Day 41: What you get from your writing is what you put into it

Clarion West almost didn’t happen. My Clarion West – 1986. And when it did happen, we were sparsely populated. We were the Wyoming of writing workshops.

The original Clarion West ran from 1971 to 1973 in Seattle. It was relaunched in 1984, still in Seattle. Clarion West was an offshoot of the original Clarion, founded in 1968 in Milford, Pennsylvania, and now held in San Diego.

(Seattle and San Diego. Nothing says “catchy internet copy” more than Clarion West North and Clarion West South.)

Not long before the 1986 Clarion West, the relaunchers stepped back, and the workshop almost lost molecular cohesion. I know two of the people who saved it: queenpins Linda Jordan and Donna Davis, to whom I will always be in debt.

Unfortunately, this ninth-inning change in administration and the lack of time before opening day caused a problem in promotion and recruiting. There wasn’t much of either. My Clarion began with eight students. This was the only Clarion West class with fewer than 17.

Bonding was difficult. Everyone was either in their 20s or their 50s. There were only four or five people rattling around in the dorm. Group lunches were awkward. What little progress we made at unification was disrupted when two new people joined us for weeks five and six. (The workshop needed the money.)

This being 1986, we were all Caucasians of European descent. And this being 1986, I never noticed.

Enough complaining.

Linda, Donna, and their assistants (actually, I’m not sure they had any) were stellar, the readings were good, the parties were fun, and one of my teachers, Susie McKee Charnas, changed my life. Not only was she the first writer I’d ever met who wrote the way I wrote (growing stories forward and backward from the original idea), when she challenged me to write something beyond my reach, what came out was not science fiction. I was not a science fiction writer, despite what I had believed since I was 12. This knowledge was worth every penny I’d borrowed from my girlfriend to go to the workshop.

My Clarion had its faults (some of my colleagues probably held a dim view of me), but I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.

I’ve been thinking of the current class. Today was their last day. I wish them luck and a not-too-bumpy transition back to civilian society.


One of my sponsors is supporting me in memory of Vonda N. McIntyre. Vonda attended the Milford Clarion in 1970 and started Clarion West in 1971. I am also in debt to Vonda. Sleep well, Starfarer.

How to play nice with Google

Everyone needs a social media spiritual guide. Mine is Kent Lewis of Anvil Media. I’ve attended a couple of his presentations on how to raise your online profile, and one point he emphasizes is to join groups that have interactive membership directories. Google loves that stuff.

I’ve taken Kent’s advice, and now when I google my name and its variations I’m happy with the results I see. However, these are not the results I expected. My LinkedIn profile always tops the list, but after that, Google bypasses my professional connections. For example, the Freelancers Union doesn’t win, place, or show. But Google loves my hobbies! Writing for fun? There’s my profile at the Clarion West Writers Workshop site. How about making bad art? There I am at the International Union of Mail Artists. (Yes, the IUOMA exists, and there are 3,700 of us all over the planet so hush your mouth.) I probably shouldn’t have given up my membership in the US Chess Federation.

I can’t complain. Kent’s words were good. And these search results make me look like a guy with a life and not like a lifeless drone. I’m just sorry that Audubon and the Mazamas don’t have membership directories.