Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust



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Odyssey Online Writing Classes

Course Offerings for Winter 2015:
Showing versus Telling in Fantastic Fiction
  Course Meets: January 1 - January 29, 2015
Instructor: Jeanne Cavelos
Application Deadline: December 6, 2014
One Brick at a Time: Crafting Compelling Scenes
  Course Meets: January 5 - February 2, 2015
Instructor: Barbara Ashford
Application Deadline: December 9, 2014
Effective Endings in Speculative Fiction
  Course Meets: January 22 - February 19, 2015
Instructor: C. C. Finlay
Application Deadline: December 26, 2014

A Message from Jeanne Cavelos, Director, about the Online Classes:


Since its inception in 1996, the Odyssey Writing Workshop has become one of the most highly respected programs for writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror in the world. Through an advanced curriculum, intensive focus, directed study, and detailed feedback, students gain a much deeper understanding of the elements of fiction writing and make major improvements in their work.

To further our mission of helping developing writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror, we have taken the techniques that are so effective at the workshop and adapted them to create online classes. We've worked very hard to ensure that our online classes are of the same quality and caliber as our in-person workshop and that they deserve to carry the name of Odyssey.

Woman in Headphones Odyssey's online classes are rigorous and demanding, giving you the most for your time and effort. You should not apply unless you are ready to hear about the weaknesses in your writing and ready to work to overcome them. Classes provide a supportive yet challenging, energizing atmosphere. Taking one of our online classes is a great way to focus on your writing, giving it the time and attention it needs. Each class is focused on a particular element of fiction writing and is designed for writers at a particular skill level.

Taking one of Odyssey's online classes is not equivalent to attending the Odyssey workshop, and should not in any way be considered a substitute. There is no substitute for devoting yourself solely to your writing for six weeks, with the focus, intensity, group bonding, and extended, directed study such an in-person experience involves.

Man with Three Screens But writers can improve through many different experiences. Odyssey's online classes will provide you with valuable tools and techniques and will guide you as you practice using them. We'll study some of the most beautiful and powerful writing in the field to gain understanding of what these tools can do when wielded with skill. We'll also discuss the common failings of developing writers and explain how to avoid those pitfalls. Classes will also provide you with new insights into the writing process and into your writing in particular, through detailed feedback.

We are offering three wonderful courses in our 2015 season. Barbara Ashford, one of our most highly rated instructors, has crafted a new course for this winter, One Brick at a Time, on scene structure. Each scene should have a shape and purpose, and the author must figure out which elements, in which combination, will help that scene achieve its purpose. Properly designing the scene, laying out the beats, and maximizing their impact will create a powerful experience that makes the reader turn pages. This was one of the most commonly suggested subjects for a course, so I'm glad we're able to offer it.

I've been hearing wonderful things about C. C. Finlay's workshops for years, and I was thrilled when he agreed to teach a course for Odyssey. I was even more thrilled when he told me the subject he'd like to teach: Effective Endings. The most common weak area in stories is the ending. Again and again, I find writers able to grab my attention with a strong beginning and build through a compelling middle, but when the end arrives, I find myself confused, incredulous, or deeply disappointed. The ending is the true test of the story, of the author's ability to give greater meaning and power to everything that has preceded it with a surprising yet inevitable resolution, a resonant image, a revelatory final line. This will be a very helpful class to any writer.

Finally, many writers have been asking me to offer my Showing versus Telling course again, so after three years, it's back due to popular demand. In my experience, few writers truly understand the difference between showing and telling. To write a strong story, an author must know the difference, must know how to do each with skill, and must be able to make wise decisions about where to show and where to tell. These abilities are key to every sentence in every story. The skillful manipulation of showing and telling makes settings vivid, brings characters to life, puts the reader in the middle of the action, emphasizes the most important ideas and moments, provides clarity, involves the reader, and conveys powerful emotions. Students have found this course extremely helpful.

Odyssey's online classes operate through five components:

  • Lectures and discussions: Lectures and discussions are scheduled for particular times, and students are expected to attend all of them at the scheduled times. Students receive access to these sessions through GoToMeeting.com. At class time, you call the class phone number and go to the appropriate Web site (no GoToMeeting account is required). The instructor will be live on the other end of the phone, giving the lecture, and your computer screen will become the instructor's blackboard, where various examples and notes will be displayed.

    By clicking on the appropriate icon, you can raise your hand, use the phone to ask a question, and listen to the questions of other students, who are all on the same conference call.

    Some sessions will involve more discussion, with students commenting on their experiences with the assigned work. You can get to know your classmates and form supportive friendships.

  • Class materials: Supporting materials are posted on a Yahoo Group, which you will be asked to join when you enroll in the class. You will be required to print out some materials, so you can refer to them during lectures.

  • Writing exercises and assignments: Homework will be assigned at each class meeting and must be completed by the due date. In most courses, you will also offer feedback on some of your classmates' work, and they will provide feedback on your work.

  • Communication with the instructor: Since class sizes are small, you'll have plenty of opportunity to ask questions and discuss issues with the instructor. The instructor will be providing in-depth feedback on your work and offering suggestions and advice. The instructor will also have a one-on-one meeting with each student.

  • Communication with me: If I am not the instructor of the class, I will still be sitting in on the class to provide technical support to the instructor. I will be reading the applications and making admissions decisions, coordinating the dissemination of advance materials, setting up the Yahoo Group, providing support if you have technical problems, and making myself available by email and phone if you have questions or problems of any kind during the course.

Our classes are for writers serious about improving their writing. Whether you're a beginner or a published writer, you'll be able to find an Odyssey Online Class to help you attack your weak areas and take your writing to the next level.

Here are some other details about the courses:

  • Class size: Limited to 14 students, unless otherwise announced.

  • Instructors: Top authors, editors, and agents serve as instructors for Odyssey's online classes. You can find information about the instructor of each course on the specific class page. I teach one course per year.

  • Time requirements: Make sure you check the specific class page to find out when lectures will be held. You need to attend class at those times.

    An estimate of the amount of time homework assignments will take is also provided on the specific class page.

  • Work requirements: Assignments may include readings, writing exercises, critiquing, and writing and revising your fiction. See the specific class page for more details.

  • Technological requirements: The computer specifications below may look a bit intimidating, if you're not a technical person. Chances are, if you've bought your computer in the last 7 years, it will fulfill the requirements. So don't panic; just go through them one at a time and make sure you are covered.

    • A telephone or a USB headset (made up of headphones and microphone) that you can plug into your computer. If you use a phone, your phone will be charged for a standard long-distance call during the lectures and discussions.

    • Assignments must be turned in as MS Word files, rich text files, or ascii files.

    • Class materials will be distributed in MS Word files. You must be able to read such files.

    If you have a PC, the following is required:

    • Internet Explorer 8.0 or newer, Mozilla Firefox 4.0 or newer, or Google Chrome 5.0 or newer; in any of these, JavaScript must be enabled

    • Windows 8, Windows 7, Vista, XP, or 2003 Server

    • Dual-core 2.4GHz CPU or faster with 2GB of RAM (recommended)

    • Cable modem, DSL, or better Internet connection

    • To see the instructor via webcam, 700 Kbps or more bandwidth (you can check your bandwidth here). If you don't have this much bandwidth, you can still participate but will probably need to close the small window showing the instructor

    If you have a Mac, the following is required:

    • Safari 3.0 or newer, Firefox 4.0 or newer, or Google Chrome 5.0 or newer; in any of these, JavaScript must be enabled

    • Mac OS X 10.7—Lion or newer

    • 2.4 GHz Intel processor (Core 2 Duo), and 1 GB of RAM

    • Cable modem, DSL, or better Internet connection

    • To see the instructor via webcam, 700 Kbps or more bandwidth (you can check your bandwidth here). If you don't have this much bandwidth, you can still participate but will probably need to close the small window showing the instructor

  • Cost: Class tuition varies depending on the course. See the specific class page for more information. The tuition costs quoted are the discounted rates for US students paying by check or money order, and for international students paying by bank draft in US dollars.

    Students have the additional option of paying tuition through PayPal which allows you to charge the costs on a credit card. Those using PayPal need to pay the full rates, which are about 4% higher.

  • How to apply: All prospective students must fill out an Odyssey Online Application and include a 1,000-word writing sample. There is a $10 application fee. If you are admitted to the course, $10 will be deducted from the tuition. See the specific class page or the top of this page for the application deadlines.

  • Refunds: All tuition payments are non-refundable.

The Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to help developing writers realize their potential and make their work the best it can be. My experiences over Odyssey's nineteen years have been incredible. Talented writers of all ages, from all over the world, have given their all, improved their writing, and made exciting breakthroughs.

Hands at Keyboard If you're willing to dedicate your time and energy in that quest, if you're willing to hear about the weaknesses in your writing and work to improve them, then I hope you'll apply for one of our online classes.

You can find comments from graduates of Odyssey's Online Classes here.

Please check out the Odyssey Online Frequently Asked Questions page. If you have any additional questions, feel free to e-mail me.

To receive information about future classes, sign up for our free e-newsletter.

If you want help improving your writing but can't make the scheduled times for the classes, or you feel the classes aren't the right option for you, you may want to check out our Odyssey Critique Service. It allows you to receive professional-level feedback on your writing.

In the meantime, I hope you'll find this site a useful resource for your writing.

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Updated Dec 27, 2014
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