In the Summer of 2011 I attended the Odyssey Writing Workshop in New Hampshire.
All I can say is that it was amazing, intense and overwhelming. And even these words don’t do it justice. I knew it was going to be these things. I’d heard countless testimonials claiming the same. But to finally actually experience it was both surreal and profound. I am moved by the experience.
First, I’ll just say that Odyssey made me very happy...happier than I’ve been in a long time. I’ve been writing since I was a kid, and dreaming of being a writer for just as long, but other than perhaps majoring in English in college, I’ve never done anything quite as profound and dedicated toward furthering my writing ability. I’ve never been immersed in writing–fiction writing–in such an all-encompassing way before, never been surrounded by so many other talented students of writing before, and never have I met a teacher like Jeanne Cavelos before.
I’ve read books on writing and so many of them are nebulous and oblique when it comes to craft. Ditto for some of the short seminars and panels on writing that I’ve experienced–some even taught by well known and bestselling authors. There was nothing vague about the teaching at Odyssey. It was a thorough and broad program that really got into the nuts and bolts of writing, from a brief treatise on grammar to the mechanics of plot, voice, character, and several other aspects of the art and craft of fiction writing. I knew I’d learn a lot at Odyssey, but I didn’t realize how much, and how much of a jump start it would give to my abilities. Even in the first week, I could already look back on older work and see flaws that I hadn’t noticed before. From here on out, I have a new paradigm on how I write, and how I rewrite.
There were many great things about Odyssey. But I’d have to say the greatest of them is the main instructor herself, Jeanne Cavelos. Jeanne is the heart and soul of Odyssey. She is Odyssey. She has to be one of the most talented writers and editors that I’ve ever met. Getting a three or four page critique of a story from her is humbling, but also eye opening (or perhaps mind opening is a better way to put it). She is the best asset and resource at Odyssey.
But also important and worthwhile is the interaction with the fifteen other students at Odyssey. This is all part of the process of immersing one’s self in six weeks of writing intensity. In this case, it takes the form of reading and critiquing each others’ work. I knew this was a valuable skill that I wanted to learn, because I’ve long wanted to begin to interact with other writers out there, and critiquing through various writers groups is a great way to do that. But I also found that critiquing others work is a great way to hone my own skills. Seeing other writers’ various strengths and weaknesses and identifying them in a critique can help me identify the same in my own. This was perhaps one of the most unexpected benefits of the Odyssey format.
I’ve also made some great new writing friends that I look forward to interacting with in the years to come–not only my classmates, but other Odyssey graduates (Odfellows) from years past. There’s a great network setup to interact with graduates from previous years.
So, all in all, I would have to say that the Odyssey experience for me has been priceless and invaluable, and has accelerated my growth as a writer by a factor of several years. I’m proud and humbled that I got the chance to attend.
Click here to learn more about Odyssey.