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 Four (finally)

Posted on: February 5th, 2015 by Shannon Fay 1 Comment

All right, back to the Clarion Posts. Sorry for the long gap between updates, but honestly, I can barely be relied upon to keep my Duolingo streak going, let alone a blog. But I really want to finish up these weekly Clarion West updates before the New Year starts, so I will try to hammer them out before 2015 while applications for both Clarion West and Clarion San Diego are open, as I figured these posts might come in handy for anyone thinking of applying.

So, on to week four!

Our instructor for the week was Hiromi Goto, who arrived at the house late on a Saturday night sometime during a drunken double-feature of Big Trouble in Little Chine and Stargate. When Neilie brought her into the house we scrambled to act like presentable, sober individuals, but I think Hiromi was too disquieted by our ‘Shrine to Homies Past’ (a shrine where we put up pictures of our previous instructors) to notice our inebriated state. Plus, she had probably already heard us chanting ‘STARGATE STARGATE STARGATE STARGATE’ so the jig was most likely long up.

Side note, but Stargate has not aged well. It drags, and has not one but two white saviors in its two lead characters, and pretty much all of the characters of colour exist to die/prop the white guys up. I know Big Trouble in Little China is a flawed movie, but I like to think there’s as much subversion going on as there is insensitivity/ignorance.


Hiromi Goto was the perfect week four instructor, a tiny woman who seemed to have an unlimited well of calmness and patience. This was important as week four when I felt we really got into topics like race and gender in our critiques. Hiromi was a great mediator. Even when the debate got heated she stayed cool and the room eventually chilled out to match her level. With Hiromi we talked about complex topics in a way that made us able to understand them but without downplaying the issues that come with them. That kind of power of persuasion can be a dangerous thing, and it’s a good thing that Hiromi is so nice because she could totally use for power world domination (luckily, she’s the opposite of the evil dictator type).

I wrote one of my favourite stories that week, a short story about a girl and a goblin stuck in an elevator together. When it finally gets published, I will come back and edit a link in here so you can read it/buy it. Watch this space! Hiromi really liked it, which made me glad as I was kind of waiting for her week to write it. It’s the kind of contemporary fantasy I associate with her.

Also in week four, the weather cooled down a bit (this was a big deal at the time) and Vonda McIntyre gave us all yarn thingies.

My on the left, yarn thingy on the right.

In my last post I tried to put in a cliff-hanger stating that I was very pressed for time in week four. This was a mistake, as cliff-hangers are tacky, but it’s true I was time-crunched. On the Sunday just before week 4 was about to roll out I got a freelance assignment from a company I work for. This put me in a bit of a dilemma: At Clarion West they highly, highly discourage you from doing outside work while you’re at the workshop. There is good reason for this. You should spend as much time as you can with your Clarion classmates because it is only a matter of time before you will all be scattered to the four corners of the globe, back to whence you came from. And when you’re not playing beer-pong you should spend the rest of your time reading and writing.

But…the freelancing mentality is hard to shake. You spend years hustling, begging people to give you work, and then you get into Clarion West and you have to go back to those same people and beg them not to give you work for that six-month stretch. It goes against every instinct- what if you never work again?

So I took the assignment. Luckily, I have been editing manga for about five years now and know how long each script will take me, so I was able to fit it in with my Clarion West schedule. Basically for the next two weeks I spent an hour each day working on the freelance assignment and made everything else fit around it. But it helped me get my act together, weirdly enough. I am the type of person that works better with a deadline looming, and between the manga work and all the CW due dates it made me keep careful track of my time so I’d get everything done. Of course, I still complained about it to my classmates, but really it didn’t slow me down.

If you get into Clarion West and are thinking about doing some freelance work on the side, I agree with the party line: DON’T DO IT! Spend your time writing/reading/watching Kurt Russell movies. But obviously I didn’t take my own advice there, and I got by fine (I also wasn’t the only one who had to deal with outside work in my class either, though I can’t speak for how well it worked out for them). If you think you can manage it and need the money (I did- that assignment was worth a month’s rent) then proceed but proceed with caution. The last thing you want to do is short change your Clarion West experience.


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One Response

  1. […] There is a common piece of advice given to people going to Clarion that if you’re given the option to spend time with people or write, spend time with people. […]

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