Clarion South advice – part 1

Applications will open soon for Clarion South 2007, and as a graduate of the class of 2005, I thought I might offer some advice to would-be Clarionites when they’re considering their applications. In fact, this post is the first in a series of advice factoids I’ll offer over the next week or two. I’ll try to answer a few question you wouldn’t normally find in a FAQ. 😉

What is Clarion South?

The Clarion South website offers better answers to this than I ever could. However, in short, it is a six-week residential workshop where approximately 17 aspiring professional writers eat, breathe, and sleep the writing craft. Each week, a new tutor guides the group through a daily critique circle where the students submit their short stories, which are specifically written at Clarion South. Students also get an hour or so private session with each of the tutors to discuss their professional development, goals, etc. The 2007 tutors are Lee Battersby, Robert Hood, Simon Brown, Janeen Webb, Kelly Link, and Gardner Dozois. The Clarion South convenors (the guys that run the workshop) are Robert Dobson, Kate Eltham, Heather Gammage, and Robert Hoge, and they’re a friendly and approachable bunch who bend over backwards (not literally, but you never know) to ensure you have a valuable experience.

It seems expensive, is it worth it?

Before you commit to Clarion South, ensure two things – a) you definitely have the time free (from work, studies, family, etc), and b) you have the tuition fee plus six weeks living money. The convenors ensure your fees cover accommodation, but for the most part, food and living expenses are your business. My advice: talk to your boss/partner/whoever and arrange at least seven weeks off (six weeks plus at least one week to recuperate before you have to rejoin the world, the transition can be jarring), then start saving your money. The convenors can help you gain grants which will cover part of the costs, or perhaps your airfares, but it’s best to save what you can NOW, even if you’re only toying with the idea of applying.

As for is it worth it – the answer is a resounding YES! There is sacrifice involved, and some ego bruising if you’re not careful, but you will learn a tremendous amount in a short time and maybe gain connections and friendships which could last for the rest of your life. I will go into the specific advantages later, but consider my example: before Clarion South, I’d been published in a couple of magazines (Borderlands and Aurealis), but since then, I’ve had my work accepted by international professional magazines (Surreal, Book of Dark Wisdom, Nowa Fantastyka, Shadowed Realms), been Highly Commended in the Aurealis Awards, and edited a number of anthologies (Shadow Box, Australian Dark Fantasy & Horror, Tales from the Sunburnt Realm).

Others from CS 05 have gone on to win the Nebula Award (Ellen Klages), have been published in Ellen Datlow’s SciFiction (Ellen K and Rjurik Davidson), been nominated for Ditmars and Aurealis Awards (Rjurik), sold stories to Shadowed Realms (Mark Barnes, Suzanne Church, Nathan Burrage, Deborah McDonnell, Susan Wardle), sold stories to other Aussie publications like The Outcast (Susan W), published novels (Nike Bourke), and sold a short story collection (Suzanne C). All these things happened since Clarion South.

The graduates of CS 05 are now on sociable terms with the likes of Ellen Datlow, Scott Westerfeld, Sean Williams, Ian Irvine, and Margo Lanagan. As a graduate from CS 07, you will get to know (and live with) international best-sellers, award-winners, and acclaimed editors. There is no better way to become known in the publishing industry.

That’s all for now, but there’s plenty more to come. If you’re keen, throw a question on the comments of this blog (not the livejournal feed!) and I’ll answer it in a future update.