Category Archives: Clarion West

Dealing with Rejection

So… I didn’t make the cut at Clarion West. Again.


Now, before everyone jumps to the comments let me say that I’m basically ok. After all, I have the #1 search result on Google for Clarion West Rejection. In fact, I have 3 of the top 10 slots on page 1. Seriously, check it out:



That #1 ranking is last year’s rejection post, Writers Not Going to Clarion West – Rejection. The first is my original post about Clarion West ’08. The last one is a comment thread on LiveJournal.

Well, I have to laugh. What else can I do? 🙂

The Letter

The letter came through last night. It said pretty much the same thing as last year.

Thank you for applying to the Clarion West Writers Workshop for 2009.

We are sorry to let you know that you were not selected for this year’s class. We had a near-record number of applicants, and because the workshop can hold only eighteen students we could not find room for all of the promising writers. We realize this is a disappointment, but hope you will apply to Clarion West again in the future, as your work ranked well with our readers.

We wish you the best with your writing and hope you have a productive summer.

In other words, I was close, but not close enough. I missed it by “that much.” Again.


Like others receiving their notices, I wonder what it was about my work that didn’t click with the readers. Last year, I dealt with this curiosity by sending out my work as submissions. Only to have them rejected… again.


Dealing with Rejection… Again.

You might look at rejection as an opportunity to improve or perhaps to find a more appropriate audience. You could also use it as an opportunity to beat your head against the nearest solid surface. I doubt that’s going to help make your writing better, but the pain should take your mind off the rejection.

Re-rejection is part of the writer’s life. If you’re going to write professionally, you have to learn to get over it and move on. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t sting. Didn’t you see the ouches above? Of course it stings, but you can’t let it stop you.

In my case, I’m sending my submissions to a few pros who are going to critique them. I’m paying for this service. We’ll see what comes of it, but at the moment it’s back to the keyboard.

Yes, that’s right… Back to the keyboard. I’ve got a lot of writing to do. Only 9 months until submissions open for Clarion West 2010.

[NB: A big thanks to all the folks at Clarion West for running such a class act of a workshop. I mean that seriously. The professionalism and kindness shown by the administrators is nothing short of amazing considering the high-maintenance writers they have to deal with on a daily basis. Hats off to the crew and to the readers who have to wade through all this stuff to find 18 worthy souls each year.]

Clarion West 2009: What Is Best In Life?

Uh… How long is this thing again?

A few moments ago, I took a deep breath and hit the send button. My application to Clarion West is on the move across the vast tubular network known as the Internets… Now it’s time to wait.

This is that moment when I feel really good about what I’ve done. Once more I’ve put myself out there. It’s progress. I’m moving forward.

Of course, there’s the unsettling feeling that there is a typo somewhere in the documents. No, scratch that. There is complete certainty of typos. This is me we’re talking about.

Nothing to do but shake my head and laugh!

I will say that I had a hard time writing my letter of introduction this year. Last year, it was easy. Fun. I had a nifty story to tell in that I was trying to get back to the writing game after many years as a hobbyist.

This year, I couldn’t quite tell the same story. Well, I could have, but it didn’t feel right. Much has changed.

So, while I struggled with what to say, I began to feel that I was saying all the wrong things. I am a writer. I am a storyteller. I don’t need to dream about that anymore. No, what I want is to get better and so I had a little fun with the essay.

I only wish I could insert the YouTube clip below into the PDF. I suppose the caption will have to do. 🙂

Let me tell you of the days of high adventure!

Dear Clarion West Instructor:

Every writer has a story to tell about their struggle to learn the craft. Yet, sometimes reading those stories is like watching that scene at the beginning of Conan where the kid is put on the wheel and toils away, going round and round for years, until he turns into a muscled-up hunk. We’re waiting and waiting for some action to take place, but it’s just round and round the wheel till someone comes along and takes the Conan away.

The story doesn’t really get started until Conan becomes a warrior and we find him sitting in a stoic manner in the mongol tent.

“Conan! What is best in life?”
“To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of the women!”

And then, without warning, the warrior is set free and tossed out into the world to make his own way.

I’d love to say that’s me, but my hair is sort of going and I don’t think my wife would like me galavanting around on horseback with women in leather bikinis.

No, I’m the the wild man who who wears a pot on his head and argues with the spirits. I’m the wizard who drives away demons in the night. I’m the storyteller who brings you closer to the fire as I thrill you with tales from the days of high adventure.


Or rather, I’ve got the first two pieces. I’m still working on the thrilling tales…

As an artist, I’m drawn to tales that combine effects from several genres. I see the characters not as actors but as real people in a universe to which I’ve suddenly been invited. I’d like to learn more about driving plots to plausible conclusions as my work tends to sort of go on until it suddenly ends.

It wasn’t easy for me to figure this out. I spent many years fighting against what was natural. I struggled, as all writers do, till I came to understand that the best way to learn is to fail, then pick yourself up, see what happened, and try again.

At Clarion West, six weeks of intense work will give me plenty of chances to fail. In the end, I’ll come out a better writer. I might even find out how to be both hero and storyteller, but then I suppose that writers bent on becoming heroes tend to do less writing, since they’re so busy swinging swords.

NB: Yeah, I realize that I’ve taken the liberty of assuming that people know what the heck I’m talking about with Conan the Barbarian. However, Clarion West is a Science Fiction and Fantasy Workshop. People might be too artsy to admit it, but I think the odds are in my favor.

BONUS CONTENT! 😉 For the curious, here are my two story submissions (some revisions occurred since they were posted, but you get the idea):

Deepest Shade (Story – 17 pages)
In the Biddy’s Kitchen (Chapter 2 of Kip Frazier – 6 pages)

Introducing Kip Frazier – My Steampunk Huck Finn

“Hey, there, Mister Writer, you want to quit your dreaming about flowers and posey and get back to work?” ~ Kip Frazier

Those of you who followed me in November know that Kip Frazier is the book I wrote for NaNoWriMo. In a nutshell, Kip Frazier is my take on Huck Finn meets Steampunk (plus some magic thrown in). It begins with the line…

“In all my life, ain’t nobody ever caught me when I was running on top of the air.”

Below is Chapter 2 of the tale.

Chapter 1 is a super hot action thing where Kip is introduced in media res. I’m sharing Chapter 2 first because I am in desperate need of another cup of coffee (you’ll figure that out when you read it). Oh, and maybe I wanted to show that I maybe I can’t write stories but I can write more than first chapters. 😉

Note Bene – ’cause I’m getting all writerly now…

If you don’t read SciFi or Fantasy, references to “the Fey” mean fairy folk. Fey is a medieval term. It wasn’t my decision to use it either. Kip Frazier insisted. In fact, I have an entire author-character discourse in my notes were he berated me for trying to doll it up, “Writers! Always fiddling with the way things is! Stop it!”

Also, when I talk about clankers, I mean robots. This takes place in a time and place similar to Huck Finn, so I try to use words that fit into 19th century. Fantastic or romantic technology based on what was available to makers in the 19th century is an effect known as Steampunk.

READ Kip Frazier – Chapter 2: In the Biddy’s Kitchen (PDF). Just six pages. Won’t take long.

This’ll probably get another polish or seven as I’m the worst proof reader in the world. Of course, when you write in a colloquial style, it gets even more difficult to proof because you’re working off sound as well. It takes a long time to get this kind of thing right.

A big thanks to everyone who voted in my poll. It was a lot of fun to get back to this story, which of course is not a story but a novel…

“Aw, skip it already, Mister Writer!”

Sorry, Kip. 🙂

[Editor’s note: Sorry folks, I already found a typo and changed the name of the chapter. Big surprise, right? The link above is right now. LOL. 20+ years and I still do this every time.]

Clarion West Submission Poll Complete

Still fat. Note to self: turtlenecks don’t help.

Ask the Internet and the Internet responds.

In my last post, I mentioned that I was torn between two different stories for my Clarion West submission. So, since I liked them both, I decided to flip a coin and ask all of you to submit your opinion.

Now the results are in and I’m pleased to announce that Steampunk “Huck Finn” is the winner!


The Responses

32 wonderful people took the poll, which is more than I expected. A big thank you to everyone who cast their vote! I especially enjoyed the comments. I decided to post the lot below.

This is me cheering you on! I rather like the idea of a Steampunk Huck Finn, but honestly they both sound good. Good luck!
Daphné Brunelle

Anything to do with a Mark-Twain-esque theme has got to be awesome. Alice in Wonderland/Nightmare before xmas-ish stuff has been way overdone lately….and it’s just not really as relevant to the here and now, imho. good luck with your entry!

Good luck, Jamie.

Steampunk is one of my favorite genres, so I had to vote for that one. Besides, steampunk + Huck Finn has to be a winning combination!
– Willow Holser

I’m really interested in steampunk – don’t know a lot about it. Good luck!!
Liz C

Feel free to give the book to someone else. Good luck with your story. We writerly types NEED to stick together!!!
Monica Valentinelli

Both of those stories sound interesting. Good luck getting accepted into Clarion. Both prizes look wonderful. I chose the second, because I’ve been thinking recently about all the stories I’ve got that are “almost right” and all the supposed to be novel length stuff I’ve started and abandoned (well, sorta) and wondering what it is that’s stopping me from taking the next step with my fiction. Because I know my prose is good. *sigh* Thanks!
Pamela Lloyd

Best of luck! It’s definitely inspiring that you’re trying to get in to CW despite the earlier rejection. Here’s hoping you make it in. =)
– Cat

Wow… love both pitches, personally. However, I think the Steampunk one sounds more marketable at the moment. 🙂
jaymi elford

Thanks to you for writing about writing and inspiring me. And you are in C-bus. Write on.
– Nancy Smeltzer

Really? You’re soliciting comments from the very people who read your blog? You really are pretty brave. I voted the way I did mainly because I just watched The Nightmare Before Christmas for the first time. And I was less than impressed. Best of luck, Jamie.
Jason Rehmus

The Steampunk “Huck Finn” is something I’d love to read once it’s ready. Plus, I’m curious to see what sort of inventions you’ll come up with.
– RoseColette

Good luck! And you’re totally right, I should be writing instead of surfing the internet right now…
– David Vaughan

Admit your level and how ready you are to learn in your letter. And have faith ;). I wish you all the luck in the world! I hope you make it, and if so, I hope I can make it up to say hi to this year’s class!
– Marguerite Croft

Hi Jamie, First of all, good luck! And secondly, I wholeheartedly agree with the decision to provide differing works for review. Best of luck – your site is more inspiration than you can imagine!
– Amy Morgan

You said one question… you didn’t say it would be so hard. 😛 Damn you, Jamie. One person shouldn’t get that many good ideas.
– Sarah

Both sound really interesting, but I always loved Alice & Wonderland, so I couldn’t resist voting for it. Can’t wait to see what you pick and get to read it. Best of luck getting into the program – it sounds great! 🙂
Elise Koerner

Based on the fact I have nothing else to go off on other than a pitch, I have to go with Alice in Wonderland meets The Nightmare Before Christmas. I’m a huge fan of Lewis Carroll’s and Tim Burton’s OK too. To be brutally honest, I *HATED* The Nightmare Before Christmas. I wanted to love it. But I couldn’t. I watch it often, thinking each time that perhaps a miracle will happen and I’ll exclaim, “OH! There!!! Finally. I love it now.” But that, alas, has never happened. Thus, I think that perhaps Alice is exactly what The Nightmare Before Christmas needs for me to fall deeply, and hopelessly in love. And if anyone could do it, I know that it would be you!
Whitney McKim

Very best of luck to you!! Then you’ll have to change your twitter tagline “never had a lesson” to Clarion graduate ’09. 🙂
– Gigi Vernon

Mostly I’m just desperate to see what Steampunk “Huck Finn” looks like – because (disturbing to me) I have no trouble imagining how “Alice in Wonderland meets The Nightmare Before Christmas” would unfold. (That really is a bit disturbing, isn’t it?) 🙂

These readers (and writers) voted but did not leave a comment. You get a special shout out for participating. 🙂

Lisa Firke
Maija Haavisto
Sam Hetrick
eric orchard
Tim Paulson
Clay Harrison
Amber Stults

The Prize!

Of course, I also decided to give out a random prize. Now that we’re here, I can’t help but give out two. I’m just that kind of guy. On to the winners!

The winner of James Wood’s How Fiction Works is Laura the Delighted Scribbler! You can visit Laura on Twitter.

And the winner of Ralph Keyes’ Courage to Write is Jason Rehmus also known as longstride on Twitter.

Congratulations to Laura and Jason, and thanks to everyone who participated! This was big time fun!

Now I’ll have to scramble because Alice in Wonderland Meets Nightmare Before Christmas was really more done-done than Steampunk Huck. Isn’t that the way it goes?! 🙂


Help Me With My 2009 Clarion West Choices Maybe Win A Book

Great. Not only am I unable to make a decision, I clearly need to lose some weight.

As you know, last year I tried and failed to get into Clarion West. Well, it’s that time again and I’m going to go for it!

Alright, to be honest, I’ve been threatened with some form of writerly violence by Caren Gussoff (CW08) if I don’t apply, so I need to get working. If you’re thinking of applying, jump on over to her site and read her advice on applying to Clarion West. Great stuff.

My Application: The Stories and the “Contest”

During the last year, I spent a lot of time here on this site telling you all about my writing life so it only makes sense that as I prepare my 2009 Clarion West application that I’d go ahead and ask all of you to help out and in the mix I’m going to give something away…

No, I’m not asking for a letter writing campaign or anything else like that. Just a simple poll to help me decide what to write. Of course, if you’d like to cheer me on in the comments I could use it. This is going to be an especially tough year for me to take off if I happen to get in.

I’ve already decided to include the latest version of “Deepest Shade”, even though it’s more of a first chapter than a story. However, Deepest Shade is only 17 pages long and you can send up to 30 pages (warning: do not exceed the limit)…

So, with 13 pages to spare I need to select between two other pieces. Luckily, I just happen to have two bits but I’m torn between them. Both are fun and engaging, and since they are written for a younger audience, I think they provide an interesting contrast to Deepest Shade.

Neither piece has gone through a final polishing, so I don’t have time to do both, post them, and get feedback from you. I need to pick one to focus on so I decided to run a poll to see which concept is more appealing.

That’s it. Just a simple poll. Help out and you just might win…

The Contest “Prize”

Ok, it seems silly to give something away when I’m just doing a poll but I’m going to give something away cause I like to do that kind of thing.

When I close the poll on 1/21/2009 at 9PM EST, I’ll pick one name at random from the list of respondents. The winner will get their choice of one of two books:


1. “Why these two books?” Courage to Write is the book a recommend to all writers for overcoming fear, while How Fiction Works is one of the best books on deconstructing fiction I’ve ever read.

2. “Will you buy me a different book?” No. Let’s not make this complicated, shall we?

3. “Will you post the ‘winning’ story?” Absolutely! Once it’s nice and neat I’ll put it up here. 😉


Thanks so much for helping out! Best of luck to everyone who’s applying this year!!!