Clarion West – Week 1

The past seven days have been a whirlwind.

I’ll begin with a paean to the program administrators, Leslie and Neile (the E on the end is silent, BTW).

What super people these two women are. Both give unstintingly of their time, advice and emotional comfort. They deserve medals for what they bring to Clarion West.

And my hat is off to Michael Bishop, our instructor for week one. Mike is a patient, thoughtful teacher who used Socratic method to bring out the best in each of us. And he’s a funny, friendly man, as well.

In five days, we wrote five stories — all under 1,000 words. I’ve already described the first three in Wednesday’s post — a quest, a science fiction love story and a prose poem using Jim Simmerman’s Twenty Little Poetry Projects.

I liked the results of that one — Time Travel, Considered as Stream of Consciousness, so I did a bit of polishing Friday afternoon and sent it off to Jake Frevald at Flash Fiction Online. We’ll see.

The fourth and fifth assignments were: 4) a first-contact story, using three different points of view, and 5) a story with at least two characters, involving dialog and illustrating a proverb.

I’ve expanded #4, the first-contact story, as my week-two story for Maureen McHugh. It’s titled Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One. It’s a 2,000-word SF murder mystery featuring Seattle PD detectives John Osbourne and D.D. Gayle.

Oz and D.D. have appeared before in one of my stories, an unpublished piece titled Against the Grain. Oz is older, close to retirement, and D.D. is a hard-charging newcomer.  They’re bit players in this one, but I like the dynamic between them and I hope to see more of them in other stories.

Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One offers the timeless bit of dialog, “So this alien walks into a bar …” It’s presented tongue-in-cheek. Those of you who’ve read some of my stuff are probably saying “What else is new?”

I wrote it in six hours Thursday afternoon and evening. I had such a nice little piece of horror prepared , Kindred Souls; 4,200 words that I’d been compiling a bit each day all week.

But when my muse kicks me in the shins, I have to respond. If I argue too much, she goes away and sulks.

Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One is set for critique Monday (06/28). It’s definitely first draft; covered in warts and typos, not the sort of thing I’m comfortable showing to other people, but that’s what we’re supposed to be presenting.

In any case, I had to submit it Thursday night by 9:00 p.m., so there wasn’t a lot of time for rewrite. I’ll let you know Wednesday how that goes.

Friday night and all day Saturday were devoted to celebration.

The entire class attended a reading by Connie Willis (Blackout) and Greg Frost (Shadow Bridge) Friday night at the University of Washington Book Store.

The two of them put on quite a show. They read to a packed house from recent work, answered questions and did a sweet bit of partnered comedy schtick that had everybody giggling. Among other things, Connie declared her undying infatuation for actor George Maharis and Greg channeled Yosemite Sam to read from Beowulf.

After that, the traditional end-of-week party was held at a downtown condo (no names or addresses, please) and it was a big success.

The eighteen of us were on display, of course, and had a chance to schmooze
with published SF authors, Clarion West alumni and fans.

I enthused with Greg Frost about a mutual fascination — Donald Westlake’s Dortmunder stories. I discovered that Maureen McHugh and I are both from Ohio and are glad to be from Ohio.

And I spent some time saying goodbye to Kij Johnson (Spar) who is headed east next week to teach novel writing at Jim Gunn’s SF Writers Workshop, to traipse around the country for a bit, and to eventually resettle far away to pursue further education. Good luck and God speed, Kij.

I also chatted with Greg Bear (Mariposa), Nancy Kress (Steal Across the Sky), Jack Skillingstead (Harbinger), Nisi Shawl (Filter House), and a ton of other folks I should remember but am just too tired at the moment to recall all the names.

Thanks to all of you for being so gracious and entertaining.

Saturday, the entire class trekked to the downtown Seattle Courtyard Marriott for the Locus Awards ceremony and luncheon that was part of the Science Fiction Awards weekend.

The day began with two panels — one on author research and the other on mistakes new authors often make. Ursula K. LeGuin sat in on the first. She’s eighty years old, vital and funny, and still active as an author (her essays, Cheek by Jowl, won one of the 2010 Locus awards). She gives me hope.

I also shared lunch (and conversation) with Nisi Shawl and had a chance to chat with Ken Scholes (Canticle) and John A. Pitts (Black Blade Blues), two of my favorite new SF authors.

All in all, a great day and a fantastic week.

Maureen is scheduled to meet with us this afternoon to outline the coming week. More later.

3 thoughts on “Clarion West – Week 1

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