Writing and Other Afflictions

"If it was easy, everyone would do it." –Jimmy Dugan, "A League of Their Own"

Category Archives: clarion

Clarion Write-A-Thon time!

I’m joining the Clarion Write-A-Thon again this year! My goal is to get some editing hours in on a couple manuscripts I need to get ready for next year. If you’d like to support one of the best workshops out there for aspiring science fiction and fantasy writers, you can do it via my page. You can also support any of the other wonderful writers working this summer to raise money. This is a big part of Clarion’s funding, so anything you can do to help is greatly appreciated!

Clarion Write-A-Thon Time!

Hey, so I’m back at the Write-A-Thon thing! I’ve been drafted by one of my friends in Clarion West, so I’m doing the Write-A-Thon through them this year. I’m also hosting a couple meetups in the Bay Area, so if you’re in the Bay and you want to get together Saturday afternoon for a little writing to kick things off (I know it doesn’t OFFICIALLY start until Sunday but I’m leaving town Saturday night) and get some nifty bookmarks, come on down to Red Rock Coffee in Mountain View around 2 pm on June 18th. I’ll try to snag a table upstairs and will have bookmarks out and we can talk about our goals and how to get friends to sponsor us (hint: do not leave your announcement about doing the Write-A-Thon until the day before).

If you’re not participating but would like to sponsor me, here! http://www.clarionwest.org/members/timsusman/

There are also lots of other lovely authors who will be happy to write things for your money. Check them out at the Clarion West page and also here at the Clarion one!

Clarion Write-A-Thon Week 4

I’m still working on my Clarion Write-A-Thon, with a goal of 50,000 words. We’ve just passed the halfway point and I’m 3/4 done with my goal, so I think I’m in good shape even with the coming ten days away from home for Comic-Con.

(By the way: I’ll be at Comic-con! If you’re going, stop by the Sofawolf Press booth at #1236 in the Webcomics section and say hi!)

So far I have not done a great job getting donations or pledges. I have $100, which isn’t bad, but I’d like to get more. So here’s the deal. I’ll post an excerpt of what I’ve been working on today. Every additional $50 in pledges, I’ll post another one.

Head on over and check out the excerpt, and if you like it, please pledge a bit!

Clarion Write-A-Thon

It’s that time of year again, and I’m signing up to write fifty thousand words over the next six weeks. If you want to encourage me, or just help out some deserving aspiring writers, please check out my page and pledge or donate. I’ll be working on “Black Angel,” the novel I just workshopped at the Center for the Study of Science Fiction’s novel workshop earlier this month.

One of my good friends, the very talented Ryan Campbell, is attending Clarion this year and it makes me glad to think that money I raised in previous years has helped him and his classmates have a great experience this summer.

Challenges this year: somewhat less than last year, when I attended three conventions and was away from home for about half of the six weeks and still hit my word count goal. I’ll be attending AnthroCon again over July 4 weekend in Pittsburgh, then home for a bit, then down to Comic-Con. I don’t leave home again until after the Write-A-Thon is over, when I’ll be flying to England for LonCon (I’m on two panels there; more about that as it approaches). I should be able to knock out fifty thousand words over the rest of the time, with some help from plane flights and so on.

And I know I have slacked off on the James Bond shorts. I will get to them, I promise!

Writing For Clarion–You Can Help!

Hey all! I’m joining the Clarion Write-A-Thon again this year. This is a six-week period that coincides with the Clarion Workshop, during which I pledge to work on a writing project with a goal to be completed by the end of the six weeks. I’m hoping to raise money for the Clarion Foundation, which helps aspiring fantasy and science fiction writers form communities and strengthen their craft.

Why am I doing this? Well, I attended Clarion a couple years ago, and it was a transformative experience. I want to do what I can to help others have that same experience. Plus this is a good way to have a structured writing period. Last year I wrote about 75% of a novel first draft during this time, and having a responsibility to write every day helped me get that done. This year I will be traveling for about half of the six weeks, so having a goal to meet is even more important.

I’ll be working on a rewrite during the six weeks, redrafting a novel I wrote two years ago that has gotten mixed reviews from beta readers–some like it a lot, some think it could be improved. I’m hoping to keep the parts people like (the characters, the setting, the concept) while also shoring up the parts that were weak in the first draft (world-building and plot). I’ve never done a redraft like this before, so I’m hoping the structure of the Write-A-Thon will help with that as well.

You can help by donating or pledging on my page! The more donations/pledges I get, the more accountable I will feel to all those people putting their trust in me and the more diligently I will write. I don’t think I can get the whole redraft done in six weeks, not with conventions taking up four of the weekends, but I aim to get enough momentum on it that I can finish it by the end of August.

So anything you can spare to help–$5, $10–is greatly appreciated.

About “Erzulie Dantor”

Today my first professional SF sale was published in Apex Magazine (they publish great stuff and you should definitely subscribe). The story is “Erzulie Dantor” and it started as a response to a call for submissions to a lesbian werewolf anthology. I was looking for a new take on werewolves, and found scattered references to werewolves in Haitian lore called “je-rouges” (from “yeux rouges”: red eyes). They apparently want to steal children, though whether for eating or for making more je-rouges, I couldn’t determine from anywhere. This clicked with me because my sister-in-law had recently gone to Haiti to help provide medical services after the earthquake, and had sent back some heart-rending pictures. I thought that it was in times of disaster that legends grow strong, and this story took shape from that.

I brought it to Clarion, though not to workshop officially. A few of us had trunk stories we wanted to pass around, and Brooke, Erin, and Jake provided some really helpful guidance on what the story was missing. When I got back from Clarion, I didn’t want to use any of the stories I’d written there for submission because they all needed a lot of work, but “Erzulie Dantor” seemed ready with the application of the critiques I’d gotten. And so, it turns out, it was.
If you’re here because of that story, welcome! I don’t post a lot so I won’t spam your feed if you’d like to follow me. I have a page on this site that lists my stories., and will be adding this one to that list soon! I would like to get a few of them online for reading free and will be working on that over the next few months.

Anyway, thanks! If you have a comment on the story, please add it over on the Apex site!

Life at WorldCon, and After

So I went to what was technically my third WorldCon this past weekend, in Chicago. My first was the Millenium PhilCon, in 2000, when Mark and I went on the Monday and walked around what seemed to be a very nice convention space where interesting things had recently been happening. In 2002, we went to ConJose in San Jose and sold what few Sofawolf books we had, and listened to a panel where David Brin bad-mouthed furries, kind of. They both felt like foreign environments, even though I did go to PhilCon for years and years back in the late 80s and early 90s.

And then I went to Chicon 7 and watched a friend win a Hugo for a comic she published with Sofawolf Press. So that was kind of a way better experience.

Kyell said the words about Ursula best in his post, first paragraph. Ursula is a terrific person and a talented writer and artist, and the Hugo is only the beginning of great things for her, I’m sure. One of the highlights of the con was not only watching her get the Hugo, but being able to talk to her for a good bit in the Hugo part after. Jeff deserves the lion’s share of Sofawolf’s credit for that award, because he is the one who brought Digger in and put together the amazing print versions of it. So really I am just kind of lucky to be associated with some awesome people.

Anyway, I had intended to write more about Chicon earlier in the week, but as soon as we got back to the Bay (almost literally), my throat started feeling scratchy, then I felt all run-down, and blah. You know how it goes. So today I feel much better and I am tired of working today, so you get the post, hopefully not too late.

Chicon 7 was way better than previous WorldCons for other reasons. I got to see eleven of my Clarion classmates, the most in one place since we split up in August of last year (for me; I think there were ten or eleven at ReaderCon as well), and I am so happy to report that we all still not only get along, but actually want to hang out with each other. Scalzi’s prediction that we will travel around WorldCons in packs came very true. Two of our number are SFWA members, so we were able to go hang out in the SFWA suite; I got to see two of my classmates on panels; and we met back up with four of our previous instructors–not to mention seeing three of them up on stage during the Hugo ceremony (John Scalzi did a wonderful job of hosting, and presented Hugos to Elizabeth Bear and Kij Johnson). Our class did a group dinner, we met in smaller groups during the con just to talk about what we’re doing and about things we’ve read, and generally rekindled our desire to do cool things all together. One of my classmates edits a YA magazine and asked me for a story for it, so I have an assignment for the fall, and a couple of them said they want to write for New Fables. We are all getting going in this whole author-career thing.

In addition, I found that you can use the Clarion thing as kind of an ‘in’ with other instructors. Mark and I went to get a picture taken with George R.R. Martin, who taught at Clarion West this year, and he was happy to hear I’d gone to Clarion. He had his Hugo award (for Game of Thrones Season One) on the table, and pointed at it. “This is what you’re aiming for,” he said.

Of course, I feel a lot more comfortable with the writerly crowd anyway, and most writers are really nice to you if you just go up and express some sort of familiarity with their work. I talked to E. Lily Yu, who won the Campbell and is really sweet, and to Mary Robinette Kowal, who signed a bookmark for me because I didn’t have one of her books but I’d wanted to tell her I really liked her Hugo-nominated novella. (Tip: if you go to the autograph session of most authors toward the middle/end, chances are they will not be very busy. Sofawolf’s booth faced the autograph row and we often saw authors sitting there bored.) And I briefly got to talk to two editors there, one who bought a story of mine, and one whom I hope will–more details on those when I feel like I can talk about them. :)

Most of the socializing at WorldCon goes on at parties, and so Mark and I got back home (we were staying at my aunt’s place) later and later each night. Monday I was just completely wiped out. We slept a lot Monday night, but then had to wake up at 4:45 am (this is Chicago time) to catch our flight home, and so yeah, short sleep on top of the stressy weekend plus sitting in a tin can with 100 strangers = minor travel crud. I’m not attributing it to the con even though Alopex was sick the last couple days.

The upshot here is that at Chicon 7, I felt much more a part of the community, and Mark and I had such a good time that we’re definitely going to be at LoneStarCon next year in San Antonio. We’re going to start trying to get a couple of our Dallas friends down for it too, so be warned, you guys. :)

Sponsor Me! Please!

The Clarion Write-A-Thon, to raise money for the very worthy Clarion Foundation, kicks off in a few weeks, and I am participating! If you would like to toss a little donation my way to encourage me to write more, you may now do so! Every little bit helps, and I appreciate your support. Writing goals start June 24th, coinciding with the beginning of the Clarion Workshop I attended last year. Your donation helps make these workshops possible, and going by my class of last year, encourages some really amazing new fiction to make it out into the world.

Thanks for the help!

So you’re going to Clarion…

Okay, take two of this, since WordPress’s “Hey, try our quick post!” apparently means, “Hey! Type out a post and we’ll make it disappear!”


Clarion apartment I attended the Clarion workshop in 2011, and I remember going into it that everyone said kind of encouraging but also infuriatingly vague things like “it was great, but it’s hard to put into words what was so great about it.” Post-Clarion, all of us struggled to capture that feeling as well, and for a bunch of writers, it’s amusing to see how difficult it was to state plainly. But I think the reason is that we are not only aware of what we got out of it, but what everyone else got. For me to say, “I learned to critique better, I learned some things to improve in my writing, I met some amazing people in the writing community and gained confidence about my writing” sounds very dry and doesn’t convey the power of the six weeks we spent there. But to say, “I gained a writing family,” while it does convey that, sounds rather overblown and overdramatic.

The point is, I guess, not to stress about what you’re going to get out of Clarion. If you go in as a writer open to the idea that you need to improve and that you and your classmates are all there to help each other do just that, you will get your money’s worth and then some. I know that I was a little stressed about what to expect, about whether I’d fit in (and you will no doubt be told many times that YES YOU DO FIT IN and it will not be enough times but you will end up believing it in the end, I hope), but at the same time I don’t want to tell people what to expect, mostly because everyone’s experience is going to be different.

I do have a few words of advice and I will just toss them out here as bullet points:

* Double-check your logistical arrangements to be gone from the real world for six weeks. You can’t stop reality from interrupting Clarion, but to the extent that you can minimize it, really do so.

* Take advantage of the blog to introduce yourself and meet your classmates. It doesn’t completely eliminate the “getting to know each other” period, but it does shorten it. It was great for us to show up and be able to put faces to names: “Hi, Jim! Hi, Jasmine!”

* Set yourself at least one goal before you go, something to improve in your writing or your process. But also keep yourself open to new goals. You’re going to meet seventeen awesome classmates and six awesome instructors, and the ideas and suggestions are going to come at you like tennis balls from one of those serving machines gone wild in a comedy sketch. Try something new. Don’t be afraid to fail at it.

* Share with your classmates. You guys are all there to help each other. You are a team, and you can’t add any new people to that team. If you see divisions or cliques forming, blow that up. We were a pretty lucky class in that we all got along and stayed pretty tight–not that there weren’t conflicts, but we didn’t let them fracture the class. Your support for each other will be one of the best things you come out of Clarion with.

* Learn the path to Rock Bottom and Trader Joe’s. Really. It will save your life when you can’t stand one more cafeteria meal.

And I hope all you guys have as amazing a summer as I did last year!


Writing Update 8/11

I would like to have something interesting to say every time I post about writing. I would also like a van full of money to be driven up to my house and abandoned. We make do with what we have.

So I finished a draft of that story I started at Clarion. It’s 9000-some words and though it has a decent start and a reasonable ending and some good characters, it is kind of held together with spaghetti at the moment. I will let it sit and then revise.

In the meantime, I am working on a short piece for a fellow Clarionaut, and I will share a small bit of it here:

So the boy came to be called Theophilus, beloved of the gods. He danced for the town at every sacrifice, and every season he danced, the town remained blessed. Only Theophilus’s father was troubled. He knew that those who attract the attention of the gods seldom live long, peaceful lives.