience.
A ONE-ON-ONE EXPERIENCE
Your Personal Odyssey is a one-on-one experience. You will not be part of a class or cohort. You will not meet with other students. You'll receive in-depth, one-on-one mentoring from me, and several one-on-one meetings with guest critiquers. You will be following the unique path that is most helpful for you, that teaches you the skills you need to improve the most.
Long ago, editors at publishing houses used to correspond with developing writers over several years, mentoring them and helping them bring their skills up to publication level. When I was a senior editor at Bantam Doubleday Dell, I saw the last remnants of that practice fading away. Your Personal Odyssey allows you to have that deep mentoring experience and combines that with the lectures, readings, exercises, critiques, writing, and feedback that will help you make major improvements to your writing.
What will the mentoring be like? As an editor for eight years and the primary instructor at Odyssey for twenty-eight years, I've worked with many writers, and I understand that each writer is different. Each writer thinks differently, builds stories differently, has different strengths and weaknesses. To improve, each writer needs to develop a different combination of skills and needs to alter their writing process in different ways. So when we meet in mentoring sessions, I'll be drawing on my experience to try to provide the best guidance and suggestions for you. We'll explore the unique opportunities and challenges you face as a writer. We'll be looking at your writing process and its connection to the strengths and weaknesses in your work. We'll discuss which weakness you want to target first and discuss possible techniques that could help you improve that weak area. As Your Personal Odyssey continues, we'll target your weak areas one by one and chart your progress. We'll work together on creating your individualized assignment for each module. We'll discuss the lectures you've watched and the readings, journal entries, and critiques you've done and how they can lead to improvements in your writing. We'll discuss the feedback I've provided on your latest submission, and whether your attempt to improve a weak area led to a stronger story. When you have a submission due for a guest critiquer, I'll be there beforehand if you want to brainstorm or discuss the piece you're writing, and I'll be there afterward to discuss the insights the guest provided. I'll answer your questions, and we'll discuss any problems, difficulties, or concerns you have. In short, I'll do my best to help you make progress on your unique writing journey.
I mentioned above that with Odyssey's previous structure, I met one-on-one with each student for a total of about three hours. During Your Personal Odyssey, I interact one-on-one with each student for over 30 hours.
The Odyssey lectures, developed over the last 28 years, have become renowned for their insights, specificity, and depth. As the primary instructor at Your Personal Odyssey, I provide an advanced, comprehensive curriculum, covering the elements of fiction writing in detail. To improve your writing, you need to understand the various tools and techniques writers can use to create a strong story. Many workshops, unfortunately, offer only brief, superficial lectures. At Your Personal Odyssey, the lecture recordings run 2-3 hours, mostly 3 hours, and you'll be watching at least 30 of them. If you watch all the videos, they total 145 hours. That's a lot of content. In the lectures, we study some of the most beautiful and powerful writing in the field to gain understanding of what these tools can do when wielded with skill. I'll also explain the common failings of developing writers and how to avoid those pitfalls.
The program includes guest lectures by award-winning authors P. Djélì Clark, Melissa Scott, Nancy Kress, Mary Robinette Kowal, Steven Barnes, Tim Waggoner, David Corbett, Eric James Stone, E. C. Ambrose, Nisi Shawl, Barbara Ashford, and Sheree Renée Thomas; bestselling authors Brandon Sanderson, Meagan Spooner, and Gregory Ashe; award-winning editor/publisher Scott H. Andrews, and more.
Also included are guest question-and-answer sessions by most of the above plus bestselling authors David Brin and Carrie Vaughn, and award-winning editors John Joseph Adams and Sheila Williams.
Journal Entries: A lecture can provide information, but whether you're attending it in person or watching it online, it won't improve your writing unless you put the concepts and techniques discussed into practice. Just as a pianist needs to practice with scales and a quarterback needs to practice passing the ball, writers need to practice various tools and techniques, so they become proficient with them. That is the purpose of the journal entries. Each lecture will have an associated journal entry for you to complete to help you begin to incorporate that content.
Readings: Readings are another important component promoting your learning and improvement. You'll be reading and studying a number of short stories and at least one novel that will provide us with helpful examples of various techniques. You'll also be reading some essays exploring genre and some essays on different aspects of fiction writing.
Critiquing: Critiquing the works of other writers is an especially helpful task. It allows you to develop the editor part of your brain: to become more aware of the various components of a story, evaluate why they are working or not working, and suggest ways the piece might better accomplish what it is attempting. These skills of noticing, evaluating, and problem-solving are key to improving your own work. You'll be assigned pieces to critique with each module that will help you gain awareness of the concepts and techniques covered, to build the associated skills, and to strengthen your particular weak areas.
Individual Assignment: With each module, you and I will work together to devise an individualized assignment that allows you to pursue your particular interests and focus on improving your weak areas or on making the most of your strengths.
Writing: Prior to the start of the program, you'll submit a second piece to me, in addition to your application piece. Both pieces will have a maximum word count of 4,000 and will be critiqued by me. Over the course of Your Personal Odyssey, you'll be writing and submitting for critique 6 more pieces, each 6,000 words maximum. Two of those will be critiqued by guest critiquers, and four will be critiqued by me. In critiquing stories, I give the same unflinchingly honest, concrete, detailed feedback that I provided as a senior editor. My critiques average over 1,500 words each, and my line edits on manuscripts are extensive. Critiques are designed to maximize their helpfulness. You will not be coddled, and you will not be attacked. You will learn the strengths and weaknesses of the piece, why they are strong or weak, and how the piece, and your writing in general, might be improved. You'll have one-on-one sessions accompanying each of those critiques, either with me or with the guest critiquer.
Guest critiquers include bestselling authors Carrie Vaughn and Kate Alice Marshall; award-winning author Lynda E. Rucker; award-winning editors Scott H. Andrews and Arley Sorg, and more.
AFTER YOUR PERSONAL ODYSSEY
Those who successfully complete Your Personal Odyssey will be invited to join a mastermind group with other Odyssey graduates, where you can continue your learning, exchange critiques, help each other solve problems, and find companionship and support.
You'll also be invited to join the Odyssey discussion and critique boards and become part of the wider Odyssey community.
And you'll become eligible to be invited to The Never-Ending Odyssey, the 8-day program for Odyssey workshop graduates.
SHOULD YOU APPLY?
Your Personal Odyssey Writing Workshop is an advanced program for writers whose work is approaching publication quality and for published writers who want to improve their work. This is a serious, demanding program. While each writer's pace is different, my best estimate is that Your Personal Odyssey will require a minimum of 420 hours of work total. Those choosing the six-week session will have to complete a minimum of 70 hours of work per week; those choosing the twelve-week session will have to complete a minimum of 35 hours of work per week; and those choosing the eighteen-week session will have to complete a minimum of 23 hours of work per week. Of course, the more you put into it, the more you'll get out of it. You should be prepared to write new material, either short stories or novel chapters. After you complete your first module, you won't be able to submit anything that was written before the workshop began, unless you have radically revised it since starting Your Personal Odyssey. The best way to improve is to write new material that incorporates what you have learned and then receive feedback on it.
To succeed in Your Personal Odyssey, you need to be highly motivated, eager to try new writing tools and techniques, open to feedback, and willing to work intensely and move outside your comfort zone. You should not apply unless you are ready to hear about the weaknesses in your writing and ready to work to overcome them.
In choosing which session you'd like to apply for, consider your available time, the speed at which you normally work and write, and whether you would learn best from a very concentrated experience or a more extended one.
No matter which session you want to attend, the application deadlines are the same. If you'd like early action on your application, you should apply by February 16. We created the possibility of early action to help those who, if admitted, need several months to arrange their affairs before embarking on Your Personal Odyssey. Applicants will be notified by February 28 whether they have been admitted under the high standards of early action or whether their applications will be held over for consideration for regular admission. Those who apply by the regular application deadline of March 27 will be informed of their status by May 1.
A JOURNEY TOWARD REALIZING YOUR POTENTIAL AS A WRITER
I love working with developing writers, helping them on their unique journeys toward realizing their potential and making their work the best it can be. My experiences over Odyssey's 28 previous years have been incredible. Talented writers of all ages, some already published, from all across the US, Canada, the UK, Denmark, Sweden, Spain, France, Germany, Israel, Saudi Arabia, India, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore, have embarked on epic voyages of discovery with me. I've watched students make major breakthroughs, and I've followed their progress after the workshop as they've submitted their work, piled up the rejection slips, made sales, and built wonderful writing careers for themselves. I'm constantly told by graduates that they learned more at Odyssey than they learned in years of workshopping and creative writing classes.
Odyssey provides a supportive yet challenging environment. Going on Your Personal Odyssey is a great way to focus on your writing, giving it the time and attention it needs. If you'd like to dedicate your energy on improving your writing, I hope you'll apply.
If you'd like to know what previous Odyssey students thought about the workshop, you can visit the Graduates' Comments page, the Graduates' Experiences page, or the Odyssey classes page.
You can also find videos of Odyssey graduates describing their experiences below.
To learn about Guest Lecturers, Guest Critiquers, and Tuition & Scholarships, go to the top of this column of text and click on the various tabs
Your Personal Odyssey Writing Workshop offers a wide array of guest lecture recordings. Guests choose a topic important to them and present it in the way they feel is most helpful, providing their own unique insights and perspectives. Most lectures last about 2 hours. Some include the guest leading students through a writing exercise.
The program includes guest lectures by some of the best teachers in the field: award-winning authors P. Djélì Clark, Melissa Scott, Eric James Stone, E. C. Ambrose, Nisi Shawl, Barbara Ashford, and award-winning author and editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction Sheree Renée Thomas; bestselling authors Brandon Sanderson, Meagan Spooner, and Gregory Ashe; and award-winning editor/publisher Scott H. Andrews of Beneath Ceaseless Skies.
Your Personal Odyssey also includes recordings of one-hour guest question-and-answer sessions. Most of the lecturers listed above also participated in Q&A sessions. In addition, we have Q&As by bestselling authors David Brin and Carrie Vaughn, and award-winning editors John Joseph Adams of Lightspeed and Nightmare and Sheila Williams of Asimov's Science Fiction.
The Jeff Pert Memorial Lecturer
The Jeff Pert Memorial Fund seeks to enrich the educational experience of students in Your Personal Odyssey Writing Workshop by adding a new guest lecture each year. The fund is named in honor of Jeff Pert (pictured on the left with Odyssey writer-in-residence Robert J. Sawyer), Odyssey class of 2006, who was a great support to his classmates and to Odyssey alumni. The Jeff Pert Memorial Lecture is video recorded and later offered as a webinar to allow more writers to learn from this special guest.
During Your Personal Odyssey Writing Workshop, you'll be submitting six pieces of your writing, and two of those will be critiqued by guest critiquers. The guest critiquer will provide feedback on your submission and meet with you for a 20-minute one-on-one conference online. Odyssey puts a high value on critiques that are honest, clear, specific, and in depth. Critiques will cover both strengths and weaknesses, but focus most on weaknesses, since that is how writers improve. They'll also offer suggestions on how the work might be improved and aim at trying to help students better accomplish whatever they are trying to accomplish in a piece.
Guest critiquers for the three 2023 sessions of Your Personal Odyssey excel at providing strong, meaningful feedback. They are bestselling authors Carrie Vaughn and Kate Alice Marshall; award-winning author Lynda E. Rucker; and award-winning editors Scott H. Andrews of Beneath Ceaseless Skies; Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld, and Arley Sorg of Fantasy Magazine.
Your Personal Odyssey Writing Workshop is funded in part by donations made by graduates, grantors, and other supporters, and in part by application fees and tuition.
The application fee is $45. Applicants in the US can pay via check, bank draft, or PayPal. International applicants can pay via bank draft in US dollars or via PayPal in US dollars. You will be guided through that process when you fill out the application.
The tuition, $2940, includes a custom textbook and several physical mailings of materials to students.
The tuition cost quoted above is the discounted rate for US students paying by check or bank draft, and for international students paying by bank draft in US dollars. Students have the additional option of paying tuition through PayPal, which allows you to charge the cost on a credit card. Those using PayPal need to pay the full rates, which are about 4% higher. For those interested in financial aid, several scholarships are available.
Financial aid and scholarships are made available by supporters, alumni, various organizations, and Odyssey itself. We are very grateful for those who have donated to reduce the financial burden on students. Scholarships are awarded based on financial need, merit, or the specific criteria listed below. They range in size from several hundred dollars to full tuition. NOTE: Several of the scholarships below require that you fill out the Odyssey Financial Need Statement. Contact Director Jeanne Cavelos for the form, which is due March 27.
The Walter & Kattie Metcalf Singing Spider Scholarship
Funded by Pam Metcalf Harrington, Odyssey class of 2001, the Walter & Kattie Metcalf Singing Spider Scholarship is offered in honor of Pam's parents, who encouraged a lifelong passion for reading and writing fantasy. The scholarship is also named for the infamous singing spiders, fictional characters who appeared in a novel excerpt submitted at Odyssey 2001. The scholarship will be awarded to a fantasy writer whose novel excerpt shows great skill and promise. A successful fantasy novelist spins a web of wonder, adventure, and intrigue that captivates readers and holds them spellbound through the lyrical flow of the prose. The novelist is, in essence, a 'singing spider.' To be considered for this scholarship, you must complete the Odyssey Financial Need Statement by March 27 and indicate on the form that you are interested in the Walter & Kattie Metcalf Singing Spider Scholarship. You must also use a novel excerpt as the writing sample with Your Personal Odyssey workshop application. A panel of three judges will select the winner using those novel excerpts. The scholarship covers full tuition.
The Fresh Voices Scholarship
Funded anonymously by an Odyssey graduate, this scholarship provides support to an outstanding writer of color each year. Those eligible include African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, writers of color from outside the U.S., and others. The Fresh Voices Scholarship seeks to offer opportunities for underrepresented racial and ethnic minority writers to learn at Your Personal Odyssey and enrich the fantasy, science fiction, and horror genres as a result. To be considered, you must complete the Odyssey Financial Need Statement by March 27, indicate on the form that you are interested in the Fresh Voices Scholarship, and provide your race/ethnicity. A panel of three judges will select the winner using the short story or novel excerpts sent with the workshop applications. The scholarship awards $2,000 toward Your Personal Odyssey tuition.
The Enchanted Bond Scholarship
Funded anonymously by an Odyssey supporter, this scholarship provides support to an outstanding fantasy writer each year. When readers are immersed in a fresh, vivid, believable fantasy world; engaged with compelling characters; involved in a suspenseful situation; and living, moment by moment, through an experience that could never occur in reality, the author has succeeded in creating an enchanted bond between reader and story. To be considered for this scholarship, you must complete the Odyssey Financial Need Statement by March 27 and indicate on the form that you are interested in the Enchanted Bond Scholarship. A panel of three judges will select the winner using the short story or novel excerpts sent with the workshop applications. The scholarship awards $1,000 toward Your Personal Odyssey tuition.
The Quantum Entanglement Scholarship
Funded anonymously by an Odyssey graduate, this scholarship provides support to an outstanding writer of science fiction each year. According to quantum mechanics, when a pair of particles interact, they become entangled. Entangled particles remain connected so that the state of one determines the state of the other, even when the particles are far apart. Albert Einstein famously referred to this as "spooky action at a distance." Powerful science fiction not only presents a compelling novum (new idea) based on science and builds a world consistent with that novum; it draws readers in past the science to a moving human story with characters that readers can care about and a conflict in which every twist and turn has an impact on readers' emotions. When that happens, the author has succeeded in entangling readers and story, an effect that may last long after the story is finished and put away. To be considered for this scholarship, you must complete the Odyssey Financial Need Statement by March 27 and indicate on the form that you are interested in the Quantum Entanglement Scholarship. A panel of three judges will select the winner using the short story or novel excerpts sent with the workshop applications. The scholarship awards $1,000 toward Your Personal Odyssey tuition.
The purpose of this scholarship, funded anonymously by an Odyssey supporter, is to encourage diversity. Outstanding writers of color, writers with disabilities, LGBTQ writers, and neurodiverse writers are eligible to apply. Diverse voices too often go unheard. The Diverse Perspectives Scholarship seeks to help diverse voices to be heard by providing support for a writer from an underrepresented group to learn at Your Personal Odyssey. To be considered for this scholarship, you must complete the Odyssey Financial Need Statement by March 27, indicate on the form that you are interested in the Diverse Perspectives Scholarship, and share what makes you a diverse writer. A panel of three judges will select the winner using the short story or novel excerpts sent with the workshop applications. The scholarship awards $1,000 toward Your Personal Odyssey tuition.
Funded by the award-winning Space Cowboy Books, which has the mission to spread the love of science fiction, literature, literacy, and print media, the Space Cowboy Books Working Class Writers Scholarship is offered to provide financial support for a working-class or impoverished writer to attend Your Personal Odyssey. To be considered for this scholarship, you must complete the Odyssey Financial Need Statement by March 27 and indicate that you are interested in the Space Cowboy Books Working Class Writers Scholarship. A panel of three judges will evaluate the financial statements and select the winner. The scholarship covers $300 toward tuition.
Horror Writers Association
If you write horror, you are eligible for one or both of the scholarships offered by the Horror Writers Association, each worth $2,500, which can be applied toward Your Personal Odyssey tuition. Applications open on June 1.
Kurt Brown Prizes
Since Odyssey is a member of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs, those accepted into Your Personal Odyssey can apply for AWP's three Kurt Brown Prizes, scholarships of $500 each for emerging writers. Applications are accepted from December 1 to March 30.