Odyssey Writing Workshop: Expectations vs. Reality

J. M. Plumbley photoDo any research on the Odyssey Writing Workshop and you’ll find alumni testimonials singing its praises, many calling it “life-changing.” After a while, reading through all that positivity can make your eyes glaze over. “Oh come on,” you might think. “It can’t be that good.”

I came to the 2018 workshop with irresponsibly high expectations. After hearing great things from a member of the class of 2016, I spent a full two years saving money and trying to level up my skills enough to attend the workshop myself. When I got my acceptance email, I had to go to my company’s bathroom so that my silent screams and hops of triumph wouldn’t alarm my coworkers.

With so much on the line, it would have been easy for me to be disappointed. Had I attended any other program, I very well might have been.

But not with Odyssey.

I knew that I would learn a lot. I did not know that I would leave classes near speechless from repeated revelations and epiphanies. I did not guess that I would fill two entire notebooks with notes, nor go through a dozen pens in filling those notebooks, drafting my stories, and critiquing my classmates’ work.

I knew that I would work hard. I did not know that I would be up until 2am on Day One, nor that pen calluses were a thing. I did not know how gratifying it would be to shine a spotlight on my weak spots, to struggle towards making them strengths.

I knew that I would make great friends. I did not know how quickly and how deeply I would come to respect every one of my classmates. I did not know that Jeanne is not only a Dumbledore-level teacher, but a wonderfully kind person and mentor. I had no idea how hard I would laugh with everyone. I did not know how badly I’d miss them after we left.

My friends keep asking me how “that Writing Program Thing” went. My go-to response has become “I aged 10 years, in the best way possible.” They laugh, but I’m completely serious. Odyssey has given me an advantage of knowledge and wisdom that I could not have gotten anywhere else. I have yet to find a better way to convey the enormity of its impact.

Really, I shouldn’t have been surprised. There is another pattern you’ll discover in Odyssey alumni testimonials: Again and again, the workshop exceeds even its students’ greatest expectations.

I’d suggest that you calibrate yours accordingly.


J.M. Plumbley writes fantasy, horror, and a blog about monsters. She is an active member of the Brooklyn Speculative Fiction Writers and a proud graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. The bulk of her spare time is spent defending her keyboard from her cat.

Find her online at jmplumbley.com.

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