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February 22, 2007

Writing workshops
Posted by Patrick at 11:18 AM * 50 comments

The rapid approach of the March 1 application deadline reminds me to mention that I’m one of the six people teaching at this summer’s Clarion West, Seattle’s long-established “six-week workshop for writers preparing for professional careers in science fiction and fantasy.” I’ve taught this workshop before, as well as the “original” Clarion that used to be in Michigan and is now in San Diego; they’re both well-run, intensive experiences for people serious about becoming working SF writers.

And of course, Teresa and I both teach every year at Viable Paradise, the one-week SF writing workshop with the really dumb name. Other VP instructors include Cory Doctorow, Steven Gould, Laura Mixon, Debra Doyle, Making Light co-blogger Jim Macdonald, and for the first time this year, Elizabeth Bear. Offsetting the silly name is the fact that it’s on Martha’s Vineyard, a place so stunningly beautiful that you immediately understand why so many billionaires have houses there. VP is held in early October and the deadline for applications is June 15; application info is here.

UPDATE: Clarion West’s deadline is April 1, not March 1. If you apply by March 1, you save $100 in tuition. My fault for not reading the web page carefully!

Comments on Writing workshops:
#1 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2007, 11:59 AM:

You know, it had never occurred to me to ask how VP got its name. I've always assumed that "Viable" refers to that it's only one week long as opposed to six weeks. (i.e., you may have enough vacation days banked to do this.) Martha's Vineyard really is a stunningly beautiful paradise. Was that the thought process?

VP is also a well-run, intensive experience. The staff and the instructors are all so dedicated to the workshop. As for intense, on Friday of VPX, Jim Macdonald asked us if there was anything we had expected out of VP that we didn't get. A few of us, including me, simultaneously said, "sleep."
(I wonder how one keeps going for 6 weeks at Clarion. Yikes!)

I think I might apply for one of the Clarions in a few years. Right now, I'm still assimilating what I've learned from VPX. Sometimes while I'm writing, something someone at VP said will suddenly make sense. I figure in a few years, I'll realize whether I need the Clarion experience or not. The VP experience, though, has been invaluable.

#2 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2007, 12:28 PM:

If "the 'original' Clarion" is now in San Diego, doesn't that also make "Clarion West" a dumb name? It made sense when "the 'original' Clarion" was in Michigan (and before that in Pennsylvania, hence the Clarion part), but now?

Just sayin'.

#3 ::: hrc ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2007, 12:31 PM:

any chance Seattle based readers of your forum and other fans could meet with you during your sojourn here?

#4 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2007, 12:33 PM:

Thanks, Patrick: that reminds me to update the Ansible overseas events list with both Clarions and Viable Paradise.

#5 ::: Kelley Shimmin ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2007, 12:55 PM:

I followed the link and got spooked because the picture of Kelley Eskridge on the Clarion West site looks quite like me. Fortunately Google is my friend and revealed it was just the shot's lighting producing that effect. Kelleys are rare enough and platinum blond ones are rarer still; I can rest easy knowing I'm not about to lose my Universally Unique Status.

The "Will I have something as good (or at least favorably reviewed) as Solitaire published in 19 years?" question is still rattling about in my head though.

#6 ::: Ulrika O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2007, 01:05 PM:

Get thee behind me, Satan. Under no circumstances can I carve six weeks out of this of all possible summers. Maybe VP this year, though. Bears are good. And Connie Willis is teaching a one-day workshop at /V/i/c/to/r/ Richard Hugo House this weekend. Must see if that's open.

#7 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2007, 01:06 PM:

#2: "If 'the "original" Clarion' is now in San Diego, doesn't that also make 'Clarion West' a dumb name?"

Not so long as Seattle remains over a hundred miles west of San Diego, I'd think.

#3: "[A]ny chance Seattle based readers of your forum and other fans could meet with you during your sojourn here?"

Good question. Seems likely. I'll post more when I know more. It's entirely possible, also, that Teresa will join me in Seattle at the end of my teaching week, the way we did it last time.

(Personally, I think some Clarion should ask Teresa and me to teach as a team one of these years; we're a lot better together than either of us solo. Clarion South, for instance. We'd be all over that.)

#8 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2007, 01:25 PM:

I sent the VP application to a friend of mine who really should do it. He's going to say he doesn't have the money, but I'm going to nag him to beg, borrow, or steal it, in the event that he is accepted.

I don't think Viable Paradise is a dumb name, particularly. (I think Realistic Paradise would be dumb. Or Attainable Paradise. For some reason I like Viable.)

#9 ::: vee ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2007, 01:35 PM:

Caroline @ #8

I like Viable too. It conjures up images of test tubes and growing things, whereas Realistic Paradise is boring and Attainable Paradise sounds like manager-speak. Viable makes me think, "ok, well, it's possible, but not exactly guaranteed...."

And Possible Paradise is just doofy.

#10 ::: Rob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2007, 02:06 PM:

For a brief moment, is was "Visible Paradise" (a typo in Locus in 2001, the year that I went), and it was a great experience.

#11 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2007, 02:28 PM:

One of my goals is to go to Viable Paradise. Once we know about the Worldcon bid... and pay down some bills.

#12 ::: Jason ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2007, 02:29 PM:

Forgive my obtuseness. But what is the cost of these fabulous workshops? Granted, to be selected would be no mean feat in and of itself, by the looks of it. But the information about tuition is curiously absent.

#13 ::: Ulrika O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2007, 02:54 PM:


From the Viable Paradise site: Workshop fee is $850, plus lodging.

From the Clarion West website: Total cost to attend the workshop is $2900 ($1700 for tuition and $1200 for room and partial board).

#14 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2007, 03:46 PM:

Also, possibly panic-stricken hopefuls should note that the Mar. 1 deadline referenced above is for saving $100 on tuition at Clarion West. Both Clarion and Clarion West have deadlines of April 1 for consideration for this year.


#15 ::: Fiendish Writer ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2007, 03:49 PM:

And I have been and can report that the workshop of Paradise is both viable and wondrous. Go! Learn! And write!

#16 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2007, 04:40 PM:

"viable paradise" may be a dumb name as far as reflecting the content of the workshop, but it is an amazingly good phrase to google for. Number 1 hit is the workshop, which is nice.

#17 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2007, 04:48 PM:

The Clarion South 2007 workshop in sunny Brisbane (aka BrisVegas) has recently ended. That was $AU 2,600 for accommodation on-campus and tuition for 6 weeks.

I assume planning for 2008 is under way, so Antipodeans much further advanced in writing skills than I might start plotting their attendance :)

#18 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2007, 05:55 PM:

In previous years, the visiting Clarion West teachers would do a reading (or some reading-like activity) on Tuesday nights. I haven't been able to attend since my son was born, but it was pretty cool to head out to the basement at Elliott Bay Books and hear Ellen Datlow, Connie Willis, Gardner Dozois, George R.R. Martin, Octavia Butler, or Harold Waldrop read and talk a bit.

The chairs made my butt sore, and the room sometimes sweltered, but it was my only chance to see real-true-writers-and-editors.

#19 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2007, 05:55 PM:

My only complaint about the name of VP is that when I told people where I was off to, they often misheard it as "Bible Paradise." Hijinks ensued. Other than that, though: VP was a fabulous experience and I recommend it whole-heartedly.

#20 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2007, 06:18 PM:

I've always thought Viable Paradise was just right for a writers workshop - and that Martha's Vineyard was a bit of a silly placename.

No, I can't justify that.

#21 ::: Joyce Reynolds-Ward ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2007, 06:28 PM:

Whimper. Viable Paradise sounds just right for me, length-wise...but I can't get that much time off during the school year. (Clarion just would eat up too much of my summer schedule, unless I could somehow find a way to get University credit to apply to Professional Development Units toward the nonexistent Writing Specialist teaching endorsement I'd like to create....).

Oh well. It is what it is.

#22 ::: Spherical Time ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2007, 07:13 PM:

I wish there was a better way for us working class writers to attend one of these workshops. There probably will never be a way for me to attend a Clarion workshop, be it West, East or South. Even if I could save up enough money, I'd loose my job if I tried to take multiple weeks off.

Does anyone know anyone know a good set of workshops that are shorter? I'm currently in the Southwest, but I'll be moving out east sometime in the fall, so any workshops in those areas would be especially helpful.

I will apply for Viable Paradise though. I wonder, what are my chances? How many people typically apply for these workshops every year?

#23 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2007, 07:13 PM:

Kelley Shimmin writes at #5:

Kelleys are rare enough

I know. I married one.

As you no doubt know, I can never buy her a souvenir keychain or mug with her name on it.

and platinum blond ones are rarer still;

Mine is brunette.

#24 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2007, 08:12 PM:

Spherical Time, I know people who quit their jobs to do the workshops and got new jobs afterward. They felt it was worth it.

#25 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2007, 09:11 PM:

I sat down, accumulated the price of VP, airfare/ferry fare, hotel and food/drink fundage sufficent for me not to worry about much and got the amount of about $3,000 to cover everything including my round trip from/to KCMO.

If I accumulate a little bit more I could make a side trip to NYC on the way out or back, probably. I'd like to do that, I've never been there (well, we went to the World's Fair when I was a kid, we stayed at the Waldorf Astoria. But it was 8.

And I just turned over 10 years where I work, I get 20 days of vacation. Plus I get to pick a nifty gift.

#26 ::: Bart ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2007, 10:36 PM:

Paula @ 25: In the past, it's been possible for 2 to 4 students to share a condo or suite, which might bring your cost down further.

#27 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2007, 02:47 AM:

#22, Spherical Time

I can't help with the job problem, but both US Clarions offer scholarships. Check on the websites.


#28 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2007, 08:01 AM:

Clarion is specifically for short stories, is Viable Paradise's focus also on short stories (I figure the fit within the critique structure better, but I thought I'd ask)?

#29 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2007, 08:42 AM:

I've always wanted to try and get to a Clarion, but the Postal Service's pukesome "Prime-Time" leave policy (between April and October, you can only apply for up to three weeks leave, and only up to two weeks in a chunk) has always made it impossible.

Man, I am SO looking forward to retirement in a few more years.

#30 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2007, 08:52 AM:

Bruce, believe me, you're not the only person who flat-out cannot get six weeks to attend a workshop.

Steve (28), VP does short stories and novels, though we don't do the whole novel -- just the opening chunk, with optional looks at the rest of it.

A general comment: nothing I have ever said or will say about other workshops on Making Light is intended to benefit Viable Paradise.

Just thought I'd get that one out of the way.

#31 ::: Erin Underwood ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2007, 09:47 AM:

As corny as it sounds, VP changed my life for the better. Thanks guys!

#32 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2007, 09:56 AM:

Here's the thing about VP (I can't speak to other workshops): you will spend one entire week doing almost nothing but thinking about and talking about writing, with a score of other (very smart and knowledgeable and funny) people who are also doing almost nothing but thinking and talking about writing. That experience is transformative. Two of my most productive writing sessions were in that one week.

Sadly, I've never really been able to recapture that intensity. I'm not really sure I can call myself a writer now. But that week I was.

#33 ::: punkrockhockeymom ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2007, 02:07 PM:

I'm very seriously considering applying to VP this year. I wanted to last year, but there was all of that troublesome negotiation over what to do with an actual week off, you know, with my spouse.

Silver linings, folks. It's all about silver linings.

#34 ::: CmdrSue ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2007, 08:45 PM:

Congratulations. You talked me into submitting for Viable Paradise before I could come to my senses. The email has already been sent and the check and hardcopy will be in the mail on Monday.

#35 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2007, 10:03 PM:

VP also sounds wonderful; a week instead of, uh, a really long time (no offense meant to Clarion).

#36 ::: Spherical Time ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2007, 03:03 AM:

#24 Marilee: Spherical Time, I know people who quit their jobs to do the workshops and got new jobs afterward. They felt it was worth it.

Sigh. I would probably view it as worth it too, but having already worked my way up from the bottom several times and now facing it again as my broken neck heals, I can't say that the prospect excites me.

Especially when any pay raise above minimum wage is typically based on time served.

Thanks for your response, Mary Kay. I guess I didn't read the sites as well as I thought. I'll definitely look at those scholarships.

#37 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2007, 05:32 PM:

The only problem I'm encountering with the name "Viable Paradise" is what happens when I say it too fast to people who know me well enough to know what an odd place "Bible Paradise" would be for me to have spent a week at willingly.

It's similar to the funny looks I get when people think I'm raving about Boulder's "Redstone Meatery."

The funny looks are my cue to repeat, with better enunciation and/or description.

#38 ::: Pharmacy online ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2007, 06:30 AM:

[Online pharmacy spam deleted. Amusing followup posts preserved. Signed, The Mgt.]

#39 ::: abi spots comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2007, 06:46 AM:

Viable Paradise:
Six weeks of residence
Learning to write.

But Pharmacy Online has
Missed the intention of
Staying the night.

#40 ::: Serge also sees that keep-it-up spam ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2007, 06:52 AM:

"Should your writing session last more than 4 hours, please go to the emergency clinic..."

#41 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2007, 07:17 AM:

abi@39: I fear you are confusing Viable Paradise with the various flavors of Clarion. Clarion is six weeks, VP only one.

#42 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2007, 07:26 AM:

David @41
Drat. You're right. So it would be (with a quick metrical correction as well):

Viable Paradise:
One week in residence
Learning to write.

Pharmacy Online has
Missed the intention of
Staying the night.

#43 ::: eric sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2010, 03:07 PM:

random words

#44 ::: Dan Hoey sees SEO spam ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2010, 03:07 PM:

At least, I think it's for attracting search engines.

#45 ::: Tom Whitmore on the spam ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2010, 03:11 PM:

But why's there an active link in the middle of it, different from the "author"'s link?

#46 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2010, 03:41 PM:

Tom@46 — Links amplify the SEO juice, making Google think there's a cross-site community interested in this stuff. Only one link, because if they put too many links in, then they get moderated.

#47 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2010, 06:32 PM:

Ah, thank you, Dan. I'm not interested in checking the links, but do they go anywhere other than dangerous sites? Are they real links, or 404 fodder? Neither this nor the other has a meaningful-sounding URL-word.

#48 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2010, 06:41 PM:

Tom, I haven't followed the links, not so much for fear of malware as to avoid helping their business model. Clicks have some minuscule value, and that's what pays for the spam.

#49 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2010, 08:38 PM:

Both links were junk; the whole thing was as likely a test post to see if this is a cleaned-up space or open season for later, more meaningful links.

Out by the kerb with the bundled newspapers and the grass clippings with it.

#50 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2010, 10:30 PM:

Wonderful timing on the spam, though, as I'm heading to Alpha on Wednesday. I can't decide if the past few days of staying up late and not really sleeping count as pre-workshop training or just a bad bad decision.

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