Clarion West is a six-week writing workshop, primarily focusing on science fiction and fantasy.  Each week has a new instructor who works as either a writer, an editor, or both.  Every year eighteen lucky students are accepted for the programme.

In early 2012, I got a phone call late on a Saturday night with a number I didn’t recognise.  I almost ignored it (as I was in the middle of something), when I saw that the number calling was an international one.  Interesting.  Someone said their name, then a company, then congratulations.  I think I heard it, but I sat in silence for a few seconds, before the woman laughed and repeated what she’d said.  It was someone from Clarion West, they’d accepted me for their 2012 session in Seattle.  I managed a surprised ‘buuu?’ noise and she patiently explained herself in more detail.  I guess she’d had a similar response from one or two other people.

I’d applied to the Clarion West 2012 writing workshop at the end of the year before, with little to no hope of succeeding.  It’s a prestigious speculative fiction workshop, one I had looked into every now and then, that runs annually.  I’d always been tempted to go, but this year really grabbed my attention and I applied.  Then promptly forgot all about it.

That five-minute phone call brought it all back – six weeks in Seattle, doing nothing but writing, with seven experienced and talented instructors.  I was in shock – trying to let it sink in.  Away for six weeks!  In Seattle!  Writing non-stop!

I danced around with glee, knowing a huge amount of luck had fallen my way.  I felt very honoured to be one of the eighteen but I also hoped some of the other fantastic applicants made it into one of the subsequent years.

June 17–July 27, 2012

Photo of Mary Rosenblum Mary Rosenblum tugs at readers’ hearts and minds with her hands-on understanding of science and technology and her passion for justice. A Reed College biology graduate, Rosenblum attended Clarion West in 1988. Her first book, The Drylands, won the 1994 Compton Crook Award, and in 2009 she received the Sidewise Award for Alternate History for her story “Sacrifice.”
Photo of Stephen Graham Jones Stephen Graham Jones has published eleven novels and over 140 finely-honed stories about innocents, unfairness, and scary truths. A Blackfoot Indian from Texas, a Professor of English at the University of Colorado, an NEA Fellow, and a Bram Stoker Award finalist, Jones can warm an audience to laughter or chill it with icily observed inevitabilities.
Photo of George R.R. Martin George R.R. Martin wrote the celebrated fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, basis for the HBO hit Game of Thrones. A brilliant, prolific writer of SF, fantasy, and horror, George also has substantial screenwriting experience (Twilight Zone and Beauty and the Beast). Time magazine named him one of the most influential people of 2011.
Photo of Connie Willis Connie Willis is the author of many novels, including Blackout/All Clear and The Doomsday Book, and multiple short story collections. She has won seven Nebulas and eleven Hugos and is a veteran Clarion West instructor. Willis excels at story deconstruction; her keen analysis illuminates the humor, love, and redemption found in both the screwball and the tragic.
Photo of Kelly Link and Gavin Grant Kelly Link and Gavin Grant have edited over 50 superbly unclassifiable books for Small Beer Press/Big Mouth House, which they founded. They’ve also co-edited five volumes of The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror and 27 issues of their avant-strange magazine Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. Both are talented writers too, and Link has won several Hugos and Nebulas, plus both the James Tiptree, Jr. and World Fantasy awards.
Photo of Chuck Palahniuk Chuck Palahniuk’s novel Fight Club won the 1997 Oregon Book Award and became a controversial cult film. His novel Choke was a NYT bestseller, and Lullaby won the 2003 Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award. A self-described minimalist, Palahniuk blends horror and satire to create genre-crossing stories about nontraditional protagonists. He is an ardent teacher, and the 2012 Susan C. Petrey Fellow.


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The first week with Mary primarily consisted of writing exercises, or micro-fiction to get everyone prepared for the next five weeks. After that, we wrote a new story every week.  Nobody skipped a class, nobody skipped a hand-in.  Outside of the critiquing times, we’d often get to eat with our tutors or drink, or hang around talking. Some of them watched films with us, others read out fiction.

But even outside of our house, there were always things to do. Every Friday there were Clarion West parties held with past alumni, other writers, or even just those supporting the cause.  The writing community in Seattle is huge and warm and inviting.  They know how to ease introverted writers into the fun and how to help them relax.

One thing I hadn’t realised I’d get from attending Clarion West — a new cult, er, family who understands all the joys and pain involved in writing.  One who is there when you need a sympathetic ear, or to give you a good kick to finish that thing you just can’t finish.

Clarion West

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