There are many great things about being a writer. Inventing whole new worlds out of my imagination. Doing something that brings me massive amounts of pleasure. Learning how to hone and perfect my skills. Sharing thoughts with other writers. Going to writers conferences and events. And having the opportunity to go to writer’s retreats and work with published authors to perfect my craft.
In support of that last one, there are several major events I’ve wanted to attend for the last couple of years. Clarion and Clarion West are the two biggest writer’s retreats for speculative fiction authors out there. Numerous great writers have come out of those events, which are held on the west coast every summer (the original Clarion was an east coast event, but moved later in its life). Unfortunately, though, they are not only hard to get into, with very stiff competition, but the event structures preclude my attending even if I did get chosen. The distance is a bit of a factor, but not insurmountable. The cost is a bit steep, but I could manage. However, the six weeks these courses last is vastly more time than I could get off from work.
Luckily I learned that there was a shorter version of the Clarion events called Viable Paradise. It’s based on a similar model of learning and run out of Martha’s Vineyard for one week every fall. Some pretty awesome authors have come out of it as well. This year will be the 21st annual event. The organizers include Elizabeth Bear and Scott Lynch, and they bring other published authors in as instructors. After learning more about the event, I decided to give it a try.
I am pleased beyond belief that I was one of the twenty four students selected. I heard the competition was very tough and there were lots of entries this year. It’s a really interesting and diverse group, and I believe most of us have already connected on Twitter through the #VP21 feed. I’m excited to meet them in a few months, get to know them, and hopefully build friendships with other authors that will linger for a lifetime. If nothing else comes of it, that would be more than enough to justify the course. But I do plan to get more from this. Much more.
I did Stonecoast back in the early 1990’s. That was a one week retreat in Maine, it’s first year out. I got to take a genre writing course with Walter Mosley as the instructor, but I was too young then to “get it.” Too raw to really absorb what was being laid down for us. I came away from it excited to write, but without the tools I needed for success, or an understanding of what being a writer meant. This time I plan to make certain I learn and absorb everything I can from the instructors who’ll be with us. I feel like I’m close… so very close to this dream I’ve harbored since I was eight years old of being a writer. A dream I put aside for many years out of my own fear of failure, my own inability to handle rejection.
Everyone has their own road. Mine took a little longer than some. The last six years have been amazing in terms of what I’ve learned and how my writing has improved. I’ve written two good novels, a bunch of short stories, and have gotten several really positive rejections (“loved this story, but it’s not quite right for us, I’m sure it’ll get published elsewhere”) that kept me motivated and moving forward. Now I hope to take that final step and start seeing my works in publications. To move from amateur writer striving, to published author producing.
October won’t be here soon enough. And though I hate the cold, I can hack it for a week of moving forward. I’ll miss the wife though… without her supporting me, none of this would be possible or happening now. I’d still be dubbing around with it, not really trying to improve, not pushing to reach that lifelong goal.
I’d rather reach for paradise and fail, then fail because I never tried…