Most writers I know agree: going to a workshop like Clarion West isn’t, strictly speaking, a necessity for becoming a writer. However, one could say the same thing about film schools, or art and music conservatories, or for that matter for business managers. All kinds of things can be learned outside of a classroom-and-teacher paradigm.
But that’s not an argument that Clarion West isn’t necessary. The workshop, and others like it, has helped a lot of writers I know get what they need to start functioning as authors–that is, as people who actually get their work published professionally, and contribute to fantastical literature today.
When I went to Clarion West, I wasn’t a particularly bad writer. I had problems, holes in my skills that I knew I needed to work on. And other problems I hadn’t yet realized I had, some of which I’m still working on. But I was good at some things. I had a pretty good handle on some things.
But for me, going to Clarion West was a way of realizing that SF, like soylent green, was made of people. The novelists, the short story authors, the screenwriters that I regarded with a certain kind of awe, they were just people like me. A couple of my classmates had published extensively. Lots, like me, had never really published anything at all, at least not in a remotely serious venue. We were almost all very hungry, though, and driven, and seeing our peers like this, a number of us seemed to realize that this thing we wanted to do, it was possible. It was a doable thing.
Then we started doing it. Some of us got book deals. Some of us started cranking out novels. A number of us starting publishing seriously, after that summer, or editing, or slush reading. Some of us were nominated for awards, and a couple of us even got them.
Some of us seemed to stop writing, which is okay too: not everyone learns the same thing at these workshops.
What I’m saying is that, personally, the workshop was a big deal to me, and it was a big deal for most of my friends who’ve attended. For those of us who, like me, grew up without any real contact with the social world of SF, it is a major institution. And I’m trying to support it this summer by doing a write-a-thon. I’m writing my little heart out. Well, I’m doing it now. The Write-a-thon always starts during final exam week for me, so I couldn’t write at that time. Therefore, I’m going to keep going into mid-August.
My sponsorship page is here. If you want to sponsor me, that’s the place to go. You’ll see that my writing goals for the write-a-thon are vague but clearly laid out:
- I’ll complete two short film scripts, or one feature-length film script.
- I’ll send at least two new stories out to market, and revise one existing story and send it out.
- I’ll begin drafting a novel, with the synopsis/outline first, and then the text itself.
Of those goals, I’ve already completed the first, having drafted three short film scripts this week. (And I’m planning to crank out a couple more this weekend or early next week, too.) I’m also currently about a third of the way through a new short story, titled “The Return”–a Lovecraftian “neo-Dreamlands” piece dealing with the terrifying return of a famously-lost city… sort of.
I also have a couple of other stories planned, which I’ll be working on as soon as “The Return” is completed; one, specifically, is a Canadian superhero story I need to get written, and I’m hoping to complete a draft next week. (I actually have two, and might try get them both drafted in the next two weeks.)
Whoever makes the biggest donation will earn the right to choose the name of a character in one of the short stories I write during the write-a-thon. I’ll contact you and let you know!
Next week I’ll also start work on the script for a short film adapting a famous Korean short story for the screen, in the style of Chris Marker’s brilliant La Jetée — a project that is directly traceable to my attendance at Clarion West; I’d seen La Jetée before then, of course, and forgotten about it… but one night, while some of us were taking a writing break, Leslie Howe brought a DVD to share with us; it included the wonderful and hialrious homage to Marker’s masterpiece, John Harden’s “La vie d’un chien,” which is actually the film that’s inspired me to do this script.
Everyone who sponsors me for the write-a-thon, for any amount, will appear in the credits for this short film, as a “script sponsor”; your name, immortalized forever, for sponsoring the authorship of the script during the Clarion West Write-a-thon… but your donation will of course go not to the film, but to the workshop.
As for the novel, I’ll post about that later. I am starting to feel sure about which one (of the many scuttling around in my mind) I want to write first, but I want to be sure before I say anything about it. But anyone who sponsors me will be thanked in print should the novel ever see print!
Anyway, if you would like to sponsor me, any amount is fine. I’m writing my ass off this summer either way, but if you sponsor me, you’ll be helping the next wave of loons who are bringing their own crazy, bizarre stories to rock your mind. And that’s a good thing.
One more time, here’s that link to my sponsorship profile.