My 9 Months And 3 Positions With Odyssey, Packed Into 1 Piece

My 9 Months And 3 Positions With Odyssey, Packed Into 1 Piece

Odyssey: (noun) a long and wandering, eventful journey.


When I applied online to write for Odyssey, I had no idea what I was getting myself into - and I mean that in the best way possible. I'd seen Odyssey articles floating around social media for years, but I wasn't compelled to apply until one of my service fraternity brothers gushed about her experience with the platform. I wrote for my own benefit on the side, so I figured I could apply to see what it takes to become published. Within a week of applying online through the Odyssey website, I received an email from the then-Editor-in-Chief who singlehandedly led my campus' team. We emailed back and forth about my background, then we established a time for a phone interview. The Editor asked me a series of questions, like what my time management strategies look like, what my writing experiences entailed, ideas for article pitches and so forth - I was invited to join the team!

This all happened on a Monday, and she asked me to produce an article before the following Wednesday, so I had about nine days to settle in and write over 300 words on one of my pitches. But I was so eager that I wrote my first themed article in one night so it could go live in time for Earth Day. Looking back, it definitely wasn't among my strongest pieces because I wasn't yet acclimated with the best formatting protocols, and I hadn't yet found my voice, but it's very endearing to revisit as a reminder of my growth. I like to think I became more relaxed and confident in my writing style over time, and I tried to write about things that were more meaningful to me as the months went on.

Let me pause here to explain Odyssey's structure and dynamic for those unfamiliar and likely having questions at this point in my article. Odyssey is headquartered in New York, but there are hundreds of teams across the nation, mostly based at college campuses with a few general communities in large cities. Each team has at least an Editor-in-Chief, but more established teams also have a President to help oversee smooth processes, bonding, recruitment, maintenance of a positive campus image, etc. Until recently, articles were due every Wednesday night, but the HQ shifted to a rolling, monthly basis. With both systems, each writer would have at least four articles by the end of every month. Our articles are crafted in a singular content management system called "Core," where we draft and format our content. You send your content onto the next step where your local Editor-in-Chief makes minor edits to either move onto the final review or send back for revision. After that's all said and done, content goes to a designated, full-time Content Strategist from New York who repeats what the Editor-in-Chief does. After edits and revisions are made here, content goes live! Every creator is required to share content a certain amount of times to help Odyssey collect revenue. We can view our page counts in Core to see how our articles are progressing.

With that, the thing I admire most about Odyssey is that we can pen to our hearts' desires. It was very empowering to exercise my freedom of speech on a national platform. To date, I have well over 7,000 article views because of the network Odyssey provided for me. Now, I was only featured once, but over 70% of my views to date are organic. With hundreds of writers, the HQ can only feature a certain number of pieces per day in their email newsletter and on their Facebook page, so what you put into your production and advertising is almost always what you get out. I had to do my own self-marketing in niche social media groups to up my views beyond my own personal account shares, but the outpouring of feedback was so encouraging, so I kept on it.

For those considering joining, know that Odyssey's also an extremely flexible commitment because you can carve out a large chunk in your week to write or you can find little spurts of downtime to gradually build a piece, as opposed to coming into a campus office from 4:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. once a week. I almost never missed an article because of this leeway, but the schedule format also meant some weeks weren't as inspired as others. Still, I did my best to produce high-quality content each week, which was a great lesson that trained me to persevere through writer's block and other obstacles. After all, you can't just go to your full-time boss one day and say "Sorry, I can't write the press release today. I'm drawing a blank. Can we scrap it for a new topic?" Yeah, that doesn't happen, and your work will, without a doubt, be tweaked by editors to better it, so this was great exposure to work demands and practices.

Okay, back to the main story now! I was just a Content Creator, or more simply a writer, up until July. At this point in the year, we went from about 15 girls to a tiny number I can count on one hand. We were without a responsive leader to both motivate the remaining writers and edit our content; our team was essentially dead and on the way out. I decided to take matters into my own hands, elevating the inactivity to the HQ level. It was daunting to confront someone senior to me about my own local boss, but HQ applauded me for speaking up and demonstrating leadership. So, the Editor was asked to step down, and HQ began looking for someone to fill the Editor-in-Chief opening. I was encouraged to interview for the position, and I was brought on to lead the team, focusing on team connectivity, team acquisition and a needed push for new, creative content.

Berkeley, my Odyssey mentor and now friend, pushed me each week for six months to reach ambitious goals. We communicated through one-on-one through weekly video chats and email debriefs. With Berkeley's encouragement, we brought on over 30 new people during the fall semester, some of which left, but we went from near extinction to a thriving, top-three team in our division of over 20 communities. We grew so rapidly that we needed to introduce an executive board with a Social Media Manager, a Circulation Manager, a Recruitment Chair and a Community Health Manager. I moved up into the President role while one of our top writers was promoted to take on my role as Editor-in-Chief. It wasn't all rainbows and sunshine, though. These accomplishments were met with challenges. Lauren, my Editor-in-Chief, and I juggled time management across 30 different schedules, enforced standard training and initiated difficult discussions with team members we had to let go. It wasn't easy, but there were so many more positives that made the treads through the mud worthwhile.

In this wondrous Odyssey UIUC big bang, we applied to become an RSO ("registered student organization"), and we kept the momentum going, enthusiastically planning our first external event: a philanthropic pink bake sale to donate to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. This experience was unique to our Odyssey team, which is why I want to highlight it. We had about three weeks to plan, which involved flyer design, mass printing, and social media advertising. The week of the event was compromised of bags on bags of groceries, poster decoration, one messy kitchen turned upside down with pink power, pink chocolate, and ten plus ladies, and, of course, three hours of persuasive selling on our campus quad. This wasn't an easy accomplishment to execute, but I'll always remember how our team came together for the prep and sales to make this event a success. Moments like this make me sad to leave this experience behind with my graduation, but I know I've set the team and next President on a positive projection.

On that note, I want to thank Odyssey for giving me one of the most pleasant surprises of my college career, especially Lily and Berkeley at the HQ for their dedication and continuous hard work. In following these two great examples, I became a more confident communicator, but I also evolved into a leader with new experience in copyediting, outreach, recruitment, content strategy and much more. And thank you, too, to my team. I picked each of you because you're creative, talented and inspiring young women passionate about making an impact. It's been such a pleasure to see you spread your wings and fly. I'll be a cheerleader from the sidelines, keeping up with the stellar content I've come to love so dearly.

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Why Wonder Woman is the Hero We Need Today

“Frankly, Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should, I believe, rule the world.” - William Moulton Marston

Wonder Woman.

Just her name alone conjures up the image of a towering Amazon, clad in red, white, and blue, ready to save the world with her golden lasso and silver bracelets. She is an ideal -- an All-American warrior goddess preaching for freedom and equality between all people. She is, in her own words, “a disciple of peace and love.”

Throughout her 75 years of existence, Wonder Woman has served to represent the role of women in American society -- she has been an ideal woman, one for others to look up to in a time of need. In the 1940s, she fought constantly for equality between men and women, fighting against Nazis and misogynistic criminals who posed a threat to those she chose to defend. Namely, she fought for women and for the citizens of the United States, the country whose morals she had sworn to protect upon leaving her Amazon paradise of Themyscira to, essentially, save the world from the wars of man. In the 1950s and 60s, she relapsed as women were pushed out of the workforce as World War II came to an end, eventually being pushed to the role of a plainclothes hero, working as a spy under her alterego of Diana Prince, longing for the affections of her companion Steve Trevor. In the 1970s, she made a comeback thanks to Gloria Steinem, who rebranded her once again as a feminist icon in Ms. magazine, publishing compilations of her 1940s adventures that had inspired Steinem as a child to become the feminist icon she is considered to be. And, within the past year, she was made an honorary UN ambassador.

But what is it that makes Wonder Woman so wonderful?

This answer, obviously, is different for everyone, and is influenced by different periods of Wonder Woman stories. Wonder Woman is one of, if not the only, independent female superheroes who is consistently marketed on regular basis to women and girls, and as such, is one of the only beacons of all that a female superhero can represent. When I asked my mother, who was born during Gloria Steinem’s feminist crusade, what Wonder Woman meant to her, she replied with, “She is special because she was the first female superhero that I really encountered. She made me realize that a woman didn’t need a man to save her.” When I asked Brooke Blumenstock, a sophomore Directing, Playwriting, and Production major at the University of the Arts, she told me that, to her, “[S]he represents the good old fashioned "We Can Do It!" mentality [that] women can do anything we set our mind to. And that we can do anything men can if not more, and we have the strength and stamina to do everything.” And when I asked Hannah Sayer, a freshman Animation major at Drexel University, she immediately said, “The Wonder Woman movie is going to save the world,” followed quickly by “All her morals are exactly what America needs right now -- the idea of a hero who knows it isn’t always best to jump forward and attack, but to see how you can make peace first. It’s a mature clarity we’ve lost a lot of, both in the media and in modern life. When she’s with Batman and Superman, Wonder Woman is so clearly the adult in the room.”

Although each of these answers is quite different from the others, each demonstrates a different aspect of what makes Wonder Woman such an important figure. As my mother stated, Wonder Woman doesn’t need saving - she is fully capable of saving herself, and she only calls for backup when she needs it. She doesn’t put her companions in danger, and she makes it clear from the get-go that she is in charge. As Brooke stated, Wonder Woman has become entrenched in the feminist movements of the past decades. This was the intent of her creator, William Moulton Marston, who was heavily influenced by the initial feminist movement through the actions of his wife, Elizabeth Holloway, romantic partner, Olive Byrne, and Byrne’s aunt and mother, Margaret Sanger and Ethel Byrne. Even in these early comics, Wonder Woman preached constantly of the importance of sisterhood between women, as well as for equal rights between men and women, regardless of whether she was fighting Nazis overseas or resolving conflicts on the campus of the fictional Holliday College. Her 1970s relaunch after decades of drifting away from these actions brought her back to her roots, rebranding her as an icon of the women’s liberation movement. And her 2016 induction as an honorary UN Ambassador was done to provide women and girls everywhere with a distinctive feminist icon to look up to.

However, as amazing as these messages of sisterhood and empowerment being spread by Wonder Woman are, it is perhaps Hannah’s message that touches most closely on the importance of Wonder Woman in the world right now - not only as a feminist icon but also as a diplomat. One of the most iconic Wonder Woman quotes is as follows:

“We have a saying, my people, ‘Don’t kill if you can wound, don’t wound if you can subdue, don’t subdue if you can pacify, and don’t raise your hand at all until you’ve first extended it.'”

Something that is often forgotten, but is an essential part of Wonder Woman’s character, is that she was originally sent out of Themyscira not only to return officer Steve Trevor to the United States but also as an ambassador to the rest of the world from Themyscira, taking her Amazonian ideals of peace and love and spreading them throughout the world as much as she could manage. Additionally, part of the reasoning behind doing this was because the world was in chaos - Wonder Woman was introduced to the world just as the United States plunged into World War II, and as such, the world of man she was introduced to was, overall, an intensely divided place that had descended into war with no sign of stopping anytime soon.

Regardless of who you voted for in this year’s presidential election, or whose ideals match yours the closest, it cannot be denied that the United States is currently in a state of deep division. Mass groups of people march in the streets in protest of our president elect, and his election has been declared a victory by white supremacist groups. Older generations point fingers at the Millennial generation for not voting enough, while Millennials point to them declaring they voted for the wrong person. Families are divided right down the middle, some to the point that children do not speak to their parents simply because they feel that their parents’ votes were a declaration that they do not support their life choices. I have watched my friends and immediate family descend into mourning once they saw the results while I simultaneously watched distant relatives rejoice in their victory. The country has descended into another chaos, a chaos in which people on both sides of an argument spend so much time pointing fingers and fearmongering in order to turn the other side into the villain, resulting in a world where the people choose to live in blind hatred of others rather than taking the time to stop and listen to their complaints and analyze what has caused them to be raised in order to reach a better understanding. A world in which members of each side of the argument have painted the other in such a negative light that to engage with the opposing side in a positive manner is to ostracize oneself from one’s original allies. This is a world in which people who voted against Donald Trump have considered suicide to be a better option than to live in a country in which he wields the highest office.

This is a country that desperately needs Wonder Woman.

In the words of comic book writer Gail Simone, “When you need to stop an asteroid, you get Superman. When you need to solve a mystery, you call Batman. But when you need to end a war, you get Wonder Woman.” And that is exactly what has to be done.

As tempting as it is to point fingers and call names, or to stop your feet and scream at people with whom you disagree before promptly cutting them off from your life forever, this is not a productive action. This is an action that cuts off any chance of dialogue -- an action that essentially eliminates the possibility of an ally in the fight to protect the rights of American citizens who feel, and are, threatened by this upcoming presidency. And as satisfying as it might be to just shut the person down before they get the chance to respond, the only way that this battle against the discrimination that has been spread throughout this election cycle is to be willing to truly listen to their complaints and formulate a valid response.

This is exactly what Wonder Woman would do.

“If the prospect of living in a world where trying to respect the basic rights of those around you and valuing each other simply because we exist are such daunting, impossible tasks then what sort of world are we left with? And what sort of world do you want to live in?” With this statement, Wonder Woman encapsulates the central issue of this constant fight occurring at this moment in the United States -- if all we are capable of doing is to argue, then how are we ever going to make the world a better place?

Wonder Woman’s primary objective at all times is not to go smashing into battle, throwing all caution and conscience to the wind. On the contrary, Wonder Woman begins practically every exchange with an attempt to engage with whatever being or person is causing a problem for others and learn their reasoning behind their actions. She genuinely listens to them, she asks questions, and she builds a full personal picture of the other’s experience, attempting to talk them down and/or present a compromise before she takes any physical action. Wonder Woman brings with her a true sense of love and compassion for all of the people she encounters, regardless of how they feel about her or her beliefs. Wonder Woman is mature, direct, and respectful of everyone at all times, even when it is clear that their words and actions are making her angry. If there is anyone who is supremely qualified to solve the social problems of our society today, it is Wonder Woman. And I know that she will continue to do so in every story that I read.

Unfortunately, Wonder Woman is not real, and she’s not actually going to save us. But if each of us were to take to heart her principles of life, her sense of compassion for her fellow people, as well as her love for the world around her, then we could all, slowly, piece our country back together. And maybe, together, we can start to heal this country, and once again make it a safer place for all people to engage with each other, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. It will be a long time coming, but if we act as disciples of peace and love rather than anger and retaliation, we will be able to overcome anything, and then we will no longer be so desperate for Wonder Woman to swoop in and save us all.

Comic panels are written by Gail Simone and drawn by Colleen Doran. From the Wonder Woman 75th Anniversary Special #1, published in November 2016.

Cover Image Credit: George Perez

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Writer's Block: A Road Block We've All Hit

In the corner, the deer head is mocking you.


It's two hours before your deadline and everything you start to type sounds terrible. You get five words into a sentence and you immediately hit the backspace button or throw your notebook across the room.

You think you have something solid and then you read it out loud and it's worse than you originally thought possible. Nothing sounds right to you and the clock is ticking. Minutes pass, but you can't seem to find anything that works.

You look all around the room for inspiration. In the corner, the deer head is mocking you and in the other corner, the hole in the ceiling is just reminding you of how empty your brain feels at the moment. Nothing is coming to you and it's no longer silent because your brother is upstairs singing in the shower and your sister is listening to music as she falls asleep.

Another half-hour has passed and you're drenched in sweat. Your pen is slipping out of your hand and you are stressing. Your fingers are sliding across the keys and not in the cool confident way. Your eyes are burning from the sweat droplets on the corners of your eyes.

It's writer's block and we've all been there.

In fact, right before I began this, I was experiencing it myself. I tried moving to different rooms in the house, asking three different people for ideas and listening/watching multiple platforms: acoustic music, sports, Amazon Prime TV, etc. Nothing was working and I was sure that I was going to miss my deadline and have nothing to turn in.

I honestly thought I was going to end up in a ball of tears.

However, I turned my problem into my solution and wrote down everything I was feeling.

Now, this may not always work, especially if you're writing something for school on the War of 1812 or Abraham Lincoln. One thing that will work is taking a deep breath. Write whatever comes to your mind and don't delete it, even if you think it's absolutely terrible. Some of my best writing has come from what I thought was terrible.

But most importantly, remember: Writer's block is real, but it's also overcomeable and you've probably dealt with it more than you realize.

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