My Odyssey Experience
Prior to hearing about Odyssey, I’d never considered applying to a writing workshop. I felt the things that I wrote and liked to read fell between the cracks, and that I’d be comfortable at neither a workshop focused on genre fiction nor one biased toward the realistic mode. But when I learned that the creator of the Dell Abyss fiction line was starting a sf/f/horror writing workshop, I couldn’t resist. Here was an instructor whose sensibilities seemed to mesh with my own.
Odyssey forced me to consider my audience. Until then, the only people who had seen my fiction were the editors I’d anxiously sent a handful of stories to and a couple of trusted friends or family members. Suddenly I wasn’t writing for readers either anonymous and abstract, or inclined to indulgence. Instead I had a ring of seventeen faces demanding that I clarify my characters’ motivations, fix up the ending in a way that satisfied them, and above all, keep them entertained! Writing is such an isolating endeavor. Rarely do we have the opportunity for such immediate and knowledgeable feedback.
Jeanne’s experience on both sides of the table, as editor and writer, offers a valuable perspective to the beginner, while the consistency of having her supervise the entire six weeks means she gets a real in-depth look at your strengths and weaknesses. Meanwhile, classmates who were much better read than I in the fields of science fiction and fantasy introduced me to a breadth of writers I’d never have explored otherwise. I learned how to look at my fiction with a critical eye and pinpoint where I was going wrong. But even more importantly, for the first time in my life, I felt like a writer.
Since Odyssey, I’ve gone on to complete one novel and I’m working on two others. I’ve had short stories published in places like The Third Alternative and Darkness Rising. Two have received honorable mentions from Ellen Datlow in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror and a third was selected for reprint in this year’s Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, edited by Stephen Jones. Could I have done this without Odyssey? Probably, but it would have taken me a lot longer, I’d have been stumbling about in the dark a great deal more, and I would have been without the invaluable support of my former classmates, some of whom have gone on to become close friends.