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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[[ I do NOT read unpublished manuscripts that are mailed or emailed to me, so don't even think that.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. 8th, 2010 12:33 am (UTC)
And I love you, GRR, but Delany is also teaching, and that's so amazing.

I'm going to go cry now.
Jan. 8th, 2010 05:42 am (UTC)
Some cheaper options, and some more expensive ones
These don't have the GRRM special sauce like Clarion, however:

Viable Paradise, http://www.sff.net/Paradise/, with Theresa and Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Elizabeth Bear

and Clarion West in Seattle: http://www.clarionwest.org/ There used to be a Clarion in Mi, but I can't find it on the web.

Also, for those who don't have $5:

Nalo Hopkinson does email mentorships:

and the Online Writer's Workshop has writer's critting each other, and pros that pick out and crit random manuscripts:

Also, Critters.org-free crits from other writers and Forward Motion is a good writer's community:


Plus, Holly Lisle does online workshops and stuff:


I hope all these links don't get me dropped in spam. Mr. Martin, I hope all these links are not offensive to you.

And I hope that maybe the linkspam will help someone. =)
Jan. 9th, 2010 07:02 am (UTC)
Re: Some cheaper options, and some more expensive ones
The Clarion in Michigan is the Clarion that moved to San Diego.
Jan. 8th, 2010 09:23 am (UTC)
Writing Excuses
For new writers, authors Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy and SF author who is finishing the wheel of time series), Howard Taylor (Cartoonist) and Dan Wells (Horror Novelist) have a great podcast called writing excuses that has very good advice, is fun to listen to even if you're just a reader too. It won a Parsec award already.

George, I'm sure they'd love to have you as a guest author. The URL is: www.writingexcuses.com.

I've been a long time follower of this blog and hope Dance is going well. I can't wait to read it.
Jan. 8th, 2010 09:58 am (UTC)
Shh! Don't give it away! It'll be 25 people to one place at Clarion at this rate.

Jan. 8th, 2010 01:58 pm (UTC)
Not sure that I qualify as a "journeyman," but for good or ill Walter Jon has accepted my application to Taos Toolbox. I'm filled with anticipation and a modicum of trepidation.
Jan. 8th, 2010 02:04 pm (UTC)
Writer Workshops
I was looking on the Clarion site and, unfortunately, my 18th bday is after the start date. I was just wondering if they allow minors at all. I was also wondering if anyone knew any good and affordable teen workshops along teh same lines as Clarion. Thanks
Jan. 22nd, 2010 01:44 am (UTC)
Re: Writer Workshops
Alas you need to turn 18 before the first day of class http://clarion.ucsd.edu/appfaq.html#minors
Jan. 8th, 2010 06:18 pm (UTC)
Options for Full-Time Workers
My biggest issue with workshops is that every author I've spoken with tells new writers, "Don't quit your day job" and but most workshops seem to be full-time for 4-6 weeks, which precludes people who aren't teachers or college faculty from attending.

Only a handful are as short as a week, which is still a lot of vacation time for someone with family commitments. "Sorry, honey, we can't spend the holidays with your folks because I used my vacation for that writers' conference" puts a strain on even the most suppportive partner.

That said, Jeff Carver and Craig Shaw Gardener run the Ultimate ST Writers Workshop (http://www.starrigger.net/workshop.htm) in Boston most years that meets one night a week and provides a great flexible, low-cost option for Boston residents.
Jan. 8th, 2010 06:55 pm (UTC)
Dear aspiring writers, from a reader.
I've had two friends who played basketball exceptionally well. One went to college and played in the tournament. He then went to Finland to play pro-ball. With that exposure he played in Poland and Israel, but he broke his wrist, came home, got a job and married his college sweetheart.

The other went to community college, played pickup games and in local street ball tournaments. He chose not to travel or use his resources to attend the many good camps. And then he blew his knee out. The highlight of his basketball life was taking a younger Anthony Mason to task on the playgrounds.

I've noted that many of you view this workshop wistfully. If you feel that you are a writer and this workshop is truly important to your development, then please, please make the personal commitment to attend such a workshop in the future. Don't do it for me and the other readers. Do it for you. Or, do not. You can always talk about the book you are working on.

Jan. 9th, 2010 07:25 am (UTC)
Getting it Done
For those who can't get away for a six-week workshop, I humbly point out that Toolbox is only two weeks, and that most people can manage that.

Clarion is a short-story workshop for the most part. Toolbox is more about the novels.

That said, Nycfalcon is absolutely right. This kind of commitment is only a shadow of the kind of commitment necessary to turn yourself into a writer. Workshops are far less intimidating than trying to go it alone: it's tough, but at a workshop you've got supportive staff, you'll make very close friends, you'll make connections that may last your whole life.

It's something you should do for yourself.

The gates are open, and you can walk through them or not. Make the choice that won't leave you kicking yourself twenty years down the road.
Jan. 8th, 2010 07:48 pm (UTC)
Clarion and Genre
I was just wondering if you knew exactly how Clarion defines the Fanstasy/Sci Fi genre. I'm considering applying and trying to narrow down which of my stories are both my best work and a good genre fit. I've been poking around on the site and so far haven't come up with something that sets out guidelines as to what does and does not count. The fantasy genre can be pretty broad, I know, but I also don't want to assume that it's fantasy just because I think it is.

Jan. 9th, 2010 08:14 pm (UTC)
Re: Clarion and Genre
@Purpleivy: I've taught at both Clarions in the US, and they pretty much just want you to send your strongest fiction writing in, whatever the genre. If you're convinced it's not SF/F, you could always point that out in your application letter.
Re: Clarion and Genre - azahru - Jan. 22nd, 2010 01:50 am (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 8th, 2010 09:47 pm (UTC)
Fingers crossed
Well, I've been working on my submissions since about September and finally applied and have sent them in. Waiting until March to hear if I'm accepted is going to be pure torture. Wish me luck...
Jan. 9th, 2010 02:19 am (UTC)
Oh man! I would so love to do this, but having a newborn is my full time job right now :) Maybe someday...
Jan. 9th, 2010 06:38 am (UTC)
Dear Mr. Martin,

I know that your blog, really isn’t the venue for this kind of message but as internet incapable as I am, I don’t know where to look to find your fan-email address. (I assure you, I’ll stay on topic here though.) I just wanted to say that I’ll be applying to Clarion this year—partially because of how good I’ve heard the program is—but let’s face it—mostly because you mentioned that you’d be one of the instructors this year.

I hope to get in, but knowing the odds against me, I’m writing this to thank you now. For a long time I had considered myself and excellent (though yet unpublished) fiction writer. This past summer I was rereading an early chapter from a novel that I’m trying to write and I realized how terrible my writing really was. It hit me pretty hard. I realized I had to overhaul my entire writing style if I wanted to fix it. And I despaired. Already a big fan of yours, I started reading Dreamsongs. I studied what you did and my writing got better. Then you mentioned you’d be teaching at Clarion. I had a couple of Sci-fi stories in storage somewhere but they weren’t my best (and even my best wasn’t all that great) so I wrote some new ones. I was (and am) determined to give myself the best possible chance to get into program so I made a tremendous effort to up my game. And I did!

So, as I said, I’m writing this in case I don’t get to tell you in person: Reading your work made mine better, and for a chance to study under you, I improved my writing. Thank you sir, for that, and for the hours of enchantment I’ve found in your works.
Jan. 9th, 2010 11:24 pm (UTC)
I would cry to have you and Delia Sherman tell me my writing sucked.
It would be the good tears.
Jan. 13th, 2010 01:29 am (UTC)
I understand you don't do mentoring, editing, assessments, etc. Are you, however, available for being a nemesis?
Jan. 25th, 2010 03:27 pm (UTC)
Mr. Martin,

I don't mean to interrupt your football watching but I am curious, what other avenues exist for people who don't make the cut in the estimation of the Clarion administrators? What alternative exists for people who are unable to afford the tuition?

Good day to you.
Jan. 25th, 2010 07:50 pm (UTC)
There are scholarships for those who cannot afford the tuition.

For those who are not accepted... well, there are other programs built around similar lines, like Clarion West and Odyssey... and you can't always apply again next year. Not everyone gets in first time.
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George R.R. Martin
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