Clarion applicants…batten down the hatches!

Clarion classmate E J Fischer recounts his last minute application to the worlds greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy writing workshop @ UC San Diego. If its any encouragement to those of you who barely scrapped the deadline, it seemed that almost everyone in the class of 2008 applied at the last minute (and now of course I’m discouraging those of you who applied in good time…)

I had written two stories in the months before Clarion. My Lovesick Zombie Boy Band, a teenage witch story, and The Great Western Pile, a steampunk tale about a clockwork super-computer. (Both currently unpublished and awaiting revision per notes from Kelly Link and Jim Kelly. I need to spend more time on revising things.) Clarion had been buzzing away at the back of my head for months by then, but I only realised I had to good stories ready a few days before. At which point I realised The Great Western Pile was 2k too long, so spent the twenty-four hours before hand giving it a serious trim. My application went in a few hours before the deadline, and I told my self to forget about it.

Over the next few weeks I came to realise how very, very much I wanted to go to Clarion. I prepared for rejection, but dreamed of acceptance. And now you, who have just made your Clarion application and are scouring the blogosphere for succour, are doing the very same. Its a tense time of waiting, but don’t worry, you’ll get through it. If you don’t get in it will be a bummer, but dust yourself down and carry on. If you do…oh boy..start getting ready now.

Buying the plane ticket and packing your bags are the easy part. Leaving your life for six weeks for any reason is tough. Leaving your life for six weeks to write science fiction and fantasy is even tougher. You are pursuing a great ambition, and that always comes at a cost. Clarion is a whirlwind. A wonderful, delirious whirlwind, but a whirlwind none the less. You need to batten down the hatches before it hits (or alternatively just go and stand in a field and come what may…) Start persuading your work that you are so essential that they will need you back, or get used to the idea of looking for a new job when Clarion is done. Tell the people you love that you love them. Lots. They are going to need to know this. And have a real think about what you want to write and why. Clarion will test your assumptions about yourself as a writer every day for six weeks. Be prepared.

Oh…and take some comffy sandals. The beach is lovely…



Published by Damien Walter

Writer and storyteller. Contributor to The Guardian, Independent, BBC, Wired, Buzzfeed and Aeon magazine. Special forces librarian (retired). Teaches the Rhetoric of Story to over 35,000 students worldwide.


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