on your mark

Tomorrow is the official start of the 2007 Clarion West Writers Workshop. Clarion West is a non-profit literary organisation, which runs an annual six-week workshop for writers preparing for professional careers in science fiction and fantasy in Seattle, USA. It has been held continuously since 1984. Each year 18 writers are selected from an international field based on the merits of their work, and during the workshop they must write a short story every week, critique the work of their fellow classmates, and attend classes every morning (Monday – Friday) under the tutelage of established authors and editors.

It’s expensive to take six weeks off work, and pay for the tuition and board. Luckily there are scholarships and funding available to help out. Last year I was the recipient of the Gordon Dickson Memorial Scholarship, and that was a considerable help to me. As it stands, the tuition students pay is only half of the actual cost, and Clarion West raises the rest via fund-raising events throughout the year.

One of the recent initiatives is the Clarion West Write-a-thon. Friends of Clarion West, graduates, and instructors agree to reach certain writing goals while the workshop is in session for the purposes of sponsorship. A number of writers are participating.

I was hesitant to enter the Write-a-thon because I wasn’t sure what my goals would be during that period. Once I finished my latest screenplay recently I was able to draw up a new set of writing goals, and enter the fray. As you’ll see from my Write-a-thon page my aim is to write a short story each week for the last two weeks of June, and for the month of July I’ll outline a novel, and write the first three chapters.

Initially I planned to write my horror script in July. Yet, when I really examined my motivations I realised that it was yet another ploy to avoid writing the novel. Every time I’ve considered starting a novel in the past a perfectly logical and obvious reason always manifested for why I should put it off. None of the excuses are valid any more.

Of course the true cause is fear. Primarily it’s fear of failure. It’s easier not to try rather than to try and fail. I’m at the point now where I know this is the next necessary step I must make as a writer, and if I fumble it I’ll learn from the experience and do better the next time.

I’m starting with short stories to create a buffer between the last world I evoked for my screenplay, and the new one that’s assembling in my mind currently for the novel.

Those of you who wish to support Clarion West’s wonderful ethos of educating and supporting future genre writers can sponsor me during the next six weeks. Anything is appreciated.

During this period visitors will be staying with me, I’ll be attending events at the Galway Film Fleadh and the Galway Arts Festival, as well as dealing with the usual time-fillers (job, house, family, etc.). These goals and your sponsorship will be a huge incentive to keep me on track. I’ll blog my progress so those of you who are kind enough to support Clarion West via my writing will be kept up-to-date.

I’m looking forward to the challenge.