Clarion West: Paying for the Workshop

The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves as well. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen accidents, meetings and material assistance that no one could have dreamed would come their way. Whatever you can do or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.  – Goethe, found in A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire 

The Clarion West class of 2012 has just been given the go ahead to break the cone of silence and tell the whole world that they have been accepted to the workshop. This is great, because not only will the students get to share their good news with everyone, but they can also begin to publicly raise money for attending the workshop.

When I got the call last year telling me I’d been accepted to the workshop, I told Neile “Yes! I will definitely be there!” The only problem was, I had no idea how I was going to pay for the workshop. I began by writing a blog post, detailing my ideas for raising money.

My Plan to Raise Money and Why It Failed

Here was my original plan of action:

  1. Start a kickstarter project
  2. Seek donations from the science fiction community
  3. Hold a bake sale 
All three of these failed.
Don’t worry, in the end I was able to pay for the workshop, attend, have a blast, and survive to write about it. But before we move on to what did work, I’ll tell you just a little bit about what didn’t, and why. 
What I wish I had done with my kickstarter project:

  • Set the goal much, much lower (like at $100). If you don’t make your goal, then you receive ZERO amount of the funds you’ve raised. All of the money is refunded to the donors. 
  • Offered a story as part of the rewards (I offered a non-fiction zine)
  • Not done kickstarter at all, but rather used Chip-in or another system that would allow me to keep any money pledged, whether or not I met my goal. 
My fellow classmate Mark Pantoja had a very successful kickstarter project to raise money for Clarion West. I believe that part of Mark’s success was in the support he received from groups outside of the science fiction community.

Here’s the thing about trying to raise funds from other science fiction and fantasy writers: they’ve probably already donated to the Clarion West scholarship funds. And if you’ve applied for a scholarship, then you might receive some of that fundraising money to help with your workshop costs. (Eternal thanks to Les and Neile and all of the Clarion West donors!) You might still connect with some SF readers and writers, but it might be useful to consider those donors off of the table.

I received some wonderful pledges from writing friends, but in the end I wasn’t able to use them because I did not meet my fundraising goal. This is a huge downside to kickstarter – you have to meet your fundraising goal in order to receive any money (and then that money will have fees from PayPal and Kickstarter deducted from that amount).

The bake sale failed for a very simple reason. I don’t know how to bake, and pre-Clarion West turned out to be too stressful a time to learn.

Unexpected Successes in Raising Funds

  1. Cash Donations from Family
  2. Item Donations from Family & Sales on Craigslist
  3. Clarion West Scholarship
The most useful action for raising money is to just share your excitement in attending the workshop with everyone you know. 
Tell them how much it means to you to go.
If you’ve applied before and been rejected, if one of your favorite authors is going to be there, if you’ve been wanting to attend since you were ten years old – tell your friends and family all of this. 
The main way that I was able to pay for my Clarion West expenses was from a donation from some family members I would have never straight out asked for a donation. But my partner told them how famous the workshop was, that it was an honor to be accepted, and that I had been wanting to go to this workshop for years. And they stepped up and offered me financial help to attend. I don’t know if I can ever repay them, but you can bet that if I ever publish a novel they’ll be front and center in the acknowledgements. 
Thank you to everyone who helped me attend Clarion West in 2011!
I also received some cash donations from other family members. Even family members who had never heard of the workshop before helped me out because they knew that it was important to me to attend.
My father donated several items that I sold for cash – some djembes and surround sound speakers. I listed them on Craigslist, and sold them all within 24 hours. I wish I had pursued this route earlier, asking family members and friends if they had items they didn’t want or need anymore. It turned out to be far more helpful than I had imagined. 
And of course, the Clarion West scholarship. I had applied, not expecting to receive any money. But I did receive some, and it was extremely helpful. I wish I could thank all of the donors to the scholarship fund personally, and tell them how much every cent of that scholarship meant to me. 
A few days ago I received a letter in the mail from Clarion West, asking for a donation to the Alumni Scholarship Fund. I’ll give what I can, and hope that in the future I can give more. 
If you’ve been accepted to the workshop – congratulations! Tell everyone you know. Get your friends and family as excited about the workshop as you are. Commit yourself to attending, and watch as the unexpected avenues of help rustle their leaves in the forest. 
If you’d like to contribute to the Clarion West Scholarship Fund,
find more information here

2 thoughts on “Clarion West: Paying for the Workshop

  1. Jenni, I love that you you planned to have a bake sale to raise money, when you didn't know how to bake! Just that fact reminds me of so much about you.

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