Below are some details of the 2007 Odyssey Fantasy Writing Workshop, which I attended last summer. It's not for complete beginners, although you don't have to be published to apply. Only sixteen people are accepted, the quality of your application story being the main criterion. It is, of course, a big commitment, to spend six weeks full-time on a writing course. However, the benefits are tremendous. You work very hard - writing and critiquing virtually non-stop - which improves one's ability far more rapidly than most other courses. This is because you have to work through those subtle but effective displacement systems we all have for avoiding the break-through moments that are actually so essential for an artist bent on being the best they can be. Personally, I found the hard work, tight deadlines, etc, very energising and enjoyable. Around week 5, people tend to come up against their limits, and push on through anyway; which is, in my view, a necessary experience to go through, at least once in your life, if you ever want to write professionally.
Although I've had several books published, and am a freelance editor, I wanted to do the course for two reasons: 1) because I was switching from children's writing to science-fiction, and 2) because I believe one's own writing will always benefit from periodical hot-house critiquing sessions.
Odyssey is different from the two Clarion workshops in that it's overseen by one editor for the whole six weeks. Jeanne Cavelos is a first-rate editor, and the combination of having 15 critiques from one's fellow writers on your stories, plus Jeanne's detailed comments was incredibly useful. Each week, a top author, agent, or editor visits, gives a talk and joins in with the critiquing session; and for the penultimate week, there is a writer-in-residence for the entire week. All of these provide great contacts, of course, along with their workshops. In my case, the apartment I shared with my flatmate was below our writer-in-residence's, so he often turned up in our kitchen to talk about writing, the business side of publishing, and loads of other interesting and useful stuff.
It perhaps goes without saying that you also develop strong ties with your fellow workshoppers, which continue informally long after the workshop is over (and Odyssey has very good after-course support systems).
As some of you know, I've been on all kinds of writing courses - e.g. Arvon, Ty Newydd - and have taught quite a few myself. My view is Odyssey is by far the most effective. If anyone would like further information, just drop me a line.
"Odyssey is an intensive six-week workshop for writers of fantasy, science
fiction, and horror held each summer at Saint Anselm College in Manchester,
NH. Developing writers aged 17-65 apply from all over the world. Sixteen
are admitted, and over 50% of graduates go on to be published. Director
Jeanne Cavelos is a best-selling author and former senior editor at Bantam
Doubleday Dell, where she won the World Fantasy Award for her work. Top
writers, editors, and agents in the field serve as guest lecturers. This
summer, the workshop runs from June 11-July 20. Our writer-in-residence is
Nina Kiriki Hoffman, and guest lecturers include Michael A. Burstein, Rodman
Philbrick, Elizabeth Hand, John Clute, Michael A. Arnzen, and George
Scithers. The application deadline is April 13. More information is
available at www.odysseyworkshop.org."