Clarion is a six-week workshop for new and aspiring science fiction and fantasy writers. Originally an outgrowth of Knight and Wilhelm's Milford Writers' Conference, held at their home in Milford, Pennsylvania, USA, it was founded in 1968 by Robin Scott Wilson at Clarion State College in Pennsylvania. Damon Knight and Kate Wilhelm were among the first teachers at the workshop. In 1972 the workshop moved to Michigan State University. In 2006, the Clarion Writers Workshop moved from Michigan State University to the University of California at San Diego, ironically putting it as far west as the Clarion West Writers Workshop.
Clarion is a residential workshop, limited to a small group of students. It is aimed at writers who already have some experience, though publication is not required. It is primarily focused on short story writing. However, there are discussions about novel-writing as most of the instructors are successful novelists.
The Clarion Method
Students write and submit short stories, which are circulated to the entire group. The next morning, the group and the instructor discuss every story in turn. This intense focus on each story is to enable a writer to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their stories, and in critiquing the stories of other writers, to learn more about writing.
The program is immersive and intense. Mornings are in the classroom, devoted to critiques and a few writing exercises. The rest of the day is for writing, reading and critiquing stories. Often, instructors meet again after dinner for free-wheeling discussions on writing, writing techniques, or industry gossip.
Each of the six weeks is taught by a different professional writer or editor, except for the two final weeks, which are usually team-taught by two instructors.
Separately, each student has an individual review session with every instructor, who has read several of the student's stories. This enables the instructor to offer a critique not just of individual stories, but also of the student writer's style and approach.
The organizers or instructors often bring in other authors, agents, and people from the industry to talk to the students. Usually, each instructor will do a reading of their work at the Mysterious Galaxy, a specialist speculative fiction bookstore that partners with Clarion. Students are encouraged to attend.
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