Sunday, December 5, 2010

Why You Should Consider Applying to the Clarion Workshop This Year

As of 1 December, the Clarion Science Fiction and Writers' Workshop opened to applications for the class of 2011.

Here's the official announcement:

Clarion is widely recognized as a premier training ground for aspiring writers of fantasy and science fiction short stories. The 2011 writers in residence are Nina Kiriki Hoffman, John Scalzi, Elizabeth Bear, David Anthony Durham, John Kessel, and Kij Johnson. Each year 18 students, ranging in age from late teens to those in mid-career, are selected from applicants who have the potential for highly successful writing careers. Students are expected to write several new short stories during the six-week workshop, and to give and receive constructive criticism. Instructors and students reside together in University of California at San Diego campus apartments throughout the intensive six-week program.

Application period: December 1 – March 1. Applicants must submit two short stories with their application.

Workshop: June 26 – August 6, 2011.

So why should you consider applying?

  • You'll learn how to critique other people's writing and thus your own.
  • Your writing will improve amazingly.
  • You'll make several friends for life.
  • You get to spend six weeks on a tree-filled campus immersed in writing—no cooking, no chores, no noisy children or demanding pets, nothing at all to prevent you from living and breathing writing.
  • You'll have the most fun one can possibly have while being severely sleep deprived.
  • You'll find out whether you truly want to be a writer.
  • Being a Clarion grad opens doors for you and gives you a professional connection to dozens of professional sf/f writers (and writers in some other genres as well).
  • Your life will change forever.

Yes, Clarion is pricey—nearly $5000 this year. (That includes tuition, private room in a three-person apartment with kitchen, Internet service, and three meals per day at the dining hall, as well as a parking pass if you take your car.) Some scholarships are available.

However, if you truly want to be a professional or semiprofessional writer, Clarion is worth the money. In essence, it leapfrogs you and your career several years ahead of where you'd be otherwise. And if you discover that the writing life is not for you, then you can stop wasting time writing and get on with what you should be doing with your life.

If you have any questions about Clarion, feel free to post them in the comments or email me at ShaunaRoberts [at] ShaunaRoberts [dot] com.

—Shauna Roberts


Jewel Amethyst said...

Clarion sounds really interesting. Do they have a similar offering for romance writing or other genres?

Charles Gramlich said...

you're definitely making me think hard about it.

KeVin K. said...

I've thought about Clarion. Budget the way it is this year, that's probably all I'll do this time around, too.

Aside from the money, my other reservation about Clarion is completely irrational.
Here in North Carolina it's generally accepted that UNC-Chapel Hill is the best public university in the state, with NC-State a close second. Chapel Hill has an elitist vibe; if you're working with a Chapel Hill graduate you can expect them to be a bit condescending in their assessment of your education and competence. (The institution's smugness motivated our youngest to turn down a 4-year free ride to Chapel Hill and take an almost free ride -- costing as much as paying full price at Chapel Hill -- to William & Mary. Our son chose working-class NC-State for the same reason.) Counting you, I know and/or correspond regularly with five writers who graduated from Clarion in the last quarter-century. You're the only non-smug one in the bunch.
I'm really afraid of becoming smug. I'm also concerned that my anti-elitist mindset will color my responses and prevent me from gaining all I can from the workshop. Like I said, not rational. But I've been working in mental health long enough to know that rational thought has almost nothing to do with how humans make decisions.

Shauna Roberts said...

JEWEL, I've never heard of something like this for romance writers, so I'm pretty sure it doesn't exist. I'm not familiar enough with the other genres to know of such opportunities.

CHARLES, it's on my list to write to you tonight.

KEvIN, while at Clarion, most people feel pretty insecure. So I think you would not get fed up during the workshop with more than one or two people at most and could get what you need from it. Down the road, you could avoid any who turned smug.

If you look at successful sf writers who didn't go to Clarion, there are a bunch who are insufferable and only a few who come across as humble (Larry Niven and Harry Turtledove come to mind in the latter category). So the problem of smugness may be partly a reflection sf writing attracting people with a certain immaturity of mind, who think that some people are worth more than others.

If you haven't been inclined to smugness in the past, I doubt Clarion would change you.