Some completely unsolicited advice for Clarion 2009

First of all, congratulations to the 18 of you. I am delighted for you all.

I applied to Clarion last year mainly because I was sure I would never get in, and so had nothing to lose. I was just starting to think about taking my writing seriously, and, from my point of view, it was a dream faculty. So if I didn't get in, well, see the previous statements. 

When I got the email announcing my acceptance, I was so excited I burst into tears, and then couldn't sit down for half an hour. You are all, I am sure, much cooler than I am, and can laugh at my silliness.

I had no idea what to expect from the workshop. I had never workshopped a story before. I had barely written before. But here are some of the things that either I was told, and found useful, or that I wish I had known before I went.

You will find your family while you are there. I've talked about this before, but it's no less true. Those 17 other people sitting around the critique table with you? They are all wonderful people. Learn to trust them. All of them want you to be the best writer you can be. And take care of each other. Everyone is going to have a rough day, a hard critique. Be there for each other.

Your six instructors? Are awesome. They are there because they want to help you. Make this easy on them. Read at least one thing by all of them before you go. And read it with an eye to how you can learn from that person's writing. Go with questions to ask them during your conferences. And be ready to hear the sometimes difficult things they will ask you to do. You will be a better writer for it.

Say goodbye to sleep. Seriously. Also, if you are driving, and have room, bring cooking dishes. The food was a punishment from God. Squid patties. I am not even kidding. 

Go with ideas. And be prepared to abandon them. The story I am most proud of was one I never intended to write, and was a homework assignment from Neil Gaiman. 

Skip at least one thing. This was advice from Jim Kelly, who knows from Clarion, being the only person ever to attend twice. You won't want to. There will be exciting visitors, and lectures, and trips to Comic-Con, and if you are really lucky, mad dance parties that go on until 4 am. But take some time for yourself. Play hooky. 

For me, Clarion was a life-changing experience. I learned that I am a writer there. It was exhausting and overwhelming and the best thing I have ever done. I hope it is wonderful for you, too.