This is the last post in a series that I’ve been doing about my experience at the Odyssey Fantasy Writing Workshop. If you haven’t read the three that came before it, I suggest that you do so. Otherwise, it will be like diving into a sequel before reading the first book, which is okay if you’re into that sort of thing, I guess… maybe. 😛
So, last post, I left off after I has just attended my first class, and gotten comfortable with my classmates. This post, I’d like to get to the critique, and some of the extra activities offered at Odyssey during our evenings and weekends.
Our critique sessions were structured so that we all went around in a circle, and read pre-written comments from our readings the night or weekend before. If we had an author guest, they also sat in on our critique and offered their feedback on the work being presented. This experience was invaluable to me, as a beginning writer, because the opportunity to get face-to-face feedback on my work really helped hit home some of the issues in my fiction that I may have just brushed off without hearing them from people I trust, and it also instilled in me that sense that I was writing to communicate to an audience, not just speaking in my own code to myself. I believe that these revelations put me on the path to eventual publication.
The critique sessions were also nice because we got to continually work together over a six week time period, and understand the way everybody worked a lot better than if we had just all walked in off the street. The lessons by the guest speakers taught us a lot about professionalism, and the way that the publishing industry really works.
We also got a chance to go to Readercon in Boston during our stay at Odyssey, which was a treat and a half, and a great networking opportunity. I met lots of interesting people, bought lots of indie zines and broadened my reading horizons, and got to watch a really wonderful keynote address by China Mieville on US Imperialism. I will never forget the dealers’ room at Readercon… it’s an avid SF reader’s dream. Nothing ever came of the con, publication-wise, but I sure learned a lot.
The things I have shared in this post series are just a small sampling of all the neat things I did at Odyssey… and I haven’t even gotten to my time at the alumni workshop yet! I’m sure I’ll get to more stories as the blog goes on, but I’ve talked about the things here that I think would help others in deciding whether or not to apply for Odyssey. In that regard, I’ve got one more thing to add.
I’ve already covered the reasons why you should go to Odyssey, but, are there reasons why you might want to wait a while? Well, there are a couple.
First of all, and most importantly, you need to be sure that you can take constructive criticism. I’m not talking about people ripping your work apart without evidence as to why– that’s never called for, and in my experience, you have every right not to listen to that. What I’m saying is… can you listen to people’s well-reasoned criticism of things you have done without taking offense or feeling too hurt? A little sensitivity is normal, but a lot of times, if people aren’t used to artistic criticism, it can hit surprisingly hard.
My advice, on this front, is to try going to some online critique communities, or a local writer’s group. Some libraries host free groups, so that is a good option for some people. Either that, or ask a friend whose opinion you really trust whether or not you can take criticism, and really listen to what they have to say. Hint: if you don’t like their answer and freak out, you can’t take criticism.
The other reason you might want to wait a while is if you don’t want to commit to an intensive, University-style course with homework, journaling, extra-curricular activities and daily classes. If you are a procrastinator, or habitually late, or fond of sleeping in, you need to seriously examine your habits and decide whether or not you are willing to put them aside for an entire month and a half. While at Odyssey, all of the classes are compulsory, and you can be asked to leave for various reasons, lack of attendance being one of the main ones.
That being said, I had a wonderful time at Odyssey, and if you’re serious about pursuing speculative fiction full time as a career, it’s not just an option– it’s a must. So dust off your keyboard and get those fingertips a-tappin’, because you can’t go if you don’t apply! Here’s that web address one more time: http://www.sff.net/odyssey
Thus ends my story. Tomorrow… Science Fiction Conventions, and an exclusive progress report on my costume!