A Year on Saturn

...is approximately 29.7 Earth years.

"A Year on Saturn" is the website of Shannon Fay,
freelance and fiction writer.

Clarion West re-cap Week 1

Posted on: August 8th, 2014 by Shannon Fay No Comments

Before I was accepted to Clarion West I went through a period where I frantically tried to read every blog post about the program that I could get my digital hands on. If I couldn’t go to CW, I figured, reading about it was the next best thing. It was a peek inside a workshop that really only a few get to experience firsthand, and I was always grateful whenever some alum took the time to write about their time in the workshop. So, with that in mind, I figured I’d do a broad re-cap of my six weeks in Seattle, both for myself and for anyone who’s where I was at two years ago. Week 1 Since I was coming from outside the states I was able to arrive at the house a day earlier than most people. I highly recommend doing this, if you can. For me at least it was nice to meet a couple people at a time as they trickled in rather than meeting the group all at once. Our week 1 instructor was James Patrick Kelly. Paul Park had been slated for week 1, but eye surgery left him unable to travel (even though we never met him, Paul Park’s eye became something of a deity that watched over us throughout the course, as seen in this picture here).

Just another day at CW 2014 under Paul Park’s ever watchful eye.

Luckily, despite the short notice, Jim was the perfect first week instructor. He was warm and gracious but not afraid to poke fun at us as we settled into this strange workshop world. He was like the scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz, in that he was the first companion we met on our journey, and, like the Scarecrow, he was super friendly and very smart. For week 1 Jim had us all write flash fiction. We later learned that by making us write flash on the fly, he hoped we’d ‘use up all our bad ideas.’ Well, jokes on you, JPK! You barely scratched the tip of our bad idea pile! If our bad ideas were an ice berg, that flash piece would be just the teeny tiny tip of it!

(At this point, I should note that obviously I don’t speak for the whole of Clarion West 2014, but there are times when I just want to bite people’s one liners and this is the easiest way to do it. I figure this is the best way to protect people while still making myself look funny and clever. Also, just assume when I’m making fun of us as a class I am really just signalling out myself.)

I actually really liked my flash piece. Of all my stories, it is the one I am most eager to re-write and send out. Maybe that’s because the more time has passed since I wrote it than for any other story? Hmm.

Also in the first week we wrote anonymous flash pieces about an important event from our own lives. Afterwards we were randomly assigned one of the pieces to read aloud. It was a very emotionally trying exercise, but I felt it helped us coalesce as a group. Sure, we were all still getting to know one another, but after sharing those things (even if anonymously) it felt as though we had moved beyond introductions into something deeper.

For most people, that’s all they had to write. Two flash pieces. Easy-peasy-chedder-cheezy. But I had signed up for the Friday due date, which meant that while everyone else was having fun me and the rest of Team Friday were typing away, trying to get our first stories in on time. This meant my first week was rather frantic, but choosing a Friday slot had a pay-off later in week 6 (What was it? Ooh, you’ll have to keep reading to find out what! Better hope I keep writing these things!) Week 1 ended with the Locus Awards, as well as a party held at the same hotel. I was mainly happy to meet people that I knew from writer’s forums online (by ‘knew,’ I mean that I lurked and read their posts but never said anything myself).

After the Locus Awards a group of us went to the EMP, a music museum that also has really cool sci-fi, horror, and fantasy exhibits. I was amazed by the set design for the displays (the horror section was my favourite- it reminded me of the Japanese horror film ‘House.’) They had so many different movie/TV show props, everything from David Bowie’s outfit from Labyrinth (stuffed to give it the proper, uh, dimensions) to the alien from Alien. The music section of the museum was pretty cool too. I especially liked the music video section.

Me rocking out

Playing air guitar at the EMP.

If you’re ever in Seattle, I highly recommend visiting the EMP. It’s a bit pricey (about $20) but worth it. Now…I like to do touristy things when I go to new places, which is how I got suckered into buying a City Pass. A City Pass is a pretty good deal, in that it lets you into 9 different Seattle attractions for $60. Basically if you want to do 3 or more of the things on their list, it might be worth your while. But but halibut it’s only good for nine consecutive days from the date you visit your first attraction. When you’re at Clarion West, you’re pressed for time and it’s hard enough to do all the things you want to do when you have a whole month, let alone nine days. If I could do this whole thing again, I’d probably pass on the pass. Luckily, this wasn’t something I had to worry about right away as the guy who sold me the pass let me into the EMP without stamping my ticket (I suspect it was because we are both fans of Picnicface, a Halifax sketch comedy group.

Represent!) So went my first week at Clarion West. It was a good warm-up, but it was only when week two began did I realize what we were getting into…

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