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06 July 2008 @ 05:13 pm
from Les Semaines, July 6, 2008: Second Week of Clarion West 2008  
Mary Rosenblum was a terrific instructor to follow Paul Park. She's one of Clarion West's graduates, and has built a reputation for strong, humane hard science fiction, a mystery series, and for her award-winning short stories. She helped move the students into our usual Milford-style workshop critiquing. She's a smart critiquer, and very good at taking stories for what they aspire to be and helping point the way toward that goal. I really enjoyed hearing her critiques.

Her reading on Tuesday night was great--she read an alternate history mystery story from a new anthology of them. Hers was set in a Mexico where Europeans and disease hadn't wiped out the native population, and where as well the Chinese explorers had had a greater impact. It was a delightful story: clever, with fascinating details woven in throughout.

The week was capped by something horrible that brought out something wonderful: while the students were in class downstairs, someone broke into the third floor of the house where our students are living and stole four laptops and some personal effects. I feel terrible for the students--some lost work, some lost family photos, some have had to go online and change passwords, etc. It has been a harrowing experience for them--more than just annoying, because a laptop while you're at the workshop is almost as important as a hand. Not only do you write on it and use it to mail your story to Kinko's, but it's also your lifeline to home and your personal support network.

The students are all upset, of course, but trying hard not to let it ruin their time at the workshop. The wonderful part is how the community responded. One of the students (who wasn't involved) blogged about the event, and people picked it up and rallied around with offers of computer loaners and office supplies, and donations to start a replacement fund. There were lots of queries, so we posted on our website and other friends of Clarion West posted on theirs, and within 48 hours of the theft we had enough in donations to replace the laptops.

What an amazing, heartwarming conclusion. The students still have lost what they've lost, but the support, both emotional and financial, has been mind-blowing.

Thanks, everyone, for doing what you could, whether you helped spread the word, sent a message of support to the class, are watching ebay and craigslist and all to see if we can catch the perpetrators, offered a loaner, or made a donation to replace the computers. The way the community is rallied around really helped the students feel that they're not alone in this. The support means a lot: to them, and to Clarion West (and to me!)

One thing it has made me see is that people really understand how intense attending Clarion West is, and what the students were going through already when they had the additional stress of this invasion of their workshop home. The sympathy and support has been really affecting. This is such a generous, responsive community. I'm in awe.

As I type this, Leslie has the affected students with her to buy them new laptops. We're also going to make certain they have both the software and hardware to keep writing (and lock-down cables). It's possible that donations may exceed what we need to do this, and if so, we will be returning them proportionally to the donors.

All I can say is thank you. Wow.

In personal news: today is Jim's birthday. We had dinner and cake last night with Karen and Barry and will be having sushi then cake with the family and neighbours tonight. If you want to wish him a happy birthday, you can email him at jmg @ zipcon . com (remove the spaces).

For more about what I'm listening to, books I read, and my writing this week, see Les Semaines.