A Year on Saturn

...is approximately 29.7 Earth years.

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

Posts Tagged ‘Clarion West’

Clarion West Personal Essay

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.


Clarion West Write-a-Thon 2015 Week One

Last Sunday the Clarion West Write-a-Thon began. I’ve posted about taking part in 2013 and how I found it surprisingly motivating. Well, this year isn’t off to such a rosy start.

Last Monday I took an overnight bus from London to Amsterdam. The pros of overnight bus travel are that it’s cheap (doubly so if you consider that it saves you from having to pay for a night’s accommodation in a youth hostel somewhere). The downsides are that you barely get any sleep. Oh, and people steal your stuff.


Clarin West Week Six

Recently, I thought to myself ‘Wouldn’t it be ridiculous if I didn’t finish recapping my 2014 Clarion West experience before the 2015 class begun? Wouldn’t that just be hilarious?’ And then I decided that I just wasn’t going to let that happen. So, with less than three weeks to spare, here’s week six of Clarion West 2014.


Clarion West Week Five

First off, congrats to the class of 2015! Also, congrats to any future Clarion West acceptees reading this (not only for getting into Clarion but for somehow rescuing the dwindling bee population and saving life as we know it. From the people of 2015, I speak for everyone when I say ‘phew, that was close one.’)


Clarion West Week Four (finally)

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!


A different kind of Clarion West update

Ugh, I know I was supposed to have posted a Week Four Clarion West update Friday, and the Friday before that, but I was too busy squeezing the last drops of summer from the season and then recovering from having my widsom teeth yanked out. Since I’ve most been taking it easy (aka lying on the couch watching grainy episodes of ‘Murder in Small Town X‘ on Youtube) I decided it would be a good time to catch up on what some of my fellow westies have been up to (aka, which of these talented mamma-jammas have gone and gotten published).

First up, I finally read Alison Wilgus’s comic,  A Stray in the Woods. Alison is not only a talented writer, she is also a fantastic cartoonist. A Stray in the Woods is a webcomic she created the help of her tumblr fanbase. Alison would pose a problem for her main character, a cat that wakes up in a strange house, and then choose what happened next from her reader’s suggestions. The result is a very charming, atmospheric comic. I especially liked the resolution, and a reveal that took me totally by surprise while still fitting the world.

Chinelo Onwualu meanwhile has sold one of her Clarion West stories already, a first for the 2014 class. You can read her fantastic (though very unsettling) story ‘Tasting Gomoa’ at Ideaomancer.

Rich Larson continues on his path to world domination with a haunting story ‘The Air we Breath is Stormy, Stormy‘ in Strange Horizons.

And if you prefer to listen to your stories, Folly Blaine’s story ‘The Truth About Woodpeckers’ has been produced by Toasted Cake.

I hope that will keep you all busy until I get back on track with my Clarion West posts. And if not, well, there will be more linky posts to come, as my class was packed with talented writers and it won’t be long before they have even more stuff out there for you to read.


Clarion West Week Three

Week three was the week of the heat wave. We sought respite from the heat by working down in the basement. The basement mainly consisted of a large, windowless study room and several ‘sleeping porches’ which were basically huge dorm rooms packed with bunk beds. They were hella creepy. Just bunk beds, stripped of any personal effects, the doors decorated by construction paper moon and stars and words that seemed sinister when taken out of context (‘Dream big, little ones.’ Dream of what? The Elder Gods?). Basically, it looked like some kind of nursery for monsters.

(It was actually where some of the sorority girls slept during the year. I’m not calling them monsters, I’m sure they are all very nice. But that room…)


Clarion West week 2

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.

Clarion West re-cap Week 1

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…

Back from Clarion West

I have returned from Clarion West! It was an amazing experience and I plan to write about it in a series of posts here in the near future. In the meantime, why not read my story, ‘Readymade,’ which was published yesterday by Daily Science Fiction?