Interview with Your Personal Odyssey Writing Workshop Graduate, Jill Tew

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Today, I'm excited to interview another graduate of the Personal Odyssey Writing Workshop

Since its inception in 1996, the Odyssey Writing Workshop has offered its world-renowned, 6-week
workshop, helping writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror make major improvements in their
work. Fifty-nine percent of graduates have been professionally published, and among graduates
are award winners, Amazon bestsellers, and New York Times bestsellers.

Last year, Odyssey transformed into a breakthrough new program to become both more
accessible and more effective. Students taking Your Personal Odyssey receive the inspiring, transformative learning experience Odyssey is known for, but that experience is customized to
maximize learning and improvement for each student.

If your 2024 writing goal is to take a writing class, you'll love Your Personal Odyssey Writing Workshop. It's an intensive online, one-on-one writing workshop customized just for you.

 I'll be chatting with  Jill Tew about her experience and her new book The Dividing Sky. Before we get to that, here's more about the author:

From a young age, Jill Tew was destined for speculative fiction nerddom. Now she writes the kinds of stories she loved as a kid, with the representation she craved— Black heroines saving the world, and falling in love along the way. Her debut novel, a YA dystopian romance titled The Dividing Sky, is forthcoming from Joy Revolution (Penguin Random House) in 2024.

 Jill lives in Atlanta with her family. She is represented by Jen Azantian of Azantian Literary Agency. Find her online at

--- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: Thank you again for joining us today! You are a graduate of the Personal Odyssey Writing Workshop. What changed for you and your writing processes after attending the workshop?

Jill: I’ve always thought of myself as a “plotter”, someone who outlines heavily before beginning to draft. But the workshop helped me see that what I thought was a comprehensive prewriting process really wasn’t even scratching the surface of what was possible. Instead of using the prewriting stage to explore all possible options for where my story could go, I was hemming myself in with a plot that, while entertaining, was occasionally predictable or not as challenging for my characters as it could have been. As a result, I now take considerably more time to investigate the many paths a story can take before I start writing.

WOW: How interesting! I love how it transformed your investigation into plotting your story. Was your novel in progress by the time you attended the workshop? If so, how did attending the class transform your approach? If not, how did the course inspire you?

Jill: When I began the workshop, The Dividing Sky was already with my agent, for our last round of edits before going on submission. I received my agent’s notes during the workshop, and was able to use some of what I had learned in order to strengthen the manuscript for the better. Specifically, I increased the amount of struggle my characters faced in the second act, making them earn the emotional resolution of the book, and their happily ever after.

We went on submission with the manuscript the fourth or fifth week of the workshop. Before the workshop was done, I had an offer!

WOW: That's amazing. And it's a major credit to you that you sought out help through the course to make changes to your novel with an agent already in place. How many revisions did you go through to get your book ready?

Jill: To go on submission, we just did one round of revisions. Once I signed with a publisher, there were two rounds of developmental edits, and then line edits before the story was locked. Each round was challenging, but looking at the finished product, all of that work just brought the manuscript closer to the story it needed to be.

WOW: That took a lot of work! What was your experience like working with an agent?

Jill: Jen is great! From the minute we began working together, I knew she’d be a fantastic partner for my career, even just on the editorial side. And then once we sold our first project together and she began managing all of the contractual and business things, I saw another side of her expertise that truly blew me away. It’s a huge relief to have someone in your corner that’s advocating for you, even on the tiniest things. I tend to minimize my issues, so having her there to tell me my concerns are valid is really empowering.

WOW: That is amazing. How was attending a workshop so important for your writing journey?

Jill: Before the workshop, I felt like I had plateaued. My work had gotten me an agent, but after about a year nothing had sold, and I felt like I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was holding me back. I like having someone–-whether its an editor, agent, or critique partner– who will rip my work apart and help me put it back together stronger. That’s exactly what Jeanne did with me over the course of the workshop. It was sometimes hard to hear those difficult pieces of feedback, especially related to weaknesses in my writing that I tend to fall back on, time and time again. But my writing is stronger for being aware of those tendencies, and having the tools to address them before I get too deep into the work. 

WOW: I'm glad you found the right type of help for your book. Would you recommend the workshop to other writers? And why?

Jill: Absolutely! Jeanne’s expertise and generosity are truly unparalleled, and Your Personal Odyssey is specially crafted to meet every writer’s unique needs. You won’t find anything else like it out there, especially in a format that makes it easy to do from home, when other aspects of life need your attention. My kids were two and four when I went through the program… there’s no way I would have been able to leave home for six weeks as their primary caregiver. YPO made it possible for me to strive for the next rung in my professional ladder while managing my personal demands. I’m very grateful to Jeanne and everyone who makes the program possible!

WOW: How awesome to hear that! Thank you again and best of luck on your novel. Find out more about the workshop and join today.


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