Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Clarion Week Two

The entrance to the Giesel Library at UCSD
There are many things Clarion is teaching me. One of them is exhaustion limits.

When I read up about other's students experiences of Clarion, a common theme was exhaustion. While I didn't think they were exaggerating, I thought I was well acquainted with stress limits.

How very wrong was I.

Week two was "get your ass into gear" week, presided over by Geoff Ryman. Geoff was a firm task master: we'd have workshop in the morning, writing and critiquing in the afternoon, an early evening lecture, and more of that writing and critiquing in the evening. Thousands of words to read and write, with cogitation aplenty. A lot of people started hitting the wall - late nights, missed meals, and our first sickie of the bunch. Brains were turning to mush. The zombie hoard was closing in.

Thursday and Friday were especially difficult days for me. I hadn't paced myself well in the first week, going hard out to be The Cool Chick From Outer Space instead of the slightly dorky aunty who never really knows what to say in any given situation. I was running on fumes and 6 hours sleep a night. I was heading for a crash if I didn't budget my mental energy right.

So I've set myself a regime. I must have everything finished by 11pm every night, a certain word count every day, and get at least seven hours sleep, eight is preferable. Dang, is turning out a story a week a challenge for this perfectionist, but it's certainly oiling the creative gears. I've already finished two stories, have outlines for two more, and I just need inspiration for my fifth (five is all I will manage within the six weeks here). I'm trying to pick a theme or style challenge for every story. I'm not here to sit quietly in my comfort zone - I came here to get good.

My first critique went well, and I was uplifted by the feedback from my classmates and tutor. Being minutely dissected is an uncomfortable but also enlightening experience. I thought I wouldn't survive the gauntlet, but then I took my fear by the hand and said "nope, buddy, we're doing this together". Of course, that fear will change from week to week under the gaze of a new tutor. Who knows how the other tutors will flay my soul?

Cat Valente, Geoff Ryman, and various Clarionites
Come Friday afternoon, everyone was pretty much toast, and we lowered the cone of silence until darkness fell and the vampires came out. It was July the 4th after all. What? You think we got the public holiday off? No way. There were still workshops and word counts to be achieved! But after dark fireworks were observed, a few (well, more than a few) beverages were consumed, and much bloviating ensued. To entertain a group of writers: just add water. And corn chips. And a dash of salsa.

Saturday, much regret was entertained in the Pickled vicinity. I had been considering going into the city to check out the shopping, but a quiet day of plugging away at the word count (and pain killers) ensued. I'd also volunteered to help welcome our next tutor Catherynne Valente into the fold [Insert gif of nervous pacing]. There was a really cool chilli making party, and more bloviating, then we were back to having to say goodbye once more to our tutor and then all of a sudden Geoff was gone.

My Clarion Motto: Eat, sleep, rave, repeat. Or it could be: There's a story in that. Both work.

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