The Third Week of Clarion.

“Week three, the filking begins.”

Week three– the week we discovered Sprinkles Cupcakes and that Jasmine had never had sushi. So, if you go to Clarion? Just off the edge of campus, across from Trader Joe’s, there is a cupcake store. Go. Spend the three dollars and fifty cents on a cupcake. I am fantasizing about those things NOW, and it is eight months later. SO GOOD.

Also, chopsticks are very hard to use. They had to bring me the chopstick training wheels. I’d claim being Canadian as my excuse, but the other Canadian in the group happened to be from Vancouver, so that excuse is shot all to pieces. Also– if like me and you’re a sushi neophyte, and you go with people who can keep a very straight face– be suspicious. Todd kept trying to get me to eat the wasabi. Thankfully I’d watched cooking shows enough to know THAT, or everyone would have been treated to the unlovely sight of Jasmine drinking all the water at our table and also the next one.

Part of the walk from our apartments to the classroom.

And why do I open this post with two mentions of eating off-campus? Well, because the food at this point was starting to get a little tiresome. The serving people in the cafeteria were awesome! But large-volume food is difficult to keep exciting, and when you eat the same stuff for six weeks… We had people opt to buy their own food with increasing frequency (see above, Trader Joe’s), and by the end of the six weeks we were down to a core of people who were just stubbornly eating the food they’d paid for. I mean, it wasn’t BAD, it just wasn’t great either. Also it was “healthy,” so everything was light on salt and spices.

By the end Gill was pretty much eating entirely pizza, Chris was down to chickpeas and lettuce, and I had voluntarily eaten cafeteria oatmeal. If you stick it out to the bland end, you may find, like me, a strange sense of bonding with those who will continue to eat food that has lost its appeal entirely. But this was only at the three-week mark, where most everyone was eating social meals and dreaming of fancy cheeses.

Oh, and here's a view of the courtyard! We lived in apartment blocks very like those ones.

Oh right, also there was writing. This week was a bit of an roller coaster for me, writing-wise, because I had intended to turn in a re-writing of Cupid and Psyche. Then somewhere between realizing writing a story with a main character being THE GOD OF LOVE would require a sex scene, and panicking about my inability to describe anything other than a dress made of butterflies, I dramatically cast that plan aside and wrote a time-traveling story based on a dinosaur with a briefcase I had once dreamed.

(It is important to note that the story features neither briefcases nor dinosaurs. It does, however, include a woman who turns into a giant bird.)

I got the story to crit session with no expectations. The previous three critiques had broken me of any hope of a story that worked. And then everyone looked at me and said “Jasmine, this is a STORY. Look, it has all its parts! It is actually a story! HIGH FIVE JASMINE YOU WROTE A STORY!” I got cartoons.

Having a story which was received by the Clarion group as actually working was as significant to my self-confidence as getting into Clarion was in the first place. I’m afraid I’ll come off as pathetic if I go into it deeply, but you guys. Entering week three, my fellow clarionauts were people I TRUSTED. And they thought it was good.

Excellent people.

Though– I have to come clean about something. There’s a canary in my story, and Elizabeth Bear thought it was amazingly clever– and I had no idea what I was doing. I couldn’t figure out to spell “budgie.” We can either decide my subconscious was super-clever, or that it was an accident. (And yes, the knowledge that THE CROWNING POINT OF MY STORY ACCORDING TO ELIZABETH BEAR was not actually supposed to be there has kept me from, y’know, prancing around in victory on top of it.)

And this week in class, in addition to critiques, we had some lecture time! Elizabeth Bear was presiding, as uh, mentioned, and she taught us about plot, and brainstorming ideas with the newspaper, and Want vs. Need, and how to pitch a hollywood blockbuster in five minutes, and how to make this WORK. She is an incredibly hard worker, our Bear. We were lounging around the common room talking about how hard our lives were, and she was pounding out another thousand words on a short story.

On the blackboard is the results of our "five minutes reading the headlines" exercise.

One of the reasons I wanted to go to Clarion was to catch a glimpse of what an actual Author’s life would look like. I think week three was the point where I decided that it was even harder than I had imagined before. And I wanted it to be my life even more than I had before.

Bolander reading her critiques.

In conclusion, quotes!

I’ve moved into camp confusion and bought a summer home.


I don’t get it and I don’t like it.
-Jim B.


“Dude, you can rub words together.”


“I can’t wait until the first person shows up to crit still drunk.”


Annie: “Adult protective services are such a bitch to deal with.”
Josh: “Adult protective services? Those are the police.”


“This story spends all its time kicking holes in the fourth wall and firing shotgun blasts through it.”

Other posts about Clarion, including my post about being accepted and other weekly recaps, can be found here.

If you want to apply, you can do that here. Do it! You have a weekend to do a last edit! You can do it!