Saturday, August 28, 2010

Life After

It's been a busy summer, and I've only covered a fraction of it here. As proof that there's more to life than Clarion West recovery, I actually set some goals.

One of the cooler gifts I was given at CW (among others too miraculous to quantify) was a autographed copy of Jeff Vandermeer's Booklife, which is an extraordinary survival guide that all serious aspiring writers should have. Thanks, Jeff! In the book, Vandermeer handily explicates the notion of goal-setting as it applies to the writing life, along with a wealth of other helpful suggestions.

I sat down and cranked out goals for the week, month, and coming year, including the number of submissions I think I should be rotating at any given time in marketland, and conventions for professional writers that may help further my career. I made plans to attend one, World Fantasy Con, and outlined plans for other events in the year to come.

The momentum is exciting, but I realized pretty quickly that my weekly goals are unrealistic; part of me crazily expected to keep up a CW pacing outside of the workshop bubble. When a child is tugging my sleeve, other family members need attention, and I find myself launched back into service of my faith community, the pace really slows.


I have recently submitted three works, two of them stories from the workshop, and I'm currently working on a promising new idea. I'm keeping in touch with CW colleagues, and I joined the Codex Writers' Group.

I guess this is a little pat on the back to reassure myself that the thrills and successes I experienced over the summer aren't going to fade away into the ether of memory as the present realities of my life assert themselves. I'm working toward my future, one goal at a time, and I know what I want. I just have to keep moving forward.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Clarion West Made Me Do It Part 2

I can't believe I didn't mention this one already. As far as crazy things go, this ranks pretty high with some people, including more than a few Famous Authors I met at the CW parties. I was NOT the only one who got a tattoo to commemorate the workshop, BTW.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Clarion West Narrative: Eight Crazy Things Clarion West Made Me Do

This ongoing narrative thread about Clarion West is less coherent than I'd like, but I'm starting to think that's symptomatic of the experience. My brain is so full of memories, sights, sounds, faces, places and ideas that the story is coming out in a jumble. A rough draft that I'll clean up as I go, at least in my head, as I rewrite my life story.

One way I want to address some of the story is to drag it out of my past and into the present moment.

The welcome packet I was given warned us that we'd return home changed people, and in my case, the advice was dead-on. From very basic things (I started chewing gum to stay awake and developed a habit) to major shifts in self-concept that I can't yet articulate, the workshop was transformative.

I developed an almost paranoid relationship with my laptop and still feel uneasy if it's not where I can see it. I'm addicted to Twitter. I drink too much coffee. I'm aggressively protective of my privacy and free time. I can't sleep (yet) on an Eastern time schedule. I returned to veganism with a passion. But, HEY! Results may vary.

I also learned to think and work like a professional writer, which is a good thing, one hopes.

This last part may seem a little juvenile, but when I came back, I also had a burning desire to be a bit funkier, to make my outer appearance match my changing inner self-concept. After some careful thought, I made a big change.

So, here's my new do, some of which is blue. I feel fabulous and more comfortable in my own skin. I can't sufficiently explain why this was important to me.

At my age, you'd think I'd be past little things like appearance. But I'm becoming a person I've wanted to be for quite some time, and it feels totally right.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Clarion West Narrative: some tidbits

Clarion West students work to build collegiality, but the workshop tone is set by the instructor.

Case in point: Week One

Michael Bishop was wonderful, a pro. Right out of the gate, he launched into an enlightening lecture on the evils of passive voice and tired phrases, and discussed the useful concept of the "object correlative." During week one, it was clear that Bishop expected us to be familiar with more than just work in our chosen genre. We discussed James Joyce, Eliot, and Robert Hass. We talked about Flannery O'Connor and characterization, "say-able" dialogue and careful prose. And we wrote our butts off, with a different short piece due each day on a particular theme. The extraordinary part, one I dearly loved, was the fact that the stories were turned in anonymously, and Bishop read them aloud for us to critique.

The quality of those early stories blew me away. I had found myself in the company of some brilliant people. Good place to be to grow as a writer! In this process, Bishop taught us how to workshop stories without blasting authors. It set a marvelous tone for the weeks to come. Bishop himself was positive and humorous, a delightful guy.

On Tuesday, we attended a reading at the UW Bookstore where he read from a recent anthology he edited entitled Cross of Centuries. His selection was a fabulous re-imagining of Christ as a woman. Definitely worth the read.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Clarion West Narrative

Finally back at home, after some training and travel unrelated to writing (more on that later, perhaps).

Many people are blogging about the workshop experience, and I know why (here's a superb example). I've written for newspapers, but this isn't reporting. This is grieving and restructuring the narrative of our lives, post-CW. At least, for me it is.

I don't have adequate words to explain how much the workshop experience impacted me and changed me. I'm opting to tell the tale more thematically after a failed draft attempt to break down my Clarion West experience into week-by-week description. The bottom line is, the week-by-week stuff all blurs together, even if you take extensive notes, like I did.

Having said that...

Arrival at the workshop, Saturday June 19. Palpable excitement as classmates arrived. Lots of hugging and thrills of recognition from forum and blog posts, photos shared online in our Google group. Threw luggage into my room. The admin folks, who are lovely people, left us to our own devices to get acquainted. We went out for Indian food on University Avenue, the smorgasbord of ethnic cuisine yum-yums.

Imagine showing up to a beautiful house filled with people who share your fondest hopes. They've read some of the same books you've read. They speak your language. They laugh when you make reference to Babylon 5 or The Princess Bride. They're wearing t-shirts with geeky sayings on them. I breathed deep, in spite of my jitters. These were MY people.

The most precious thing about the CW experience for me? Friendships. This was also the toughest part, as the workshop drew to a close. Not only did we get an extraordinary chance to learn from pro writers, we also got to share our own talents and passions with other new writers, and the combination of these factors makes for some seriously powerful bonding.

Now, some of us are working hard to stay in touch, which is professionally smart but also fulfilling in other ways. I miss them terribly. This matters so much to me that words fail here, but this aspect of the workshop was huge. I'm sorrowful, but so very grateful.

Heartfelt thanks to all.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Home Again

Wow. I just had my life radically altered by Clarion West Writers Workshop. I wish someone had told me coming home would be like ripping my heart out.

It was lovely. It was terrifying. It was complex and full of joy and discovery. It was everything I ever wanted and then some, including things I didn't even know I needed and a bunch of new best friends.

I didn't blog about it during because it's just too damn hard. Some folks did in the past, and I really appreciated their efforts, for giving me a window into that life-changing event before I attended the workshop. I learned that every workshop class has a different experience, that the time we're given is shaped by us, the participants, but there are lots of commonalities, too. Read and compare, if you are a future hopeful.

Over the next few weeks, I'll attempt to reconstruct some of the narrative of my experience there. But it'll be mostly for me, I think. The last six weeks have been so intense and important to my life as a person and as a writer, and I need to decompress and process some of that data, if you know what I mean.

In the meantime, here's photo #1, arrival and unpacking.