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Publicity Release

November 2013






Odyssey, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with the mission of helping writers improve their work, is offering three exciting, new online courses this winter.


All Odyssey Online courses involve live online class meetings, so students can ask questions and participate in the class.  Each course is designed to provide intensive focus on a particular aspect of fiction writing and challenging homework assignments to help students improve their skills.  Feedback from the instructor and from classmates allows students to make strong improvements.  Each student also has an individual meeting with the instructor.  Courses provide a supportive yet challenging, energizing atmosphere, with class size limited to fourteen students.  While courses are designed for adult writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror, interested writers of all genres are welcome to apply.


Last winter, a total of 42 hard-working writers from the US, Canada, India, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan, participated in Odyssey's three online courses.  One student, a lawyer and published writer from Indiana, commented, "Although I have taken online classes and workshops before, I have not worked so hard on class assignments since I was in college."  Odyssey instructors pack as much useful content into each course as possible, and with our live class sessions, instructors can reach across the miles to students, fostering energetic discussions and making strong connections.


Odyssey's winter 2014 courses focus on key issues for writers:


Powerful Dialogue in Fantastic Fiction

Course Meets:  January 2 - 30, 2014

Instructor:  Jeanne Cavelos

Application Deadline:  December 7, 2013


Graduates of Jeanne Cavelos's previous Odyssey Online courses have been clamoring for her to offer a new subject, and they've also been requesting a course on dialogue, so Odyssey is excited to offer Powerful Dialogue in Fantastic Fiction.  Dialogue is one of the major components of most works of fiction, yet few writers give it much thought beyond trying to make it sound realistic and trying to make each character have a distinct manner of speaking.  But a writer needs to do much more than that to create powerful dialogue.


Powerful dialogue can leave readers hanging on every word. It can delight and surprise readers. It can resonate long after the book is closed. It can drive the story forward, reveal character, show the nuances in relationships, develop internal or external conflict, provide a powerful contrast with action, convey subtext, alter pace, build atmosphere, carry cultural or educational differences, increase tension, and reveal setting and other information.  This course will help students to write layered, powerful dialogue that accomplishes multiple goals and resonates with readers long after they finish the story.


The Heart of the Matter:  Bringing Emotional Resonance to Your Storytelling

Course Meets:  January 6 - February 3, 2014

Instructor:  Barbara Ashford

Application Deadline:  December 10, 2013


Barbara Ashford's online class last year was one of the most popular we've ever had; every student who filled out an evaluation rated it "excellent"! So we asked Barbara to teach again this year. Her new course deals with one of the issues writers struggle with most: evoking strong emotions in the reader.  This course will offer breakthrough insights to students.


Award-winning novelist Barbara Ashford believes in storytelling that takes readers on a journey that satisfies their hearts as well as their minds.  Readers love stories that force characters to confront their darkest fears, expose their shameful secrets, survive their most wrenching confrontations. But just having your character cry or laugh or scream will never get readers to share the emotions behind those actions.  It requires careful crafting--from conception to execution--to achieve that.  This course will take you from "setting the stage"--exploring and understanding the emotions inherent in a story idea--to "getting it on the page" by showing complex emotions through your writing.


The Secrets of a Satisfying Short Story

Course Meets:  January 23 - February 20, 2014

Instructor:  Nancy Holder

Application Deadline:  December 27, 2013


At last summer's Odyssey Writing Workshop, Nancy Holder spent a week with students as writer-in-residence. Students were so thrilled with that week--with the one-on-one work Nancy did with them, the critiques she provided, and the insights they received--that we asked Nancy to teach an online class. She's adapting and radically expanding one of her Odyssey lectures to create The Secrets of a Satisfying Short Story.


The short story is a very demanding form, and it provides no margin for error. Many writers don't understand the bedrock principles that make for a successful short story.  They write without a clear sense of what they want to achieve, and without sufficiently developing the key ingredients that will help them achieve it.  This course will start by discussing Edgar Allan Poe's criteria for a short story, which offer powerful, clarifying principles.  We'll then explore the key concepts of idea, premise, and plot, and how to make sure you aren't writing from an idea but have made the journey from idea to premise to plot.  We'll study how the beginning of the story leads to the surprising but inevitable end.  We'll discuss why weak endings are the most common problem among writers and how to make your ending strong. We'll work on connecting internal and external conflicts; developing your conflicts through cause and effect; distinguishing between presenting and representing; identifying and remaining focused on your story; and revising your work.


More information about Odyssey's online classes can be found here: or by emailing


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PLEASE NOTE:  Those application deadlines are coming up soon!  If you would like to apply for more than one course, you must apply separately for each one.


Odyssey's Online Classes provide the tools you need to improve your writing, along with feedback on your work that reveals whether you are successfully using those tools.  If you're ready to hear about the weaknesses in your writing and ready to work to overcome them, you'd be welcome to apply to our online classes.


In addition, the Odyssey site,, offers many resources for writers, including free podcasts, writing and publishing tips, a writing blog, a critique service, and information about the six-week in-person workshop.


Spend the winter taking your writing to the next level!