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 week 2

Posted on: August 16th, 2014 by Shannon Fay No Comments

Kij Johnson came in like a coach at halftime and we were the losing super bowl team.

“I want you to make the literary world respect us,” she said. “I want you to scare them shitless.” Her number one challenge for us as a class: “Don’t be drab.”

I don’t know about the literary world, but I think we were a little scared. Kij was focused and sharp, like a shark with a laser beam strapped to its head. Rather than read the day’s stories at random we’d read them in an order that led into the broader points Kij wanted to make about storytelling. This meant it could be quite intimidating if your story went last (like mine did) as it usually meant that Kij was going to pick it apart a little more fervently. But it was worth it. Kij gave great feedback. She was like…all right, I’ve run out of metaphors for Kij Johnson, but she was like something that had great critical insight into what makes a story work and shared it in a clear, concise way. I especially liked her advice about characters, such as how having an odd number of characters in a scene is better for conflict as it means things can be lopsided in one group’s favor. She also recommended mapping out your character relationships visually, and to try to give every two people something in common that they don’t share with everyone else.

Kij was one of our instructors who hung out with us and socialized into the wee hours of the morning. One of my main regrets of Clarion West is that I missed out on one of these nights because I just had to go to sleep. I just had to- I felt like I was on the verge of being physically ill if I didn’t get a good night’s rest. Sure I was bummed that I didn’t get to stay up late drinking with Kij, but that’s the thing about CW- you can’t do everything. You can try. God knows I did. I went to every Friday party, all of the instructor readings, sat in on every talk by every mystery muse, and still wrote a story every week. I even found time to do touristy crap like go to the aquarium and take a day trip to Mt. Reiner. But I still missed out on stuff. That’s just the nature of the beast that is Clarion West.

Week two ended with a party, of course, which just happened to fall on the 4th of July. From our party host’s balcony we could just see the fireworks- they were far away but they filled the stretch of the horizon, the Seattle skyline all lit up in the foreground. It was a beautiful sight and one of my favourite memories from Clarion West.


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