Daily Archives: July 8, 2014

Clarion West: A Love Letter

I’ve known about Clarion West since I first heard of Nicola Griffith. I’m going to say close to 20 years now. For those of you who don’t know, Clarion West offers a 6-week residential writing program for emerging speculative fiction (sci-fi/fantasy/??) writers in Seattle.

Squid canoe

A few years ago, Clarion West also started offering one-day workshops in Seattle on specific topics. I screwed up my courage and signed up for one. It was on how to create a plot, something I desperately needed. I sat in a room with about 20 other people, and while I sat there, I discovered something. I was a writer. I’ve always wanted to write. But more importantly, I’d found my tribe.

I was recently asked for my impression on my experience at the workshops. Here’s what I said:

I have attended nearly half a dozen of the Clarion West One-Day Writer’s workshops. While each workshop has focused on a different aspect of writing, I’ve taken away lessons that have improved my writing. I’ve met and befriended fellow writers. I’ve found support.

I’ve attended other types of writing classes, and the workshops offered by Clarion West are without peer. Most of the workshops have offered a mix of lecture and hands-on, giving me the opportunity to try out what is being taught, in the moment. They are often collaborative, with each writer offering his or her own experience as well as the instructor offering theirs. We have the opportunity not only to learn from the “expert,” but to learn from the other students. I’ve been able to share my own work and get feedback, which has increased my comfort with receiving critiques on my work in other arenas.

Overall, I’ve found that attending the One-Day Workshops has strengthened my writing, bolstered my confidence, provided me with a new and supportive group, and expanded my sense of what is possible with my writing.

It’s through Clarion West that I met Camille Griep, who has become a stalwart support for me. Last year, through the write-a-thon! I met GG Silverman, another fantastic comrade. I befriended Karina, and she befriended me. Three powerful women who inspire me and encourage me, in all my silly, weird, and wacky ways.

Last year I wrote a blog post about the power of story and the danger of a single story. In the past year, I’ve explored more about the mono myth and become curious about the heroine’s journey.

I think Rebecca Solnit captures what I’m trying to say here in her book, The Faraway Nearby:

We think we tell stories, but stories often tell us, tell us to love or hate, to see or be blind. Often, too often, stories saddle us, ride us, whip us onward, tell us what to do, and we do it without questioning. The task of learning to be free requires learning to hear them, to question them, to pause and hear silence, to name them, and then to become the storyteller. Those ex-virgins who died were inside the sultan’s story; Scheherazade, like a working-class hero, seized control of the means of production and talked her way out.

This is the third year I’ve participated in the Write-a-thon. The mono myth has failed me. We all need more stories that show us other ways of being. Please consider sponsoring me and making a donation!

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