The Clarion Workshops (Clarion in San Diego and Clarion West in Seattle) are by-audition workshops for writers of speculative fiction (SF/Fantasy/Horror). For six weeks during the summer, eighteen writers come together under the instruction of six seasoned masters of genre. The students churn out one story and seventeen critiques a week. It’s an intense experience, the sort that can break people down and break them through to becoming better writers. The intensity of the shared experience can help build lasting bonds between classmates that are as much family as friendship.
It isn’t the right experience for everyone. Some individuals shut down under that kind of pressure. Some classes run into interpersonal conflicts that muddy the potential for bonding. Some people can’t afford to go in terms of time or money. But for me (and for my seventeen littermates in the class of Clarion West 2012), it was a life-changing experience in the best possible way.
This week, the classes of Clarion and Clarion West 2016 are starting on an amazing journey. It’s a time when Clarion alums get nostalgic, and I’m no exception! For the next six weeks, I’ll be checking in with my cohort from CW2012 and asking them to talk about their CW experiences: where they were as writers before the workshop, how the workshop impacted their writing, what they’re working on now, etc.
Like dandelion seeds, we’ve dispersed along different courses, some of us hitting ‘measurable’ success markers earlier than others. For better or worse, that’s how this writing thing works. But that’s not the full measure of our potential. One of my classmates in her interview quotes our Week 4 instructor, Connie Willis: “Writing is not a career, it’s a holy vocation. You put in as much time as it takes.” Our vocation is subject to the whims of chance and opportunity. It’s never easy, it’s never over, and it’s different for every person.
Today we have Cory Skerry, whose obsession with the game Hatoful Boyfriend sparked some of the best pigeon-related fanfic and fanart I’ve ever encountered. It also helped inspire my week 3 story, A Screech of Gulls. He asked if he could illustrate his interview.
What was your writing and publishing experience coming into Clarion West 2012?
Before CW, i had a few pro sales and SFWA membership.
What sort of expectations did you have for the workshop?
I expected that it would be difficult, that i would get little sleep, that my brain would expand with a massive injection of craft knowledge, and that there would be horrible drama between the members of my class that i would just have to endure.
What was something indispensable or revelatory that you learned from an instructor or special guest? From one of your classmates?
I have a hard time assigning moments of learning to individual instructors—my brain doesn’t tend to retain how i came by information when it’s the type that I’m going to adapt anyway. I think when Connie Willis told us it was okay to steal the structure of another work and lay our own story on it, i suddenly saw writing more like art than i ever had before. I immediately likened it to putting clay on armature wire to build a sculpture.
[Ed. Note: That’s our Week 4 instructor, Connie Willis, whose love for the show Primeval is as strong as it is baffling. YES CONNIE, I WENT THERE!]
How was the workshop meaningful for you? How has it impacted your writing?
It was meaningful because the terrible drama i was expecting never happened. I met seventeen good friends, thoroughly decent humans who care about others in both their lives as well as with their work. I didn’t know you could have that many good people in one place at one time, or that they could stay good through such a high-pressure environment. I gained more faith in humanity by attending. My writing, by contrast, hasn’t changed much at all—but the way i envision, plan, and put words down has altered in myriad tiny ways, all for the better.
What’s something you’ve accomplished since the workshop that you’re really proud of (doesn’t have to be writing related!)
What are you working on now?
A YA portal fantasy i’ve been trying to write since i was twenty.
Pick one and answer: What do you say when people ask, “Where do you get your ideas from?” Do you have an unusual talent or skill? What keeps you awake at night? If you weren’t a writer what would you be? What are you going to do right now when you’ve finished this ordeal?
[Ed. note: Or… all, I guess!]
- Child labor
- If i give someone a nickname it will stick. I try to use my power for good, especially if someone slips me a benjamin.
- Wondering if Alyc Helms will ever marry me
- A gluten-free tropical fish fetishist who only speaks Esperanto and fixes Japanese cars to pay for globe-trotting aquarium visits
- Play fetch with my hyperactive dog
Bonus question just for you: Explain the ‘i’ thing so people don’t think I’m a lousy editor 😛
Ahahaha! I’ve always thought it was weird that English capitalized one pronoun and none of the others. Lately, as i’ve become more aware of the consequences of colonialism, this grammatical anomaly began to seem like less like a quirk and more like an overbearing, inappropriate Western propaganda campaign to subtly encourage us to invalidate the narratives of other humans by thinking of ourselves as superior. Then again, many years ago i modeled my handwriting after the Operation Ivy logo, so maybe it’s not political and i’m just being shoddy all around:
What question do you wish I’d asked? Answer it!
Your Question: Will you marry me?
My Counter-Question: How big is the ring?
[Ed. response: Pigeon-sized]
Share your bio, website, social media.
Cory Skerry tells lies because he can’t stop himself and paints things he shouldn’t. He’s seen ghosts even though he doesn’t believe in them, puts clothes on his dog because it was his dog’s idea, and he is not sexually aroused by tropical fish but he does his best. Just kidding—don’t put that part about the fish in my bio. Seriously, i don’t want people to think i’m some kind of freak. [Ed. note: the inclusion of the tropical fish line was consensual. Cory is some kind of freak].
My website is http://coryskerry.net. i’m plunderpuss on everything that matters and CorySkerryTheWordMonster on Facebook.
You can sponsor Cory in the Clarion West 2016 Writeathon here.