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.