My father has been contemplating applying once he retires, but he keeps focusing on the fact that writing a complete short story each week is something he’s never done. And one of the requirements for the workshop is that you’re asked to not stockpile stories ahead of time, but write fresh while you’re there so that you can implement some of the new stuff you’re learning. Before I attended, I certainly never had been that short-story-prolific prior. But I was also in the middle of an MFA program at the time, so I had a little writing stamina built up. I’ve since let my short story muscle atrophy, however.
To solve both problems — endurance and atrophy — I’ve proposed something I’m calling The Odyssey Challenge.
No, it’s not endorsed or approved by Odyssey, or in any way connected to the actual running of the program. It’s more like a fantasy league.
During the next six weeks, while this year’s Odyssey class toils, those of us who aren’t this year’s lucky contestants can play along at home by writing six short stories in six weeks — roughly what the Odyssey workshoppers are expected to produce in terms of new content.
Unlike the workshoppers, we’re working full-time jobs at the same time we’re doing this challenge. But we’re also not attending lecture or workshop, or reading and critiquing three short stories a day, or getting lost driving on the damn confusing things that pass for roads in New England. It seems like a fair trade-off time-wise.
Each story will be completed, formatted, and printed by 8:00 AM on Monday. The first is due June 11, the final on July 16.
These are drafts. they don’t have to be brilliant or perfectly polished, but they do have to be complete enough that another person could read them through.
That said, we will not be critiquing during these six weeks. After we get home from those jobs, we’re throwing all our energy into drafting.
We are allowing ourselves up to two rewrite weeks. These are weeks when we could edit an old short story instead of starting a new story. You have to do enough edits to feel proud of your choice to edit rather than draft — otherwise you’ve just blowing the largest prize of this whole challenge: a sense of accomplishment.
Oh, and the actual accomplishment of six new short stories.