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Learn to Write Good

Judging by the emails I receive, there are a lot of aspiring writers among my readership.

I wanted to make mention of a couple of summer writing programs that might be of interest to you.

First, the legendary Clarion workshop, which began with Damon Knight in Clarion College, Pennsylvania, and is now in scenic San Diego. An intensive six-week writer's boot camp that will make you, break you, maybe change your life. I will be one of the instructors at this year's Clarion, along with Delia Sherman, Dale Bailey, Samuel R. Delany, Jeff Vandermeer, and Anne Vandermeer. For more details, check out


Applications for Clarion are being accepted now, and will close on March 1... so if you've ever wanted to have me read and critique your work, and learn the secret handshake and the diagonal relationship, speak now or hold your peace until the next time I do a workshop (which probably won't be for a few more years).

[[ I do NOT read unpublished manuscripts that are mailed or emailed to me, so don't even think that. I do my teaching and critiquing only with a workshop context. And sorry, no, I won't be your mentor.]]

Clarion has been helping to turn out professional SF and fantasy writers since the 60s. Maybe you're the next one. You'll never know unless you apply. But be warned, only a few are chosen. Admissions are extremely competitive, with only one of five applicants getting in.

For writers who are already published, but are looking to take the next step in their careers, there is the Taos Toolbox, founded and run by my friend Walter Jon Williams and held right here in scenic New Mexico.


Walter Jon's pitches his Toolbox as more of a "graduate study" program, for writers with a bit more experience. Graduates of Clarion, Clarion West, and Odyssey, neopros with a few sales under their belts, even journeymen looking to improve. I am not connected with the Toolbox, but I did a guest lecture there a few years ago, and it struck me as a great program. This year Nancy Kress will be assisting WJW with the teaching, and Carrie Vaughn (of Kitty and Wild Cards fame) will be giving a guest lecture. And when you're not writing, reading, critiquing, or listening to lectures, hey, you'll be in Taos.

Clarion Workshop and the Taos Toolbox. If you want to write, check 'em out.


( 43 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jan. 7th, 2010 07:41 pm (UTC)
Hey George, I just posted info for another writing course on my blog - it's on online course and is being done in conjunction with one of South Africa's biggest publishers; here's the info: http://davebrendon.wordpress.com/2010/01/07/the-random-house-struik-get-smarter-creative-writing-course/

Looking forward to the day I can take on Clarion! :-)
Jan. 7th, 2010 07:46 pm (UTC)
Another one people should know about is Alpha, a one-week summer workshop in Pittsburgh for writers aged 14-19. Author guests this summer will be Holly Black, Timothy Zahn, Tamora Pierce, and Mike Arnzen.
Jan. 7th, 2010 07:48 pm (UTC)
Please don't forget the wonderful Odyssey Fantasy Writing Workshop taught by Jeanne Cavelos in Manchester, New Hampshire:http://www.sff.net/odyssey/

I attended this workshop in 2005...after finding out about through my favorite author's blog. :)
Jan. 7th, 2010 08:32 pm (UTC)
I think it's really awesome that you're doing that. When I was a teenager, I attended a much shorter writer's workshop run by Margaret Weis, and (although now that I'm older, I find myself disagreeing with a good amount of her advice)I found it extremely enjoyable and rewarding.

I'd go if I didn't have a 16 month old who doesn't give me vacation time!
Jan. 7th, 2010 08:40 pm (UTC)
I was at the inaugural Taos Toolbox in 2007 and I highly recommend it. Several entries on my blog are tagged as "Taos Toolbox" if anyone is interested.

Notes from your guest lecture are scrawled across several pages of my TT notebook.

Jan. 7th, 2010 08:49 pm (UTC)
very nice of you :)
I am from far country so I wont be able to attend any of this, but it's really nice that you help writers :)

I just write, and hope someday when I'll finish my book, some publisher will like it enough to publish it. At least I am enjoying writing.
Jan. 8th, 2010 09:33 am (UTC)
Re: very nice of you :)
I'm pretty much in the same position. I won't be able to attend workshops or anything. I just write... and get inspired by great authors like George. When my book is finished, I will start sending it to publishers, and use the potential feedback to improve my writing.
Jan. 7th, 2010 09:01 pm (UTC)
I really wish I could go but... I write in French anyway XD I only write some obscure fics to level up my English haha XD

Still, it should be truly interesting *________* I've done some workshop in LJ with a friend - who sadly deleted her LJ - and it was truly interesting and challenging. I loved that.
Jan. 7th, 2010 09:57 pm (UTC)
There's this SF Writer's Workshop in Conjunction with the Campbell Conference, too, if you're in the center of the USA.
Jan. 7th, 2010 10:08 pm (UTC)

Unfortunately Clarion is a luxury for most of us. But who knows--maybe someday there will be both the time and money.
Jan. 7th, 2010 10:09 pm (UTC)
For me, it's so disheartening to see how much it costs, but...it's a nice dream ;)

Jan. 22nd, 2010 01:40 am (UTC)
And a valuable dream to have. The scholarship application is really easy to fill in http://clarion.ucsd.edu/scholarships.html

Just the process of applying was valuable (I recommend applying with your best two short stories, get the scary bit done... then have your brain expanded by reading people's blogs and reading all your potential instructors).

I can honestly say Clarion has joyously changed my life

Good luck

Liz (Class of '09)
Jan. 7th, 2010 10:20 pm (UTC)
Alright, if you won't be my mentor, maybe I'll be yours?
Jan. 7th, 2010 10:25 pm (UTC)
It's a shame I currently have a full-time job, cos there's no way I can take 6 weeks off. No Clarion for me :(
Jan. 7th, 2010 11:14 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the head's-up. I'd try to make it, but right now the application fee is all I can muster.

For those who are considering it, I recently read Donald Mead's interview with Glenn Cook, in which Cook said this when asked if Clarion was important to him:

"Early on, very important. I learned a lot there. Clarion can’t teach you talent, but it can show you what you’re doing wrong. I learned not to overwrite, to keep things simple as far as sentence structure is concerned. My early attempts at writing were very much influenced by classical British fantasy writers who tended to be very flowery and ornate and lapsed into classical Greek as they were going along and expected you to follow it. I learned that modern American readers aren’t interested in that. I learned a number of valuable lessons at Clarion."

William Shunn also mentions his time at Clarion in this advice for beginning writers.
Jan. 8th, 2010 02:08 am (UTC)
Just browsed about and found Shunn also has these memoir excerpts about his time at Clarion.

Also, the Clarion Ex Machina site he links to isn't up anymore, but someone put together this collection of people's blogs on their experiences there.

Jan. 8th, 2010 12:12 am (UTC)
I would give anything to be able to take that Clarion writing workshop! I've nursing a fantasy series for about three years and it would help me I'm sure, not to mention that it's in my favorite city! However, I do not have an extra $5,000 lying around. Argh!
Jan. 8th, 2010 01:05 am (UTC)
Clarion scholarships
There are scholarships available for qualified applicants:

Re: Clarion scholarships - palemoonrises - Jan. 8th, 2010 03:16 am (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 8th, 2010 12:31 am (UTC)
$5K for Clarion.

Jan. 8th, 2010 01:04 am (UTC)
Clarion scholarships
There are scholarships available for those who cannot afford the tuition:

Re: Clarion scholarships - literateshrew - Jan. 8th, 2010 08:30 am (UTC) - Expand
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George R.R. Martin
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