The Odyssey Writing Workshop Podcast

  Andrew Knighton    May 08, 2018
The Odyssey Writing Workshop Podcast

Level: Advanced

The Odyssey podcast is an unusual resource - an irregular podcast featuring snippets from a science fiction and fantasy writing course. The range of topics and lecturers featured means that it gives access to an unusual, if slightly disjointed, range of insights.

The Odyssey Writing Workshop is one of the most respected courses in the world for writers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Run by professional editor Jeanne Cavelos, it draws in lecturers and tutors from across the publishing industry, including writers, editors, and agents. In depth lectures combine with personal tutoring to give participants intense and focused training in genre writing. Its success is reflected in the proportion of graduates who go on to be professionally published - 59% according to the course’s website.

The foundation behind the course tries to extend access to learning beyond those who can afford the course. Online classes and other resources are made available through the organisation’s website, and the podcast is one of those resources.

The podcast consists of ten minute snippets taken from full length course lectures. Some of the podcasts come in pairs, which together give a longer section of a lecture, providing a more complete example of what the lecturer was saying. The content is usually interesting, but suffers from its short length. While Writing Excuses uses a short running time to provide compact, focused insight, the shortness of the Odyssey Podcast more often creates a sense of listening to something incomplete. The segments are carefully curated, and usually end on some sort of conclusion, but by their nature they inevitably leave you wishing for more.

Recent participants include horror author Gemma Files, literary agent Mark Gottlieb, and short fiction editor Scott Andrews. Because the course is aimed at writers already approaching or at a professional level of writing, the topics covered are reasonably advanced and often on more interesting or specific topics than found elsewhere.

 The main focus of the podcast is on the craft of writing, discussing elements such as plotting, character, and style. But there are also episodes on the business of being a professional author, such as Mark Gottlieb’s talk on the elevator pitch and how to use it to sell your book.

Highlights

  • Because of its advanced and eclectic nature, what counts as a highlight will vary hugely from one listener to the next. Instead of just listening to the episodes in order, it’s a good idea to look at the archive, pick out the topic most relevant to what you’re working on right now, and listen to that.

Should You Buy?

Pros

  • Provides access to professional insight from a wide range of industry insiders, talking on the topics they specialise in.
    Gives listeners access to a resource that’s otherwise unaffordable for most people. Applying for and attending the course costs a minimum of $2260, plus accomodation fees for six weeks. Add the difficulty of taking that time off from other work or study, and it’s clear that most of us won’t get the chance to attend a course like Odyssey. The podcast provides easy access to a small part of it.
    The content is insightful, useful, and relevant to authors getting deep into their craft. There’s very little preamble or waffle padding out the run time, so you get a full ten minutes of valuable listening.

Cons

  • Episodes are infrequent and a little irregular, with one coming out every month or two. If an episode is labelled as “part one”, then it’s probably worth hanging onto it for a month and then listening to both parts at once, to keep the flow of the lecture.
    Lectures are incomplete, so you’re only getting part of the lesson. Provides a very small volume of content compared with most writing podcasts.

Given the standard of professionals involved, the Odyssey podcast is like a tiny, gleaming gem of learning for anyone writing science fiction, fantasy, and horror. There isn’t much content, but it’s worth the small commitment of time to listen.

Visit the podcast here.

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