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Tag Archives: clarion west
A student wrote in to let me know they’d made it into Odyssey, huzzah, and asked if I had any advice about attending a workshop. As a matter of fact I do. Like many things in life, you get more out of a workshop if you’re willing to invest a little effort beforehand, during, and afterward.
I went through a number of workshops in college at both the undergraduate and graduate level, but the place where I learned the most was Clarion West, a six week workshop in Seattle. My instructors were Octavia Butler, Andy Duncan, L. Timmel Duchamp, Connie Willis, Gordon van Gelder, and Michael Swanwick; my classmates included Ann Leckie, E.C.Myers, Rashida Smith, and Rachel Swirsky, among others. If you read a lot of F&SF, you may recognize many of those names and realize how incredibly privileged I was to be part of that year.
People are, understandably, saying that the equation clarion + student = pro writer is not the only way you can reach that particular sum, and they are absolutely correct, although the drama is — as is often the case on the Internet — a bit hyperbolic.
This is the fact of F&SF writing — there are people disadvantaged by gender, or race, or sexuality or other physical circumstances. But there’s also a big group — which contains a disproportionate number of those differing physically — affected by economic issues. Continue reading
We’ve all got a comfort zone, the place where we can function easily, where we know what to expect. It’s a nice place. It’s…well, it’s COMFORTABLE. Hence the name. It would be easy to stay there all the time.
But for writers, I think it’s very important to go outside on a regular basis. For one thing, your characters are going to be outside their comfort zones, being challenged, tested, thwarted, more often than not, because one thing about comfort zones is that they can be pretty darn boring to read about. Who wants a character for which everything goes right? (This is, I will argue, why the Richie Rich comic books were pretty darn bland.) How can you write a character outside their comfort zone if you don’t know what it’s like?
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie is a fabulous space opera with an unusual protagonist whose struggle will pull the reader in. It is, alas, not a particularly long book, and I could have read at least twice more the length happily.
I must admit to an extra hint of pride in this book’s appearance here, because Ann was a member of my Clarion West class back in 2005, when she was first wowing all of us with her Radchi universe. Ann and I also know each other through SFWA and our shared agent, Seth Fishman.
It’s the last week of the Clarion West Write-a-thon! Donate now and you’ll get the donors reward, a file in the format of your choice containing all the writing I’ve done over the course of the Write-a-thon plus a couple of bonuses.
Yesterday I spent a pleasant chunk of time talking to the Clarion West 2013 students, along with Django Wexler. Django and I were the “mystery muses,” a Friday feature for the CW students where people come in to chat about a specific aspect of the writerly life. Django spoke well to the experience of having one’s first major book come out, since his book (which I have read and heartily recommend) The Thousand Names just came out. He let us all know (to mass disappointment) that it doesn’t lead to being booked on the Leno or Daily Show or lavish book tours, though he did get to go to ComicCon.
This year, I’m again participating in the Clarion West Writeathon. A lot of people are driving pledges with backer incentives. Here’s mine: I plan to complete one story each week. At the end of the six weeks, all backers will … Continue reading
The excellent Folly Blaine reads one of the stories from Near + Far, “Zeppelin Follies.”
I wanted to talk about something that I often say in class. It’s something Connie Willis told my Clarion West class, and which I repeat, but don’t explain as thoroughly as I should, because it’s so clear in my head.
But words are imprecise things, and so I’m a-gonna do what we used to call “unpacking” back in grad school and even provide some useful examples. What did Connie say? She said, “Good fiction teaches us what it means to be human.” As good f&sf writers, I would argue that we might change “human” to “self-aware being,” but that is picking nits.
What does that mean? It means we’re all faced with this common problem: life. And we want to know what we’re supposed to do, and what we can get away with, and what to do about all that hardcoded primate behavior that keeps popping up from time to time, and stuff like that. Sometimes the message features a universal human, sometimes it is a human shaped by particular circumstances, such as race, gender, class, sexuality, disability, etc. It’s why we like to read fiction. It’s why we like gossip. We want to know what other human beings do.
And here’s why this is important: Sometimes thinking about what a story is trying to say is a good way to complete, rewrite, or sharpen it.