We’re staring down the end of Week Three, and I last reported only four days into the workshop. Shit was still getting settled. We were still learning our functions and our duties. We read our thousand-word stories (no more, no less) aloud to each other in workshop and tried to critique them, though all of us are much better trained readers than listeners. Jeff Ford gave us assignments – expand this story, don’t expand that one, work on something else if you have an idea, come talk to me if you don’t. We’ll think of something.
That first weekend, we got brunch at a place called Crest Cafe in San Diego proper and went to the beach. My knee was still messed up from my overexertion at the beginning, so L drove me part of the way. I had no choice but to get out and hobble down a steep hill, though, as this was a mostly-locals beach separate from the tourist stretch farther south, and cars couldn’t approach closely. Once I got down there, alternately baking in the sun and going up to my neck in the freezing ocean actually seemed to help the injury. I had to take it easy for another several days before I could cautiously move faster than a slow walk. After realizing how much energy I’d spent on a single beach trip, I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it often. I promised myself I’d go every weekend, but there just aren’t enough spoons to go around! If I lived here I would go all the time, though – it’s beautiful.
On Friday night we bid adieu to Jeff Ford, who did an excellent job as Week One Instructor and Everybody’s Genial Workshop Dad, and welcomed Delia Sherman into Week Two. Delia imposed some order on the workshopping bit that Jeff hadn’t bothered with, making sure every single person spoke about every single story. I resented it at first, but I saw quickly how it encouraged more discussion and made sure everyone’s ideas got out. We still picked the order in which we would speak.
I’m being deliberately vague about the writing. By now we’ve all workshopped at least one thing that could easily be published with a little more polishing. This is a smart (and smartass) group and we all have different strengths, but we’re all good writers already, which helps a lot. Much of the groundwork of (I hear) the old Clarions can be dispensed with, and I’m not sure how anyone could level the hoary accusation that everyone comes out of workshops like this sounding the same when we’re all so different.
A lot of our thoughts have begun to center on food. The cafeteria is not terrible, certainly serviceable, but the food is bland and recipes heavily recycled and there is very little variety. We try to get at least one “real” meal each weekend. I gave up on not spending any money on extra food (after all, the cafeteria’s already a sunk cost) and picked up some fresh figs and orange juice and wine the same day a big care package full of snacks arrived from my parents. Whoops/thanks.
L made a stealth trip to In-N-Out once and brought me a burger. I discovered the cafeteria pizza does not trigger my dairy allergy, but later ate some “real” pizza and had a very real, if mild, allergic reaction. I don’t think there’s any possible way for me to remain in denial about this anymore. I’m just going to have to avoid dairy wherever I can, though doesn’t seem so bad that I have to go through ingredient lists for whey powder or casein.
Each week, our instructor gives a reading at a local independent bookstore called Mysterious Galaxy. These outings have been so much fun that I think I should reset my new pie-in-the-sky Writing Goal – now that the old one’s been fulfilled, as I am in fact at Clarion – to have my very own reading there someday. They let us sit in the front row, right up by the podium. We take pictures. I can’t take any more books home in my suitcase, but I’ve bought two cheapo paperbacks to read and abandon and a shirt to express my love.
Eventually we said goodbye to Delia and spent the rest of last weekend instructorless until Ted Chiang arrived. But first: We managed to briefly kidnap John Scalzi, president of the Science Fiction Writers of America, from his hotel in downtown San Diego and drag him back for Mandatory Super Fun Hangouts and Pizza. This is where I learned that I very definitely am allergic to real pizza with real cheese on it, so it may be the last good pizza I ever eat. John went above and beyond the call of duty, extending his “I’ll come and talk for an hour or two” to more like 3.5 hours. He was really funny and animated and awesome and gave us amazing inspiring advice about being a writer and I just think he’s the coolest. <3<3<3
Except for Ted, of course. I say this in as offhand a manner as possible, but longtime readers of my LJ may know that I have an enormous literary crush on Ted's ability to craft perfect amazing jewel-like short stories, and it's taken almost an entire week of workshopping and hanging out for me to get over my huge-eyed fangirlishness. Ted imposed the most traditional of workshop critiquing methods, in which we all go around in a circle. I like the way we've been changing it up every week, but I'm not sure we have any more methods to use! Ted's coming to Comic-Con with us tomorrow for a little while and then flying home. This week has been grueling but far too short.
And somehow we're halfway through Clarion. This is just the most bare-bones accounting of our adventures - if I had the energy and time to lovingly describe the highs and lows, the late-night bonding and already-obscure in-jokes and the way that I know that these seventeen people are going to be my friends for life, it would stretch over half a novel's worth of posts and I wouldn't get any more stories done. I love this crew.