Life After Clarion
Clarion is an intense lens, focusing all the good and bad about writing, all the strengths and weaknesses of the individual student. For the six weeks, writing is moved from a personal, private experience to a public, social experience. This panel will focus on recovering from Clarion, and how the recovery for someone who had a positive experience is different than the recovery for someone who had a negative experience.
Reported by Lenny Bailes
Clarion is a six-week workshop. Every week has a different teacher. The emphasis is on short stories.
Some participants have good experiences, some have bad. A time for recovery is required in both cases.
Some Clarion participants are unable to write afterwards (Luke cites himself as an example.)
JH: Clarion call also spoil you. You get used to line-by-line critiques. It's challenging to be alone with your writing, afterward.
KS: Recovering from Clarion was more difficult than she thought it would be. She knew she would need recovery time. The community provided support, but she didn't set writing as a central priority.
IH: Insisted on working part-time to make room for writing in his life, but had an unpleasant Clarion experience. Emotional maturity of the group is unpredictable. If you decide to dress flamboyantly, you may have to accept the consequences of an "8th-grader" mentality.
JH: Administrators can influence how the social dynamics of the group get going. Jane warns of the dangers of participants picking a scapegoat in a group. This not only hurts the victim, but masks the real needs of the group. This can be poisonous to group dynamics. A Clarion administrator may be able to deflect this practice.
Laurie (From audience): Teachers can also set interaction guidelines.
Jay (From audience): When Clarion participants return to a mundane setting that's not as supportive of writing, how can they cope?
Jeremy (From audience): His critique group continued for six months by e-mail.
(?): Clarion dynamics are different for dorm and non-dorm dwellers. East vs. West: East is all-dormitory. No distractions. Generally cheaper, except for transportation from the West Coast. In Clarion West novelettes are accepted as application stories.
Kate: Networking is an important factor in producing sales.
Kate: Who shouldn't go to Clarion? People who only want feedback from instructors. People who can't handle stress. Expect a monastic life and the shredding of your stories.
Question, Lenny B: Does Clarion explode dreams? (The process of being polished and trained in technique.) Are participants made to feel that their aspirations on entrance are impossible?
Luke: Clarion did explode the dream for him.
Jane: It can inflate the dream. Reinforce ambition.
Rich (From audience): Clarion broadened his critical sense and helped him find direction.
Jeremy (From audience): Clarion also helped develop his sense of direction.
A sense of your own writing can help avoid Clarion homogenization.
Question (?) Is genre an issue at Clarion?
Luke: Mainstream stories are often critiqued at Clarions.
Summary – clues to recovery from Clarion Experience:
While at the conference find an understanding audience for your work. Be prepared for stress.
After the conference: Allow time to recover – time off from day job.
Maintain post-Clarion student contact.
Insist on reserving time for writing as an essential part of your life.