Odyssey Class of 2020

Class Photo

Top Row: Odyssey Director Jeanne Cavelos, Adam Fout, Alexandra Hill, Libby Barringer

Second Row: Ashley Agbay, F.P. Rahe, Marie Croke, Jessica Johnson

Third Row: Scott Gray, Maurice Haeems, Marc Emerson, Diyang Jin (Helena)

Bottom Row: Alex Payne, Matt Hornsby, Vikram Ramakrishnan, Rona Wang

Photo taken by Odyssey Resident Supervisor A. Katherine Black

Libby Barringer

Libby Barringer

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!

Ashley Agbay

Ashley Agbay

Odyssey was an incredible experience! It helped me better explore a passion I wasn’t really sure how to approach. Jeanne is the best navigator: she equips you with all the tools you need and guides you on your journey. The six weeks are packed with information that will transform how you look at your own writing, help optimize your process, and make you a smarter reader too. Everything is structured to both challenge you and help you achieve, from Jeanne’s lectures to Q&A’s with guests who have been there and done that. You grow with your classmates together, all in a supportive environment. It’s quite a journey, but it’s worth it!

Alex Payne

Alex Payne

As a largely self-taught writer who’s well past my college years, I have to admit that I was nervous about getting back into a classroom-like environment at Odyssey. I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to do so. Jeanne has accumulated an absolute trove of wisdom about authoring and selling fantastic fiction. Her teaching and workshopping techniques have been refined over the course of 25 years. Getting the benefit of all that experience feels like having uncovered a powerful grimoire or being on the receiving end of a brain implant engineered by some writing-obsessed AI.

Jeanne selected a superb group of writers for our class. My peers represented an array of ages and backgrounds, and were as far-flung as Mumbai and Dublin. Everyone worked unbelievably hard to produce and critique some incredible stories in a broad range of sub-genres and styles. If you’re thinking of attending Odyssey, be ready to work to exhaustion—but know that you’re going to have a supportive group of fellow students rooting for you.

I went into Odyssey with trepidation, but I left feeling inspired, equipped, and ready to do my best writing yet. For anyone who wants to level up their output, I recommend the summer workshop without reservation.

Vikram Ramakrishnan

Vikram Ramakrishnan

Six weeks under Jeanne Cavelos’ tutelage transformed my fiction. Jeanne is patient, thoughtful, cares deeply about her students, and gives mind-bending critiques. She tore apart my writing in the best way possible to make it infinitely better. Before Odyssey, I would tie words together with loose threads. I am now a more mindful writer.

Jeanne ensured that every moment of the workshop brought us closer to our goals. Her insightful lectures energized our mornings. During afternoon critiques, we dissected our stories to learn how to make them better. In the evenings, best-selling authors and award-winning editors joined us for Q&As. My nights and weekends were full of writing—journal exercises, story planning, prose.

Jeanne is a teacher’s teacher, a mentor’s mentor. I can’t imagine undertaking this career without her as a guide.

Francesca Rahe

Francesca Rahe

I started Odyssey with a sort of vague, nebulous knowledge of my own flaws as a writer. I knew I had problems, but I wasn’t yet able to articulate what those problems were, let alone come up with ways to solve them. My hope was that Odyssey would help me with that issue.

I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

By the end of the first week of Odyssey, my brain was already bursting with new ideas about how I could improve as a writer. I was setting up concrete plans to change my writing process, and I was actually enacting them. I was learning from the wonderful stories of my classmates, and drinking in knowledge from the Q&A with the guest-lecturer . . . and that was all just in the first week. Every single day that followed continued that trend. Every single lecture Jeanne gave blew my mind in some way or another.

By the end of Odyssey, I was both exhausted and exhilarated. My mind was crammed with more knowledge than I could keep track of, but at the same time, I was ecstatic to rework the novel I had begun prior to Odyssey. The problems I faced prior to Odyssey with that novel were now problems I knew how to solve. Odyssey turned me from a pantsing writer, writing by instinct and utterly without process, to a conscious craftsman, working my hardest to fix my plot-problems in the prewriting stage.

The change which has taken place in me as a writer over Odyssey is truly incredible–I’m a different writer now than the one I was when I started. It’s all thanks to Jeanne Cavelos, who was a wonderful and inspiring mentor. I’m really thankful to have the privilege of being an Odfellow.

Alexandra Hill

Alexandra Hill

Odyssey was—with no apologies for the pun—one heck of a journey, especially during the choppy waters of 2020. I came in used to working 60-80-hour weeks, and this was still one of the most intense (and rewarding) experiences I’ve ever had. The combination of lectures, writing, and critiques meant that I was always thinking about the craft; being surrounded by people as dedicated as I am to writing meant that, no matter how exhausted I was, I began and ended every day feeling inspired to keep pushing myself. Odyssey isn’t easy—Jeanne makes sure of that; she gives her all and asks the same of her students—but it is worth it a thousand times over. I’ve emerged with a stronger sense of myself as a writer, a head full of ideas and the tools with which to execute them, and a pack of Odfellows at my side to take on the world. It’s been an incredible ride and I’m eternally grateful for the chance to be a part of it.

Maurice Haeems

Maurice Haeems

I had travelled from LAX to BOM for a routine business trip, and landed in Mumbai three days before they shuttered the airport and canceled all international flights due to the pandemic. That was followed by announcements of successive lockdowns and curfews which meant that I could be stranded indefinitely and confined to the short-stay apartment. Just as I was resigning myself to missing Odyssey and to “wasting” my summer, Jeanne’s email landed in my inbox–the 2020 workshop would be held online!  Odyssey is what kept me going through the Covid pandemic. From June 1 to July 10, each day at 6:30 in the evening (local time), I would tune out all other concerns and commitments and login to Jeanne’s virtual classroom. Because of the time difference, my days were inverted, and I dedicated my mornings and afternoons to the assigned readings, the journal entries and exercises, the writing of critiques, and the crafting of my own stories for submission. The six weeks of Odyssey were intensely demanding but also richly rewarding. Every aspect was designed to help me hone my craft and improve as a writer. My classmates were a diverse group of 14 incredibly talented, dedicated, and accomplished writers who were deeply insightful and yet ever so tactful in their critiques, and whose supportive attitudes encouraged me to keep at it and to try even harder. The guest lecturers were some of the today’s most prolific and respected writers and editors who were unbelievably generous with their time and expertise. Jeanne’s encyclopedic knowledge of the genre and the craft of writing, her calm and methodical approach, and her ability to distill complex concepts into logical, memorable, and practical advice made her lectures the highlight of my day. From the standpoint of improving my writing, participating in Odyssey was the best decision that I could have made. To anyone who wants to write professionally in the genre, I would suggest starting your journey at Odyssey.

Scott Gray

Scott Gray

In only six weeks, the Odyssey Writing Workshop taught me more about the craft and business of writing fantastical fiction than years of reading writing books, attending writing seminars and other workshops, and my many attempts at writing a novel that works. Now, when I say, “only six weeks,” I really mean forty consecutive days of reading, critiquing, and performing deep practice on the writing craft. Thirty weekdays crammed with lectures and critique sessions—six of those critique sessions are of your work. Five late nights of fiction writing games—images of clones creating pod people to form a society based on the length of their second toe still scar me to this day—and talking about the works of some of the best in the field. One impressive flash fiction slam and one graduation made the experience unforgettable.

This year was my third time applying for Odyssey. Because of Jeanne’s commitment to helping writers improve, the two rejections I had previously received included a critique of my submission and suggested books to read on areas that I needed to improve. Did I feel bad about those rejections? Yep, but I could also see Jeanne’s wisdom in the advice she gave me. I bought the books, did the work, and improved my writing. In hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t get into the workshop those previous years, as I wasn’t ready, and it wouldn’t have been fair to my classmates.

The guest lectures for 2020 included a veritable who’s who of authors, editors, and publishers in the fantastic fiction writing community. The quests were: Brandon Sanderson, Eric James Stone, Scott H. Andrews, J. G. Faherty, Sheila Williams, Barbara Ashford, Carrie Vaughn, John Joseph Adams, and E. C. Ambrose. Some of the guests held lectures, and all of them answered questions and critiqued some of the students writing.

If you are reading this and are on the fence about applying for Odyssey—even if you have been rejected in the past, like me—then the decision comes down to a simple question. Do you want to be a better writer? If you answered yes, then apply. Odyssey is a once in a lifetime experience.

Oh! I forgot to mention the best part. I have made lifelong friends who love to talk and write about spaceships, dragons, time-travel, and yes, even pod people.

Adam Fout

Adam Fout

Marie Croke

Marie Croke

Diyang Jin (Helena)

Diyang Jin (Helena)

Marc Emerson

Jessica Johnson

Jessica Johnson

Rona Wang

Rona Wang

Matt Hornsby

Matt Hornsby

Memorable Quotes from the Class of 2020

“It viscerally vexes me” —Francesca

“Viscerally Vexing” —Ashley quoting Francesca

“Duct tape is a way of life.” —Ashley

“You busted your archetype budget, basically.” —Alex

“Arnold can dance to anything.” —Libby

“Maybe baby head croquet?” —Jeanne

“Can we get ‘baby head croquet’ on our tshirts!” —Scott

“Watch out for the eyebrows. They will come and get you.” —Jeanne

“Scrape every last bit of energy out of your soul.” —Jeanne

“It was nice. Depressing, but nice.” —Francesca

“Vikram will now be my word salad translator xD” —Ola

“And now it’s time for a commercial…” —Jeanne

“Who would play a young Captain Kirk, oh, Elijah Wood, maybe?” —Jeanne

“Why would you love a vampire, because they suck (haha)!” —Ola

“Oh my pod” —E. C. Ambrose

“Clearly short-toed ☹” —Scott

“Will Simon’s uppance come?” —Jeanne

“…I just want to press the ‘I Believe’ button and go with it.” —Marc

“I do like to kick a dead horse, so…” —Jeanne

“I will lay money on it. Monopoly money, but… money.” —Francesca

Alex: [A solo electric keyboard rendition of “The Girl From Ipanema” plays]
Vikram: ha
Jeanne: Could Arnold Schwarzenegger dance to it?
Libby Barringer: Arnold can dance to anything.
Scott: Arnold could dance to “I’m never gonna pants again…”
Ola: I keep singing that song and it’s becoming a problem
Marc: Guilty keys have got no rhythm
Jeanne: We should perform it at a convention.
Ashley: This is how we become famous.
Jeanne: First Nebula for a song.
Scott: Trust me, you don’t want me singing. I’ll play the triangle.

Jeanne: sexposition
Scott: t-rexposition
Mark: vexposition, hexposition, flexposition,
Matt: mexposition—exposition during a battle between mechs

Jeanne: “And so his goal is…”
Ashley: “…to survive.”

Vikram: “What’s the new goal?”
Libby: “to survive?”

Francesca: “I love traitors”
Scott: “Et tu, Francesca?”
Libby: “And then it’s very satisfying when the uppance comes.”
Francesca: “He’s just such a delicious traitor.”

“It’s like How Stella Got Her Groove Back, written by Bram Stoker.” —Vikram

“It’s like Butterfly CSI.” —Ola

“We will haunt your laundry.” —Jeanne

“I do enjoy characters killing each other.” —Jeanne

“There are those cockroaches doing magic. How do you get past them? I don’t know.” —Jeanne

“Your uppance will come” —Adam

“It exceeds your strangeness budget.” —Jeanne

“I’m never gonna pants again.” —Marc

“I’m sure there’s a long German word for that.” —Libby

“Why would a reader like this?” —Jeanne

“You are either writing or you are not writing” —Jeanne

“To change your end result you need to change your process” —Jeanne

“How dare you reject your own story. That’s my job.” —John Joseph Adams

“Push yourself toward greatness and making your stories shine. Shine and be unique” —Jeanne

“You are the product of your writing time. The piece is not.” —Brandon Sanderson

“You are the protagonist in your own odyssey.” —Jeanne

“What’s one Death Star in the face of a determined writer?” —Jeanne