I got an envelope from Clarion West in the mail today, which always makes me happy. Inside were two pieces of paper: a flyer for the instructor reading series and an invitation to the Friday night parties.
|This year’s Clarion West Readings and Parties|
I can’t show you the second piece of paper in detail because the parties are often held at supporters’ homes, and the residential addresses are listed. But it’s amazingly cool – if I could travel to Seattle, I could pop into these parties.
Who is going to be at these parties? In addition to the awesome people who make up Seattle’s SF community and the Clarion West class of 2012, each week’s instructor will be there: Mary Rosenblum, Stephen Graham Jones, George R.R. Martin, Connie Willis, Kelly Link & Gavin Grant, and Chuck Palahniuk.
This time last year, I was beginning to freak out big time about attending Clarion West. Mostly, I was afraid of letting my fears get in the way of the workshop experience. I was afraid I would be too shy to talk to anyone, and too afraid to step out of my writing comfort zone. Sometimes I failed on both of these counts. But mostly, I was able to close my eyes and push myself forward. And my workshop experience was better for it.
I also had to move forward with my writing. At Clarion West, I had to write five fresh stories. We were encouraged to bring ideas for stories as back up, but not use them. When I moved from Alaska, I had a bunch of stories that I hated. I had spent so much time working on them that I felt weighted down by my responsibility to make them the best they could be. It was so freeing, and so healing for my writing psyche, to go to Clarion West and be made to write completely new stories.
They were shitty first drafts. But they were new, and that made them wonderful. My stories got better from week to week, and all of the advice I’d gotten over the years began to make sense.
Ultimately, three of the stories I wrote at Clarion West as well as my Clarion West submission story ended up in my masters thesis. After the workshop, when I went back to my pre-workshop stories, I zipped through revising them. I wasn’t frustrated with them anymore, because I knew that they weren’t the only stories I’d ever write. I could work to make them better, but I wouldn’t let them haunt me forever.
Clarion West is starting in two weeks. I can visit Seattle and go to the parties, but I can’t go back to the workshop. So instead, I’m taking part in the Clarion West Write-a-thon.
My original goal was to revise each of the stories I wrote at Clarion West and submit it. But I’ve already been revising and submitting my Clarion West stories, perhaps too much, and I need to move forward. So I’m going to return to the concept that made Clarion West so helpful for me the first time around and write a fresh story, every week from June 17 – July 27.
This summer I’m putting my old writing in a drawer so I can explore the rest of the house. I know there have to be some secret balconies here, somewhere.
Want to know more about the Clarion West Write-a-thon? Here are the details:
If you’re looking for a challenge this summer, joining the Write-a-thon could be a great option. You’ll be part of an amazing community of writers and you’ll be helping to raise money for the workshop. You don’t have to be an alumni to participate.