Wednesday, March 26, 2014

I Am Going to Clarion West

When the phone rang on the afternoon of Saturday, March 15th, I didn't answer it because I didn't recognize the number. The call rolled over to voicemail, and a few minutes later I got this transcript by e-mail:



(Though that first sentence contains some egregious errors, I can't help but imagine what a "craigslist writers workshop" might look like.)

I listened to the message at least twice before I called back, leaving my own voicemail and initiating the twentieth-century practice known as "phone tag." I then returned to whatever I was doing, a bit distracted because why would Clarion West call me if they were just going to reject me again? I'd applied several times before, starting in 2008, and they'd always sent responses by e-mail. Could it be? I did my best not to get my hopes up. Maybe there was a question about my application info, or some kind of file problem with my uploaded writing sample PDF.

Anyway, long story short, they called back about an hour later, and this time I picked up the phone. I don't quite recall the details of the conversation because I was alternately nervous, excited, and flustered throughout. But the gist of it is: they offered me a spot in this year's workshop, I said yes, and now I'm going to spend part of this summer at "an intensive six-week workshop in Seattle’s University District, geared to help [me] prepare for a professional career as a writer of speculative fiction."

Wow.

I almost didn't apply to either Clarion workshop this year, because the one-two punch of annual rejections from both of them had become a pretty discouraging ritual. But DeeAnn convinced me to do it, because if nothing else, the process would force me to (1) write two new short stories and (2) reflect on why I had wanted to go to a Clarion workshop in the first place. And she was right, as usual. I was rejected again by Clarion UCSD, but now I have two great new stories to submit to paying markets; and writing my "backgrounder" essay for Clarion West reminded me of why I do what I do. Even if I hadn't gotten in, that would have helped me keep on keepin' on.

So that's the big news from the last couple of weeks. This will be the longest workshop I've ever attended. Some people describe the Clarion experience as "boot camp for spec-fic writers," and I'm hoping it will be at least as motivating and focusing as Viable Paradise was for me, nearly six years ago. I've been working at this writing thing for a while now—over twenty years, if you count my high school scribblings and ignore my long hiatus in the late 1990s and early 2000s—and I'm ready to take the next step into a larger world.

Curtis

3 comments:

Sarah Brandel said...

Prepare for a life-changing experience! As I mentioned on Twitter, I went in '99, and though I'm not quite the writing megastar I'd envisioned myself being by now, the people I met ended up helping me launch my career as an editor. You will meet many amazing people and make many useful connections. You will write like gangbusters. You will sleep very little. I'm not sure about the social atmosphere, since we weren't in the sorority house when I went, but it sounds amazing. (And you're fed more regularly than we were.)

Go to all the social events you can. Sleep a lot now. Make sure to see the city. Write write write, and take advantage of what the teachers have to offer (feedback, advice, etc.). Don't take it too seriously--remember, you're there to enjoy the experience, too. (Being too intense leads to 6th-week burnout.) Don't beat yourself up if you're not writing flawless masterworks while you're there. (This is not the time for revisions. That comes when you return to Mundania.)

And...that's all I've got for now. Besides a raging case of jealousy. :-) Looking forward to hearing all about it!

Sarah

Marlee Jane said...

I don't remember almost anything said in my phone call either! I was in the living room with my boyfriend and mother when the phone rang and I knew before I even picked it up, somehow. They were confused by my alarmed face and kept asking questions so I ran into the backyard to concentrate on the call!

I'm looking forward to meeting you, and here's to everyone getting amazing things out of the course.

Curtis Chen said...

Sarah: Thanks for the advice! I'll do my best to make the most of it.

Marlee Jane: I look forward to meeting you too!