In the summer of 2005, I joined a group of other writers of science fiction and fantasy in Seattle for a six-week boot camp for writers. One house. Six instructors. Eighteen students. Four bathrooms. It sounds like the setup for a reality show or a Chuck Palahniuk novel, but most people know it as the Clarion West Writers Workshop.
I’m not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that this experience changed my life. I went into it a promising but unpublished writer and came out of it a good, more publishable writer. I met a lot of amazing people, and I count many of my classmates among my closest friends. I learned discipline at Clarion West. I learned what makes a story good and how to tear a story apart and put it back together better, stronger, faster. I learned the value–nay, the necessity–of persistence and revision.
Almost immediately after leaving the workshop, I started selling my short stories. I joined a professional writing group, Altered Fluid, which I was graciously introduced to through my classmate Kris Dikeman. And I worked even harder at improving as a writer. A couple of years later, I wrote Fair Coin.
A significant portion of the first draft of my first novel was written during the Clarion West Write-a-thon, a challenge in which writers commit to a daily or weekly goal for the duration of the six week workshop in Seattle. Some people participate to show support for those poor souls, in solidarity for our shared experience. Some participate out of sheer envy. Many of us want to push ourselves to accomplish more than we typically think we can in our normal lives; six weeks of dedicated writing are sadly beyond the reach of most of us, which makes the workshop such a rare, exhilarating, transformative time. But it is also a way to give back to the workshop, by raising money to continue and expand this vital program so it can benefit more generations of writers to come. We’re investing in the future of our fiction.
Anyone can sign up to participate in the Write-a-thon, which takes place from June 17 through July 27, and I encourage you to do so. Help yourself and help CW! Anyone can also pledge a donation, in any amount, to sponsor one or more writers. Please do!
You can sponsor me for instance. I haven’t set any fundraising goals, but I would welcome your support, anything you can spare. I had to sit out last summer’s Write-a-thon, but I’m eager to return and use it to reinstate a semblance of a normal writing schedule. I also have to complete a manuscript revision by the end of July, so that works out nicely.
I’ve committed to working on that revision for two hours a day, every day, no matter what other things I have to work on. This wouldn’t have been hard for me before, but my work, job, life, and writing demands have changed significantly in the last couple of years, so I’m finding my way back to the discipline I need to move forward. I’ll be working on a contemporary young adult novel tentatively titled Understudy. You can see an excerpt on the site, but don’t judge it too harshly–I have to revise it, remember? You can help!
You can also sponsor a bunch of other talented writers. I won’t take it personally if you choose someone else, really. They’re all awesome, I like them. And all the money is going to the same place: A workshop that I believe in strongly, because I know that it works. Please consider making a donation or participating in the Write-a-thon and writing for six weeks along with brilliant writers from all over the world. (Bonus: If we reach 200 participants by June 16, the Write-a-thon gets $2000 from a generous donor.)