Neile Graham (neile) wrote,
Neile Graham

Les Semaines July 12: Second & Third Weeks of Clarion West 2009

I feel privileged to once again be a witness to this alchemical process. Both Karen Joy Fowler and Elizabeth Bear were new Clarion West instructors to me (Karen Joy Fowler has taught for us, but not for a long time, and Elizabeth Bear is new to CW) but they built on John Kessel's beginnings, delving into the arcana of writing. Both had wonderful things to say about plot, about character, about the varieties of POV and their effects...meanwhile the students were critiquing a minimum of three stories a night (mostly four), critiquing in class, perhaps doing an exercise or two and writing their stories, which have been really impressive first drafts.

I'm so impressed with both Karen and Bear as instructors for the workshop—so great at outlining basics, yet also at issues of art and inspiration, practical about the practical issues and yet able to point to the things about writing that you can't really quite talk about. Karen's passion and Bear's energy—or is it Karen's energy and Bear's passion—inspired me. I also liked both of them so much as people.

I know I sound like a cheerleader when I talk about this process, but this is the ninth time I have experienced it as an observer (and once previously as a participant) and I remain fascinated by how it works and how while each group of students and instructors is different, the process has similarities.

Sure there are rough spots, critiques that shred the author's skin, moments of painful exhaustion, interpersonal rough spots, but the crucible that is this kind of workshop still burns off an amazing amount of dross and an astonishing amount of gold.

In the meantime, Jim turned 50(!), Devin continued to recover from her ACL surgery, and our other niece, Meredith, from the brain tumour surgery (still no final word about the biopsy, which is nagging at me). We've had spells of hot weather for Seattle, and now some cold/rainy/windy. We've been picking blackcurrants and raspberries. Cherry season has been tasty.

I continue to struggle to catch up with the write-a-thon, various household and personal tasks and to catch up on that constant barrage called email. I'd really better do something quickly, as the inbox approaches 1,000 messages retained in expectation of me doing something with them. I've tossed all the rest. How does this happen?


For my listening, reading, and writing updates, as well as a day touring Scotland in July 1997, see Les Semaines.


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