In Their Own Words: Clarion And You, by Brooke Bolander

The following is the beginning of a series of posts by Clarion alumni, talking about what Clarion means to them.

The application period for the 2012 Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop at UC San Diego officially opened on December 1, and will remain open until March 1. If you’ve been thinking about applying, start tapping on those keys now. We’ve got a wonderful faculty waiting in the wings, featuring Jeffrey Ford, Marjorie Liu, Ted Chiang, Walter Jon Williams, Holly Black, and Cassandra Clare. Thanks to Clarion’s friends and supporters, there is scholarship money for those who need it. In addition to general scholarships, there are special grants for students of color, students who are affiliated with Michigan State University, and students who are affiliated with UCSD. Get further information on the web at

So it’s that time of the year again, kids. The season when a young writer’s fancy turns to thoughts of Clarion and how many goats will have to be sacrificed to gain entry into that sacred realm. From now until the deadline you won’t be able to spit without hitting an encouraging post by an alumni telling you why you need to, nay, must apply if you’re at all serious about this writing thing, and there’s a very good reason for that. Are you sitting down? Have you taken a good, cheek-bulging mouthful of your beverage of choice so you can execute a proper spit-take?

Here it comes: because it’s fucking true.

This is not some dark conspiracy dreamed up by a shadowy group of chain-smoking, half-lit ner-do-wells working on behalf of the Secret Cabal of Genre Authors and UCSD Bigwigs, weaving their wicked webs to Steal Your Money from some leather-and-mahogany den beneath the lit department. It’s not rose-coloured nostalgia for a time when, for six whole weeks, you lived in a magic bubble by the sea where everyone around you was a writer and believed fully in your talents. Clarion works. I can’t say it works for everybody because what the hell ever does, but nine times out of ten you are going to come out of this thing a stronger, wiser writer, fully aware of both your strengths and your weaknesses. The instructors and more importantly the other students will teach you what works and what doesn’t. When you are sad, they will pick you up, dust you off, and buy you an ice cream cone, even if that sadness is because they just gently tore your story a new back passage. When you make a sale, they will be there to get rip-roaringly drunk alongside you and trumpet your praises to the heavens. And when you leave? You go with all those connections, all those little strands, all those I know a guy who knows a guy threads that honestly really, really help when you’re just starting out. Connections are important. They are so fucking important, and you leave with a host of them tied to your wrists like balloons, in addition to being a fully-fledged Clarion Alumni. These people are going to be your pack from now on. They’ll understand what you’re going through even when the well-meaning folks back home don’t.

I know I haven’t gone into a lot of depth about the actual teaching process and how effective it is, but I don’t need to tell you that; Clarion’s track record speaks for itself. It is VERY fucking good. The major thing – for me, at least – was growing an entirely new family that pummeled me into believing in myself. Teachers, other students, they all know you can do it, even when you don’t. If you’re anything like me, you’ll come back with a little more self-confidence, and that’s half your battle won.

And please, while you’re there, feed my ravens.

Originally posted on

Brooke Bolander writes weird things of indeterminate genre, most of them leaning rather heavily towards fantasy. She had to be bodily forced into applying to Clarion, finally doing so two days before deadline. She studied History and Archaeology at the University of Leicester and is an alum of the 2011 Clarion Writers’ Workshop. Since the end of the workshop she has sold to Lightspeed and Strange Horizons and is very, very grateful to the friends who goaded her into the whole affair.

Her hobbies include bizarre video games, drinking, and marksmanship, not necessarily all at the same time. She lives wherever she currently is and can be reached at @BBolander or at her website,


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