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)

15 thoughts on “Clarion West 2009: What Is Best In Life?

  1. @A.B.England – I can definitely say amen to that.

    @Jamie – Best of luck; and try not to obsess over it while you wait. I know tough to carry out but you already have the family bracing for a possible 6 week absence so they probably would appreciate your attention being present in the interim.

  2. @ABE Yes, the idea of failing… well, it’s terrifying to so many writers. I’m also terrified of success and the heightened altitude it brings to the next fall. 🙂 Everyone has it though. It just takes time to learn to overcome the terror and push on forward.

    @Deb Yep. The 6 week hiatus from the family will be tough indeed. I used to travel internationally so we know what to expect… Of course, things are different now and on this journey I’ll be totally inaccessible – except when I’m online which will be all the time!

    @evilgrin Thanks! I loved the Chesterton quote I saw on your site!

    “Fairy tales do not tell children the monsters exist. Children already know that monsters exist. Fairy tales tell children the monsters can be killed.”

  3. Wow Jamie!

    Loved your letter so decided to check out the submissions.
    You’ve really hooked me with Deepest Shade! Am hoping there is more to it already, or it’s going to keep me hanging on painfully… like reading a great book before you realise it is the just-published Book 1 of a trilogy!

    If you want some help with typos/sanity checks just give me a DM 🙂

    Clarion West or not – you’ve got a fan!

    Sam F´s last blog post..Are You Stuck In Your Stories?

  4. Jamie, they would be fools not to accept you! If I had any authority outside of my own mind, I would tell them so. 🙂 Here’s the part that I should say all sorts of gushy, mushy things that encourage you to not wait anxiously but I know that you will weave in and out of various emotions until you get the “yes.” So instead, I’ll say waiting with you on the pin cushion and happy to share chocolate and laugh while we wait. 🙂

    Karen Swim´s last blog post..Resource Friday

  5. @Sam Thanks for the kind words! Glad you liked Deepest Shade! Your reaction is very similar to some of the feedback I received when I originally put the story up. One fellow was really annoyed that the thing just ended – “Where are the next 150 PAGES! ROAR!” There’s more. Really there is! I promise. 😉

    @Karen Thanks, Karen. I know a lot of great writers are applying so if I don’t make it I’ll just go back to the well next year and drop my bucket. Till I know though, I’ll be happy to share some chocolate with you!

    @Amber Indeed. Indeed. Kip is nipping at my heels…

    “Get busy with them fingers, Mister Writer! They don’t pay you to sit around that fancy coffeshop and look pretty. Besides if they did you couldn’t feed a half dead rat on what you’d make!”

  6. Bet you did that freak out this where you scrambled (internally of course!) to take it back the second you hit submit!
    Best of luck to you, tell us how it went!

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