While the early decision deadline has passed, there is still time for applying to the regular deadline for the Odyssey Writing Workshop. Deadline is April 8, 2013.
But, you ask, why in the world would I want to go to a writing workshop like Odyssey? After all, it’s expensive! It’s six weeks! It’s a lot of work! Yes, all these things are true. (And the same goes for Clarion, Clarion West, and other workshops). However, for many writers, it is totally worth it.
The biggest benefit most writers get is to have a six-week period of time where they can focus solely on their writing. It’s hard work–most attendees do six new short stories, at least. There’s also writing exercises, reading, and lessons to take in. Critiquing both gives feedback on your own work, but also practice in looking in detail at other works and learning to learn from them as well. (I often get even more out of doing critiques than I do out of getting them, just because I can see more clearly why something works or doesn’t work when it isn’t my own).
Six weeks can be a long time to take off work and family and life. It’s hard. Yet it can be done with careful planning. Immersing yourself in this way allows you to treat it like learning a foreign language–you can absorb by osmosis, focus on the work at hand, and not get too distracted by the normal day to day. (There’s still some of that. Laundry. Food. Etc.)
Another benefit is the friendships and connections that you make. These are other up-and-coming professionals. They can help you on your writing journey in ways you may not predict. Sure, it is always good to have a strong network of contacts who can help you get into and ahead in your chosen field. However, it can be even better just to know people who speak the same language as you do, who understand the ins and outs of being a writer. These are the people who down the line can help when the writing gets stressful, when you need to bounce ideas off someone, and when you have good news to share.
Many workshops have continuing connections. Go to Odyssey, and you graduate as an Odfellow. You are linked into a greater community of Odyssey graduates. There’s a yearly one-week workshop for alumni. Odfellows meet up at cons or form local writing groups when there’s enough of them in one area. Clarionites have similar communities as well,
Does everyone who comes out of a workshop come out to fame and fortune? No, of course not. The percentages are high that graduates of the big workshops go on to have successful careers in writing, however. Some of this is a self-fulfilling prophecy, because those who are committed enough to go to a six-week workshop tend to be committed enough to stick to it until they get the career they want. But a workshop can take the learning process and accelerate it, pushing writers to the next level so that they can get to where they want to be faster.
And that is worth the time, the cost, and the work.