Four Green Squares

the tiny little blog no-one will ever read

Clarion 2012: Apocalypse when? August 23, 2012

Filed under: clarion,writing — FourGreenSquares @ 1:30 pm

Clarion. I still am processing (unfurling) the new knowledge in my mind. But as I can sense that this will take a while, I want to get my NOW impressions recorded.

Clarion was as amazing as previous attendees’ squee led me to believe, and I’m afraid I can only add to the din. Clariooooonnnnn squeeeeeeee…….

It wasn’t like I expected. The instructors are amazing, but you do the work. It’s you alone with that blank page, day after day after day after day. You write until you hit the wall and then you write over the wall and hey, on the other side, everything looks different and things make so much more sense and arghlllll brain melting from realisation overload….

At the same time, you are critiquing until words leak from your ears, figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Superb instructors give you a vocabulary for this, stuffing your head with character arcs, establishing new normal, night logic, emotional payoffs, etc, etc until aieyyeeeeeee brain melting again…..

And through it all, you have your incredible classmates, all of you together on this strange, twisty journey, kicking ass and offering hugs as you fumble along the path of taking your stories to the next level, and their comments are so insightful and spot on that how do I have any brain left in there by now because surely it’s all meltinggggggg….

See? How do you say more than that about a process my brain is still too melty about for me to extract all the wisdom yet?

In my mind, though, I remember it thus:

Jeff: Wonderful Jeff. Got us writing and talking and not being all, OMG, it’s Clarion, I can’t say/write anything because OMG it’s Clarion. He focused on figuring out the right sized idea for the right sized shape, how to develop a story from an idea, and the most important question you can ask at this stage: “Is it fucked to the core?”

Then came amazing Delia. While Jeff had concentrated on getting words on paper, Delia focussed on what to do with those words once you’d vomited them out. She talked about hints from your subconscious and figuring out what story you really wanted to tell.

And then Ted came and blew our minds all over again. He talked about the importance of science in science fiction and rooting your stories in reality as well as fancy—-including giving a two hour evening talk on time travel that I’m sure most of us are sill recovering from. He covered ways to approach writing a draft and figuring out character arcs.

But he also stressed the importance of art. Science fiction writing isn’t just about who can think up the coolest shit. SF has a long and important tradition of informing politics, culture, science—-the future, one too important to be left to politicians and scientists alone. If we want art to inform the future, we’re the ones that have to bring it to the table, and our writings are how to do that.

Calm, organised Walter Jon packed all our melting and/or exploding brains back in our heads and gave us structure: types of stories, ways to tackle revisions, how to approach queries and synopses. He brought us perfectly and gently back down to earth, to face stories that wouldn’t write themselves.

Then came the wowza team of Cassie’n’ Holly. Holly with her unfailing sense of the larger issues and framework to inform a piece of work and Cassie with her unerring bullshit detector that forced us to confront plot- and character- holes large and microscopic. Together, they helped us begin to stitch all the lesson of the past weeks into a whole that not just made sense but addressed our individual weaknesses.

And then we got kicked out of heaven, to make our ashen-faced way home, ready to try and loose our stories on the world.

You have been forewarned.


Wisdom earned, wisdom shared August 16, 2012

Filed under: clarion,writing — FourGreenSquares @ 6:04 pm

Yup, yet another I swear, I really, really will write my Clarion blog post soon post.

But at least I come with a link to a fellow Clarionite’s blog post. Sam J. Miller has a great write-up on his blog at

I have a few quotes to add to his extremely detailed list. But unlike him, I’m namin’ names. Not because I disagree with his reasons for anonymity, but because these were the ones that struck a particular chord with me, and I’m not trying to capture the sheer scope of awesomeness the way Sam did so well.

“I want your stories to kill people.” –Jeff Ford

“There’s nothing more random than a turtle race” –Delia Sherman

“How does this rank on the ooh-o-meter?” –Delia Sherman

“If life hands you Xs and Qs, you have to go to the dictionary and figure out what to spell with them.”–Delia Sherman

“Well, you don’t actually have to shake hands with yourself for twenty years.” –Ted Chiang (trying to explain time travel and wormholes)

“Writing the middle of a novel is like driving across Nebraska. You do it so you can get to the fun of Chicago.” –Walter Jon Williams

“No character wants to be a protagonist, and fights like a weasel not to be. You’ve got to let them fight their way through the plot.” –Holly Black

“Dark gods swooping down though knife-wielding maniacs to get you on the way to 7-11 seems a bit much for an average day.” –Cassie Clare



The Ragged “After” bunch August 14, 2012

Filed under: clarion — FourGreenSquares @ 7:13 pm

So, I know I promised a Clarion post. I’m still formulating thoughts, and will also soon add all my fab Clarion classmates to my blog roll.

But in the meantime, on the theory that a picture is worth 1000 words, I’m posting our “after” group pic, taken at the last night’s leaving party. Ignore the teary faces!

We are a ragged, tired bunch, but loved every minute of it.


Clarion 2012 August 6, 2012

Filed under: clarion,writing — FourGreenSquares @ 10:22 pm


So this is the “before” picture–back when we’d all had diets that weren’t 70% coffee, didn’t consider 5hrs a full nights sleep, and had yet to meld into the finely-honed Clarion-2012-hive-mind writing machine.

Clarion was amazing and when my thoughts settle back into something deeper than “OMG, squeeeeee,” I’ll put together a proper post.