Comments from Odyssey Graduates
Odyssey helped me pull apart my writing methods, take a hard look at the moving parts, the nuts and bolts and put them all back together to make a smoother, more effective process. Jeanne candidly identified my strengths and weaknesses, and also uncovered some of my blind spots. I saw patterns in my writing, some that I needed to fix and some that could help bring out my voice. The intensive critiquing process made me think more critically about my own writing while also picking useful skills from the other writers. I learnt to write consistently to deadlines, discovering both brilliant insights and dead ends in the frenzied writing sessions, and letting go of my inner critic while doing so. I recommend Odyssey to any writer looking to take their craft to the next level.
My Personal Odyssey Writing Workshop was a transformative experience. I knew I would learn a lot (and I did). I knew I would love all that learning (and I did). But I didn’t know how much the process would require me to dig deep into myself, to face some challenging truths, to undo my practice all the way down to the ground and then build it back up again, to reflect on how incredibly hard it is to be a writer, and to realize how very badly I want it. And I did all of this with the expectations, caring, support, wisdom, humour, knowledge, and experience (and did I say caring?) of the best teacher I have ever encountered in my life.
Jeanne Cavelos and the Odyssey Writing Workshops are extremely well regarded in the speculative fiction writing community and with very good reason. Jeanne makes it look easy but the intentionality of her pedagogy, the exceptionally-crafted resources she has developed, the incredible breadth and depth of her knowledge, and the richness of the community of practitioners she mobilizes all contribute to the magic that is Odyssey.
Your Personal Odyssey was a life changing experience for me and has transformed how I understand writing and fiction. Jeanne is a legend and I cherished the chance to be taken under her wing. The level of mentorship I received was exceptional and I learned things that will serve as touchstones for all my future writing. The novel I worked on during YPO has taken on a shape that is beyond what I could have hoped it could become.
Odyssey was the best thing I’ve ever done for my writing. It not only improved my current writing, it gave me a framework for continued improvement after I leave. Jeanne (and Amy) are wonderful, the other students are brilliant, and the experience is unforgettable. It’s exhausting, but I miss it already!
You will never be more eager to work yourself to the bone. Nor will you have as much reward for doing it. The six weeks at Odyssey have done more for my writing career than my bachelor’s degree in creative writing. I only wish I’d known about it sooner.”
As a genre writer, it’s difficult to find a helpful creative writing program, since most college writing classes, and assorted workshops, emphasize the process of writing literary fiction, and are seldom accepting of speculative fiction stories. At Odyssey I learned to sharpen my skills by writing the things I am passionate about writing, rather than attempt to hone technique without feeling any particular attachment for the material produced.
“In six intense, immersive weeks, I acquired a comprehensive skill set—everything from plot structure, to effective characterization, to stylistic intricacies—as well as awareness of reader expectations. Jeanne’s background as an editor, in particular, made Odyssey a unique and valuable experience, since she knew how to identify and address each individual writer’s strengths and weaknesses.
“For me, Odyssey was a welcome trial by fire. If I survived the challenge of daily writing, critiquing, and writing some more, with token sleep thrown in—and still want to keep on writing—then no obstacle can intimidate me.
“Because of Jeanne and the Odyssey experience, I now have a stronger sense of who I am as a writer.”
I came to Odyssey because I knew there were things I could do to improve my writing that I wasn’t getting elsewhere. I learned how to hone my strengths and beat my weaknesses into submission, but I had no idea how much more than that I was going to take away from the experience. Odyssey is the best thing I could have done for myself at this stage in my writing, and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of classmates to share the experience with. Most of all, I would I could take Jeanne home with me—her critiques and insights and encouragement are just that good.”
You could spend six years struggling to learn what Odyssey gives you in six weeks.”
Count me among those who consider Odyssey a life-changing experience. I finished a better writer, a better critiquer, exhausted but energized. Endless thanks to Jeanne, Susan, and the class of ’06.”
I came to Odyssey to find out whether I had what it takes to write commercial fantastic fiction. I found out that I do, if I’m willing to work at it. Odyssey showed me I wasn’t as good a writer as I thought I was, and that I have lots of work to do, and then gave me the tools I need to do that work.
“It’s been an invaluable experience. I only wish I had enough money to pay Jeanne to sit beside me every time I write. She’s that insightful and that encouraging.
“At the end of the six weeks, I find myself exhausted, excited, and happy. It’s a great place to be.”
Odyssey is just more. More work, more stress, more friendship, more joy, more learning than you thought possible. More than you can ever expect and the change is profound. The only thing I can ensure you’ll get less of is sleep and every second of it is worth it. If you don’t go, you’ll regret it.”
What a marvelous experience this has been. I’ve grown enormously as a writer. I strongly recommend this program. Working with Jeanne has been a delight.”
I took a total of four creative writing courses in college and belonged to one in-person workshop and several online ones. Never have I received more in-depth, incisive, insightful critiques than from Jeanne Cavelos. I’ve had a lot of writing teachers, great people to whom I owe a great deal. I don’t think any of them have helped me as much, either with skill or self-esteem.”
—Michael J. DeLuca
Even if you think you know much about writing, five minutes in Jeanne’s class will show how little you do know. The amount and quality of information is tremendous, enlightening, frightening, and humbling. And it makes all the difference.”
—Brian Scott Hiebert
I went in thinking I knew a lot about writing, but Odyssey took all the knowledge available and helped me to see how it worked together, how each part of the story should work with other parts to make a good story great. I can’t think of one thing in my life that has done so much to make me a better writer.”
—Tracy J. Berg
Before I came to Odyssey, I thought I knew what I was doing. I didn’t. Run, do not walk, to Jeanne’s workshop. Jeanne’s knowledge of the craft of writing is extensive, and her attention to student work is enormous—she writes two to three single-spaced pages on every story. Having an experienced editor’s eye on your work for six weeks is invaluable.”
You’ll work hard, play hard and see a tremendous increase in your writing and self-editing skills. What you learn from your fellow students alone is worth the tuition. Add in Jeanne Cavelos’s thought-provoking lectures and six guest lecturers and you’ll take away years of learning through experience.”
What makes Odyssey unique is that you’re learning from someone who is a writer and an editor—the best of both worlds.”
All I really know to say is this: Odyssey is the best decision I’ve ever made for my writing career.”
Writers cannot help but gain from Odyssey. Haven’t you ever wanted to sit down with an editor and get some personalized feedback on your work? Aren’t you sick of form rejections? Odyssey is a chance to work one-on-one with a real, live editor for six weeks! You also get tons of feedback from other students, meet and work with professionals in the field, and learn how to identify weaknesses in your own writing that you may not have been aware of. Go for it!”
The hardest thing about starting as a writer is working in a vacuum. At Odyssey I was able to get feedback from people who could relate to what I was writing. By listening to their critiques and through insights gained by critiquing the works of others, I learned what I was doing right, what I was doing wrong, and what I wasn’t doing at all.”
—David J. Schwartz
Odyssey deepened my connection to my work and sharpened the tools necessary for shaping passion into story.”
Odyssey exceeded all my expectations. Jeanne is the best reason to apply to the program. Her critiques and lectures are incredibly insightful. I learned something new from her every day.”
Odyssey changed my writing and it changed me, both for the better. When I arrived at the workshop, I thought I knew a lot about pretty sentences and complex characters, but I didn’t know how to make any of that come alive on the page. Jeanne taught me how to figure out what I wanted to say and say it in a way no one else could. A non-writer friend asked me during the workshop if we were being taught to write to some kind of formula; nothing could be further from the truth. Odyssey offers a practical path to finding and nurturing your own unique voice. I recommend it unreservedly to anyone who wants to put in the time and effort to become the best writer they can be.
—Lindsey Godfrey Eccles
Your Personal Odyssey was an amazing experience – I learned so much from Jeanne and the superstar guests! YPO helped me grow in the key areas I needed to work on in the moment, but also strengthened my understanding of how to continue improving as I move forward in my writing career. Jeanne’s personal attention and detailed feedback was unparalleled, and the combination of lectures, analysis, and direct critique helped me get unstuck on a novel I’d been blocked on for months. I would recommend Your Personal Odyssey to any writer looking to level up their craft.
The Odyssey writing workshop is an outstanding experience for developing writers. The curriculum is challenging and thorough, covering everything from the basic elements of genre fiction to the ins and outs of publishing. The critique format of the workshop yields an engaging, rigorous environment—but it is Jeanne’s expansive knowledge of the genre fiction world which makes Odyssey truly exceptional. She is extremely attentive to the needs of the workshop participants and works closely with each author to develop targeted strategies for improving their work. Come prepared to work!
Attending Odyssey was perhaps one of the best decisions I could have ever made for my writing career. I learned a lot, made invaluable social connections, and will keep using the tools I have built at Odyssey for decades to come.
—A. Humphrey Lanham
I sold three novels before I came to Odyssey. I just wish I had gone to Odyssey before I wrote them—they would have been better books. Odyssey freakin’ rocks!”
—J. Justin Gustainis
Odyssey was the best writers’ workshop I’ve attended. The intensive critiques combined with the task of writing new material forces the critical and creative sides of the mind to work together. I recommend Odyssey to anyone contemplating a career in writing science fiction, fantasy, or horror.”
Coming to Odyssey was one of the best decisions of my life. Before this workshop, I had a vague idea of what I wanted to accomplish as a writer, and an even vaguer idea of how I might get there. Now I know where I’m going, and I have detailed maps to guide me. I couldn’t be happier.
Through Odyssey, I’ve learned how to identify my weaknesses and where to attack them. I’ve also been shown my strengths and how to maximize them. In short, I’ve learned what it takes to create a successful story.”
After attending Odyssey, I now feel prepared to write the stories that I have to tell, with the strength and clarity that they deserve.”
Jeanne is a master of critique, a compassionate and learned teacher, and just plain fun to be around. I would recommend this workshop to anyone who is ready to take a good, long look at their writing skills and do what it takes to improve.”
I learned more in six weeks of Odyssey than in thirty years of reading the ‘How to Write’ books. Odyssey challenges you in ways you never dreamed of. The only way to keep up is to find a dimension with 48—or better yet 72—hour days.”
—Colleen H. Robbins
Odyssey is a fantastic program that can take an amateur writer of any level and turn him or her into a writer with skills and discipline to become a professional writer.”
“Jeanne Cavelos is utterly amazing. Her critiques are in-depth on every single story submitted, her insights are sharp and helpful, and she can help you turn a train wreck of a story into a publishable work you can be proud of.”
What can I say about Odyssey that hasn’t been said before? I learned more at my six weeks at Odyssey than I did in all my years of being a wanna-be writer. If you’re serious about writing, apply to Odyssey: it will pull you out of that stagnant pond of amateurs and kick you in the right direction.”
The effects of Odyssey will ripple throughout the rest of my life. Odyssey not only gave me better tools to bring to my craft—but also the knowledge of how to make it better.”
Odyssey exceeded my expectations about what the overall experience would be like. Jeanne’s lectures and critiques taught me skills that I didn’t even know I needed. She provided a consistent and helpful curriculum that could never be duplicated by a college or university writing course. If aspiring writers have the means to attend Odyssey, they should do so.”
—Maggie Della Rocca
Jeanne Cavelos is, by far, the best teacher/professor I’ve ever had. She makes learning fun and personalized, while motivating the students to reach toward higher standards. I not only learned to write much better at Odyssey, but I also overcame several personal challenges and am a stronger person for it.”
—Susan Abel Sullivan
Before I came to Odyssey, I was stumbling around in the dark, writing by instinct and making a lot of bad choices. But the Odyssey experience and Jeanne have given me the tools I need to follow my good instincts, ignore the bad ones, and make the choices that lead to good stories. Thanks, Jeanne.”
I learned more in six weeks at Odyssey than in a year of college creative writing classes.”
I learned to look at my own writing through very different eyes. Each guest lecturer taught me new ways to improve my technique, style, and writing process. Jeanne and the guests gave me an incredible amount of insight into the writing and publishing fields. Jeanne’s wide range of experiences as a writer and editor ensured that all of my strengths and weaknesses were explored and that all of my questions were answered.”
I volunteered to walk through hell, and its name was Odyssey. The trip was worth it. If you’re serious about writing, Odyssey’s the place for you. Lazy writers need not apply.”
If you have specific writing goals, Odyssey is for you. Jeanne does a great job. For overall coverage of writing topics, Odyssey is more organized and structured than Clarion West. The combination of the two has completed my formal writing education. If I had to choose which one to attend, I would go to Odyssey first; it provides a greater foundation to build on.”
Odyssey is six weeks of personal chaos: the ecstasy of finally having your story click, the angst of your story’s weaknesses pinpointed, the longing for home, and the desire that the experience will never end.”
Odyssey taught me an enormous amount about the craft of writing and the components that make up my stories—the arc of plot, characterization and point of view, world building and achieved strangeness. Jeanne is an incredible instructor—insightful, passionate about the craft, and committed to the class’s writing and careers. She held us to a high standard throughout, and made us write better than we’ve ever written before.”
In my first two days here, I learned more about writing (not just genre writing, but all writing) than I did in three years of creative writing courses at college. Then I realized I still had five weeks and three days left… DAMN! That’s what I call my money’s worth.”
“By the end of week one, I was trying to recruit my writer friends for next year. I can’t let them miss this chance.”
Truthful and helpful—the standard by which Jeanne critiques. Everything said here, whether in praise, in criticism, or in lecture, is said to make you a better writer. It’s amazing watching your fellow students transform before your eyes. Almost as amazing as the realization that you’ve come just as far.”
Before Odyssey, I spent long frustrating years trying to become a professional writer without really knowing what to do. I knew I was doing something wrong but wasn’t sure what. I came out of the Odyssey Writing Workshop with my writing improved in every way and a wealth of wonderful writing tools and techniques to keep growing as a writer and a professional. This was a life changing experience for me, and I wish every dedicated aspiring writer could have a chance to attend the workshop.
Your Personal Odyssey was the best thing that ever happened to my writing career. I have always wanted to be a writer, but I felt frustrated by my lack of progress and snail-like pace. When I applied, I was hopeful because of the great reviews. But Odyssey has exceeded my wildest expectations. Jeanne is a wonderful, caring mentor who is genuinely invested in my success. She has created a truly personalized experience and helped me work on my specific weaknesses. I have taken college-level workshops and read dozens of writing books, but all of them combined could not compare to one week of Odyssey! During this workshop, I wrote the best stories I have ever written in my life. But I know that with the tools that I have gained, I will be able to write even better stories in the future, and I owe it to Jeanne and Odyssey.
Getting accepted into Your Personal Odyssey and seeing the vast number of resources and tools available felt akin to finding a secret vault filled with breathtaking treasure. One of my friends once said, “Informed feedback is gold dust for writers.” I believed that so wholeheartedly when she said it, and after Odyssey, I currently feel like I am covered in gold dust, head to toe, even in the tiniest of hard-to-clean spots between my toes and in my ears and other spots that I probably shouldn’t mention. I am a sparkling gold statue of happy writerly feels, and I owe this all to Jeanne and Calie and all the guest lecturers and guest critiquers and the immense amount of resources and knowledge that Jeanne has curated into this amazing vault of gold dusted magic. Writer magic. And I am so happy she gave us the key.
I’ve seen my writing and my peers’ writing transform so much in such a short amount of time! Jeanne is so intensely dedicated to helping us all grow, and her insight is always so helpful. I am excited to go home and continue the growth I started here, and I’m more confident about my skills while having a clear sense of what I need to continue working on.
I have attended many writers’ conferences and I can say that hour for hour, Odyssey is by far the best. The format—two hours of lecture followed by two to three hours of critiquing—means that over the six weeks I learned nearly every aspect of writing, from plot to tone to publishing, and had ample opportunity to apply the techniques to dozens of professional grade stories. The experience is intense. The weekly guest lecturers each had unique perspectives on writing and were humble enough to share their ideas freely. Director Jeanne Cavelos offers the most insightful critiques I’ve ever encountered. Overall, Odyssey has been an unforgettable experience.”
—Scott T. Barnes
Although I had several pro sales before attending Odyssey, I feel like I made a real breakthrough in improving my writing over the past six weeks.”
—Eric James Stone
Odyssey has helped me learn how to take a 400-page novel in its first draft and cut it into tiny pieces in order to make it all fit in one organized piece. Without Odyssey, the novel wouldn’t have had the balance it needed to stand on its own. Rewriting and starting over is NOT scary!”
Odyssey was an experience like no other. It was as if we’d stepped into a place separate from the everyday world, a place where there was only writing and the people who loved it. We encouraged each other; we laughed and cried and learned.
“Everyone who comes through the program benefits from what I can only describe as Jeanne’s passion for writing and for helping blossoming writers to develop and grow in their craft. Every day, we walked from the classroom, discussing everything we’d have to change in our stories, based upon what we’d learned that day alone.
“Reading and critiquing each other’s stories was inspiring. I saw what worked in other people’s stories and what didn’t. When something didn’t work, I knew why, from our class discussions. By Odyssey’s 5th week, I understood story problems well enough to know where my own stories were weak.
“Attending the Odyssey workshop has dramatically improved my understanding of structure and aided me in the act of writing itself. I’ve learned more than I would ever have thought possible. Concepts that I’d seen and understood on an intellectual level have been explained to me in ways that I can (and do already) implement in my work.”
—Ellen Pettengill Van Hensbergen
The Odyssey speculative fiction workshop is excellent. As an alumnus of Clarion West 2003, and James Gunn’s workshops at the University of Kansas, it is important to understand that these experiences are not a matter of which workshop is better than the others. They are all different in structure, focus and, of course, duration. Some positive aspects of Odyssey that were different from previous experiences were its structure, its emphasis on craft, its strong editorial perspective, and, most importantly, the high degree to which the program tailors the learning experience to the specific needs of each individual attendee.
“This is done, in part, by an in-depth analysis of two story submissions prior to arrival at the workshop, providing a basis for guidance over the six week course of the workshop. This is in addition to several private guidance sessions by the workshop coordinator, as well as private critiques by visiting authors. The venue at St. Anselm College in Manchester, NH is a serene, secure, comfortable and aesthetically rich setting where writers can write without distraction. The local community has ample dining and entertainment opportunities for those who can manage the time. These six weeks were an enormously positive and productive experience.”
I wish I’d done this years ago. Every writer should get the opportunity to work with Jeanne Cavelos. I now feel that the only person who can stop me from being successful is me.”
The consistently high level of Jeanne’s instruction, along with regular, honest feedback on your work, will massively improve your writing. The course is very hard work, in a supportive atmosphere, which develops new writing habits and mind-sets that are truly effective. You emerge at the end knowing what to do—which is no small thing for a writer.”
Odyssey will destroy your hubris, replace it with sage humility, and leave you an exhausted and better writer. If you have got courage, strength, discipline, and faith in your skills and talent, take the Odyssey challenge. If you survive, you’ll thank me.”
Working with Jeanne is worth its weight in gold. She’s an excellent critic, cheerleader, and instructor. Very positive and very constructive. My writing would be so empty without her guidance.”
Odyssey was the single most valuable thing I ever did for my writing and the most valuable thing I believe I will ever do. I feel intensely grateful to have had the opportunity. I now feel prepared to take on the life of a writer in ways I never expected. I can’t say enough good things about the experience. I met friends I hope to have for a lifetime and emerged with the raw material and skill to drive my career forward by leaps and bounds. What hasn’t been said in the blurbs enough is that so much of this is due to Jeanne’s effort. Her mentorship, time, and experience are priceless assets for an apprentice writer.”
Think you’re a great writer? Hah! Come to Odyssey and you’ll be promptly disabused of any egomaniacal notions. Jeanne will systematically and carefully destroy your preconceptions of your own ability, and at the same time will show you just how far you have to go. But best of all, she’ll show you how to get there.”
Jeanne Cavelos is an amazing, tireless critiquer and lecturer who really put the whole craft together for me. Her incisive and clear commentary illuminated the darker areas of my knowledge—I feel that she has helped me take my writing ahead by several years in the six weeks of the workshop. I would highly recommend Odyssey to any genre writer who wants to break out of the promising’ category into the ‘published’ category.”
I learned more in the first week of Odyssey than I have at three other workshops combined. You will never find a better instructor than Jeanne. If you are serious, then come, no matter what.”
—Glen J. Kanigan-Fairen
Odyssey is essential for increasing your awareness of common writing mistakes that drive editors crazy, mistakes that can sink your chances of publication, no matter how great your ideas, characters, or plots are.”
—David Barr Kirtley
If you want to cut five years from the learning process, TAKE THIS COURSE.”
—Lee C. Smith
Odyssey’s editor-run format has one primary advantage over Clarion’s author-run format: editors buy stories; authors don’t. Since both workshops try to help writers get published, I think Odyssey students will be more successful.”
—Deirdre Saoirse Moen