Clarion Week 6: in which we stumble across the finish line and wish the marathon was twice as long.

Heading out to the ocean

Week Six! The last week before I was thrust out into the cruel, uncaring world. The week when I realized that there was an ocean I could go heal my soul with RIGHT THERE, and the week when I got my feet put underneath me again by my classmates, and the week when I realized that this workshop wasn’t the pinnacle of my writing journey (with everything downhill from here,) it was a beginning.

“You wrote a story about a man who drowns a fish. Good job.”

Yeah, remember how last week I was despairing about ever being able to plot well and write like a grown-up? This week it was pointed out to me by several people that I was 22, with plenty of time to LEARN. I kinda clued in that I could rest, and let things percolate through my subconscious, and work on my skills and knowledge. I didn’t have to have it all in hand right yet.

“Self-loathing is not a good career path.  Cut yourself some effing slack.”  ~Kessel

I also slept a lot more, which helped.

Mark turned in his story for the last Friday. He slept significantly less.

(Side note; this did not actually take place at Clarion, but once I had left there, I listened to some people conversing, and I was utterly shocked to realize that they weren’t discussing writing. And worse, they were talking about it like it mattered, in a serious conversationI just didn’t understand. I still don’t understand. It’s a trip to Disneyland, not a novel!)

So, on this final week I had my retelling of Eros and Psyche critiqued! This was slightly awkward in the classroom because a.) I’d run out of time and energy and literally left out half the story, and b.) I was the unwitting perpetrator of that story that happens every year, the “I never really thought about it as rape before” story. Oops. (I’m sorry, everyone. And I’m gonna re-write that story and yeah. Sorry, everyone.) But on the non-awkward side, the general consensus was that my prose was SO MUCH BETTER. So, y’know, I curled into a ball when it was over and went HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA ICANSTOPWRITING AHAHAHAHAHA oh I am so sad now. What should I do? How do I feel? How do I hands? How I can? I cannot can. Words gone. Words all gone. Ocean now?


You think I make a joke. I do not make a joke. That is the actual level of my language ability. I wrote a journal entry which reads.

“Went death-mobile story kit.

Ocean with Gill, mark, Chris, Todd.

Social Crit Session

Drank Beer– not good.


Clarion– it will ruin your capacity for language.

Josh must now join the conversation!

But inability to talk notwithstanding, the last week of Clarion was strange and amazing. We were becoming aware that we had been living in a state which most people would classify as “not the real world” and as we turned in our last stories day by day and looked around, we didn’t want it to end. I mean yes, there was some significant missing of family and significant others going on, but giving up this for the daily grind was not appealing.

“Tim will call you and be like ‘Send Lawyers, guns and money.'”

So we went to the ocean a lot, we hung out in the common room, we chatted and ate cupcakes and drunk tea and whiskey and wrote messages in each other’s books and took pictures and packed up and went to crit session and told each other we were awesome and made promises to keep in touch. My memories are all coloured with sorrow, but I’m pretty sure that’s the nostalgia talking.

Dying Brooke's hair.

Becky can't operate in these conditions!

Our group was entirely composed of introverts (what writing group isn’t,) and we were voluntarily spending as much time as possible together. There were trips to Sprinkles Cupcakes! There was ritual emptying of all the alcohol bottles which couldn’t be brought on a plane. There was the last trip to Mysterious Galaxy, where Kij read Story Kit, and like the week before, when Kessel read from his upcoming novel, I forgot to despair at how GOOD they were and how bad I was and just gloried in all the beautiful words.

"The class of Clarion 2011 had better be a courteous class or I'll kill you." -Kij

(Btw, Mysterious Galaxy is the bookstore where we went every week for readings. I come from a small town, so the idea that there are bookstores entirely devoted to Spec Fic was a REVELATION to me. I restricted myself to one new book a week, which was very, very hard. The staff was also amazing and kind and basically I’m a fan. If you’re in San Diego, go!)

Walking back from the ocean.

Saying goodbye is never fun to do.

And then we all had to pack up and fly home.

“It’s not that Burger King is salvation, but it’s reality.” -Kessel

If you want to apply to Clarion you can do that here. Should you apply? Clarion isn’t for everyone. It’s six weeks, which is a lot of time, and it’s five thousand dollars, which is a lot of money. However, there are scholarships for poverty and talent, (I got a “I work minimum wage jobs” one,) and six weeks is less than the time most jobs will give you for mat leave. IF THEY WON”T LET YOU TAKE THE TIME OFF YOU DON”T WANT THAT JOB ANYWAYS. *Jasmine Hast SPOKEN*

“You disappointed me, I thought she was going to be naked under the butterflies!”

In addition to the time and money budgeting, Clarion is also difficult emotionally and mentally. Even critique from very kind people who are your friends can be hard to take when you don’t have the opportunity to make it good, and you know that you COULD, if you just had more TIME.

I took this picture!

It is personally hard for me to take it when people say that ANYTHING is wrong with what I’m doing, as I have a strong attachment to being perfect, so it is a testament to the group I was in that I was able to take critique as well as I did. Add the strain of critique to the strain of all the writing and critical reading that is expected of you, and it is very tiring.

Bolander: “I want to eat the effing prose in this with a spoon.”
Chris: “You can’t eat it, it’s mine. I’m eating it.”

I’ve tried to be honest about the ups and downs of the experience in my recaps. (Other posts about Clarion, including my post about being accepted and other weekly recaps, can be found here.) In my mind, the positives of the experience wildly outweigh the negatives, and I say this as someone who is going to be working a 14 hour day today because I had to go quite far into debt to swing the cost of the workshop.

The last lunch, posing with the cafeteria staff.

If I could go again I would be applying this weekend and crossing my fingers even HARDER than I did last year. People have gone at ages 17 and at “more than 60,” people have traveled from Australia and the UK and Canada and from in San Diego. It’s my opinion that Clarion is AWESOME and I’d really, really encourage anyone who wants to be a writer to become part of that group.

Gill, Kessel and Mark.

Yeah, I want to go again.

“Excellent first draft, what a giraffe, covered in nanobots.”  ~Worrad

4 thoughts on “Clarion Week 6: in which we stumble across the finish line and wish the marathon was twice as long.

  1. This has been a fantastic series of posts. I’m actually a little bit choked up by it all. Except I’m not, NOT, darn you, on account of being a manly, whisky-guzzlin’, bear-punchin’ Hemingway-like bloke.

    Great work, J-Stairs.

    • I’m glad you’re not choked up, being the manly dude that you are. 😀

      And Hemingway drank ABSINTHE, gosh. Get with the program.

  2. Can you stop freakin’ making me cry? There’s even photo evidence in this post of you making me cry. You’re a tough lady, Stairs. Tough. Oh… and I miss you. Plus, I’m sooooo jealous of all the people who are right now crossing their fingers on their applications. Once you Clarion you can’t go back, no matter how much you want to. Going to brush my teeth now. Over and out.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s