There is less than a month left to apply for this year’s Clarion West and Clarion USD (apply early and you will save some money. How early? How much money? Click the fudgin’ links). As part of the Clarion West application you are required to submit a personal essay as well as samples of your fiction. When I was putting together my application back in 2014, I found it really helpful reading the what other CW attendees had written and was grateful whenever I could find someone’s personal essay online. So, in the spirit of paying it forward, here’s my essay after the cut.
Shannon Fay’s Clarion West Essay
It’s a lie to say I’ve always wanted to be a writer: there were long stretches of my childhood where I had my heart set on being either a cop or an astronaut (or maybe an astronaut cop). But it is true to say I’ve always been a writer. As a kid rockets would soar in my dreams and when I woke I would write it all down and pass it in to my teacher. Sometimes I wonder what I’d be doing if my Mrs. Whitaker hadn’t held up a story of mine as an example to the rest of my third-grade class. Would I have never realized that writing was such a big part of me? Maybe I’d be out on a spaceport somewhere, running down crooks, living an exciting life as an astro-cop, all while feeling strangely unfulfilled.
Last year I won the James White Award and had my winning story, ‘You First Meet the Devil at a Church Fete,’ published in Interzone. I’ve since had several other stories published in other magazines, including Crowded Magazine and Penumbra. I’ve also sold several romance and mystery stories to Woman’s World (you know that magazine at the supermarket checkout that’s cheaper than all the rest and has a new miracle diet on the cover each week? Pick it up next time you’re waiting in line, it might have a story of mine in there).
I am applying to Clarion because I want to be a stronger writer. My goal is something more than merely tweaking my imperfections and shoring up my weaknesses. There’s a Leonard Cohen song that reminds us ‘There is a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in.’ I’m not going to Clarion so I can smooth over the cracks. I’m going so I can bust them wide open and see what’s on the other side.
Another reason I am applying to Clarion West is because I like the idea of having several writer friends who have gone through the same trial by fire. I’m lucky in that everyone in my life supports me and my writing. I have several friends who are also writer and for the last year we’ve held monthly meetings where we critique each other’s work. I’ve learned a lot from my fellow writers, both from reading their stories and having them critique mine. At Clarion I hope I can help my classmates the way my friends have helped me.
When I’m not writing I’m working as an assistant manager at a second-hand bookstore. When I’m not doing that I edit scripts for a manga publishing company. When I’m not doing that I’m reviewing strange documentaries and comic books for The Coast, Halifax’s weekly alternative paper. Basically I’m a larva thriving on the trashiest aspects of pop-culture.
Here are some nice things other people have said about me:
“You bring a controlled enthusiasm to everything you do.”-University professor Doug Kirkaldy.
“What do I admire most about Shannon Fay? Her incredible dedication to things.” – best friend Shayna O’Donnell.
“You can combine practicality, charm, and perseverance with a creative touch.”-An especially flattering fortune cookie.
Well, it looks like I still have a hundred words or so to kill. Let’s see, what else can I say about myself? I’ve been in foreign police stations as both a victim and as a member of the guilty party. I’ve worked on farms in the UK, as a cleaner at a youth hostel in Amsterdam, and currently work at a used bookstore in Canada (strangely enough, I’ve had to clean up more bodily fluids at the bookstore than I ever did at the hostel). Up until I was 11 my family lived in Kanata, Ontario, a cookie-cutter suburb outside of Ottawa. After that my parents decided we would travel the world and we lived in Phoenix, Montreal, Munich, and Shanghai. Whenever something falls over in your home for no apparent reason it’s because I’m practicing long distance telekinesis. I believe that we all get one wish at some point in our lives, and I fear I may have wasted mine on a PlayStation 2.
I hope this is enough to serve as an introduction to myself and my goals at Clarion West. I greatly look forward to meeting you all and having a great summer together.Tags: Clarion West, Writing