I’m insufferably proud to say I already accomplished one of my New Year’s resolutions: I applied to Clarion West. I almost did last year, but I ultimately chickened out for reasons I’ll explain below. I want to thank my husband for encouraging me. I also want to thank Matt Haig for his posts on Twitter about depression which helped me find the courage to overcome my fears.
One of the stories I included in my application is “Crabby Converse,” which is included in the book my husband, Glenn Wachtman, and I published through Kitsap Publishing: Ferry Findings. Please go buy it.
Here is my application essay, slightly edited, where I tell all in an effort to get Clarion to want me. Actually, at this point, I am so pleased that I applied, getting accepted seems secondary. I know the organizers want a diverse group, and old white women are as common in the field of wanna-be writers as dandelions. But I did it. I hit submit. And that is a Big Deal for me.
To Clarion West —
I want to be clear that writing this essay terrifies me. I saw Nisi Shawl at a Readerfest in Seattle in September and I tried to find the courage to ask her about the workshop. I failed.
I’ve known of Clarion for years, but I never seriously considered applying until last year, when I saw that Connie Willis was going to be one of the presenters. I have all of her books on my shelves. Daniel Jose Olderwas going to be there, too — I had just devoured Shadowshaper. How could I pass up the opportunity to meet them?
But I did.
I agonized for months. Could I handle ten weeks away from home after teaching school all year? Could I deal with meeting all those new people and sharing my writing with them?
I’m an introvert. I wear hearing aids in both years. I am blind when I don’t wear my glasses. I’ll turn 58-years-old during Clarion 2018! I am on antidepressants, and I don’t do well when I’m tired. How can I possibly handle six intense weeks with strangers? I collapse after teaching school all day!
I’ve been telling myself that I could come home for a night to sleep, hold my cat, hug my husband and recharge.
I should have applied to Clarion years ago when I was younger and more able.
On the other hand, I teach high school so I can handle anything, right?
I didn’t apply to Clarion last year because it was a rough year in general, and I decided I needed my summer off. Also, I was afraid of meeting one of my favorite authors and having her dislike my work. Also, I talked to my therapist about it and we agreed that the timing wasn’t right.
That’s a lie.
She said, basically, “What have you got to lose besides sleep?”
Oh, so much.
I’ve been writing since I was in second grade, and I’ve won some contests and been published in small magazines. I was a teenager when I won my first awards, from Scholastic and from PNWA’s teen contest. I had a story accepted to a small magazine called Weird Tales. They went out of business before it was published.
I was part of a critique class run by Zola Helen Ross (one of the founders of PNWA) when I was still in high school. I learned to give and accept criticism. I’ve been a part of a critique group of one kind or another ever since. Currently, I’m a member of the Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. (Judith Tarr had some encouraging words in a recent critique of my current wip!)
I had an agent for one of my books in 1987. She gave up after 17 rejections. (My favorite was: “We publish few science fiction stories, because there does not seem to be a large market for them among young adult readers.”)
The most lucrative award I’ve won was second place in PublishingOnline.com’s novel contest. They’ve since gone out of business.
I had a novella accepted by Wordbeams Online Publishing. She went out of business before publishing it.
My most prestigious award was first in the genre novel category at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. I thought that was going to be the turning point — it could only be success and accolades from there.
The process of submitting is so time-consuming in itself that it amazes me sometimes that anyone is willing to go through it. I’ve spent hours researching, trying to determine which editor or agent would be a good fit, following their directions about queries, bios, sample pages, etc. I’ve waited weeks or months to hear back. I’ve received hundreds of rejections and – Oh, Joy! – a rare request for a full ms. Then I’ve waited another few weeks or months for the next rejection.
I gave up. I self-published four of my books. You will be astonished to know that they have not sold well. Three of them are published through Pronoun. Pronoun is going out of business.
I read Ann Leckie’s Ancillary series recently, and I want to do that.
I’m a “pantser” and I don’t think it’s working for me. I need Clarion to help me get to the next level.
I believe I can help other writers. Quite a few writers have told me that I’ve helped them in the past, at any rate.
With my husband’s encouragement, I am taking the leap. Here it is. Your move.
Happy New Year. Whatever it is you are afraid to do, do it.