Some months after getting organized and acquiring proper tax-free status, The Clarion Foundation has a shiny new website and is developing some new ways to raise money to support the Clarion workshop and also some new ways to workshop stories.
Why I Care
In the summer of 2004, I attended The Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers' Workshop at MSU. For once I had the time and the money, and the feeling I was ready to let other people tinker under the hood and crit my stories -- and maybe I'd bring my writing up a notch or two.
It was, without doubt, the hardest and most satisfying six weeks of my life. Clarion has been described as a boot camp for writers, but you have no idea! (grin) And without exception we all do it to ourselves. No one makes you write. No one makes you get up for class or read the other stories -- though we did nudge from time to time. After all, we were all exhausted and needed some encouragement.
Why You Should Care
If you are interesting in writing science fiction and/or fantasy, you might appreciate taking six weeks out of your life and doing nothing but reading, writing and analyzing. If you are interested in having a half-dozen real published authors and a professional editor look at your work and give you some of the low-down on how the mechanics and business of writing and publishing really work, you can learn an awful lot.
Shell Shocked and Progressing
It takes a good six months to a year to really process what happens during those six weeks. To get into Clarion you already have to be a writer. To get back to writing after Clarion is really hard -- some never do -- because there are six million new directions to go in and things to look out for or incorporate. Then there is the drive to succeed.
Everyone Has A Theory
Some will tell you that it takes a hundred rejections to become a writer -- that presupposes you are willing to make a hundred submissions. That could be one story a hundred times, or a hundred stories only once. It's up to you.
Ray Bradbury once said that to become a writer you first have to write a million words -- then throw them away. I'm probably up in the three million words written range at this point, maybe more, so I know I can write.
Another author who teaches writing suggests it takes about four years to get oneself established. I'll have been sending out stories for four years come June 2006 -- though I can certainly add to the four years some "time out" for attending and processing Clarion (!). I have two published stories, one paid at pro rates.
A writer writes. An author is read. A published author is paid.
And that's sort of the gold standard -- a paid, published author is one whose works have achieved some level which an editor is willing to spend their tight budgets on, in the hope that readers will pay good money to buy and read these works.
So I'm Getting There
Clarion deals with short stories. I'm not really a short story writer. I'm a big sprawling epic novelist. (grin) But getting a novel sold from an unpublished unknown writer is really hard. So I figured -- and have had many others consider it a reasonable plan -- that if I can sell a few short stories to some good solid SF markets, then when I sent a novel manuscript in to a book publisher, I might be able to get it looked at by an editor, rather than thrown into the slush pile along with the thousands of other novels by unpublished writers.
I'm still spending more than the tiny bit I've made on my one pro sale. (double-grin) And I just contributed $50 to the Clarion Foundation, to support Clarion, so I'm not yet about to quit my day job. (triple-word-score-grin)
But I think I'll get there -- that place I want to be as a writer -- because I'm not quite doing it alone in a vacuum anymore. I've been to Clarion, I've made new friends and new topics and am constantly investigating new avenues to pursue.
Then There's Getting You There
Clarion isn't for everyone. And there are other Clarions and other workshops. And no one says you have to workshop in order to become a success.
But at least check it out. Read what others have said about Clarion. And heck, whether you're a veteran or not, you can always donate to the cause and keep Clarion going.