Advice from a Clarion Alumnus
Hi all, In a prior post, I mentioned that I received advice from a Clarion alumnus, so I decided to make a post of it (Sorry, I'm not cool or caught up enough with the 21st century to have a blog reachable with a hyperlink). Here it is below. I hope this is helpful: Here's how it worked when I went to Clarion (at MSU, the last class in the mid-west). After morning class, you read each new story - marking up the manuscript as you go along - and prepare a short one-to-two minute critique. You will do this for every piece submitted the night before. The first week is a selection of pieces submitted by the current class for admission. The visiting teacher selects which stories he or she wishes to showcase to demonstrate the day's lesson. In class the next day, before or after the teacher's lesson, each story is critiqued Clarion-style, that is, the author cannot speak, and everyone else takes a turn, going around in a circle, giving their critique until their time is up (one to two minutes). The instructor goes last. After the teacher is done, the author is allowed to respond. In addition to reading and critiquing stories, you'll be writing stories as well. Some people write one a week, some less (a rare few even more). By the end of the first week, the class is reading exclusively pieces written at the workshop. Lather, rinse, repeat for six weeks. It's a good idea to not bring "trunk" stories, as it's kind of the point to be learning new skills and testing them out against an audience that is also there to learn. Much of the critique circle isn't so much instructing another author, but instructing oneself. This does not mean you shouldn't come with ideas. If you don't have a thick skin for critiques, this can be daunting (my experience). But my writing is waaay better now, and I guess after a time I got used to the critiques. The thing is, in two minutes, there's very little time to say nice things about a piece, so the critiques focus on what needs to be fixed. If you have a significant other, I would highly recommend arranging a mid-workshop "getaway" weekend with them. It’s a good reset. If you're single or unbothered by time away, at least plan to spend some time not with your classmates. Or do, either way, you'll have plenty of stories to tell.