Waiting for Clarion

I have been thinking of how to say it for a few days now; I am SO anxious about my application to Clarion Writers’ Workshop. I think about it constantly. The pleasure and sense of accomplishment I felt the day after applying (March 1) has worn off, and now I daydream about it and search the internet for advice and journals from Clarion graduates. The picture is pretty much uniform and coherent: it was amazing and stressful. Some of the things folks say they learned (for example, how first person present narrative is SO newbie) stress me out because I’m still doing those things. But I get to thinking that maybe those newbie mistakes are okay. I gotta start somewhere.

After reading about the experiences of others at Clarion, I don’t know what I’m more afraid of: acceptance or rejection. Well, probably rejection. Of course, I want to go, for all the reasons that people state, like validation of my work, the experience of workshopping with other writers, producing work that has real potential, having the time to write and the motivation (at the same time) and so on.

However, I have anxieties about how I will handle the emotional part. I’ve done fiction workshops many times before, but the criticism there was not usually anything harsh. I want honest critique, but I don’t want to cry like a little baby in front of my peers. I don’t want to be sleep-deprived and snappy. I don’t want to come home feeling depressed when it ends. I don’t want to make friends and then mourn the loss of them when it’s over.

Last year, Vylar Kaftan over at the Clarion West Writing Workshop forum challenged applicants to write a story while waiting for notification. That way, you write without knowing the deadline. It could be tomorrow, so you have to work hard. I may try that.

3 thoughts on “Waiting for Clarion”

  1. I do not pretend to know about standards for science fiction, but certain other acclaimed contemporary writers use first person present narrative. I know Bret Easton Ellis does. When I read a lot of his work, it reminded me of another writer I like who uses it, too, but I can’t remember who. I would think that content and quality of the writing would merit greater focus in determining its worth. However, I understand the importance of learning many ways of writing, in order to grow, rather than remaining in a comfort zone.

    Good luck!

  2. Any well-used narrative form is acceptable, though first person present has fallen out of favor of late. The main thing is to have a good reason for selecting that POV.

    Newbies tend to drift toward present tense out of a desire to make the action seem urgent, to first person to make the reader feel involved. But it doesn’t usually work that way. Present tense usually feels false to me, like a teenie-bopper sharing her mall encounter with her BFFs. “I walk in the store and who is there? The Jonas Brothers. Oh…my…gosh…”

    The weaknesses of a POV have to be understood and mastered before its strengths can be properly exploited.

  3. Thank you so much for your comment, Oso. I hear the teenie-bopper thing, loud and clear. My two submission stories were first person. I chose that for the first one because it seemed natural (the character lives in her own world, in the present moment), and then consciously alternated it with past tense for two different POV and timeline in the second story. That sounds odd, but I think it works. I’m glad to be learning more, even before the workshops.

    I’m trying not to re-visit those stories until after I get word of acceptance. It’s already causing me some anxiety.

    Thanks again. It’s good to feel like part of a community.

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