It feels like it was only a few months ago, but it was back in 2012 that I attended the Clarion West Writers Workshop. Last week the workshop began its 32nd year, and I can promise those lucky eighteen students they’re in for an incredible time. For the next six weeks they will live together in catered dorms, their world simplified until writing is the most important facet of their lives. Every week they will have to write a brand new story, and every week they will see it scrutinised and torn apart by everyone else. And it’s not just students, for every week they’ll have a new instructor, a notable author who will dispense pearls of wisdom. Occasionally they will contradict last week’s author, but that’s also part of the learning process.
This year they have Andy Duncan, Eileen Gunn, Tobias S. Bucknell, Connie Willis, Nalo Hopkinson and Cory Doctorow. Connie Willis was one of my instructors as well, and I still go back to her lectures on the structure of stories and raising stakes. I simply cannot watch screwball comedies or the original Ocean’s Eleven the same way anymore.
You can’t go back to Clarion West, but while it’s taking place we alumni hold a Write-a-thon fundraiser to keep the workshop running. And with Clarion West having to move to a new venue this year (so long, old sorority house with your weird mirrored bathroom!), they’re in need of more funds than usual.
So if you have something spare in your charitable contributions budget, please consider supporting one or more of the 195 members in the Write-a-thon (list here). The link to my own page is here. If you’re interested in supporting me, here are the reward tiers I’m offering:
$1+ I’ll send you copies of any stories I work on during the Write-a-thon.
$10+ I’ll write about a short story by an author of your choosing on this very website. (I may ask you to choose another author if I find I can’t say anything nice about your first choice.)
$100+ I’ll write a short story about anything you like. Murder mystery on a WWII bomber? Space opera horror involving a spoon? Fanfiction of that slash pairing you simply can’t find online? Really, anything. (I like challenges.) Note that this may take a while, both for the muse to strike and for research to be done; if you ask for James K. Polk encountering modern-day America, I’d need time to research James K. Polk and what modern-day America actually is. (Reward idea stolen from M. Huw Evans.)
Clarion West really does make you a better writer. You can see for yourself in the next six weeks, as my recommendations will all be pieces my 2012 classmates have published since then. Part of me feels guiltily nepotistic for focusing on them, but they’re excellent stories that I’d happily promote even if I didn’t know these people. I’ve previously written about two of their works: Helen Marshall’s Blessed and Reyna Todd’s Ill Met in Tanivar.
Week 1: Trans-Siberia: An Account of a Journey by Sarah Brooks