In the summer of 2012, I attended Clarion West in Seattle where I had one of the single best experiences of my writerly life, and this year I’m going to participate in their Write-a-Thon program to raise money. To give you a taste of what the program meant to me, I’m going to excerpt at length from the Acknowledgements to my forthcoming collection of short stories, Gifts for the One Who Comes After.
Two years ago, I remember writing the Acknowledgements to my first collection Hair Side, Flesh Side in an unnamed sorority house in Seattle—taken over for the summer by the Clarion West Writing Workshop in 2012. If there is a starting place for this book it was in that house, the first room on the left at the top of the stairs: not the room I had been advised to take, the one with the window that opened up to a balcony with a magnificent view of Mount Rainier, but a good room nonetheless, not too hot, with enough room for me, a couple of books, a bottle of Glenmorangie, and a notepad.
On my final night of the workshop I slept in the common room. I had wanted—had demanded—that my fellow classmates stay up with me all night so we could have as much time together as possible before I took the redeye back to Toronto. And I tried, but, really, I am like a child and so by two in the morning, I was zonked. So I grabbed a pillow and a blanket and I curled up in the couch. I drifted off to sleep, listening to the voices of my very dear friends—people I hadn’t known six weeks before but even now I can’t imagine not having in my life. I was sad. The summer was ending. I knew that I would be returning to a breakneck research schedule to finish my PhD dissertation. But I was happy too. Because I was surrounded by friends, and when you are a writer—or an academic—there is a kind of loneliness that comes with the job. One thing you learn in life is that nights spent with friends are rarer than you want them to be.
But when I think about the process of writing this book I don’t think about the loneliness. I think about all the people who helped me. I think about people who gave me their time, their support, their love, their knowledge, their companionship. I feel that same sense of happiness. And so of course I want to begin by thanking the Clarion Class of 2012, its instructors and organizers as well, for teaching me so much about the craft of writing. And for reading my stories. All of them.
I’ve given you all of that so that when I ask you for money, as I’m about to do, you really appreciate what Clarion West can do for a new writer. It gave me confidence, friendship, contacts, a place to hone my skills, dedicated time to read and write and critique. I’ve now published every single piece I wrote at Clarion West. Two of the stories I wrote there–”Lessons in the Raising of Household Objects” and “The Zhanell Adler Brass Spyglass” have been shortlisted for the CVC Short Story Award in consecutive years, sporting a $10,000 prize for the winner.
This year, I’m going to participate in the Clarion West Write-a-Thon, a fundraiser in which writers around the world agree to make write alongside the current year’s students in order to raise funds for operational costs and scholarships for future years. So that means, for six weeks, I’m going to try to write my little heart heart and you can help!
What am I writing?
My goal is to write. LOTS. For you.
I have a number of projects on the go at the moment. The most pressing of these is my YA novel tentatively titled “Icarus Kids”. I’m about two-thirds of the way through at the moment and ideally I’d like to have it finished by the end of Clarion West. But along the way I know I have at least one short story to write, about the Devil, and knucklebones, and wild dogs in graveyards, and ancient civilizations–and there will no doubt be others, because I am a magpie, and I cannot help hopping from shiny object to shiny object.
I’m aware of the fact that during this period, I’ll also be traveling to Reykjavik, Amsterdam and Bruges and so while my output is likely to be smaller during those couple of weeks, expect it to be crazier as I am inspired by things like snowmobiling on a glacier or visiting Iceland’s penis museum.
What are my goals?
So my goal is to raise whatever I can. But to reward people who contribute, I’m willing to do the following:
0-$25: a free PDF of my poetry chapbook SKELETON LEAVES or THE SEX LIVES OF MONSTERS
$26-$50: A suite of five original stories that will be appearing in my forthcoming collection GIFTS FOR THE ONE WHO COMES AFTER
$50-$100: the eBook of my collection HAIR SIDE, FLESH SIDE plus the selection of stories from GIFTS FOR THE ONE WHO COMES AFTER
More than $100: I’ll “tuckerize” you in either a short story or a novel, depending on where best I can use your name.
More than $500: I’ll write you a short story on whatever subject you like.
I also guarantee that I’ll write a progress report every week (except during the week in which I’m in Iceland because I can’t guarantee Internet access) to let you know how I’m doing and, if it’s appropriate, I’ll include some of my work-in-progress as well. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange for your reward.
How can you help?
Go to my fundraising page here: http://www.clarionwest.org/members/manuscriptgal/
You’ll find a PayPal donation button at the top. Feel free to donate as much or as little as you can afford. Every little bit helps to build the next generation of writers.