My Odyssey Workshop Experience 2020: The Application

Before I talk about my May prep, I feel I have to go backward, all the way to last year. Pre-corona, pre-quarantine, to when the world didn’t seem so bleak and 2020 was the epitome of hope, excitement, and expectation.

The idea of attending a workshop (I’ve attended two prior: a fiction writing one at 18 at a local college, and the Writers of the Future week-long one) came up in an email exchange with a friend, with us discussing some of the shorter, more accessible and doable workshops. For years, I’ve been stunted in this possibility, for logistically and financially my family just couldn’t make a six week course happen.

And yet, when I looked at the smaller, shorter workshops, I felt something snag inside me because what I really wanted, truly needed, wasn’t to be told how to write, but to have people look at my work, story after story, week after week, and tell me exactly where I personally struggled, where my specific weaknesses are, so I can focus on them and improve collectively, across all my work.

I started saving. Maybe for ConZealand, maybe for a short workshop, I wasn’t sure, but I saved regardless.

And then, one day…I was late to pick my daughter up from the bus stop. There was a blockage on the street I normally used so I had to go the long way and got there too late to even see the bus.

This doesn’t sound like much, does it? Just a small mistake in the grand scheme of things. And yet…my daughter was just walking home like it was no big deal. “Haha! The bus driver said third graders can walk home alone!” were the words I believe she said to me.

I’d become superfluous. Oh, not where it truly counts; this isn’t a pity party. This was a celebration! I could leave. I could go somewhere else and focus on me. I could be selfish for a little while. And I wanted to.

So I did my research on all the six-week long workshops, almost immediately leaning heavily toward Odyssey for one big reason: it is taught by the same person the whole six weeks. This attracted me because consistent advice from someone familiar with my work is exactly what I need.

Now I just had to write a story less than 4000 words, which is a lot easier said than done when your normal word count hovers around 5k. But I pulled it off (with much chopping and cutting) and got my submission sent before the early decision deadline.

And I got in!!

You can bet I immediately set to work covering the hours my SO would be at work. Got my youngest into summer camps for the four weeks school would be out while I’d be gone and looked up ways to keep the oldest busy that wouldn’t include just playing video games all season.

And then COVID became a thing. A nasty, horrible thing across the country.

I received an email from Jeanne Cavelos giving the option to attempt to defer my acceptance to 2021 or to attend Odyssey virtually. Normally, virtually might have been the best thing to happen to me; but here, I had to weigh whether or not all my attempts to give myself the time during June and July I needed would also shut down with the rest of the system.

I thought I’d be forced to defer.

And then, my SO got word that until further ado, he’d be allowed to work from home, leading up to and through the end of the summer. I was saved! :) Our children would have an adult to bring their grievances to (and maybe make sure they don’t eat junk for lunch) and I would get to hide away and pretend I have zero other responsibilities. (For a few weeks at least.)

~Marie C

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