Last week Clarion UCSD announced the upcoming Class of 2012, and news of Clarion West acceptances and rejections have started leaking out. My most sincere congratulations to those who got in, and I hope you have a mind-blowing summer.In the wake of all the Clarion hubbub, I’d like to give a shout out to the workshop I attended last fall, Viable Paradise. It’s one week long (hence the “Viable”), compared to 6 weeks of Clarion or Odyssey, and is located on Martha’s Vineyard. My VPXV classmate Chris has written a fantastic and detailed side-by-side comparison of the three workshops on his blog, and I urge you to check it out. Likewise these posts by Cory Skerry and instructor Sherwood Smith are full of useful perspectives for anyone who is considering applying. And here’s a link to some posts I wrote on this blog immediately following the workshop, when I was still all starry eyed and in love.
Location: Martha’s Vineyard, MA
Workshop Dates: October 7 – October 12
Housing: $175/night + tax or $155/night + tax
Application Fee: $25.00 (non-refundable)
Application Deadline: June 15, 2012
2012 Instructors: Elizabeth Bear, Debra Doyle, Steven Gould,
James D. Macdonald, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Teresa Nielsen
Hayden, Steven Brust, Sherwood Smith
There are a number of reasons to attend a residential writing workshop. One that I’ve heard echoed quite a bit is validation of your writing. I’m so happy some people got that out of the workshop experience, but to be honest, I didn’t. (Though I did have a really lovely and helpful discussion with Sherwood Smith about my novel.) A second reason to attend is to improve your craft and understanding of the business of writing, largely through lectures by professional writers and editors. The lectures were great, but one of the advantages to living in Seattle is that writers and writing advice abound. So while I wasn’t starved for this kind of information, I also think an important aspect of the apprentice period is being taught the same lessons in different ways and by different people, so that over time you come to internalize the bits that work for you.
The other reasons for attending workshop are arguably less lofty-sounding, but to me were more important: building a community of your peers, and learning how to give and get good critique. This is where VP really gelled for me. (As a total aside, writer Randy Henderson recently posted this comprehensive, one-stop-shop essay on critiquing, which I’ve bookmarked everywhere.) I wrote in a vacuum for well over a decade. Before VP, I had writing friends in Seattle but they were mostly Clarion grads and naturally had their own critique circles in place. I struggled to be part of the writing community is a a meaningful way. Enter Viable Paradise.
It’s been five months now since the workshop, and I continue to learn so much from my classmates. I value their friendship and bravery and insight. I know my writing has improved since VP. I cringe a bit to think I used to submit stories without hard external critique. So I suppose what I’m getting at here is that if you’re looking to step up your writing, and meet people who take this writing thing just as seriously as you do, consider one of these residential workshops.
The best thing I got out of VP was the friendships. My biggest piece of advice is not to sell that aspect short. You can’t control how your writing sample will be received–so don’t pin all your hopes and dreams on that one thing. Do your best, and move on. If you were good enough to be accepted to the workshop, then you belong. And try not to be shy, because it’ll be over before you know it.
NEWS: I’ve decided to take a science class this quarter. I typically try to steer clear of more coursework, because it impinges on all the research I need to do. I’ve successfully avoided them for years now. But boy howdy, this one is called Planetary Atmospheres (cross listed between Atmos and Astronomy), and I just can’t say no. Perfect opportunity for SF world building, plus it’s a graduate-level class I’d love to teach one day!!
Also, I fell in love with The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. You can check out my comments over on Goodreads.