Saturday, June 25, 2005


A few days ago, I asked "Where are the Clarion 2005 blogs?" Not too long afterwards, I found one from a young woman attending Clarion West. Last night she posted links to the blogs of three other people who are attending, so I'll post all those links here:

Statements of Fact and Fiction
The Write Grrl
Random Jane

I still haven't found anyone from Clarion East who is blogging, however.

Why is Clarion so important? There are a number of reasons, but first and foremost it's a chance to spend 6 weeks in a very intensive writing environment, pushing and testing yourself every day. Getting your work critiqued by peers and more importantly critiquing other people's work (which is a major part of the Clarion method) is one of the best ways to hone your craft, but there are other, more convenient, ways to get this experience (visit some of the links to the right on the main page to get an idea of what is available). Gotham Writers' Workshop in NYC also uses the "Milton method" (as Clarion's method is technically called), and they have an online version that I can attest to being outstanding. There are several other free online critque workshops as well.

So what makes Clarion different? I think there are two major aspects that set Clarion apart from other workshops. First of all is the calibre of the instructors -- you simply won't find bigger names or more knowledgeable people as instructors. Many of the grand masters of science fiction and fantasy have taught at Clarion. Even moreso, however, as alluded to above, is the fact that for most participants this is the first time they have spent a full month and a half doing nothing but writing full time in a writing-supportive environment. Even those of us who do write for a living (even though I don't write fiction for a living -- yet) rarely get to experience that kind of environment.

Much has been said about the fact that many, many Clarion graduates have gone on to be top writers in the science ficton and fantasy fields. While I think Clarion can definitely claim the credit for honing the skills that made these writers successful, we also have to keep in mind that Clarion is a competitive workshop -- you have to display a good bit of talent in the stories you submit with your application in order to be accepted in the first place. So, Clarion is not a workshop to teach beginning writing, it's instead a place for budding professionals to take their art to the next level. I've not seen any other workshops that can make that claim.

I'm planning on applying to Clarion at some point, but I have two factors that will affect the timing. First of all, as I mentioned before, I need to wait until my daughter is just a bit older. Toddlers can change amazingly fast in six weeks, and I don't want to miss a minute of my child's growth and development. It would also be hard on her for Daddy to be gone for that long. The second issue, however, rests with my writing career itself. While I still plan to write non-fiction articles (and maybe even the book I mentioned earlier this week), I'd really like to "make it" in the world of fiction writing. That means I've got a lot of mistakes to make before I'm really up to what I would consider the level at which I'd get the maximum benefit from Clarion. I have gotten good comments from editors such as Stanley Schmidt of Analog magazine, but I think I've still got a ways to go before I'm at what I would consider a professional level with my fiction writing. I think I need a year of near-full-time fiction writing to get to the point where Clarion will do the most good. As an aside, I'm also starting on my Ph.D. dissertation in education this year, so that's going to take up an even greater chunk of my time. Given this and the fact that my daughter will still only be three, I doubt I'll be ready for next summer. Looks like Clarion 2007 will be my target, then.

The only remaining question is whether I'd apply for Clarion East or Clarion West. Clarion East is moving from Michigan to parts as yet unknown next year, so I'll wait until I find out where to decide. Plane tickets to Seattle (Clarion West) are probably quite a bit cheaper than almost anywhere on the East Coast, not to mention the fact that I could take a couple of days and fly myself to Seattle, assuming I ever get myself an aircraft. In the end, though, I think it will be the instructors that will make the final decision for me. Ultimately, the experience has to outweigh convenience. Even though it's a long, long way off, I really can't wait!


Eddie said...

Hi Keith!

Thanks for posting our links! Today is the end of week two. We're all happy, tired and beginning to wipe the stardust out of our eyes. Everyone's had at least two stories critted now and, personally, I am beginning to see (and more importantly, to define ) my strenths and weaknesses.

There definitely is a right time to come to Clarion, but don't sell yourself short, either. I wouldn't be here this year if not for an amazing, oddball assortment of people who know my writing and would not let me sleep till I applied.

Enjoy time with your daughter, and when you're ready, Clarion will be here!

Write on,


Keith Watt said...

Hi Eddie! Nice to hear from you! Thanks again for posting to your blog, and especially thanks for the encouraging words.

Good luck at Clarion!