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Odyssey Workshop Syllabus for Summer 1996

Primary Instructor: Jeanne Cavelos
Office Hours: announced weekly

Class Hours: 9:30am-12:30pm Monday through Friday, June 17-July 26.
Occasional afternoon and weekend sessions scheduled.

  • Texts:

    Each student must have a grammar handbook. Those who don't are required to buy the following:

    Hodges, John C., and Mary E. Whitten. Harbrace College Handbook. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1995.

    Parts of the following texts were assigned as readings and exercises as needed. If you have copies of any of these, it may be helpful to bring them:

    Ballenger, Bruce, and Barry Lane. Discovering the Writer Within. Cincinnati: Writer's Digest Books, 1989.

    Barnet, Sylvan, and Marcia Stubbs. Barnet & Stubbs's Practical Guide to Writing. New York: HarperCollins, 1995.

    Bernays, Anne, and Pamela Painter. What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers. New York: HarperCollins, 1995.

    Bova, Ben. The Craft of Writing Science Fiction That Sells. Cincinnati: Writer's Digest Books, 1994.

    Card, Orson Scott. How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy. Cincinnati: Writer's Digest Books, 1990.

    Datlow, Ellen, and Terri Windling, eds. The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: Fifth Annual Collection. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992.

    Editors of Analog and Asimov's Science Fiction. Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy. New York: Davis Publications, 1991.

    Gardner, John. The Art of Fiction. New York: Vintage Books, 1983.

    James, Edward. Science Fiction in the 20th Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

    Kubis, Pat, and Bob Howland. The Complete Guide to Writing Fiction and Nonfiction and Getting It Published. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1990.

    Le Guin, Ursula K. The Language of the Night. New York: HarperCollins, 1993.

    Scithers, George H., Darrell Schweitzer, and John M. Ford. On Writing Science Fiction. Philadelphia: Owlswick Press, 1981.

    Stern, Jerome. Making Shapely Fiction. New York: Norton, 1991.

    Tolkien, J.R.R. "On Fairy-Stories." Tree and Leaf. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1965.

    You will also need a spiral notebook of some kind to use as a journal.

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  • Course Description:

    Odyssey is a writing workshop for writers of fantasy, science fiction, or horror. The main focus of the class is on critiquing your stories and giving you feedback that is both truthful and helpful. Our goal as a class is to provide a supportive yet challenging, energizing environment that will help you improve your writing and make it the best it can be. We focus first on how to write well, and second on how to write fantastic fiction well. To help make you more aware of the elements that create strong writing and a strong story, you read short stories by some of the top writers in the field, read essays on writing and on writing fantasy, and read each other's stories and comment on them.

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  • Assignments:

    Each student should complete the following tasks:

    • write approximately 50 pages of new fiction
    • revise approximately 30 pages of fiction at least once
    • read and critique other students' stories
    • complete assigned readings and write reactions in a journal
    • complete assigned writing exercises

    Note that some assignments are specific to the individual, focusing on improving weak areas.

    All fiction must be typewritten, double-spaced, with standard margins.
    Typewritten is defined as on a typewriter in a 10 pica face,
    or on a "letter-quality" ink-jet or laser printer in a 12 point non-proportional font.
    Standard margins are defined as 1 inch margins on left and right.

    (A note from the web site developer:
    You will find many words italicized or printed in boldface in these pages. This is due to the HTML convention for many browsers that underlined words specify links. When you write, you should underline those words which you wish to have printed in italics, even if your word processor is capable of producing italicized characters. This is a convention in the publishing industry for manuscripts.)

    Students are expected to spend at least 40 hours per week outside of class writing and working on class assignments.

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  • Schedule:

    The course takes place over six weeks. Each week has the same basic structure. Of 16 hours of class time per week, approximately 4 hours will be lectures and class discussions on readings, 3 hours guest lectures, 9 hours workshopping sessions and in-class writing exercises. The following gives a general idea of the topics covered. Although we focus on a different topic each week, we actually discuss most of these topics throughout the six weeks rather than just during one week.

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    • Week 1 (June 17-21, 1996)

      Introduction and orientation. What is fantasy and why do we want to write it? How is writing fantasy fiction different from writing other types of fiction? How is it the same? What makes clear, powerful prose? Developing a setting. The novum. How to approach writing a first draft. How to revise. Discussion of critiquing guidelines. Workshop student stories written before workshop began. Readings on setting from Tolkien and James, and reading of a short story by Hal Clement.

      Evening of June 19, reception for Hal Clement.

      June 20, guest lecture by Hal Clement on setting. How do we create fresh, interesting, and believable settings, and not spend an entire book describing them? Short afternoon workshopping session with Hal Clement.

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    • Week 2 (June 24-28, 1996)

      Writing clear, concise prose and vivid description. Building a suspenseful, involving, unpredictable plot. Using the conventions of the genre to lure your readers in and surprise them. Making old patterns seem fresh. How to build suspense, controlling the flow of information. How to deal with exposition. How to make it believable. Begin to workshop new or revised student stories. Readings on plot from John Gardner and others, reading of "Moon of the Wolf" by Craig Shaw Gardner, and reading of "The Swordsman Whose Name Was Death" from The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror by Ellen Kushner.

      Evening of June 26, reception for Craig Shaw Gardner.

      June 27, guest lecture by Craig Shaw Gardner on plot. Plotting a short story or a novel. How to keep your reader guessing. Short afternoon workshopping session with Craig Shaw Gardner.

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    • Week 3 (July 1-5, 1996)

      Evening of Saturday, June 29, reception for Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman.

      Sunday, June 30, guest lecture by Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman on characterization. How do we create living, compelling characters? Short afternoon workshopping session with Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman.

      Note: Since class met on Sunday of this week, there was no class on Friday, July 5.

      Showing character through action. The importance of habits, gestures, posture. Revealing character through reactions of other characters. Which characters do we love? Which do we hate? Which don't we care about? Readings on character.

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    • Week 4 (July 8-12, 1996)

      How does your work fit into the genre? What makes your work distinct? Learning and being inspired by others without copying others. Developing your own ideas, your own sensibility. The huge range of possibilities available in fantasy. What is the "truth" at the center of your story? Readings on voice and theme from Le Guin and others, and reading of a short story by Jane Yolen.

      Evening of July 11, reception for Jane Yolen.

      July 12, guest lecture by Jane Yolen on voice. How do you find your own voice? Short afternoon workshopping session with Jane Yolen.

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    • Week 5 (July 15-19, 1996)

      Saying what we mean and meaning what we say. Developing a strong style suitable for our story. The elements of style. Avoiding the phony archaic manner and other common pitfalls in fantasy writing. Readings on style from Le Guin, and reading of a short story by Elizabeth Hand.

      Evening of July 17, reception for Elizabeth Hand.

      July 18, guest lecture by Elizabeth Hand on style and atmosphere. How do we develop an effective style? Using style and setting to create atmosphere. Short afternoon workshopping session with Elizabeth Hand.

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    • Week 6 (July 22-26, 1996)

      How to read your own material with a reader's eye. Spotting your own weak spots and correcting them. Critiquing final submissions by students. Assessing your progress over the six weeks and where you go from here. How to get published. The publishing world and the way to submit your work. Readings on publishing from Kubis and others.

      Evening of July 22, reception for Leigh Grossman.

      July 23, guest lecture by Leigh Grossman on publishing, book packaging, and getting your work out there. Short afternoon workshopping session with Leigh Grossman.

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    Updated Nov 30, 2002
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