Writing for the Odyssey may seem like a creative and fun pastime, but content creators, present and former, say it can be hard work and compensation isn’t always on par with effort or good content.
Odyssey is an online publication where writers can submit articles, poems, short stories or videos, and share unique experiences.
Odyssey’s website states that Odyssey “democratizes content, giving people the opportunity to share what’s most important to them and their communities, enriching everyone with broader, more honest perspectives on topics they care about.”
According to Madison Linnihan, a junior English major from Brookfield, Wisconsin, Odyssey does not believe in censorship. Linnihan described Odyssey as “basically like social media for writers” and submissions have no limitations on subject matter, language or other content.
“I think students really enjoy writing for Odyssey because there are so many things nowadays you can’t say,” said Linnihan, who is the current editor-in-chief for the Troy University branch of Odyssey. “Free speech is still a thing, but not really.”
Linnihan said, with Odyssey, you can write virtually whatever you want.
“You’re going to have repercussions if you write something people don’t like, but it’s still going to go out there, and the repercussions are just going to be that people write mean comments,” Linnihan said.
Linnihan took over the position when Olivia Walleser, a sophomore global business management major from Brookesfield, Wisconsin, stepped down.
According to Walleser, Odyssey began as an article forum strictly for students in Greek life, but later expanded to include a wider range of university students.
Walleser discussed the Odyssey’s original purpose created by founder Evan Burns, who wanted to create something for college students to openly share their thoughts.
“I think that’s really where it stemmed from and why it has such a college/university focus, but now they push so heavily on growth that now anyone from ages 16-28 is welcome, so it’s kind of losing that university/college feel,” Walleser said.
Along with a broader demographic of writers, Odyssey also changed its application process.
Originally, Odyssey applicants would submit a writing sample and answer a few questions. Now, it is up to the editor-in-chief of the applicant’s area to decide the application process.
Linnihan said, for her, she has interested writers submit an application online— a basic questionnaire asking for name, age, major and other various details, then an interview so she can get an idea about their personalities.
Linnihan said she doesn’t focus on grammar or writing style as much because she can work with applicants to become better writers and edit their work, “but I can’t really change who they are.”
“If you don’t have interesting things to say, then you’re not going to be a good writer,” she added.
Odyssey’s compensation system has also changed in recent years. According to Walleser, the writer with the most viewed story in a community would receive $20; however, now the reward depends on how many page views an article receives.
As Odyssey amassed more and more content creators, the payment policy changed and it became much more difficult to receive any compensation, according to Walleser.
Walleser said she valued Odyssey as an outlet for creative writing.
“But when I became editor-in-chief, I just became more and more frustrated with the compensation policy because everyone was putting in so much work and never got paid,” Walleser said.
Under the new policy, payment is rare, according to Walleser.
“I feel like Odyssey just put a lot of hoops in front of you to get compensation, and then as soon as you would get close, they would change the policy and make it even harder,” Walleser said.
However, getting paid isn’t impossible. An article written by Megan Aaron, a sophomore graphic design major from Sacramento, California, titled “Boyfriends Don’t Get Husband Privileges” has gone viral, and Linnihan says she is currently projected to receive $500 in compensation, but could make as much as $1,000.
Writing for Odyssey also allows for students to produce content for resumes, as they are asked to submit articles every week. Every week creators do not submit an article, or other form of content, they receive a strike; three strikes, and they’re out.
Hannah Edwards, a senior English major from Corner, who is a former content creator, said it can be difficult to juggle Odyssey deadlines alongside academics, but the opportunities make it worth it.
“My experiences with the Odyssey were incredibly fun and exciting and involving because I was fortunate enough to become a staff editor and a stand-in editor-in-chief for a summer,” Edwards said.
For students who are interested in becoming Odyssey writers for the Troy University branch, students can visit theodysseyonline.com, click on the tab “For New Creators” under the section “About Odyssey,” and choose the button “Be Heard.”