Final Clarion Report
Weeks 5 and 6: Gardner Dozois and Carol Emshwiller
Back row: Karen Fishler, Daniel Abraham, Ellen Levy Finch, Chiara Shah, Ruth Nestvold, Mike Bateman, John Olsen. Middle: Christyna Ivers, Tamela Viglione, Karen Cupp, Diana Rowland, R.S. Blum, Jeff Deveaux. Front: David Wellington, Susan Fry, Burke Kealey, Carol Emshwiller, Eric Witchey.
Towards the end of Gardner's week, the stress must have been telling finally, because we were getting very silly. On his last day, he and Susan competed in shooting bagels from their noses, I recited Jabberwocky, and Tamela, Ellen and I did the "Axemen Grunt." Quite a morning.
Gardner left us with his thoughts on how to become a hot new SF writer:
- have five or six really brilliant stories published
- publish them as close together as possible (preferably within one year)
- have at least some of the stories set in a common background
- make sure the stories are published in the biggest magazines.
For anyone with any sense, Clarion teaches humility.
The Friday party during Gardner's week was a 60's theme party at Leslie's house. Most of us didn't have much costume material available, but I leant Eric a silk shirt and pendant for the occasion, and he looked stunning, if I do say so myself.
Christyna Ivers, Howard Waldrop, Bob, Gardner Dozois, Lucius Shepard, Nisi Shawl, Hali Myers, David Myers.
During Carol Emshwiller's week, we were all winding down, for the most part glad the stress would soon be over. Nonetheless, most of us still managed to turn in a final story, upping our totals to some ungodly number I no longer want to contemplate. Altogether we produced a total of about 130 stories, many of them on the long side. My own production was on the low end of the scale -- six stories, my Clarion spoof, and a synopsis for my time travel, none of which was over 5,000 words.
Carol spent much of her time trying to teach us a greater appreciation of language. She emphasized that we shouldn't use normal adjectives and should look instead for the surprising word, the effect that makes the reader take notice. She also spoke about timing and rhythm, elements that are hard to grasp in the abstract.
Carol has had a very interesting writing career. She began as a writer of pulp stories in the fifties (she was one of the first women to publish regularly in what was then a very male domain); now she is best known as writer of literary fiction. She still writes speculative fiction, but much of what she writes is no longer genre.
We survived our last week at Clarion burned out, but with our egos still largely in tact, and all of us still on speaking terms with each other. Certainly, there were little incidents I would rather forget, there were sharp words now and then when folks were on edge, but nothing that happened escalated into a feud, we had no scapegoats, and we did our best to pull each other through in the rough times. One of the Clarion assistants even said our mutual supportiveness inspired him to finally write again. Nice words to hear.
Whenever someone asked during those six weeks how we managed to maintain our group cohesion, we generally answered with our average age (old) and our listserv. The listserv allowed us to get to know each other a little before meeting in person, and some of our common myths were created even before we arrived at Seattle U. (Our fixation with Vikings came from A Maxim for Vikings, "whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger," which we shared with each other when we were sharing our fears and expections of Clarion via e-mail.) Much of our "success" in surviving the stress of Clarion together consists of negatives. We had no alpha males and no raging assholes and no scapegoats. Although we are probably all egomaniacs on some level (hard to be a writer if you aren't), our individual insanities have been tempered by age. If we had been together at Clarion when we were between the ages of 18 and 36, we probably would have torn each others' throats out.
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