In the summer of 2001 I spent six weeks at the Clarion West Writers Workshop in Seattle. At the time I thought it was a really intense six weeks – each week we read and critiqued around 20 short stories and wrote one of our own. (In retrospect, of course, all previous ‘intense’ experiences pale compared to having baby twins in the home.)
The writing was fun and productive for me. I ended up publishing two of the six stories I wrote that summer, and a third story ended up evolving into my debut novel, The Path of Names (forthcoming from Arthur A. Levine in 2013).
Ultimately as important as the writing itself was the community of writers who I met there. (And, no, I can’t believe I allowed myself to post such a convoluted sentence, either – how can I call myself a writer?)
So why has this community of writers been so important to me?
It’s not just the critiques that I’ve continued to get and give to some of my Clarion compadres – although those have been enormously helpful (to me). It’s not just the amount I’ve learned from my Clarion friends about e publishing and so on. It’s just not the pleasure of reading their new work and thinking, ‘ha, I knew them back when they were nobody, nobody I tell you!’ (Okay, possibly I’ve been spending too much time thinking about supervillains lately…) It’s not even the pleasure of playing really bad basketball when we periodically cross paths at conventions (although that is a pleasure).
I think that being in touch with lots of writers, makes you believe that you can be a writer. It reminds you that writing is a real possibility, that it can be a real job, that it is real work, despite the skepticism of pretty much everyone else you know. A community makes a difference. I think I would still be writing now anyway. But I know that having a community of friends and colleagues who are writing and publishing, who are finding some success with their creative work, has made it all seem more hopeful.
All of this is preface to saying, we’ve published an e-book together. Led by the uncannily energetic Emily Mah Tippetts and Raymund Eich, a number of my Clarion colleagues and myself have published an e-anthology, Under the Needle’s Eye. It’s free for two days. Even if you miss the two day free period, it’s worth a gander. Check it out at: amazon