Graduate Comments

Lane Robins

Odyssey: A Step on the Journey

I majored in Creative Writing in college, primarily to get credit for something I spent my time doing anyway: writing stories. But the college workshop experience wasn’t helpful for me as a genre writer. I wasn’t writing what I wanted to write, and so I wasn’t getting the feedback that I needed to get. This fact became rapidly apparent when I began sending stories out to genre magazines and collected rejections by the handful.

As time passed, the rejections shifted in tone, changing from standard “no” to personalized rejections that gave me just enough encouragement to frustrate me. I knew there was something I was missing in my writing, but no idea of what it was, or how to find out.

Then I heard about Odyssey. Six weeks of intensive writing and critiquing, taught by the Dell Abyss editor, Jeanne Cavelos. To me, it sounded like just the thing I needed. At Odyssey, I could ask an actual editor why the story “didn’t quite work,” something I’d heard more than enough of by then.

Years later, I still consider attending Odyssey the best step taken in my writing career. Odyssey taught me I was writing instinctively instead of thoughtfully: I never stopped to ask why I was putting this scene here, why this character cared, or even what the ultimate point of my story was.

Until Odyssey, all my writing instruction had been focused on tiny, technical details, or story ‘rules’ that I had unconsciously absorbed after years of reading. Odyssey taught me about story structure, about asking myself questions, and about understanding the reader’s expectations as well as my own. Odyssey taught me to look at writing from a more analytical standpoint, first while critiquing others, then in my own writing, and did so in an environment that was both challenging and nurturing.

When I made the decision to attend Odyssey I had two goals; one was to figure out how to improve my writing. The second goal was a little different. For me, Odyssey-six weeks of writing, reading, critiquing, day in and day out-was my personal litmus test. Could I do this seriously? Did I take my writing seriously enough that I could spend this kind of time on writing and enjoy it? To my glee, the answer was yes.

I came out of Odyssey with a surer idea of my strengths, and started a new novel that fall, applying what I had learned both in the original draft and in the successive revisions. Maledicte was bought by Del Rey and will be available in May, 2007.