Odyssey Online Graduates' Comments

2019 – Instructor Barbara Ashford

“Getting mired in the details when editing? Overfocused on the page-to-page action, rather than the overall arc?

“Learn how unifying concepts can make a novel feel more powerful and give it that sense of completeness—rather than the meandering feeling that leaves the reader wondering what the point of the story was.

“Barbara pulls together multiple ways of looking at story structure and other unifying elements, teaching students to look at their work in new ways—which is an absolute gift during the editing process, and an essential skill for the novelist.  Highly recommended!”

–Elle Van Hensbergen

“A novel is a huge project and Barbara’s course really helped me focus my work. She took me through a process that allowed me to see my novel as a thematic and spiritual whole. Once I understood better “what I meant to say” with this story, I was able to craft a new outline that will help enormously in moving my next rewrite forward.”

–Elise Forier Edie

“If you dread the question, “What is your book about?” this course is for you. You’ll develop an understanding of what your story promises and how to revise your novel so that it delivers on that promise.

“Your assignments and critiques will give you insight into how to keep your narrative interesting, suspenseful and relevant from the first chapter to the last.

“Getting the Big Picture is full of tips and techniques to help you make your manuscript into a coherent, fulfilling whole that will appeal to agents and satisfy readers.”

–Timothy Gwyn

“Getting the Big Picture gave me a new focus for revision.  The lectures were full of useful information, but even more valuable were the assignments and the critiques.  The homework pushed me to dig deeper, and the feedback from both my classmates and the instructor was so helpful.”

Laura Jane Swanson

“What a useful course. This structured approach to revision was so very helpful. I would not have worked it out for myself. Barbara was wonderful and my classmates’ critiques were very valuable to my writing. I recommend this course without hesitation.”

–Marie Hannan-Mandel

“This class was a huge help in getting me to take a step back and figure out what my WIP is actually about. Barbara is supportive, knowledgeable, and kind. She has given me new tools to identify story problems and find innovative ways to fix them. The homework assignments challenged me and pushed me into new thinking; I’m no longer dreading the work of revision, but am excited to dig into it!”

–Jessica Plumbley

“The best thing about this class was learning and sharing with an incredibly talented group of writers, all going through the same process as I was–both mentally and emotionally. The latter can’t be underemphasized, with writing being a lonely sort of pastime, and almost always a labor of love. Along with that, the class teaches valuable tools for seeing one’s work with more clarity and coherence, so one knows where to go when stuck in the revision process. Barbara is a down-to-earth teacher with a great sense of humor, whose way of seeing and critiquing work is the most insightful and constructive I’ve ever encountered. I’m not sad the class is over, as I was doing at least 10 hours a week of homework (double the minimum required, but I couldn’t have done it in less) and have a huge backlog of info to process, but I’d sign up for a similar one in a heartbeat (as long as it took place at least a few months from now).”

–Colleen Chen

“Chapters on revision in writing manuals are generally too short to be of much use. I needed a class, and this was the one. This excellent course used a variety of current texts and concepts that helped me pull the disparate parts of my novel into a cohesive, thematically focused project. Critiques from the instructor and fellow students helped me meet a high standard. Other classes may focus on beginnings/endings, character arcs, etc. This class covered all that in a thorough way that allowed me to see how the parts interconnect with one another and to the novel as a whole. A unique approach to revision that is highly recommended.”

-Cynthia Erb

“This class has been an inspiring and transformative experience for me as a writer. . .  Through assignments and examples, Barbara taught us how to think about stories in terms of the promise they make to readers, and then she gave us techniques for measuring whether our openings, conflict, scenes, climax, and resolution were fulfilling that promise. We studied methods for infusing our stories with drama. Class gave me tangible ways to . . . evaluate my stories, and revise my stories to make them more satisfying for my reader. Barbara is extremely personable and invested in her students. This was an enriching experience that helped me strengthen . . . my writing.”

Heather Henry

“I am so thrilled I was able to take an Odyssey Online Class. I can already see the improvement in my writing. The lectures and class discussion were wonderful. I learned so much in a short amount of time. The feedback I received from my classmates was invaluable and the critiques from the instructor, Barbara Ashford, have already improved my novel beyond expectations. I cannot recommend this class enough!”

Hayley Wilds

“With organization, humor and enthusiasm, Barbara laid out ways to think of the promise a story makes to the readers, ways to hook the reader, ways to deepen the conflict and raise the stakes, and how to adjust the pace of a scene. Before taking this class, I was already an experienced writer and had taken many writing courses. As a result of this class, I now have a much larger set of tangible and specific tools to apply in order to make my scenes more engaging for readers. Thank you so much for a terrific course!”

-Kodiak Julian

 

2016 – Instructor Barbara Ashford

“Barbara’s Getting the Big Picture class is a life-changing event. I’ve never been able to track such a marked improvement in my writing ability as I have throughout the course of this online workshop. The subject matter is concise and comprehensive, the assignments and critiques are tremendously helpful, and Barbara is a world-class instructor. I would highly recommend this workshop to anyone with designs to publish a novel. You will not be disappointed.”

—Derrick Boden

“Getting the Big Picture is a college-level course that will improve the writing skills of seasoned writers and give beginners a true foundation for writing the first 6000 words of their novel. You will evaluate your entire novel and get essential critique on the inciting incident all the way to the climax. What a wonderful experience.”

—Steven Novick

“Very helpful, and Barbara is an amazing teacher! Definitely helped me figure out how to see the forest for the trees in my novel. Would recommend it whether you’re just developing a book idea or finishing up revisions!”

—Chris Kelworth

“The experience of Barbara Ashford’s Getting the Big Picture online Odyssey course was akin to being shown a toolbox, then being guided on how to use the tools within. Some tools are harder to grasp than others; some problems are harder to fix. But I can better see the problems now, and I can hold the tools in my hands. That’s what this workshop did for me–it changed my life, as a writer and as a storyteller.”

—Jacque E. Day

“Odyssey Online was instrumental in the development and completion of my debut novel. When I realized I had a novel on my hands, I knew I was in over my head. Odyssey Online provided me with the tools I desperately needed to improve my weak points (Powerful Dialogue in Fantastic Fiction) and redesign the overarching structure of my novel (Getting the Big Picture: Revising Your Novel), all from the comfort of my own home.

“The instructors were knowledgeable, happy to answer my questions, and went above and beyond the call of duty when helping me through contract negotiations. I would not hesitate to recommend Odyssey Online and have on several occasions, bringing a friend along to Getting the Big Picture. I can hardly wait to see the classes offered next winter.”

—Jenise Aminoff

2012 – Instructor Barbara Ashford

“Odyssey Online provides a great opportunity for intensive learning in an international environment from the comfort of your home–wherever it may be.”

—Regina Glei

“I am in the outlining stages of a novel. The Odyssey online class Getting the Big Picture helped me focus in on the true nature of my story, what lies at its heart. The class has given me the tools to improve both plot and characters and tie the two more strongly into the theme. These are the most useful three class sessions I have ever attended.”

—Scott T. Barnes

2021 – Instructor Barbara Ashford

 “This course definitely helped me develop a different approach to reading and writing stories. I now feel more capable of building emotional and effective scenes that fulfill a purpose within a piece. This course has been a very significant part of my writing journey. It has broadened my writing toolbox. Barbara was an amazing teacher!”

–Allison Lievano

“Taking this Odyssey Online Class was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The instructor and other students were knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and encouraging. The assignments helped me dig into my own writing and find the weaknesses. The class gave me the knowledge and tools to correct those weaknesses. Mastering the craft of writing is a never-ending task, but this entire experience has taken my writing to the next level. Thanks, Odyssey.”

    –Cassandra Blomberg

“I cannot recommend this course enough. The lectures and study materials were eye-opening in ways I didn’t expect. I learned more about scene structure and plot than I could have thought possible in just three lectures. Barbara, the instructor, was thoughtful in her critiques and went above and beyond what I expected in terms of course material. I can feel the difference in my writing already and am looking forward to integrating her lessons into my writing even more as I continue to review her notes.”

–Elaine Roth

2018 – Instructor Barbara Ashford

“In January 2018 I was lucky enough to take Barbara Ashford’s class: One Brick at a Time. The scope of material covered was huge. I have dozens of books on writing on my bookshelves, but I learned more in a month, from Barbara’s clear, concise, on-point, and funny lectures, than I learned from all my books. My brain feels like it’s filled to bursting (but in a good way!) Sign me up for the next class!”

—Alison Colwell

“I am so thrilled I was able to take an Odyssey Online Class. I can already see the improvement in my writing. The lectures and class discussion were wonderful. I learned so much in a short amount of time. The feedback I received from my classmates was invaluable and the critiques from the instructor, Barbara Ashford, have already improved my novel beyond expectations. I cannot recommend this class enough! Thanks!”

—Hayley Wilds

“One Brick at a Time: Crafting Compelling Scenes was a great online class that definitely helped improve my scene writing. From the numerous readings and lecture materials to the incredible teacher and seamless live online class meetings, this course is definitely something I would recommend for writers serious about improving their craft.”

—Geoff Fey

“Barbara Ashford’s course, One Brick at a Time, has changed my approach to writing scenes. With organization, humor and enthusiasm, Barbara laid out ways to think of the promise a story makes to the readers, ways to hook the reader, ways to deepen the conflict and raise the stakes, and how to adjust the pace of a scene. Before taking this class, I was already an experienced writer and had taken many writing courses. As a result of this class, I now have a much larger set of tangible and specific tools to apply in order to make my scenes more engaging for readers. Thank you so much for a terrific course!”

—Kodiak Julian

“Barbara Ashford’s class on building scenes was fundamental for me. At last I know how to use emotional beats to drive a scene to its turning point and on towards the next.”

—Jenny Green

“I’m looking at some of my scenes now and realizing that I just wrote down what was in my imagination and thought it was pretty cool that I had such a great imagination. The bulk of many scenes didn’t contain the building blocks to pull the story forward, let alone to make it a compelling read. In some other scenes, my intuition got it right. Both humbling and encouraging. To be able to see which scenes work—that is very exciting. With the tools from Barbara Ashford’s amazingly thorough class, my revisions have been infused with a ruthlessness born of seeing what’s there and what’s not. And with practice, those building blocks will give my imagination direction earlier in the process. Thanks!”

—Barbara Jo Fleming

2015 – Instructor Barbara Ashford

“This course was amazing. I feel like I can navigate writing a scene better now because I have the tools and vocabulary to do it! Thanks Barbara and Jeanne for a wonderful course!”

—Danielle DeLisle

2021 – Instructor Scott H. Andrew

“This course realigned my approach to writing fiction. Instead of relying solely on tools such as setting, description, and plot points, which always resulted in static characters and vague stories, I can now work from the inside out: what is this character’s emotional makeup and how will this story shake him up? How best to make the reader feel that change of heart?”

–Jenny Green

“I’ve taken two online courses with Scott Andrews, and both were excellent, eye-opening experiences. Taken from the award-winning editor of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, the courses are an in-depth study of how to write fiction. The courses are made up of four things: Reading (both fiction to be analyzed and articles on writing fiction); Scott’s lectures (where he welcomes questions); Homework (which involve both analysis of the assigned readings and assigned writing); and Critiques of each other’s writings, within the subject matter of the course being taught. But there’s also a fifth element–Scott’s critiques, both of our assigned writing and of our critiques. When I described the courses as “in-depth,” this in particular is what I had in mind as Scott does an almost line-by-line analysis of your work–and fear not, he praises the good (so you know what’s good) as well as commenting on the not-so-good, and how it could be made better. Plus, it’s fun to spend a few weeks with other writers in such a literary atmosphere!”

–Larry Hodges

“I loved everything about Odyssey’s Emotional Truth class taught by Scott Andrews. From the instructor to the way that Odyssey administered the course, the entire experience was excellent. Scott is a knowledgeable and insightful instructor, but he is also a kind and considerate teacher who creates a safe and supportive environment for learning. I always felt that I was in good hands as I learned and practiced the material. The course was delivered smoothly, and I credit the structure that Odyssey has set up for its instructional delivery. Expectations were clear, and Jeanne was responsive and helpful. I finished the course with a wealth of new information and the feeling that I had grown as a writer. This course was well worth the tuition and time that I invested. I hope to take more classes from Odyssey in the future.”

–Sam Pisciotta

“I write things, short stories and novels, and I really want to sell these novels of mine, but getting the vision in my head onto the page so readers FEEL what the characters are going through is hard, okay? For me anyway. If it’s hard for you too, take this class. I emerge from it and Scott’s amazing, detailed critiques fairly battered, but so excited and energized. It’s the perfect amount of content for a month-long class, broken into sentence & paragraph level, scene level and entire story arc level techniques for leveling up your story’s emotional impact. Like way way up. Plus, and I’m not kidding, this class is fun! The class readings are fun period, full of juicy emotions, and even more fun to read with these techniques in mind. And the writing exercises are so so fun (even as they kick your butt)! I’ll bet your readers read for the emotional experience. After this class, you’ll be so much more conscious of how to imbue your stories with the intense emotional experience they want.”

–K.A. Rochnik

“I found Odyssey’s Emotional Truth course taught by Scott Andrews to be very enlightening. The lectures gave us dozens of great tools for enhancing the emotional impact of stories, and the assignments have helped me approach character-development from new angles. I’ll be thinking about and applying what I learned for years to come. The online format worked seamlessly, and I also enjoyed reading work by my classmates and receiving their feedback. While the focus of the class is on speculative writing, these tools would be equally helpful in writing literary fiction or other genres.”

–Ivy Grimes

“This class completely ruined the act of reading for me. I know now what these authors are doing to me whenever I feel something from their work, can put to words exactly how they are doing it too. Just the other day I reread my favorite short story, “The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu, and found pretty much every technique we covered in this class within its words. It’s like getting to see how the sausage is made, only instead of being grossed out, I feel quite enlightened. Confident now. Lightyears ahead of where I was before I took the class.

“Thank you, Jeanne and the Scotts, for making this happen and for giving us writers the opportunity to grow like this.”

–Ernesto Fuentes

“Previously I felt that an emotionally rich story just came out that way, more attributable to inspiration than to technique. But Scott’s detailed breakdown made it clear to me that one can write in an emotionally rich way with an eye to craft, not just “moved by the spirit,” so to speak. Which was immensely valuable to me and has changed the way I approach my writing.

“I found Scott Andrew’s enthusiasm and interest in the topic to be contagious. His (meticulous!) feedback was invaluable.”

–Elle Van Hensbergen

“Scott’s class on Emotional Truth helped me to see new potential in my writing. I was amazed at how the techniques we learned can transform a scene, giving it emotional depth and drawing readers into the emotion. The exercises as well as Scott’s extensive and detailed feedback helped me work with the techniques and make them my own, and I know they will stay with me as I go forward with my writing. Thank you Scott and Odyssey!”

–Regina Wilson

“When I first started writing, I got a lot of, “very pretty prose! where is the story?” and it took me until I got to Odyssey workshop to learn 3-act plot and causal chains, at which point—while many other criticisms ensued, that particular one did not. The next bottleneck for me is, and has been for some time, emotion. I used bodily sensations (clenched stomach and burning cheeks, etc.) as a crutch; often wasn’t clear on what emotions I even intended to evoke (and didn’t really think about it); and just wasn’t giving readers the emotional experience the they signed up for. Last year, I got together with some other writers to learn the basics of emotional craft. Shortly afterward, I made my first pro sale. Encouraged, I took this class. It’s well organized into sentence-level techniques, paragraph-level techniques, scene-level techniques, and story-level techniques. A lot of the material was entirely new to me. One of the things I liked best about critiquing others’ work is that I could see just how well the techniques were working—something I find hard to do when I’m just looking at my own work. A lot of them—especially using unexpected emotions—were surprisingly powerful and emotionally engaging. The homework is lengthy but really gives you the opportunity to engage with all of the techniques enough to understand them. It’s a lot of information and will take me some time to integrate, but for me my only regret is that I didn’t do this years ago. It really took a lot of mystery out of the question that plagued me: why is this story so moving? why isn’t my story moving?”

–Samantha Weiss

 

2019 – Instructor Scott H. Andrew

“In Emotional Truth, Scott H. Andrews distilled the labyrinth that is human emotion and its expression into a logical methodology that is already informing my writing. The selected readings were strong examples of the techniques he illuminated in his lectures, and the abundant exercises focused on practicing each technique first in isolation and then together. I found this course to be unexpectedly challenging but also equally rich in content. I’ll be drawing on Scott’s lessons for years as I work to add emotional depth to my writing.”

–Chip Houser

“This class provided a huge variety of techniques for building emotional depth and emotional connection with characters. I don’t know that I’ll ever master all of them but it’s great to have them in my toolbox and get chances to practice them with feedback during the class.”

–Beth Tanner

“Fantastic course. Take it if you can.

–Mike Howard

“I took this class because I wanted to improve what I thought was one small facet of writing. Instead, the material covered in the Emotional Truth course turned out to be the very ground on which good stories are built–it’s the start, the source, and the heart of fiction. My approach to writing is both broader and more focused, all thanks to the practical tools, brilliant schematics, and crucial emotional concepts covered in this course. More than just good information, Scott H. Andrews’ expertise as an editor steers the material towards its real-world applications. If the class is offered again, I’ll take it a second time.”

–Jason Rykiel

 

2020 – Instructor Scott H. Andrew

“Scott’s STANDING OUT workshop was wonderful. The readings and lectures were incredibly useful. More than that: Scott gave incredibly detailed notes on my work–in fact, some of the most useful feedback I’ve ever received on my writing. As an added bonus: I found a brand new, intensely personal novel idea that never have thought up if I hadn’t taken this course. Scott asked us to dig deep–and it paid off. I’d highly recommend this workshop.”

–Jennie Evenson

“I’ve taken two of Scott’s courses. Somehow he shoehorns in at least a semester’s worth of material into three class meetings. A bargain at twice the price.”

–Mike Howard

“Standing Out with Scott Andrews has given me invaluable tools for my writer’s toolbox. Not only do I now have a solid understanding of several methods of creating spark in a story, I have practice under my belt actually using those methods. I’m better able to spot what is making a story stand out and analyze why. And I’m equipped to put that elusive spark into my own stories. I feel I’ve leveled up my writing in just a few short (very intense!) weeks. I would highly recommend this class to anyone looking to make that jump in their writing.”

–Caitlin Jacobs

“This was a great class. Scott shares his wealth of experience and gives many actionable strategies to add that crucial spark to your stories. He also gives some of the most thoughtful and in-depth feedback you’ll get anywhere! Highly recommended for any writer who wants their stories to rise above the crowd.”

–Neil Flinchbaugh

“Before taking Standing Out, writing felt like stumbling around a dark room. I occasionally correctly identified a table, a chair; my stories occasionally did something well. Then, bumping around and misidentifying the next piece of furniture, I couldn’t repeat the success.

“Instead of guiding me to each new piece of writing-tool-furniture, Scott Andrews simply flipped on the light. Now I clearly see the room, how its furniture is laid out, each in relation to the next. I feel I can bounce from the couch and then pull a chair up to that table and get down to serious storytelling.”

–Luke Nolby

2018 – Instructor Scott H. Andrews

“As a graduate of both the Odyssey Writing Workshop and one of their online classes, Standing Out: Creating Short Stories with That Crucial Spark, I cannot overstate how pleased I have been with their program. It’s where craft meets art, where you learn and practice techniques that will drive your writing skills to the next level. I know, because it did for me, and for many of my classmates!”

—Larry Hodges

“The Odyssey online course I took was exemplary in many ways, from attention to a smooth log-in and classroom experience, to the high quality of the teaching, to the guided demands made on students to produce work, critique the work of others and be critiqued. Odyssey delivers what it promises. The professionalism, respect for the students and respect for the art of writing put this Odyssey experience head and shoulders above other online experiences I have had. Thank you Odyssey.”

—Caroline Lee

“The Standing Out course with Scott Andrews really helped me identify the specific sources of ‘spark’ in a story and the methods for generating it. Armed with this knowledge, I can more consciously work towards writing narratives that grab a reader, rather than fumbling for that ‘spark’ on intuition.”

—Alexei Collier

“Whenever I sign up for a course, I go in hoping that I’ll get at least one usable, actionable thing that will make my writing go from okay to incredible. Odyssey Online offered me a bounty of tips, tools, and ideas that have me looking at my own work with fresh eyes. I’m excited to try new things and push my work into new territory!”

—Sean McDonell

“Scott has put together a treasure chest of ideas and exercises to help bridge the gap between ‘good’ and ‘great’ in speculative fiction. Although I feel that I’ve only scratched the surface of what it takes to excel in writing, Scott’s course has definitely helped me on my way. The subject matter is ambitious, but all the more valuable as a result. Overall, a very positive experience.”

—Derrick Boden

“Scott Andrews did an amazing job of analyzing works with that elusive sense of “spark” and distilling the reasons why certain stories stay with us for life. He provided numerous insights and examples of how Concept, Voice, Emotional Resonance, and Theme contribute to a story that hooks the reader. Additionally, he sourced suggestions from numerous craft books and his own personal experience to provide solid techniques for generating spark within our work.

“The most valuable insights of his class, however, could be found in the impeccably detailed critiques that he provided for students’ assignments. The general principles emphasized within all his critiques, as well as the specific comments on my work, have changed my writing process. His class has both widened my perspective as an author (looking beyond my initial choices for story), as well as narrowed my focus within scenes (making sure character’s emotional reactions are unambiguous, vivid, and clear). While I have a lot of practice ahead to take my writing to the next level, I finally have an understanding of the methods that make certain stories leap off the page.”

—Christine Row

2018 – Instructor Donna Glee Williams

“I very much enjoyed my time with the instructor and fellow classmates. The material stretched me as a writer, and along with the guidance from Donna Glee Williams and my critique-mates, allowed me to grow in ways I would not have been able to achieve on my own with online resources or writing books. I reached the end of the course sad that six weeks had turned into so short a time, though I’m looking forward to continuing to work with my classmates on writing long into the future.”

—Janea Schimmel

“This Odyssey course revealed how to develop my writing craft, so it will engage readers and make them want to read my stories. I learned much more than what the course’s title promised.”

—Kevin P. Hallett

“Weeks after Donna Glee Williams’s class on subtext, I was still realizing how much I had learned about how people interact and how to get that on the page.”

—Jenny Green

“Donna Glee immersed us in the challenging topic of subtext from as many angles as her vast imagination could conceive. If one creative exercise didn’t give a handle on that slippery subtext, she’d offer several more off-the-wall ones that would push aside the curtain, and there it was, revealed. Peer interactions and dialogue kept the class hopping with excitement, fun and discovery. Her explanations of many outstanding examples showed ways of using subtext that I never would have imagined. I see subtext everywhere now. Outstanding class!”

—Barbara Jo Fleming

2019 – Instructor Lucy A. Snyder

“The online Odyssey class with Lucy Snyder was awesome. It opened my eyes to so many new approaches to description and I feel it has taken my writing to the next level. The course combined reading a variety of stories as examples of how description can affect mood and tone with practical technical advice, writing, and critiquing the work of classmates, it was a great learning experience. I recommend Odyssey’s classes if you want to grow and stretch as writer.”

–Roger Kunshick

“My online Odyssey class with Lucy Snyder was fantastic! The combination of reading, writing, critiquing, and live online video classes allowed for great engagement with the material and with the other students. I learned a lot and highly recommend Odyssey’s classes to anyone who wants to improve their fiction writing.”

–Neil Flinchbaugh

“Odyssey’s Online Class Riveting Descriptions with Lucy Snyder gives students the opportunity to study effective description in literature in depth, to understand what makes it work. I enjoyed the assignments and appreciated the opportunity to receive feedback from classmates as well as the instructor. Most importantly, the class provided a framework for me to approach descriptive writing in the future. I’m happy I took this class!”

–Rebecca Crockett

2017 – Instructor Jeanne Cavelos

“Jeanne’s Powerful Dialogue in Fantastic Fiction workshop is an intense—and intensely beneficial—experience. Prior to enrolling in this course, I thought I had a decent handle on dialogue, but by the end I discovered I couldn’t have been more wrong. Jeanne’s interactive lectures, high-intensity assignments, and diverse reading lists cover everything from subtext to oblique dialogue, idiolect to dramatic compression. The toolbox of techniques this course provides has had an immediate and measurable impact on my writing. I would recommend this course to anyone with a serious interest in improving their writing.”

—Derrick Boden

“Powerful Dialogue taught me the mechanics of tight, well-constructed conversations and gave me the tools to build them. I will be referring to my Odyssey binder many times over the years to come. But more important were the insights I gained. I had been rushing my readers by using too much narrative. When characters refused to come to life, I shoved words in their mouths. Now I see they are individuals, even if fictional, and I need to give them their say. After all, what’s a good story but someone struggling to make himself heard?”

—Jenny Green

“Learning a new skill, if the skill is worth learning, is hard work. No point pretending this course is a cakewalk. The thing is: when you put the work in, your efforts are more than matched by the breadth and depth of the content, and Jeanne’s enthusiasm, her knowledge, and her help; your efforts are thoroughly rewarded. That’s my experience. Good dialogue invigorates. Characters and their worlds come to life. This course presents you with all you need to make that happen, through principle and through practice. If your writing involves dialogue, you don’t want your dialogue to be the also-ran of the text. I have learned how to make my dialogue come alive. It’s going to add a whole new dimension to what I write. I thoroughly recommend Jeanne Cavelos as a teacher and her Powerful Dialogue in Fantastic Fiction as a class. I don’t believe you will find better.”

—Jack Calverley

“The importance of a mentor on a writer’s life is substantial. But the importance of a mentor on a writer’s work is crucial. For myself, this course was nothing short of an awakening. With an encyclopedic knowledge of the written word, Jeanne steered us through the fundamentals of powerful dialogue, covering such thrilling topics as dramatic compression, how to create tension and suspense, modulated dialogue and, my personal favorite, how to craft oblique character dialogue (which comes with the added benefit of learning to be ambiguous and therefore mysterious). If any of this sounds like Greek to you–you need this course. If you’ve ever struggled with crafting suspenseful, compelling dialogue–you need this course. If you’ve ever spent too much time rewriting, but without the concrete tools to help you get anywhere–you need this course. You will learn about things you didn’t even know were missing from your work, and you will enjoy the work of others more as a result. This is one of the best things I have ever done for myself. Jeanne is a treasure—a true guardian angel of writers everywhere.”

—Kristen Ross

“This class has taught me how dialogue drives every scene of a story. Tight, well-constructed dialogue is an expressway for tension, characterization, conflict, subtext, and even worldbuilding. Jeanne has designed a comprehensive course that gives students hands-on experience writing and revising dialogue to eliminate flab and tighten scenes. After taking this course, I can watch a television show or look at a page of dialogue and instantly see beats that aren’t pulling their weight, and I know what can be edited out and how to fix what stays. Jeanne’s lectures and assignments are designed to give students methods for evaluating dialogue, strategies for writing or revising, and plenty of practice. After the first week of class and assignments, my approach to dialogue had already changed. I no longer avoid writing dialogue and instead I think about scenes in terms of dialogue first. I feel I’ve moved a step closer to writing stories that will keep my readers’ attention rapt. Jeanne’s feedback, her knowledge, and writing instincts are so strong, I felt like I had access to a trove of experience that sped my learning curve. She really cares about the growth of each individual writer.”

—Heather Henry

“Jeanne’s class on Powerful Dialogue not only made me better at dialogue, but made me see the poetic structure that a scene could contain. I began to see speech as poetic lines and could group them into stanzas that moved through concepts as the scene progressed. At one point I stayed up until 1 a.m. to work on scenes because I didn’t want to stop writing—it’s been a long time since I’ve had that much joy in my craft. Thank you!”

—Kyrce Swenson

2014 – Instructor Jeanne Cavelos

“Odyssey is a precious resource for aspiring writers. Instruction that goes beyond the basics, that teaches how to write compelling, not merely competent stories, is hard to find. Since 2010, I’ve done two Odyssey online courses as well as the six-week summer workshop. I can affirm that the online courses are a fantastic way for developing writers who can’t take six weeks out of their lives to experience Odyssey’s magical combination of lecture, practice, and critique.

“Jeanne Cavelos’s course in ‘Powerful Dialogue’ was an eye-opener. I’d never realized how much dialogue can accomplish for a story. Now I have tools to plan, analyze and edit my dialogue to strengthen it in everything I write. My characters will never speak the same way again.”

—Lorraine Heisler

“Dialogue is the heart and soul of modern prose—at least in my opinion. In the Powerful Dialogue in Fantastic Fiction class we had the chance to explore and learn about a whole array of excellent tools to make your dialogue more meaningful and unforgettable.

“It was an awesome course with a steep learning curve.”

—Regina Glei

“Imagine a Boot Camp for writers, but fun! If you are looking for clear ideas on improving your writing, strenuous practice of those ideas, and an enjoyable writing experience, then I would strongly recommend taking a writing Odyssey with Jeanne Cavelos as your guide.”

—John Berks

“Having taken the six-week Odyssey Workshop, I have to say that the online courses are just as intense, only with a more narrow focus. Jeanne over-delivers on the lecture material, helps you apply everything that you’re learning with thorough assignments, and the critiques from everyone are top-notch. My writing process is always transformed by the experience.”

—Christine Row

2020 – Instructor Barbara Ashford

“I signed up for The Heart of the Matter because I was receiving feedback that people felt distant from my characters, or they wouldn’t feel what I was hoping they would experience from my story. I want to create compelling characters and situations that take readers on an emotional roller coaster and leave them wanting more. In The Heart of the Matter, I learned how to analyze my work for emotion, how to zero in on the right details at the right times, and how to set up my story from the very beginning to carry the right emotional tone through to the end. Barbara Ashford is a knowledgeable instructor who is able to take a complex concept like emotion and break it down in order to apply techniques to storytelling. I would recommend this class, and Barbara, without any reservation.”

–Rebecca Roland

“Odyssey Writing Workshops offer a lot! I sometimes wonder if I can absorb all that’s available. The Heart of the Matter, a workshop on developing deeper character emotions within your stories, was no exception. You receive the most helpful critiques from fellow writers and then Barbara Ashford throws in her compendium of knowledge to boot. It was an avalanche, and I read and wrote and critiqued and danced along as quickly as I could. I got a lot from it. It has ended, but it’ll be another month before I can cover all that was presented. But the writing goes on and I’m changed. I highly recommend getting involved if you write fiction, flash fiction, science fiction, fantasy, horror or if you want a really honest take on your writing. Get in!”

–Edward Gauthier

“The Odyssey Workshop online class, Heart of the Matter, sounds warm and fuzzy, like the welcome glow of a fire in an inglenook’s hearth, a soupçon of hygge, if I may mix my tongues. But this course, like the other Odyssey workshops, is not for the faint of heart. If you are fortunate enough to be admitted, your WIP’s will be poked, prodded, scrutinized, laid out on a table and etherized. A swarm of helpful ideas and suggestions, unleashed by our fearless teacher, Barbara Ashford, will threaten to overwhelm your fragile writer’s ego and beginner’s mind. Fear not! The fact of your admittance is also insurance of your success. The critiques from teacher and classmates are thorough, thought-provoking but not cruel or careless. Ms. Ashford models a positive approach to responding to writing, without being superficial or cloying. The critiques will uncover many faults in your work–info dumps, style missteps, embarrassing word choices, tone-deaf dialog–along with well earned praise for the things you’ve done well. I learned that writing does not get easier the more skilled you become; it gets harder. But unlike Sisyphus, who had to roll his rock uphill alone, in an Odyssey class, you’ve got help with your struggle. The online forums facilitate exchanges of ideas, and the lectures are filled with practical frameworks for improving your writing. In Heart of the Matter, these frameworks illuminated many different ways to create characters and scenes that invited readers into the work. The frameworks also become rubrics for helpful critiques. So buckle up, snap on that carabiner, and get ready to ascend to wider vistas of the craft.”

–John Newsom

“#StartOfRant! Don’t believe the lies! The Heart of the Matter is an Odyssey Online course that I recently completed. It is a misnomer. A falsehood in both title and promise. I expected to learn the trite, pulpy, material that makes me swoon at Hallmark Christmas specials! Instead, I was left with practical tactics to decompose my work into emotional beats that resulted in increased tension, added color, and alignment of my character’s emotional arc to the promise of the story. Pure bunk! If you want to deepen the emotional resonance in your fiction, to make your readers cry, or throw your book across the room, then this course is for you! If you want to learn the basics to make yourself feel good, like me, then sign into YouTube and watch writing videos from–
#RantEnded_Squirrel!”

–Scott Gray

“Barbara Ashford’s Emotional Resonance course was a game-changer for me. I have attended more than a dozen classes and courses on writing fiction, both online and bricks-and-mortar including (now) four Odyssey Online Writing Classes. The Odyssey Online classes offer by far the best value for money of all the courses I have taken–by a long way. You have to put the work in. As do your fellow students. But, importantly, as does the instructor. So there is no excuse not to up your game.

“Maybe, for me, Barbara’s class came at a particular time in my development as a writer. Having grasped (not least from other Odyssey Online classes) the basics of story structure and character arc, I found my prose conveyed a story as a series of events in cause and effect order, but did not fully engage the reader emotionally. Resulting in a typical critique of: ‘Nice idea but so what?’

“Well, Barbara’s class addressed exactly that question. How do I make the reader care? I am not the master of this yet, but Barbara has taught me what I need to know and do, and shown me the craft I need to practice in order to get there. To move up to the next level.”

–Jack Calverley

2017 – Instructor Barbara Ashford

“I couldn’t have asked for more from Barbara’s ‘Heart of the Matter’ workshop. Building emotional resonance is critical to a successful story, and this course offers a clear roadmap to success—along with extremely insightful feedback along the way. Barbara’s energetic and interactive lectures are a goldmine of quality content, and along with the constructive assignments and well-curated reading list this course is an incredible experience. I would recommend this course to anyone looking to take their writing to the next level.”

—Derrick Boden

“Odyssey Online Courses has stepped up my writing game. Between critiquing the work of fellow course members and working on my own novel, I was able to identify areas where my story could resonate on a higher level for the reader. As a result, I will rework several chapters before submitting my novel for publication.

“Thank you to Jeanne Cavelos and Barbara Ashford for making it happen.”

—Nancy Ashline

“Odyssey offers the most useful and practical writing toolkit that I’ve ever experienced in a workshop setting. I find myself retaining a high proportion of what we cover because the techniques are so clearly communicated and pertinent to the craft. Rock on, Odyssey.”

—Jacque Day Pallone

“This class has been an inspiring and transformative experience for me as a writer. Emotional resonance is something that I knew I needed to develop in my stories, based on the feedback I’ve gotten from my readers. Through assignments and examples, Barbara taught us how to think about stories in terms of the promise they make to readers, and then she gave us techniques for measuring whether our openings, conflict, scenes, climax, and resolution were fulfilling that promise. We studied methods for infusing our stories with drama. Class gave me tangible ways to plot emotional resonance, evaluate my stories, and revise my stories to make them more satisfying for my reader. Barbara is extremely personable and invested in her students. This was an enriching experience that helped me strengthen a weakness in my writing.”

—Heather Henry

2014 – Instructor Barbara Ashford

“Barbara is an incredibly knowledgeable and effective instructor who completely blew away all my expectations for the course. In addition to discovering how to bring emotions to the page in a stronger and more precise manner, I learned more about theme, story structure, characterization, and world building than I’d thought possible for three short classes. Her analysis of my novel excerpts has helped me redirect my wandering plot issues, and every critique I received has been detailed, analytical and thought provoking. This course over-delivered and will be something I refer back to for many works to come.”

—Christine Row

“The subtitle for this class is ‘Bringing Emotional Resonance to Your Storytelling.’ At first I didn’t get it, and resisted it, but during the course something clicked inside for me. Now I see it so clearly it’s hard to imagine why emotional resonance had been such a mystery. The teacher is outstanding, bringing her own emotional resonance into her teaching technique.”

—David Ballard

“The instructor’s enthusiasm matched her expertise as she led us through the course material in logical steps. By the end of the course, I had increased my understanding of what is meant by emotional resonance and how it really is the core of a satisfying reading experience. I would recommend this course to anyone who wants to increase the depth and emotional impact of their writing.”

—Holly Schofield

“I feel that I have a new lease on the novel I’ve been working on–I was lost, but have been found because of skills gained from Barbara’s information, comments, and other student’s feedback. By focusing in on the key to the novel, I can look at one part (inciting incident, for example) and get an understanding of what my own writing is about. In giving me an analytical understanding of my own writing, Barbara helped me to break some writer’s block, and I feel that I can now complete the novel successfully.”

—Chris Propst

2021 – Instructor Patricia C. Wrede

“As a pantser learning the time-saving value of structure, I struggle with balancing discovery writing and coherent worldbuilding. Patricia shared her considerable experience in this course in a way that gave me solid guidance for organizing my worldbuilding techniques, deciding the right amount of worldbuilding for a story, and recognizing the nexus between world, characters, and plot, while emphasizing the place of discovery writing within the process. Analyzing homework passages by established authors, critiquing the work of my fellow students, and being critiqued by them added valuable insights into other people’s processes and reader expectations. All in all, a great course!”

–Caroline Lee

“I would highly recommend this class to any serious writer of science fiction or fantasy (or historical fiction, for that matter) at any level, beginner to advanced. Building a vivid and believable world is an art in and of itself, and this course not only helped me see how it should be woven in with other important elements like plot, character, setting, etc.; it also helped me to understand how much world building is enough—which, before this class, was a difficult balance for me to strike. When you sit down and think about it, the idea of building a world—a universe, really—for your characters to inhabit can be intimidating, but Patricia Wrede’s methods and building blocks made this task much more approachable and yet also helped me to think about aspects I might not have considered without her guidance. And it was fun!

“Every online Odyssey class I’ve taken has been excellent, and this class was no exception. Patricia was warm, helpful, and very knowledgeable. I was also happy to take the course alongside other engaged and serious writers, whom I also learned from. Though they may be short, these classes pack a punch, and are worth every penny—probably more. Thank you, Odyssey!”

–Bridget Norquist

“Patricia Wrede breaks down worldbuilding and makes it approachable. As someone who has been daunted by building worlds for my fantasy stories, I was amazed at how the concepts and exercises from this class helped me to flesh out a world I was struggling with for an early-stage novel project. The biggest surprise for me was that through thinking out and planning my world piece by piece using Patricia’s framework, details of my plot, conflict, and character relationships became clearer in my mind as well. This class has made my overall writing process stronger. And I no longer feel overwhelmed by the prospect of building new worlds!”

–Regina Wilson

2017 – Instructor Patricia C. Wrede

“When you decide to play god and build entire worlds, it’s great to have help. This class introduced me to all the aspects of worldbuilding, from the overarching rules of magic or science in a created world to the fashion choices of its cultures to the tiniest details of my character’s experience within that world. Critiques from my classmates and the instructor helped me identify the holes and inconsistencies in my worldbuilding while also prompting great new ideas to use within my world. I highly recommend this class to anyone, whether you’re writing in a well-documented world such as 17th century England or creating an entire universe from scratch.”

—Jenise Aminoff

“Pat Wrede’s worldbuilding class helped me to see the holes in my prewriting, provided me with specific feedback to better improve my worlds, and gave me more close reading skills to see how worldbuilding elements work in published fiction in order to improve my own writing. I would recommend this class to anyone who needs a better understanding of how all the other fiction elements work with worldbuilding.”

—Brigitte McCray

“After this class, I see worldbuilding in a whole new light. What I’ve learned could be the difference between writing a good story that someone might buy and a great story no one can turn down.”

—Chip Houser

“In a four-week course on structure, Odyssey solved problems I had struggled with for decades. My abilities expanded again with Odyssey’s next course on Point of View: The intersection of Plot and Character. These are not just for fantasy or science fiction authors. Anyone who has ever felt like they are going in circles will find Odyssey offers practical, clear lessons from a passionate, experienced editor who knows how to teach.”

—Amanda Kespohl

“Odyssey’s online world-building class is great for anyone interested in developing better world-building skills. Pat Wrede guided us through her process and gave us focused practice meant to help us find our own process. The three-class seminar felt intensive and thorough, well-worth the time and money. Inspiring and helpful at the same time. I’d recommend Odyssey Online to anyone who wants to bump their skills up a notch.”

—Lane Robins

“This was my first Odyssey Online class, and I was nervous it wouldn’t be as useful or in-depth as I was hoping. The class definitely blew away my expectations! It was fascinating, rigorous, and I had to work hard to keep up with the homework assignments, which was exactly what I wanted. I learned so much from applying the lesson material in the assignments and analyzing other students’ writing in the critiques. Feedback from Ms. Wrede, the queen of worldbuilding, herself was the icing on top. I had a great experience and would recommend Odyssey Online to anyone serious about improving their writing.”

—Amy Warren

2011 – Instructor Patricia C. Wrede

“For those who lack the time or resources to attend the full six-week Odyssey Writing Workshop in New Hampshire, Odyssey Online is a cost-effective way to explore specific writing topics in an environment of peers and professionals.”

—Stace Johnson

“Odyssey’s Worldbuilding in Fantastic Fiction gave me the tools to transform a set of disjointed notes & ideas into a coherent & engaging ‘world’ for my story. And, it was great fun into the bargain!”

—Emma Munro

“Odyssey Online is a fantastic way to learn for all those writers who live outside the US.”

—Regina Glei

“After completing Odyssey’s Worldbuilding course, I have realized my world needs a backstory as much as my characters do. The lecturer presented material and exercises which immersed me in the job of creating a world and society with internal integrity, rich with possibilities for storytelling. I highly recommend this course to any writer of speculative fiction.”

—Pete Aldin

2020 – Instructor Jeanne Cavelos

“I used to think outlining would kill my creativity and make the writing process boring. It turns out, I just didn’t know how to outline.

“In Three-Act Structure with Jeanne Cavelos, I studied and outlined numerous stories, discovering what made a strong story and what didn’t. I learned how to tie a character’s inner conflict with the outer conflict. I learned how to solve the problem of the “muddy middle,” which is where I often struggle in longer pieces. I learned how to tie in theme, raise the stakes for my characters, and make the reader care about them and about what was happening. I found that writing from an outline boosted my productivity, and I more than doubled my daily word count! But most importantly, I discovered that writing from an outline didn’t kill my creativity; instead, it opened the possibilities for me to add a lot of little details that made the story sing, whereas when I was writing by the seat of my pants, I was too busy thinking of the story itself to add those details.

“I’ve been trying to find the best way to ‘level up’ in my writing, and this class definitely pushed me to the next level. Jeanne is an extremely knowledgeable instructor, and she truly cares about sharing her insight with others and inspiring writers to push themselves and improve their craft. I cannot recommend this class enough!”

–Rebecca Roland

“Odyssey Online’s course on Three-Act Structure elevated my understanding of plot and helped jump-start my writing after being stuck in the doldrums last year. Before taking this class, many of my stories languished in unfinished states because I didn’t know how to fix them structurally. Worse, I’d send out finished works only to receive “We liked this, but the ending didn’t quite come together” rejections. My writing process was in a shambles and I’d lost my confidence in my ability to tell stories. I realized I needed a better understanding of structure if I was going to write better stories.

“The coursework for Three-Act Structure was engaging, intense, and illuminating. Jeanne Cavelos is an excellent writing teacher. I’ve taken other classes in the past that have covered similar concepts, such as why endings should feel surprising and inevitable, but they’ve never actually explained how to do that. Jeanne, on the other hand, explained how to create a satisfying plot brick by brick that built towards a satisfying ending. She explained essentials that are often glossed over in craft books, such as the definition of an act, which helped unlock other concepts. The numerous examples we saw in class crystallized difficult concepts, such as identifying inciting events and when they should appear in the plot, goal formation, how to assess whether a character’s goal is active, reactive, or passive, among many others. The homework brought all the concepts we learned in the lectures together and allowed us to practice them deeply. Jeanne’s critiques were thorough and insightful and helped me fix stories that I once thought were unfixable.

“I also, for the first time, learned how to outline effectively. This is no small feat for a lifelong pantser who loves discovery writing. In the past I resisted outlining unless I was pressed for time, but I never stuck to them and I found they impeded my creativity. But when I practiced a new style of outlining, I realized that creating the structure upfront meant I can really focus on the areas I truly enjoy writing. And, because I didn’t have to struggle with structure while pantsing, I could create the best story possible before drafting. I’m definitely incorporating outlining into my writing toolbox moving forward.
After taking this class, I feel more confident in my understanding of structure, and I’m eager to apply what I’ve learned to existing drafts so I can make them even stronger. I’m also excited that I can outline new stories from beginning to end without taking months to write a rough draft.

“I highly recommend this class to anyone who’s looking to take their understanding of plot and structure to the next level.”

–Sabrina Balmick

“I was in the doldrums with my writing, overwhelmed with the many stories I had let stall in various stages of progress, when I came across a testimonial for the Odyssey online course Three-Act Structure in Fantastic Fiction. I submitted an application thinking it couldn’t hurt. Now, having just completed the class, I can honestly say it’s the most valuable investment I’ve ever made in my writing.

“Completing the assignments on time every week was a challenge (they aren’t exaggerating with regard to how much time you need to dedicate to homework) but the knowledge and experience gained with regard to structure and plot are invaluable–as are the relationships established with my classmates. Jeanne knows her craft and has a keen sense of a writer’s individual strengths and weaknesses. Beyond this, her passion for sharing her knowledge and equipping writers with the tools to succeed shines through in every lesson and critique.

“I highly recommend Three-Act Structure in Fantastic Fiction for anyone who is serious about investing the time and energy to improve their craft.”

–Ric Federico

“I have been trying for more than a year to find a way to level up in my writing, and with Three-Act Structure in Fantastic Fiction with Jeanne Cavelos, I found it.

“Jeanne is an incredibly gifted teacher with knowledge I have not come across in any craft book I’ve read or conference I’ve attended. I’ve taken other online writing classes before and gained a few useful insights here and there, but this class does more than just lecture–it gives you tools and forces you to practice using those tools. Then it shows you how to incorporate those tools into writing an actual story. I’ve always loved outlining, but found myself veering off-course two-thirds of the way through the story and I didn’t know why and didn’t know how to account for it. I know why now, and better yet, I know how to write an outline that WORKS and, consequently, one that I’ll stick to, saving me a lot of revision time. The techniques taught in this class have allowed me to shift my focus from what I am putting on the page to how I am putting it on the page. It makes for a much cleaner, stronger first draft, and for a funner writing experience!

“Jeanne creates an inviting and encouraging learning environment. I felt welcome and supported in every stage of the class and am thrilled at how my writing network has expanded from this class. I was astounded at the amount and quality of the critiques I received from the instructor and my classmates on assignments I turned in. I learned so much from them! And I was just as astounded at the amount and quality of critique I was giving to other students–I’d been giving critiques for years, but this class taught me how to look at the big picture and spot problems in an outline before a draft is even written.

“I cannot recommend this class enough–it is vital for anyone looking to create fiction that WORKS.”

–Caitlin Jacobs

“Odyssey’s Three Act Structure course with Jeanne Cavelos is a “must take” course for anyone serious about long form fantasy writing. The course was a mix of deep philosophical insight into craft; veteran tools of the trade; and rigorous practice of principles. The students were a solid community of top-notch fellow writers, as well. This is a boot camp not to be missed for writers serious about their success.”

–Mark Cecil

“When I applied for the Odyssey Workshop on Three-Act Structure in Fantastic Fiction, I knew it would be helpful, but I had no idea how much the class would impact my writing process and my understanding of plot. I started the class, knowing I would always be writing and knowing that my stories were not as strong as I wanted them to be, but without a clear understanding of how to fix them. I left the class with a solid understanding of three-act structure, a new appreciation for outlining at different stages of my writing process, and a plan for writing and revising moving forward. I feel motivated about writing in a way that I haven’t felt for quite some time.

“I can honestly say this is the best writing course I have ever completed. I highly recommend this workshop to anyone who wants to learn how to write the best possible version of their stories.”

–Becca Yuan

“This workshop has been amazing. The learning process is akin to being immersed in a foreign language. From this immersion, I have gained a new process for outlining that will streamline my writing, making it easier and faster for me to write. No more meandering muddy middles!

“I also gained a deeper understanding of and appreciation for structure. I can tell before I tackle a possible scene whether it actually fits into my novel, and whether I need to eliminate it or revise my idea for that scene, as well as how to revise it. (Do I need tougher obstacles? Does this portray my theme? Does something important to my protagonist change in this scene?)

“Critiques from our instructor (Jeanne Cavelos) and fellow students showed me structural flaws in my novel-in-progress. I also discovered that I really can conceive, outline, and write a short story within one week, something I would have thought impossible before taking this course. (Sure, this story had flaws too, but one more week would fix those!)

“We analyzed nearly 20 stories, ranging from shorts to longer works—a novel and a movie—to “just the bare bones” outlines. That’s roughly 4-5 stories per week. And details! From turns (a new direction for the plot based on changes in goals) that establish the three acts, to inciting incidents, obstacles, conflict, stakes, escalations, mirror moments, darkest hours, climaxes, denouements and epiphanies, our analyses addressed 85 questions about structure clustered into 19 discrete groups. Whew!

“I am awed, humbled and grateful. Thank you, Jeanne!”

–Wyn Snow

“Odyssey’s 3-Act Structure is by far the best, most comprehensive course with the most responsive instructor that I’ve ever encountered. I’ve taken maybe 3 to 5 other online courses, and a number of in-person ones.

“I was absolutely blown away by Jeanne Cavelos’s absolute excellence as an instructor. And I’ve worked with her before, yet even with my strongly positive memories of her teaching ability and her strong drive to serve as a mentor in the classroom, I was once again absolutely blown away by her diligence, enthusiasm, and responsiveness to her students.

“I am absolutely a better writer than when I began the course! I have a much, much better understanding of three-act structure. I have also learned how powerful an outline is for building on top of, and how quickly that gets my creative mind going. I had no idea that finding ways to improve already-existing work could help me understand my own work so much better, and help jumpstart my process so well as it did.

“I found that my stories were already better structured, after even just the first class section. I have a contest that I participate in yearly, just for fun, in a writers’ group, and I found it was both a) easier to produce a structured story for the contest, instead of the shapeless blobs I tended to output in the past, and b) that I got better scores from fellow writers in the group when I did so! So I got immediate feedback that I was improving, which was very nice!

“And, on top of all this, my confidence that I can write a well-structured story has improved—and honestly, so much of writing is based on just that, the confidence that one can create what one imagines on the page. Without that confidence, how can one even sit down to create?

“I’m so grateful to have these new skills in my toolbox. I have been struggling to master three-act structure on a more useful, more intuitive level for years, and that is the gift that this course has given me. Thank you, Jeanne Cavelos!!”

–Elle Van Hensbergen

“In Odyssey Online’s Three-Act Structure course, Jeanne Cavelos taught me more than I expected I to learn about plot and structure, character development, causal chain… about everything, really! This course has had more of a positive impact on my writing, hands down, than any other undertaking (outside of the six-week summer Odyssey Workshop).

“As a lifelong “discovery writer” and a card-carrying “pantser” it is no small thing when I tell you that I now believe in the power of outlining. I now plot. I truly never believed I would say that, but it’s true! This change is due in large part to Jeanne’s amazing talents as an instructor. Her knowledge is unparalleled.

“Jeanne has an amazing ability to bring to life concepts that in my mind were stodgy, monolithic, and overburdened (namely, plot). I also have a better understanding and clarity regarding the complex interactions between structure and characterization, structure and theme. I’m glad to say that plot is not the four-letter word I thought it was. It carries and enables much more depth and intricate nuance to writing than I’d given it credit for. I’m quite happy to have been so wrong!

“Jeanne’s classes are always fun, interesting, and full of great insights and breakthroughs. Community follows because sincerity, passion, and respect naturally translate into a welcoming environment where people will share and help one another. Which is why wherever Jeanne is, there you will find a strong community.”

–Kathrin Kohler

“It is not often I have a hallelujah moment in a course, online or otherwise. The Odyssey online course for Three-Act Structure, which I took in January of 2020, was an incredible amount of studying, outlining, writing, and critiquing, which brought me nose to nose with some of my most persistent problems with structure. The homework forced me to grapple with such things as annotated outlines, act divisions and causal chains in the works of well-known sci-fi and fantasy authors and then apply what I learned from that and the classes to my own work and that of my fellow classmates, an outstanding group of engaged and dedicated fellow learners. The hands-on approach in Odyssey courses is demanding, the workload daunting, but the payoff is extraordinary. For the very first time I was able to outline a story, write the story in record time and get immersed in a forward-moving creative flow while doing it. For a pokey pantser that’s quite a feat. I think I actually said “hallelujah” while writing it.”

–Caroline Lee

2016 – Instructor Jeanne Cavelos

“Whether you are a beginner at the craft of writing or a published professional you will benefit from an Odyssey Online Writing Course. I have taken other online courses and the two with Odyssey felt like I was in a physical college classroom. The teachers read my homework carefully and their evaluations motivated me to finish revising my novel. This course is for serious writers who want to improve their craft in a supportive environment. Worth every penny. (They should charge more!)”

—Steven Novick

“Thanks, so much, Jeanne. You’re truly doing a great job with this class, both in providing us with direct feedback and with the detailed design of the homework.

“Earlier, I mentioned that I want to work hard at improving my writing, but I was uncertain what kind of activities would be productive in that direction. I have no doubt that the work I’ve done this week in applying the class Critiquing Worksheet to four other stories has taught me a huge amount. Two particularly useful aspects were the structure of the Critiquing Worksheet and the fact that I was working with other students’ outlines. It took me a while to realize the importance of paying attention to every question in that worksheet, but I think that if I can ask each of those questions about my own work, then I’ll be surprised and delighted at my own progress. The fact that I was working with outlines instead of full stories had two positive consequences for me: First of all, it meant that I could learn from doing four stories in a concentrated way that I believe is reinforcing my learning. Second, it has made me rethink the value of an outline. In the past, I occasionally would write an outline before diving into writing the story, but I never analyzed the outline in the depth that’s suggested by the Critiquing Worksheet. After I’d written a whole story, I might have asked some of those questions, but by then I was often too invested in the story to make significant improvements.

“Finally, I want to reemphasize how the work that you put into this class, including individual feedback, is incomparable to any other online class that I’ve ever seen. Of course, I knew of your consummate dedication in the summer workshop, but I didn’t think it was possible for you to carry it over to an online class in a way that would inspire me so much. In the winter of 2014, I took an online class from elsewhere which promised some individual feedback and interaction. It was more expensive than the Odyssey Online classes, and knowing the amount of dedication that it takes to provide any individual feedback, I didn’t expect much. Even so, I was disappointed when it turned out that everything including the ‘feedback’ was totally recorded from previous years.

“You are doing a wonderful job, and I know that your efforts get multiplied many times over through your many students.”

—Michael Main

“Odyssey Online’s class on Three Act Structure is a delight, a reminder of the challenge and the thrill of learning with Jeanne Cavelos. If you haven’t attended Odyssey yet, try one of Odyssey’s online classes—you won’t be disappointed with what you learn, and you’ll get a taste of what the intensive summer workshop is like. I found this online format more effective in several ways, actually. Rather than being overwhelmed with a packed schedule of daily lectures, homework assignments, journal writing, stories to read, stories to write, and stories to critique, I was able to focus on a single subject while maintaining my daily routine. This class was on Three-Act Structure, and while Jeanne discussed three-act structure in detail at the summer workshop, this course was an invaluable review. Plus, there’s something wonderful about being at your day job and secretly plotting things that probably aren’t going to get you in trouble. The online class went further, expanding my understanding of story structure, in large part because I had the time to engage in deep practice through the well-chosen stories we read, the well-considered homework questions, and the outline writing exercises. If you’re serious about writing speculative fiction, I highly recommend you try out Odyssey Online.”

—Chip Houser

“In a four-week course on structure, Odyssey solved problems I had struggled with for decades. My abilities expanded again with Odyssey’s next course on Point of View: The intersection of Plot and Character. These are not just for fantasy or science fiction authors. Anyone who has ever felt like they are going in circles will find Odyssey offers practical, clear lessons from a passionate, experienced editor who knows how to teach.”

—Jenny Green

“Even in my residential time at the full Odyssey workshop, I didn’t successfully create a three-act structure. This area was a weakness for me. It made a difference to have a sustained focus over several weeks. I achieved that three-act goal in two separate stories during this workshop, so I consider another tool to be added to my kit. Of course it will take additional practice to master.”

—Learned Foote

“Jeanne’s care and passion for her work were not only evident even before the course had begun: in her initial rejection/wait-list notice, in which she offered a response to my application excerpt. When a space opened up, I jumped on it!

“I’ve come away (from Three-Act Structure) with a pair of X-ray goggles, which I can use to study the skeletons of successful and unsuccessful fiction: an invaluable tool.”

—Andrew Alford

“I took the Three-Act Structure in Fantastic Fiction course and learned an (almost) entirely new language: the vocabulary of captivating storytelling. Despite my experience as an author/editor, thanks to Odyssey and our supportive, expert instructor (Jeanne Cavelos), I realized how much I didn’t know about the craft and skill in building the foundation of a solid story. Nothing is so humbling as recognizing one’s own ignorance! But that’s the first step toward greater knowledge, and with the information-rich lectures, challenging homework, story analyses, group critiques and one-on-one time with Ms. Cavelos, I’m now fired up and ready to take on my works-in-progress . . . this time, able to understand what works, what doesn’t . . . and what will let my plots and characters transcend any clichés or easy paths. Thank you, Odyssey!”

—Kira Lerner

2013 – Instructor Jeanne Cavelos

“I came away from this course with increased confidence in my ability to see a story as a whole. It was an enriching experience.”

—Erin Wilcox

“Although I have taken online classes and workshops before, I have not worked so hard on class assignments since I was in college. This class will not only make you work, it will make you into a critical reader and a better writer.”

—David Ballard

“This is the second Odyssey online course I have done, and it was every bit as good as the first. Highly recommended. Short, but like an Italian espresso, sweet—and charges up your creative brain.”

—John Berks

“This class has made a big difference in the way I write. After the first lecture itself, I had an ‘Aha!’ moment. I now look at movies, novels and short stories in a fundamentally different way. Not only has my writing improved, the way I analyze and critique stories has undergone a positive change too. I am able to identify possible weaknesses in a plot and I am able to structure my stories better.

“The lectures notes, recordings and the group message board helped me learn at my pace. Jeanne’s thorough evaluation of the assignments was very insightful.”

—Geetanjali Dighe

2011 – Instructor Jeanne Cavelos

“Most fantastic (and other) fiction follows the three-act structure. Thanks to the Odyssey Online Course, the nature of three-act structure has become much clearer to me, which will be a great help for my future writing.”

—Regina Glei

“I was wonderfully surprised by how much I could learn in such a compact course. I feel like a key element of writing has been forever inscribed in my mind, in my writing process. This may prove to be the single most important learning moment in my development as a writer.”

—Peter Simonson

“WOW! This course was incredible. Jeanne Cavelos is not only an expert in her field but also a wonderful teacher, a truly rare combination! I learnt so much. I can’t recommend this course highly enough.”

—Katie Lavers

“This class has changed the way I write. Before, the words ‘plot and structure’ would make me recoil in anxiety and frustration. Now, I see plot and structure as exciting tools to help me create the kind of stories I want to write.”

—Tom L. Waters

“It was somewhere in the pre-class assignment that I felt the onset of a purposeful build up of skills, skills that developed into the ability to analyze the artistic yet mathematical structure behind stories. Understanding strengths and weaknesses of structures including my own; a new way of reading stories to learn from them; resources to improve my writing; a new group of people to belong to, one that shares the same passion yet provides different strengths; viewpoint and expert advice of a great teacher on my work; all do their part in making this experience a huge leap forward in my writing. I am looking forward to being in future Odyssey classes.”

—Anahita Ayasoufi

2016 – Instructor David B. Coe

“This course gave me a way to see through the crazy mess of my writing a bit more. I sense that the progress I’ve made is huge, and that I see more how to write characters that readers will feel. At the very least, I have added another dimension to my writing process that isn’t just theoretical, but extremely practical and tangible. Thank you.”

—Julia Gandrud

“Odyssey is like the restaurant you don’t like to recommend in case you can’t get a seat. And with Odyssey Online you can get home delivery, anywhere in the world! It is consistently well organized; with knowledgeable, enthusiastic instructors; and supportive fellow students.”

—John Berks

“This was my first Odyssey online workshop. My expectations were high based on what I read about the workshop, but the class exceeded my expectations. Coming into the class, I felt that I understood character but struggled with plot. This class has helped me change my thinking about plot. The assignments asked us to experiment with point of view; they took me out of my comfort zone, which I needed to grow as a writer. I had to work through my point-of-view characters more intensely than I have in the past to solve the challenge of the assignments. I could not rely on the skills I brought into class, and I think I grew as a result.”

—Heather Henry

“Odyssey transformed me as a writer, no doubt. But I am also now a much more intuitive reader as a result of taking David B. Coe’s workshop on point of view. That was a gem I hadn’t expected. I’ve always known that writing well and reading well go hand in hand, and I’ve always loved to read. David’s shared insights have made reading even more fulfilling and enjoyable for me, something I never thought possible. Plain and simple, Odyssey changed my life.”

—Jacque E. Day

2015 – Instructor Jeanne Cavelos

“The mantra ‘Show don’t tell’ rings from lips of every teacher in every writing class that I’ve ever attended but I’ve never understood what they meant: how to write ‘showing’, when to write ‘showing’, or why. Odyssey has changed all that. Now I get it. In this class, Jeanne explains first the psychological underpinning of ‘Show don’t tell’, and from that she teaches us how to write in ways that engage the senses. And engage our readers. Now I get it. I understand the rationale. I see it in the writing of respected authors. And my new understanding and developing skills bring clear direction and impetus for improving my own writing. Brilliant. Thank you Jeanne.”

—Jack Calverley

“Most graduate-level writing workshops I’ve attended have been tolerant of speculative fiction. But Odyssey provides a singular experience that so many other classes simply do not. Jeanne encourages you to analyze writing with a penetrating and honest editorial gaze, explore fictional elements both subtle and straightforward, and crucially–she provides tangible steps and techniques that help you strengthen your writing. I’ve heard it said that great writing cannot be taught, but Odyssey instills writers with an Art of Good Practice so they can become great, with integrity. That’s very empowering.”

—Larissa Glasser

“When I applied for Odyssey’s Showing versus Telling class, I expected to learn ways to sharpen my writing. What I actually gained in the one-month online class was a whole new perspective on both my short fiction and my novel—breaking down each scene to determine its most important points and making sure the most vivid showing is saved for the critical elements. Jeanne Cavelos’s lectures gave us the principles; homework and critiques drove home the lecture topics. In my opinion, the class was worth every penny of the tuition cost.”

—Leoma Retan

“I have taken other on-line classes where the only feedback I received from the instructor was that my writing was ‘good’. THIS is not like one of those courses. Jeanne critiques the work with a critical eye. She provides honest feedback about what is working and what is not working in the story. In addition, she gives helpful suggestions about how to improve the writing. Jeanne is very knowledgeable and approachable as an instructor.”

—Teresa Marchi

“The Odyssey online course on Showing versus Telling taught me a lot, and not just about the title topic. The course offered powerful insights into scene structuring, conveying emotion and creating meaningful dialogue. The course challenged me, and the interaction with other students was invaluable. Using the Critiquing Worksheet was an education in itself!”

—Tim Armstrong (writing as Timothy Gwyn)

“After six weeks of hard work, I feel a bit reborn as a writer. Top notch workshop. Top notch instructor. No matter what our genre or what the level of our proficiency was beforehand, in just five weeks of hard work, all of us were much more skilled writers. I can’t recommend it highly enough.”

—Gigi Vernon

“An Odyssey Online Class is a great way of making major improvements in your writing in a short period of time. It is rare that writers receive any useful feedback with rejections of their work. In an Odyssey Online Class, the critiques of fellow students and the instructor show you how others view your work, the first step to real improvement. The instructor for Showing versus Telling, Jeanne Cavelos, is a thoughtful, truthful, kind and encouraging teacher.”

—Tom Fisken

“I’ve taken several writing workshops, some with famous writers, and while I learned something from each one, I never imagined I could get so much out of a workshop until I took Odyssey’s online class on showing versus telling. It’s given me much greater control over my writing and taught me to let the reader experience a scene instead of just hear about it. Jeanne Cavelos is the best close reader I’ve ever seen, and she treats all writing with respect. Take any course she teaches; you’ll work harder than you expected to and make major advances.”

—John Askins

2012 – Instructor Jeanne Cavelos

“Are you are tired of telling tales? Do your readers seem uninvolved in your stories? Then Odyssey’s Showing versus Telling in Fantastic Fiction is the course for you! This course gave me the tools to build up my showing, whether I was tackling emotions, actions, thoughts or setting. And I had a chance to try out these new tools under the eye of Jeanne Cavelos, our enthusiastic but rigorous instructor. The on-line delivery made it a convenient way to learn.”

—John Berks

“Jeanne’s Showing versus Telling in Fantastic Fiction was another amazingly effective Odyssey Online course that I had the privilege of participating in. As Jeanne’s brilliant teaching guided the discussions and led me through passage after passage of great writing examples, revealing their subtleties, rendering their secrets and the techniques responsible for their emotional impact, and as her amazingly designed assignments led me to experience such effective revision tools, study them, apply them, make them my own, and as it all took place among the propelling enthusiasm of such a diversely talented group, I saw my weaknesses and learned to treat them; I saw my strengths and learned to enhance them. I felt the gigantic leap of improvement, and so did my readers. Now after the class has ended, I sit in eagerness for what’s in store for next year. I can’t imagine a better class than the one I just had, and yet experience tells me that for sure it will be.”

—Anahita Ayasoufi

“I started out not understanding showing vs. telling and offering resistance to the idea of showing. In the last assignment I felt like I GOT IT. I’m calling it a breakthrough. My post-Showing versus Telling writing was so much better than the passage my pre-SVT writing. Like 100 times better. You can see, sense, feel the scene that I am writing.”

—Tambi Harwood

“Jeanne’s teaching gets at a level of sophistication and nuance in writing that’s hard to find in other courses. These are the questions that writers want answered, even if they haven’t articulated those questions in their own minds yet. I especially like the way Jeanne highlights tools and best practices and working principles. The lessons are easy to capture and remember.

—Peter Simonson

“This class gave names to writing concepts I’ve struggled with for a while, and provided the guidance and practice I needed to improve. Thank you, Jeanne, for the insightful lectures, challenging assignments, and individualized support.”

—Jen Hansum

“Thank you, Jeanne, for the in-depth discussion of how to engage the reader with more showing and less telling. I finally get what so many people say ‘show, don’t tell!’ My fiction has already improved. Great class!”

—Carol March

“Odyssey Online is an invaluable resource to any writer who is serious about writing the best fiction they possibly can. Each class is intense and will make you look at your writing in a whole new way, but when you are done you will be glad you took the journey.”

—George Weiss

2010 – Instructor Jeanne Cavelos

“Every single part of this course was invaluable. I have never before enjoyed working so incredibly hard at my craft while thinking that I was having the time of my life!”

—Christine Row

“This course really does teach how to makes settings vivid, bring characters to life, and put the reader right into the story through the skillful manipulation of showing and telling.”

—Emma Monroe

“Fun, dynamic, a great class for brushing up on your skills and learning new ones.”

—Jordan Summers

“Odyssey Online can help anyone who is serious about improving his or her fiction writing. You get in-depth lectures, detailed critiques, tools to make your writing stronger, talented classmates, and Jeanne’s expertise and individualized attention, while you work in your home office.”

—Keith Sen

“The Odyssey Online workshop far exceeded my hopes. As a developing fantasy writer living in a small town, I was at a loss to find mentoring and fellowship in my genre. Jeanne’s expert, engaging lectures and thorough critiques made every moment spent on the work worthwhile. Now I have tools to take my writing to the next level and a budding community of fellow writers with whom to grow.”

—Lorraine Heisler

“Odyssey Online changed the way I write and read. It is a great opportunity for all those who cannot participate in the ‘real’ workshop due to family, day job, distance, etc. issues. For me the online form of Odyssey was a blessing: despite living in Japan, I could participate in this excellent class, which took my writing to the next level.”

—Regina Glei

“This class exceeded my highest expectations. Excellent barely begins to describe the quality and quantity of learning in this class for writers. The instructor was caring, enthusiastic, and recognized us as individuals. She knew us and our writing. That is unbelievable in today’s world of college classes of hundreds of students.”

—Tom Kappel

2015 – Instructor C.C. Finlay

“The Odyssey Online course on Effective Endings gave me plenty of material to make my stories better. The class fit into my busy schedule, and I loved that I could relax at home while learning. The online class feels a lot like being in a ‘live’ class. Charlie was an enthusiastic teacher with wonderful insights that I’ve already applied to my writing. I would definitely take another Odyssey Online course.”

—Rebecca Roland

“This class helped me become a better reader of my own work. I now have analytical tools to use, and the confidence to apply them to craft better beginnings and endings. And, thanks to this class, I’ll never look at titles the same way! The learning environment was very supportive and the individual critiques were on point and instructive. Thanks for a great course!”

—Nadya Duke

2014 – Instructor Nancy Holder

“Before I signed up for Odyssey’s ‘The Secrets of a Satisfying Short Story’ course, I had been struggling with ways to pull my stories together into integrated wholes. I was forever tacking bits onto a story and filling in cracks. However, for every word I added or changed, I simply created more problems for my story. What I got from the Odyssey course was a way to approach my writing that pulled the story together as I wrote. I have yet to master this art (perhaps I never will) but at least I now have something to aim for instead of flailing around in a vacuum. The course was very intensive—at times I put in twice the hours they suggest—but it was very well organised by Jeanne, and our tutor, Nancy, has an immense breadth of experience and depth of knowledge and was enthusiastic in sharing her craft with us. If you’re serious about your writing, seriously consider signing up for this course (but don’t expect an easy ride).”

—Jack Calverley

“The Secrets of a Satisfying Short Story with Nancy Holder opened the doors to new horizons for my writing–giving me greater perspective and new tools to apply to my efforts. I already feel I am a better writer with only one course under my belt.”

—Darin Hlavaz

“The experience of taking Secrets of a Satisfying Short Story with Nancy Holder was fun and illuminating! Writing ‘short’ and creating stories that are focused is not easy. In particular I gained awareness around the idea of the single effect, learned a variety of structural tools, and how to engage readers on an emotional level. The online class environment was perfectly done–handouts and lectures with plenty of opportunity for discussion. Getting feedback on my stories from Nancy and my classmates was the best part. And becoming a part of the Odyssey family is awesome!”

—Karen Rochnik

2013 – Instructor Elaine Isaak

“An excellent class that equipped me with good ideas and useful techniques for creating viable characters. Receiving very detailed critiques by fellow students and by the class instructor Elaine let me see my work from multiple angles, sometimes confirming my own views, sometimes surprising me greatly, always in helpful and informative ways. A very rewarding experience altogether.”

—Frank Hagelberg

“Before my characters began their existence as plain-vanilla and I tried to develop them as the story progressed. Bodies and Heartbeats gave me the tools to create characters that engage from the moment they step on the page, characters ready for conflict, adventure, and suffering.”

—Scott T. Barnes

2012 – Instructor Kate McKean

“Odyssey Online is a great way for busy people to enhance their writing skills.”

—Regina Glei

“The Odyssey program has done it again! Not only do they offer some outstanding courses, but they are taught by some of the best in the business. The one-on-one attention you get in the Odyssey program has helped me take my writing to the next level. Working with an agent really helped me find my strengths and my weaknesses in my query and synopsis. Every writer trying to break through should consider taking an Odyssey class. The quality of instructors and the talent of other students made me feel like I was part of an elite group. It was a grand experience. Thanks again Jeanne!”

—Peter Simonson

2011 – Instructor Nancy Kress

“Nancy Kress is not only a brilliant author, but a fantastic instructor. I can’t recommend this course more highly. It is an aspiring writer’s goldmine. Where else but Odyssey can you find this kind of knowledge sharing with such a global reach?”

—Paul Kuncl

“A fantastic course from a top-notch professional writer who gave information and ideas with wonderful, inspiring generosity.”

—Katrina Lavers

“Writing in Scenes gave me the tools to take a step back and analyze and improve my scenes—excellent course!”

—Regina Glei

“I was thrilled by the level of care, thoroughness, and honesty my classmates showed in their critiques. As a result of this course, I’m more attentive than ever to providing clarity, interest, and enjoyment for my audience.”

—Jen Hansum

“The Odyssey Online Class not only changed the way I tackle my writing, but also taught me to read others’ work more closely. What you learn here will help you continue to improve long after the last session.”

—Sara Ellis

“The Odyssey Online Classes provide an exceptional evaluation of your skills as a writer as well as the tools to advance them to the next level. The instructors are beyond compare, the lectures are insightful and thought-provoking, and the assignments will challenge students to exceed their own expectations.”

—Christine Row

2012 – Instructor Bruce Holland Rogers

“This course was brilliant. It was intense, stimulating and demanding. I could not have asked for more!”

—Katie Lavers

“Bruce’s Narrative Structure class exceeded my expectations and I’m very glad I tried out an online class. We got meaty information to think about, challenging homework to complete, and support from an instructor who is caring and insightful.”

—Liz Argall

“The Narrative Structures in Fantastic Fiction course was the first online class I’ve ever taken, and I was pleased with the organization and overall quality. The homework was challenging, which I appreciated because I intended to learn. I have many more tools at my disposal when I write and edit. On top of that, I am now connected with other writers who have received similar instruction and can help me improve in a more specialized way.”

—Carrie E. Stemrich

Online Classes