Things I learned at Clarion West

For those unfamiliar, Clarion West is an intensive six-week residential workshop for aspiring and neopro science fiction writers, held in Seattle. I went in 2001, as one of seventeen students learning from Octavia Butler, Bradley Denton, Nalo Hopkinson, Connie Willis, Ellen Datlow, and Jack Womack.

Here are some things I learned, in no particular order:

  • Cheddar cheese tastes remarkably good on apple pie.
  • It’s impossible to read aloud more than two paragraphs of The Eye of Argon without breaking out laughing. Try it yourself. I dare you.
  • Instead of saying hell in a handbasket, Canadians say hell in a handcart.
  • I can write a 4000-word story in a day.
  • We managed to embarrass Bradley Denton with a copy of his first novel, Wrack and Roll.
  • Near the summer solstice, the sun descends the gap between buildings in downtown Seattle at about 10:30pm.
  • There’s a technique for creating an absolutely fitting, yet totally unexpected, near future society. Sorry, I can’t tell you what it is–we were sworn to secrecy.
  • Microsoft will collapse by 2005. (When a science fiction writer makes a prediction, take it with a grain of salt).
  • Octavia Butler was one of the most patient and grounded people I’ve ever met.
  • Last but not least, it is an incredible delight to be able to immerse yourself for six weeks with people passionate about many of the same things you are.

So when one of my classmates, Emily Mah, proposed we put together a reunion anthology, I jumped at the chance, as did ten of my classmates.

I’m pleased to announce that a hard sf story of mine, “Selling Short,” is appearing in Under the Needle’s Eye, coming out on Thursday, May 3 in a Kindle-only ebook edition. It will be free for 24 hours, starting at midnight Pacific time on Thursday. Thanks to Emily, we even have a book trailer!

What was your most intense, immersive experience, and what did you learn from it?