Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Clarion: an annual reminder

In 2008, I attended the Clarion Writers' Workshop at UCSD. Clarion is an intensive six week writing program, taught by professional writers. It remains the best thing I've ever done for myself as a writer, both because of what I learned while I was there, and because attending made me take my writing seriously.

Three of my instructors are teaching again this year: Nalo Hopkinson and Kelly Link are at Clarion, and Neil Gaiman is at Clarion West. All three are not only brilliant writers, but also fabulous people, and the instructor line-up at both places is phenomenal. And it's not like the instructors only show up during class - they live in the same place, they are with you the week that they are there.

So yes, I think if you are a writer, you should go. And yes, I know there are hesitations about attending - the two biggest that I've heard being that attending is a big investment of time and money. First, if your hesitation is financial, there are scholarships. It is also a program that I believe is worth planning for - maybe you can't afford the time or money this year, but if you want to go, plan in advance, and apply next year, or the year after. There will always be wonderful instructors.

Time is harder for me to help you with. I get that most adults do not get summer vacations. I gave up a teaching job to attend, and it was terrifying. But if writing really matters to you, and you are trying to discover whether you can do it seriously, whether you can take the raw talent you have and turn it into something recognizable, don't let the time be the thing that scares you away. Push yourself toward the thing that you want. Give yourself the gift of taking yourself seriously.


  1. I wish I could do something like this, but there's no way for me to take six weeks off. I go to a writer's retreat one week in the summer, and the director has been pushing me to stay for the workshop also, but even two weeks away seems impossible. I would love to do it, though. When I'm there with the other writers, I feel like my writing dreams aren't so crazy, like I can accomplish anything I want as a writer. Maybe someday...

  2. I'm applying this year; I'm finishing up my first year of medical school, so this is the last summer that I'm likely to have for a while. And though I'm scared about the time away from my family, the money, of not being good enough, I'm applying anyway, mainly because of what you've written about the experience, both here and in the past. So I just wanted to say thanks!

    1. Wow! Thanks for letting me know. I wish you all the best of luck in the application process - you're doing something brave, and I hope that makes you happy.

    2. It does make me happy, although not so much because I'm being brave per se (as I have a perpetually difficult time thinking of myself in that fashion), but because I am chasing something I love. With the exclusion of actions that involve my family, I am never happier than when I'm writing. And applying is a sort of personal validation.