Interview with Gregory Ashe, Instructor at Odyssey Writing Workshop

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Today, we are excited to interview one of the instructors from the Odyssey Writing Workshop: author Gregory Ashe. 

The Odyssey Writing Workshop has offered world-renowned workshops for over 25 years and has been an innovator in online classes since 2010. Instructor Gregory Ashe is a longtime Midwesterner. He has lived in Chicago, Bloomington (IN), and Saint Louis, his current home. He primarily writes contemporary mysteries, with forays into romance, fantasy, and horror. Predominantly, his stories feature LGBTQ protagonists. When not reading and writing, he is an educator.

-- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today! Tell us about yourself and how you came to find the Odyssey Workshop. 

Gregory: I found Odyssey after I’d spent about five years trying to learn how to write on my own. The winter before Odyssey, I’d done an online workshop that I found very helpful (John D. Brown’s Novel Writers Academy in embryo), and I wanted more of that in-depth instruction. I did some research about writing workshops and narrowed it down to Odyssey and Clarion, and I ended up applying to Odyssey because I liked the description of the program and the first-hand accounts of past participants. 

WOW: That in-depth instruction is so valuable! You actually graduated from the Odyssey Workshop! What was that experience like for you? 

Gregory: Fantastic. I can’t say enough good things about Odyssey. Being able to set aside six weeks to do nothing but read and write and think about reading and writing was a rare gift, and I’m so grateful I had the chance. I understand that the format is changing, and I think it’s going to be a wonderful way to provide the same excellent material to more people. Jeanne is a fabulous instructor; she’s rigorously analytical about stories and storycraft, and she has an uncanny ability to spot weaknesses—and offer solutions—in your work. Over the years, she’s developed a thorough overview of the major skills and concepts for writing speculative fiction. I say with complete honesty that I wouldn’t be where I am today without Odyssey. 

WOW: What a wonderful experience you had! What kind of course are you teaching this January?

Gregory: This January, I’ll be teaching a course on scene and sequel—but so much more. These two core concepts also touch on goals, character-driven momentum, pacing, conflict, interiority, and more. •

WOW: Oh that does sound valuable! Who is this course ideal for? 

Gregory: This course is ideal for people who find structure, plot, and pacing either difficult to understand or hard to control. Scene and sequel are the mid-level structural units of most commercial fiction, and understanding them—and, as I mentioned above, related concepts—will give writers more control over their writing. This isn’t just for plotters, either. People who ‘pants’ or write without plotting need to understand these same concepts for revision! 

WOW: That's great to hear it's for both plotters and pantsers! As an instructor, what type of common issues do you see students struggling with?

Gregory: The most common issues I see are, probably unsurprisingly, related: first, many writers either don’t understand what it means to give a character a goal, or they don’t know how to execute that idea. If you’ve ever read a story (or chapter) where the character seems to be drifting aimlessly, you’ve seen what that might look like. Many writers also struggle with crafting a scene around a goal and its resolution—a character might have a goal, but the scene meanders, or the goal is forgotten, or it’s resolved without any complication, etc. These really aren’t difficult problems to solve, but you need the right conceptual framework to identify the problem first. 

WOW: That problem definitely sounds familiar to me. For people who are reluctant to take an online course because they aren't sure it's worth the cost, what would you tell them? 

Gregory: The old saying is that if you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur. Something of the same principle applies here—yes, writing courses cost money, but that’s because you’re paying for someone to provide personalized, direct instruction and feedback, as well as their expertise. As with most things (brain surgery excepting), people can probably teach themselves elements of the craft, but it will take longer and be more difficult. A good instructor is a facilitator who will help you learn better and faster than you most likely would on your own. Another answer is that money means you have some skin in the game. Ninety percent of writing is a head game, convincing yourself to put words on paper—laying down cash money is a way of committing yourself. It’s also an investment in yourself—if you feel guilty about the expense, think of it as a way of showing that you respect yourself. You deserve it!

WOW: I agree with that sentiment and I'm so glad you took the time to speak with us today about your experience with Odyssey Writing Workshop and your course. 


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