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Bad Horse

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SFF writing workshops: Deadlines, money, and a fim-fiction scholarship · 4:21pm Feb 10th, 2013

I know you guys are all stolid, respectable members of society. But I thought there might be one or two crazy people out there who are into ... writing fantasy.

If you want to write fantasy or science fiction professionally, you should apply to Clarion. Clarion is to science fiction & fantasy what Harvard is to high-powered law firms and Wall Street bond traders. Like Harvard, it's a great learning experience, but that's not why you need to go. You need to go because saying you went to Clarion in your cover letter is like saying you went to Harvard on your resume. I spent years writing stories and getting dozens of photocopied rejection letters. After Clarion, I sold the first two stories I sent out to the first places I sent them out to. (One of the checks bounced, but I don't blame Clarion.) I haven't seen a rejection letter since. Mostly because I haven't written anything but fan-fiction since. But that's not important. What's important is that if you want to become a professional F&SF writer, you should apply to Clarion.

When I went to Clarion, they put us all up in tiny 2-person dorm rooms with window air conditioners that roared like jet engines, so that you couldn't write, let alone sleep, with them on (because of the noise) or with them off (because of the heat). So Lister Matheson, who ran Clarion at the time, gathered about a dozen standing fans of all different types from the pocket dimension where he always managed to find at the last minute whatever Clarion needed, and distributed them to our rooms. I remember typing stories on a word processor—literally, a machine that was not a computer and did nothing but word processing, with a four-line LED screen—but I have no idea whose it was. Now they tell you to bring your own laptop. They provided a printer.

Once a week, you write a story, print up 18 copies, and hand them out. Each morning you all sit in a big circle and spend 3 hours critiquing about 4 stories, every person giving their opinion in turn. We had the official Clarion Black Stetson Bad-Guy Hat to put on if you thought the story stunk. (I was heavily black-hatted the week that I had no story and instead put my name on the first four pages of the Eye of Argon and handed it out. Don't do this unless you can handle an entire week of covert, frightened glances from your classmates.) Then the instructor gives their opinion, and everyone hands their marked-up copies of the story back to its author and moves on to the next story. Then you have lunch, and return to the dorm to read other people's stories, mark them up with red pen, and work on your own story for next week.

What did I learn? Well, you're getting critiques from other students, so mostly you'll get line edits (grammar, word usage, awkward sentences, wordiness, repetition) and story content reactions (I didn't care about this person, this threat wasn't threatening, this contradicts that, I didn't understand what happened). Seeing critiques of other stories is as valuable as reading critiques of your own stories.

I wouldn't go back to Clarion now, because my problems now are mostly things I do over and over that I'm already aware of, or that require a theoretical understanding of story to fix (bad dramatic structure, unclear theme, competing themes, subtext that contradicts theme, scenes whose relation to the story problem are not immediately clear). Nor could I; you may go to Clarion only once. But my writing post-Clarion was noticeably better than before Clarion.

Perhaps more importantly, I spent six weeks getting to know people who care about the same crazy kind of stories that I do, who can write pretty well (even if most of them scorn my fan-fiction), and whom I'm still in contact with today.

Applications for the 2013 Clarion Workshop will remain open until March 1, 2013. On February 15th, the application fee will increase from $50 to $65. The 2013 faculty will be Andy Duncan, Nalo Hopkinson, Cory Doctorow, Robert Crais, Karen Joy Fowler, and Kelly Link. You must include two complete short stories, each between 2,500 words and 6,000 words in length. No novels, poetry, essays, or screenplays. No word back yet from Karen on whether you can submit fan-fiction.

The workshop fee is, yikes, $5000 (including room & board). It was cheaper when I went. Most people get a scholarship, but the size of the scholarships hasn't increased with the price of tuition; most are still about $1000. Don't bother asking exactly how much; they're a lot of different individual scholarships--little independent bookstores will fund one student, or a regional science fiction convention will fund one person from its state. There are special grants for students of color (I don't which colors count; yellow usually doesn't), students age 40 and older, students who are affiliated with Michigan State University, and students who are affiliated with UCSD.

These are some of the people who went to Clarion before starting their writing careers:

Octavia Butler
Ted Chiang
Cory Doctorow
Scott Edelman
Nicola Griffith
Nalo Hopkinson
Richard Kadrey
James Patrick Kelly
Geoffrey Landis
Kelly Link
Vonda McIntyre
Pat Murphy
Tim Pratt
Kim Stanley Robinson
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Felicity Savage
Darrell Schweitzer
Lucius Shepard
Dean Wesley Smith
Bruce Sterling

Other SF&F Writing Workshops

There is also Clarion West, in Washington State, which is modelled on Clarion. This year, their instructors are Elizabeth Hand, Neil Gaiman, Joe Hill, Justina Robson, Ellen Datlow, and Samuel R. Delany. Application fee is $30 thru Feb. 10, then $40 until midnight of March 10. The workshop costs $3600 (including room & board). Writing sample 20 to 30 pages of manuscript (that's about 5000-7500 words).

Can you submit fan-fiction for your writing sample to Clarion West? Neile Graham says: "They can, but I strongly recommend against it. It's riskier than submitting original fiction, because the tendency of most fan fiction is to rely on the original source for much of the characterization and world-building issues, leaving fiction that isn't as strong out of context, especially for readers not familiar (or not sympathetic) with the source."

Odyssey is also modelled on Clarion. Application fee is $35. Tuition is $1920, textbook $100, optional college credit $550, housing $790, food about $500; total without college credit (not offered at Clarion): $3410. Writing sample maximum 4000 words. Applications must arrive there by April 8. No electronic applications.

Jeanne Cavelos says, "We don't prohibit applicants from submitting fan fiction as their writing sample. But if someone asked my advice, I would advise them to submit something else, since fan fiction probably won't showcase their skills in characterization and world-building."

Both these other workshops also have good reputations. I promise not to think much less of you if you go to a lesser, Johnny-come-lately knock-off of Clarion.

Regarding $$$: A FimFiction Scholarship

Most of the people I'd like to go to Clarion, can't afford to. I'd like us, fimfiction as a whole, to sponsor somebody to attend one of these workshops. Ideally there would be a non-profit escrow fund, like for the Wollheim Memorial Scholarship (which is split among people from the NYC area who are admitted to Clarion, Clarion West, or Odyssey), but for now, making pledges on this blog post would suffice.

I don't want to collect money myself, because I know screaming and accusations would inevitably follow on our lovely little community here. So here's my plan:

- A writer qualifies for the fimfiction scholarship if they were registered for fimfiction as of January 1, and they have at least 2 stories published on fimfiction or ponyfictionarchive.net totaling at least 5,000 words, or 1 story on Equestria Daily, by March 1.

- To donate, post a comment on this blog saying "I will give $X by paypal to fund fimfiction writers to attend these writing workshops if one is accepted," where X >= 5.

- If you are a qualifying writer and you're accepted into a workshop, PM me as soon as you find out, tell me your real name, the workshop you'll be attending, and a made-up secret word, and I'll get in touch with their organizers and verify that you were accepted and you are who you say you are (using the secret word).

- I will get the participating workshops each to set up a paypal account or other method to receive fimfiction donations and list it on their websites (to prove they control those accounts). Neile Graham of Clarion West and Jeanne Cavelos both said that a Paypal account is complicated for non-profits (they have extra paperwork to set one up), but they can each arrange something similar.

- I will then post a blog saying who was admitted, where they're going, and how to contribute to their fund. This is not tax-deductible in the US, because you're donating to a specific person rather than to the workshop.

- I, Bad Horse, will match all received contributions up to $250 if we have someone accepted to any of the workshops.

(You can't use a kickstarter campaign to fund a scholarship. I checked.)

I'd like to extend this to include ponyfic writers on ponyfictionarchive.net . I don't know about fanfiction.net . I don't think we have any good way of contacting those people anyway.

TO SUMMARIZE: There are 4 ways you can help:

1. Write a blog linking to this blog.
2. Pledge money.
3. Ask the mods to say something about this on the front page.
4 (CURRENTLY MOST IMPORTANT). Apply to one of these workshops.

Report Bad Horse · 10,398 views ·
Comments ( 49 )

I've been back and forth on applying this year. On the one hand, it would be awesome. On the other hand, I have no idea where I'll be with the editing for my novel or other personal things that might be going on. So it's probably not a good year for it.

However, someone should be having fun. I'm tight on funds, but in the event some lucky person from the site is going, I can put up $10. It's not much, maybe it'll help.

It's a brilliant idea, but I've two problems with it:

a) I'm as poor as a churchmouse, being a Dirty Foreigner. I don't think I could pay more than...oooh...$50. Tops. And, to me, that's quite a lot. Ask Bad Horse. He knows how much I make.

b) I can't use Paypal for reasons complicated, technical and unalterable.

That being said, if I can actually pay, and if my meager offering means aught -- I'm all for it.

See, instead of English class, why don't schools let students do stuff like this? I'd totally go... if I had the money... and a laptop. :ajbemused: And I doubt I'd go for the FiMfiction scholarship if we do organize one... other writers here probably deserve it more. Looks like I should do a little saving up.

I will give $10 by PayPal to fund FIMfiction writers to attend these writing workshops if one is accepted.

Hoping we can raise some good money here. I've donated to worse causes... in my defense I thought the Taliban were a band.

" tendency of most fan fiction is to rely on the original source for much of the characterization and world-building issues, " (Looks back at collection of writing). Oh. Wow. Yeah, I never really thought of that. I should really try writing one that assumes ground zero, no pony pre-knowledge at all. Darnit BH, you've given me another project!

I will give $20 by paypal to fund fimfiction writers to attend these writing workshops if one is accepted. (or more, if the wife approves) Bear in mind I am one of the cheapest human beings on the planet, and the only reason I even had a paypal account is for a couple of ebay transactions last year when I needed to buy a cheap computer and parts. (nobody takes checks there any more, boo) The only reason I still have money in there is the Past Sins hardcover release is upcoming. (patience, must have patience...)

I'd support this. I'll donate 25 canadian min. Possibly more depending on my circumstances.:twilightsmile:

This actually seems like a good idea. Might it be possible to arrange a group for interested parties? I can think of a few brilliant authors that are quite deserving of a chance like this. Given that I'm mostly a Luddite, the whole paypal thing is beyond my reach, but I could certainly contribute if another method of payment were possible.
Kudos to you for thinking of this. Another reason why bronies rock!
Also, whatever you plan, keep me in the loop, ok? Thanks!

I will give $25 by paypal to fund fimfiction writers to attend these writing workshops if one is accepted. (I reserve the right to up my offer if my job situation improves.)

This is an amazing idea, Bad Horse. Thank you for your community-building efforts. My respect for you continues to grow.

(I'm also curious to read your published non-pony stories, but if you would prefer to keep the link between here and your non-pony identity secret and/or non-public, I understand.)

Ditto with golden vision on wanting to give but being broke, except I don't have 10$ because I'm a broker university student. Also I don't have a credit card with which to use paypal (and I don't want a credit card).
Having never before heard of Clarion, I'm actually kind of interested in going. However, I don't think I can go until I've at least finished my current bachelor's degree (and in three years, maybe other alternatives open up).
Ultimately I want to write and design video games, since I have been studying storytelling for a couple years now, game design for half a decade, and writing for the past year. Right now becoming a lead designer for a video game requires you to go indie, know people, or have already managed and designed the production of a game. It's painful how many video games have suffering storylines, but the diamonds in the rough like journey and shadow of the colossus make it worth while.
If that turns out to be unrealistic, I'd probably try writing elsewhere, since I'm determined to be a creative... something, anything, really.

815463 I feel your pain about game design. It may be easier to become a movie director than a game designer nowadays. I suggest writing indy cell phone games.
When you're in college is the only time you'll be able to go to Clarion. After college, with a job and/or kids, you'll never be free to take 6 weeks off in the middle of the summer.

815463 I feel your pain about game design. It may be easier to become a movie director than a game designer nowadays. I suggest writing indy cell phone games.
When you're in college is the only time you'll be able to go to Clarion. After college, with a job and/or kids, you'll never be free to take 6 weeks off in the middle of the summer.

Well, your description of the class format made me very nearly pee myself in terror. I do want to write for a living (Starlight Over Detrot is my first full length piece that's survived inception.) but this sounds positively maddening. I've no doubt I'd come out of it a much better writer but methinks I'd end up with a thoroughly stomped ego.

Damn, damn, damn. I haven't written anything but MLP fan-fiction for some time now. This is so tempting to try for but six weeks of dropping life to go to what amounts to summer camp...

I've got to think about it.


amagodiluvfantsy :rainbowkiss:

juslookitthis. juslookitthis world-build.

i can fantasy! :twistnerd:

This idea is great enough to make me overcome my intense hatred of PayPal. I just hope it gets spread widely enough that those who might take advantage of this scholarship become aware of it - less than three hundred views on this blog post after more than a day is not encouraging.

I will give $50 by paypal to fund fimfiction writers to attend these writing workshops if one is accepted.

817446 Yeah, I know. I posted a signal boost to Reddit /r/mylittlefanfic and /r/MLPwritingschool, and my own fimfic blog, but this really needs more exposure. Bad Horse, have you considered messaging a mod — I know Wanderer D does the monthly group roundup thing, maybe this would work as a PSA that could be inserted in the next one?

By my count, the response thus far has been enough to hit Bad Horse's cap of $250 in matching funds — so that's over $500 toward someone's attendance. I would think "Hey, we want to give someone $500 toward writing school!" would be enough to turn heads.

818413 817446 I sent it to Wanderer D last week asking if he'd post it to the front page. He said it would need knighty's approval. I sent knighty a PM yesterday, but haven't heard back. knighty pretty much never responds to my PMs. If someone who knows him would forward it to him, that would help. I also notified Equestria Daily yesterday, but haven't heard anything back from them.

You can spread the word by re-blogging about this.

814208 814393 814408 814539 815009 815364 817446 814425
Thanks so much! That's a total of $200 + $200 = $400, not counting the dirty foreigner.

814245 Your money no good! We don't need no steenking pledges from dirty furriners! Reblogging on your web page to your hundreds of followers, however, is acceptable.
814425 Is Canada still separate from the US? I keep forgetting.

Since Wanderer D says I have to talk to knighty, and knighty hasn't responded, could you all please consider reblogging this on your blog pages? Remember to tell your readers that something horrible will happen to them unless they tell three more people about it by next week. Oh, did I forget to mention that? No worries; you still have several days to live.

Neat idea. I'm in for $50... wait. Lemme use the correct verbiage:

"I will give $50 by paypal to fund fimfiction writers to attend these writing workshops if one is accepted."

That's official, now, yes? :twilightsmile:

821793 *smirks* Well lessee. Seeing as the last time you invaded, we repelled you, invaded, burned out the white house and left after we ran outta booze...I'd say yes we're still independent. and I can pledge 100. I finagled my finances and realized I had extra to spare. Feel free to figure out what that is in your funny leprechaun monies since I know the dollar likes to shift around.:twistnerd:

I will pledge $50 or more if an FIMfiction writer enters Clarion.

If I wasn't broke I'd pledge about $50, but an unopened PERSONA 4 got to me first, sorry... :twilightsheepish:

...I really should try to get a jorb. :facehoof:

I never went to Clarion:

But I did the similarly-structured Writers of the Future workshop back when the second real story I ever wrote made it into vol.7 of their anthology. So I'm all for this: I'll pony up--as it were--$250 to the cause. Thanks, maskedferret, for the heads up!


Wait...Creideki...that sounds familiar...ah! Fan of the Uplift novels, perhaps?

It's hard, sometimes, being the token dirty furrin' bastard. :ajsleepy:

Reblogging as requested. Don't want the unspecified horrible thing happening.

Daaaaamn. Do not mess with the Canadians seems to be the Moral of the Day. :twilightsmile:

I teach game design, actually, and given what my students[1] say, starting game development is dead easy. No, really.

Starting AAA game development is damn near impossible. And getting the wherewithal to actually lead the project in some creative capacity (as a writer, say) is...unlikely. Unless you are a legend of the Old School (Tim Schafer, Chris Avellone, Brian Fargo, Chris Roberts...) and can ask the internet for your video game money via Kickstarter, the gatekeepers to your success are the malicious trolls of the Corporate Office. They are not fun to deal with.

Bad Horse has the right of it -- indie mobile games are a good way to get some capital going. I would have mentioned Facebook and such, but that's really dying down lately, and, anyway, Zynga has that market well and truly sewn up.

Another unlikely avenue of success are those execrable Hidden Object adventure-games-for-the-recently-lobotomized[2]. Those are easy to make if you get a team going[3] and sell for $15-$20 a pop. Sure something like Big Fish Games[4] will take a hefty cut of it, but considering the development costs, it's still almost a license to print money. Great way to get your eye in, design-wise, and get some capital going.

The biggest problem is that you must pander to your demographic like crazy and that you'll be in direct competition with companies from, say, Eastern Europe, where the development costs are ludicrously low.

[1] Some are possibly even faithful.
[2] I don't like them. Can you tell?
[3] No need for a fancy engine, for one, but more importantly your asset creation pipeline demands much less of your artists. No need for fancy modeling and such. It's pretty much all pre-rendered into 2D and hand-drawn.
[4] You need a publisher. Without their distribution channel you won't get far.

823312 Yes. And temporarily imagination-challenged when I needed to think up a username on the spot about 15 years ago. But it seems to have stuck.

And now I have a sudden craving for a neo-dolphin/seapony crossover fic.

I like this idea. A lot. I can't promise much financial circumstances being what they are but I can and will promise to pony up (as it were) at least $10.

You don't really even have to have the seaponies. Just have the Earthship Streaker find refuge in a strange system accessed through a disused byway in Hyperspace E or what-have-you where the sun appears to go around its Earthlike planet. And on it find another wolfling species, hell, dozens of 'em, some of whom have psi powers that dwarf those of even the Episiarchs and Acceptors. New allies for Earthclan? Or another prize the Galactics will fight over?

...someone write this, please.

I'm probably a crazy person, but even as a PhD student I pull in a decent check and I think the world needs better writers. I can't afford to apply to Clarion myself this year (too much time commitment to my program coming up this summer – I might be able to try next year), but I think it would be awesome if one of you all could go!

I will give $100 or more by paypal to fund Fimfiction writers to attend these writing workshops if one is accepted.

Very well, I can contribute to this. It's a charity I can actually get behind :).

I pledge $50.

Huh. I'd never heard of this Clarion thing. :rainbowderp:
Would love to participate it, except for a distinct lack of non pony related content. (and cash, naturally:rainbowlaugh:). But knowing this exists does help out quite a bit... hmm.:trixieshiftleft:

821873 822037 822153 823174 823357 823447 824114
Thanks! Every little hundred dollar bill counts! You guys are much more generous than I'd expected. I'll regain my faith in humanity if I'm not careful. :trixieshiftright:

821873 That's official, now, yes? :twilightsmile:
Yesss. Your soul now belongs to ... I mean, yes.

822037 So Canada is still independent. Thank you for bringing that to my attention. BTW, your English is very good.

823312 815463 You want to hear a sad story? When I was in college, Ken Williams invited me to come to California and be a game designer for Sierra, based on a game I'd sent him. (Written in assembly language.) This was back in the days when you could write a "spec" game and shop it around to publishers. I said I wanted to finish college first. By the time I finished, everything had changed. :flutterrage::applejackconfused::pinkiesad2::twilightangry2::raritycry::rainbowhuh::applecry::facehoof:

Darn it. I'm intrigued, of course, but I don't have the time/money to go nor the interest-in-writing-for-a-living to try and overcome that lack. And I don't believe I have money to contribute, either, or I would. :twilightoops:

I am, however, interested in this in a become-a-better-writer hobby sense. Do you suppose it's possible for us to run an internet-based something similar?

I will give 10euro (current exangerate would make it 13 dollar) by paypal to fund fimfiction writers to attend these writing workshops if one is accepted.

That's...damn. To have worked at Sierra in the Glory Days...:raritycry:

Well that's what pre-reading is, but the trick with Clarion is the presence of world-class writerly types and six weeks of intense work. That's hard to recreate. Also hard to recreate is the cachet of having finished something as exclusive -- that opens a lot of doors, as you may imagine.

The whole point of my idea is "eh, who cares about the exclusive part, let's do the intensive part!" So something that's part NatNoWriMo, part Internet!Lame!Clarion. In my dream world we could, like, recruit Bad Horse and AugieDog or similar to stand in for the world-class writerly types, and I was kindof expecting to do the reviewing thing on GoogleDocs or something.

I'm gonna end up spending it on something silly anyway (BustedTees is having another sale, you say? Well, one can never have too many corny t-shirts!) so let's do this...

Ahem. I hereby proclaim that I, Ladyhart21, will pledge 20 dollars (Canadian, if it matters at all) to fund a Fimfiction writer if they were to be formally accepted to either of these prestigious writing workshops.

Tada! Speaking in fancy is kinda fun, I should do it more often :derpytongue2:

It sounds like getting this would mean a lot to someone. I can pledge $100.

I can pledge $250. I trust your judgement as to who to grant the scholarship to. On a related note, asking me to apply to Clarion was sweet, but it's not happening. :rainbowwild:

Great Idea!

I will give $15 by paypal to fund fimfiction writers to attend these writing workshops if one is accepted.

On the application form, there is a request for an "invitation code". The application also asks you to list the professional writers of Clarion graduates you know personally. Do you have such a code, or is it unnecessary?

842212 That sort of question you ought to send to the contact point on that website. But I know you don't need to know anyone, and you don't need an invitation to apply.

872194 Yes, I noticed that the next day. Sorry, I forgot about the comment. Heh heh... :twilightsheepish:

Alicorn apples! While I wasn't looking this somehow exploded. All of the pledges you've acknowledged, plus 827465 830018 837421, is $1175, plus your $250 matching bid, plus the dirty furrin undollars of 824418 and 825714, is about …


What have you wrought, sir? What have you wrought?

Buck it; I just came into $60 I hadn't expected. Because exchange rates will cause the Canadian and Euro donations to translate into weird dollar amounts, I am adding to 815009, and additionally pledging the amount necessary to round the scholarship off to an even $1500 USD. (Should be about $40, unless you're categorically refusing dirty furrin undollars, in which case I need to revise this.)

Edit: Oops, 822037 was a revised pledge, so I'm off by $25, and $100 of the $1175 $1150 is Canadian. New math: $1050 USD + $250 USD from Bad Horse + $120 CAD + €10 = $1300 + ~$130 ~= $1430. I pledge enough to round it off to an even $1450 USD, and I'll do some hunting through the couch cushions.

Well, my application just went in. Wish me luck.

So I guess i can't submit my 200 thousand word fan-fic? Bummer. :ajsleepy:

Hmm... thanks for blogging this. I've been looking for this kind of place.:twilightsheepish:

Cant really help with the money, but I'll spread the word regardless.

Until 2 minutes ago, I had never heard the phrase "Johnny-come-lately" outside of the Eagles song "New Kid In Town". I always learn something from you bad horse, even if it's not what you intended

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