In Their Own Words: A miscellany of reasons, by Kat Howard

The following is part 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

We could start with the obvious reasons why you should apply to Clarion. Every year, there are six of them, and every year they are the faculty. Six professional writers, all talented, all respected in the field. Often, they are also award winners and best-sellers. You will work with each of them, both in the workshop room, and one on one. Sometimes in the common room at 2 am when you are still reading for the next day’s that morning’s critiques. Some of them will become your friends and mentors. They will give you the respect of taking you, and your writing, seriously.

Here are another six reasons: six weeks. Six weeks in which you can make your writing your absolute priority. Is it hard to step away from the life you’ve known for that long of a time? Yes. Emotionally and financially, it is a sacrifice. But – and please forgive my bluntness – if you think that the life of a writer is not full of emotional and financial sacrifices, you are wrong. Even if you cannot go now, it is worth saving and planning for.

Here are eighteen reasons – yourself, and your classmates. You will meet amazing, wonderful, challenging people. Some of these people will become part of your chosen family. Some you will do crazy and impossible projects with – I am writing a ballet with one of my Clarionmates right now. Let me assure that this is something that had never crossed my mind to do before I went to Clarion.

And that is the other thing, the beginning of the less-obvious reasons that you should attend – you will learn so much about yourself. Perhaps one of the things that you will learn is that you are not a writer, or not someone who wants to write professionally, or at least not then. Believe me when I say that is a good thing to learn, and better to learn it in six weeks than in six months, or six years. But perhaps you will learn that you are. I did, when I was there.

Clarion is a difficult experience, sometimes. It gets called “boot camp for writers” and I think the description is apt. It can also be a trial by fire, and many other clichés. It will, in all likelihood, change the way you write, and change the way you think about writing. I applied four years ago, and applying was one of the scariest things I had ever done, until I attended.

I’ve written a post like this every year since I attended. I still look back and say that going to Clarion was the single best thing I have ever done for myself as a writer, and one of the best things that I’ve done for myself, full stop. If you want to write, I highly encourage you to apply.

Originally posted on Strange Ink.

Kat Howard is a Clarion 2008 graduate who is incredibly grateful to her instructors and Clarionmates for making her a writer. Her short fiction has appeared in Stories, edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio, Subterranean, Lightspeed, and is forthcoming in Rich Horton’s Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2012. When she’s not writing, she is a postdoc in the English Department at Stony Brook University. You can find her on twitter as @KatWithSword.


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