Saturday, August 9, 2014

Clarion Week Six

Sigh.

It's done.

I've tried to start this post many times in the last week, in my head and on screen, but my brain just kept scuttling away like the Nopetopus.


Okay, let's try this again. Clarion is over. I need to document the last week, but it's a whole mess of "gah!" and then "nnngh" and "feelz".

A Vida Cruz Original: Tik, The Burping Chameleon,
doodled on her critique of my last Clarion story
By the last Sunday, I was feeling pretty mopey and trying not to do any sort of counting down, but failing badly. I turned in my final story on the Sunday, and in some ways it was a relief (it was my longest piece of the workshop) and in some ways very sad (I would never have to produce under pressure quite like that ever again). All I had left to do for the week was get through my final workshop of my fifth story (feelz of different sortz, because in my exhausted, emotional state I didn't think the story was up to the standard I usually hold myself to), and finish critiquing the stories for the rest of the week. It was easy and hard at the same time - no more writing, but once I put that last story down, once I gave my final critique, there was no going back.

Ann Vandermeer put it very succinctly: "Clarion might change your life, but it's not going to be the best thing you ever do." I feel that's a great way to look at it. I didn't want to go home and think that was all she wrote, Clarion was my best work. Far from it actually - sure, my work got better in just a few short weeksand I wrote some of the best stuff I've ever done, but it was only first drafts. I have discovered that writing is definitely a skill that can be learned - I must never stop writing, never stop improving. And the thing is, I can see the only way is up from here.

Ann also warned us not to try to recreate the Clarion experience in output, work environment, or in another workshop or convention. There is NOTHING like Clarion except Clarion. It is an intense, selfish, stimulating, non-realistic (and I say that in the most loving of tones) environment. Nowhere else ever again am I going to sit in a circle with 17 other writers and a tutor (or two) and scrape the hell out of my words. Nowhere else ever again am I going to eat, sleep, breathe writing and the industry for such a length of time.

Ann and Jeff Vandermeer were fantastic tutors - it's hard to begin to say how incredible they have been to us all, and will continue to be, without falling into cliché superlatives. They've been supportive and realistic - praising our work, and yet somehow able to deliver a critique on the bad bits without flaying the soul. They were a powerhouse of stories - hilarious and striking anecdotes that always had some lesson embedded about the business, and how to conduct oneself as an author. And they are an endless well of industry information and networking advice - it's quite surreal and intensely validating to have people so heart-warmingly invested in my future. I hope I can do good by their good name. They've sent me home with a plan.

14 of 18 from the class with Ann Vandermeer (far left, back)
on the La Jolla cliffs, final night
Timeliney things: Tuesday night we had a taco dinner at the pub which gave us the chance to meet two other Clarionites of years past who awarded our classmate Amin with a gift as part of his Octavia Butler scholarship, as well as various local authors and people invested in keeping Clarion going as an entity. Thank you to all who have their hearts in Clarion - you make a big difference in our lives, and I'm so happy to join you in that investment now!

Tuesday night continued into a raucous final Karaoke session, despite work needing to be done (bah, critiques! We'd learned how to listen to singing and read at the same time by this stage!). And of course, the final song was Bohemian Rhapsody. What workshop full of nutty artists would be complete without a group rendition of the BEST SONG EVA?

Wednesday night was the final author event at Mysterious Galaxy, where Jeff read from and spoke about his Southern Reach trilogy (spoiler: I got to fondle and doodle all over the ARC of the third and as yet to be released book "Acceptance"). And since we were all at the desperation stage when it came to the campus cafeteria food, we all went out for a really good Chinese meal before hand.

Thursday afternoon I joined a group for a walk down to the beach, because for someone who had just spent six weeks by the ocean I'd not put my feet in the water! It was a lovely walk down the hill, and very pleasant on the beach, but getting back up the hill was a bit of a mission. I forgot to take water with me, and didn't realize the temperature had hit the 30s. By the time I got to the top of the hill I apparently didn't look so good. I'd come pretty close to heat stroke. Thank goodness for cold showers.

Friday afternoon after our final workshop (*sniffles*), a group of us went to see "Guardians of the Galaxy", and then for the rest of the night it was beer, pizza, and desperately trying to stave off the inevitable - going to bed and admitting it was all over. I stayed up far later than I should have, but it was worth it for the laughs we got from Martin Cahill's imitations of us all (apparently I sigh a lot)and Manish "MC Lovecraft" Melwani's beat poet reading of his stream-of-conscious eldritch flash piece (seriously, some editor, somewhere, publish that thing - it's fantastic!).

And then after valiantly trying not to cry, and failing, it was time to go.

Thank you 17 amazing people who are the future of speculative fiction. Look for these names: Amin Chehelnabi, Ellie Rhymer, Haralambi Markov, Kayla Whaley, Kiik Araki-Kawaguchi, Kristen Roupenian, Leena Likitalo, Manish Melwani, Marian Womack, Martin Cahill, Nino Cipri, Noah Keller, Ryan Campbell, Sarena Ulibarri, Tamara Vardomskaya, Vida Cruz, Zachary Lisabeth.  Thank you six incredible tutors - Greg Frost, Geoff Ryman, Catherynne Valente, Nora Jemisin, Ann Vandermeer, and Jeff Vandermeer. Thank you Laura Martin, Shelley Streeby, and everyone behind the scenes who make Clarion possible.

Thank you San Diego. You've been a wonderful audience.

My Clarion Statistics (excluding words that were written and edited out)
Week 2: "Blue Skies" 3000 words
Week 3: "An Atlas in Sgraffito Style" 3700 words
Week 4: "Embedded" 4700 words
Week 5: "Gravity Well" 900 words
Week 6: "The Price of Bone and Breath" 7200 words
Final Word Count: 19 500

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