Pay in advance for speculative fiction

Build a foundation for the next wave of speculative fiction by supporting the Clarion West Write-a-thon. Find out what 200 writers are doing this summer to raise money for the Clarion West Writers Workshop.

woman reading a book with colors emerging

Summer is early in Seattle, and I’m getting a head start on my annual summer project.

No, not gardening! The Clarion West Write-a-thon. What’s that, you ask?

Clarion West, along with its sister program, Clarion in San Diego, is renowned as the world’s pre-eminent workshop for emerging writers of speculative fiction. (“Spec fic” covers everything from the magic realism that Junot Diaz writes for The New Yorker to George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones to classic science fiction novels like Starship Troopers and fantasy like Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. Quite a range.)

This year Clarion West accepted 18 students from across the world, most of them recent college graduates. They were chosen based on the quality of their writing. If they follow in the footsteps of previous Clarion West graduates, more than a third of the Class of 2015 will go on to publish professionally. Many of them will be nominated for — and win — major awards in the field of speculative fiction.

For the students, the six-week Clarion West residential workshop is a full-immersion, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Many of the students have left their jobs to attend, borrowed money from family and friends to pay for travel, and several of them are receiving support from Clarion West’s scholarship program.

How You Can Get Involved

If you are a speculative fiction reader, I encourage you to underwrite the next wave of speculative fiction by supporting Clarion West, its scholarships, and its operations (run by a part-time staff and a cadre of volunteers).

The Clarion West Write-a-thon seeks donations at all levels, from $5 to $1000. (Many donors divide their donations, giving $5 or $10 through each of a dozen or more writers’ pages.)

Meet the Writers

The Write-a-thon harnesses the power of some 200 writers, people at all stages of their careers, who form a “shadow workshop.” While the six-week workshop for the Class of 2015 is underway, the Write-a-thon participants work to meet their own goals. Each of these writers has created a Write-a-thon page where you can read an excerpt of their work and see the goals they’ve set for writing and for raising money for Clarion West.

Many of the writers are offering incentives to sponsors who donate through their pages. You can browse the writers, or search for your writer friends, here:

You’ll find folks including Aliette de Bodard, Helena Bell, Steve Miller, Henry Lien, Kelly Sandoval, Usman Malik, Eileen Gunn, J.M. Sidorova, Randy Henderson, E. Lily Yu, Pat Cadigan, Mark Teppo, Nisi Shawl, Paul Park, Neile Graham, Julie McGalliard, Caroline M. Yoachim, Helen Marshall, Curtis Chen, Rachel Swirsky, Kris Millering, and this year’s Worldcon Guest of Honor, Vonda N. McInytre. You’ll find Viable Paradise workshop graduates, include Beth Morris Tanner, Spencer German Ellsworth — and me.

TIP: Be sure to read Eileen Gunn’s writing sample, a flash-fiction piece about a time-traveling necktie collector.

Become a Sponsor — and My Muse

What am I’m doing for this year’s Write-a-thon? After spending the past six months submitting stories to magazines and anthologies (I’ve sold three stories, which will be published this fall), I’m going to spend the Write-a-thon focusing solely on new writing. I’ll be writing six stories for the Write-a-thon — and my plan includes opportunities for the people who sponsor me to act as “muses” for those works.

Please visit my Clarion West Write-a-thon page to find out more. And, of course, to donate!

A story about me

Austin author Rebecca Schwarz wrote a story about me for the Clarion West Write-a-thon (well, a story about the OTHER me).

Austin author Rebecca Schwarz wrote a story about me for the Clarion West Write-a-thon (well, a story about the other me). I supported her in the Write-a-thon, and, in the separate reality she writes about in the story, I’m sure the other me would have supported her as well! It’s a great story.

The Write-a-thon is drawing to a close. Huge thanks to the folks who have sponsored me. I pledged to write three short stories and submit one; as it turned out, I completed two stories and wrote 8,000 words of back story for a fiction project I’m outlining.

Three of my donors sent in hefty $100 donations, and I matched those  donations with $100 donations in support of three other Write-a-thon participants. At this point, the Write-a-thon has raised just over $20,000 for Clarion West. We’ll still be taking donations through the participants’ pages until mid August.

Thank you to everyone who wrote, who donated, and who otherwise supported the Clarion West Writers Workshop this summer.

Do you write speculative fiction?

Signup is open for the Clarion West Write-a-thon, a “shadow workshop” that runs in tandem with the Clarion West Writers Workshop (June 17 – July 27) and raises money to support Clarion West.

Clarion West logoIf you write fiction, there’s a fabulous opportunity in the next few weeks to join with writers from around the world who are forming an online “shadow workshop.” It runs in tandem with the Clarion West Writers Workshop in Seattle June 17 though July 27.

During the six weeks that the workshop’s in session, participants in the “shadow” group will be pursuing their individual goals for writing (such as outlining a novel, writing to achieve a daily or weekly word count on a current project, editing a completed piece, or submitting work to agents, editors, and publishers). The shadow project is called the Clarion West Write-a-thon, and each participant, in addition to writing, can raise money to support the Clarion West and its scholarship program. (Note: I’m a member of the “shadow workshop” and of the Clarion West board.)

For more information about the Write-a-thon and experience of being a shadow participant, please take a look at this post by author Nicola Griffith. She talks about the experiences of writers in last year’s Write-a-thon.

To sign up as a participating writer, see the Clarion West Write-a-thon page. You’ll find directions for joining the shadow workshop, including creating a profile page with a short excerpt from your work. You do not need to be a Clarion West alumnus to participate.

Not writing this year? You can still be involved — as a Write-a-thon sponsor. To make a tax-deductible contribution to support Clarion West through one of the “shadow workshop” writers, scroll down to the very bottom of the Write-a-thon page to see the growing list of writers who have signed up to participate.

The Clarion West Write-a-thon: You’re invited

The Clarion West Write-a-thon combines a fundraiser for the workshop (keeping tuition affordable for aspiring writers) with an opportunity for Clarion West graduates and other fiction writers to focus on their own writing or publishing goals during the workshop period.

If you read contemporary science fiction, chances are you’ve enjoyed the work of some of the graduates of the Clarion West Writers Workshop — writers like Kij Johnson, Cat Rambo, Mary Rosenblum, Nisi Shawl, and David Levine. You may recognize some of these names as nominees (and winners) of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards.

Each summer, 18 students from across the country (and around the world) come to Seattle to spend 6 weeks at Clarion West, studying with leading writers and editors in the field of speculative fiction.

It’s an exhilarating experience. For many students, Clarion West is the catalyst that transforms them from promising writers into polished professionals — people who go on to present extraordinary works of imagination to the world.

The Clarion West Write-a-thon combines a fundraiser for the workshop (keeping tuition affordable for aspiring writers) with an opportunity for Clarion West graduates and other fiction writers to focus on their own writing or publishing goals during the workshop period.

If you’re a writer, you can sign up to write (by June 19) and then invite your friends to encourage you via a donation to Clarion West.

If you’re a reader of speculative fiction, you can find out more about participating writers and support one or more of us during the Write-a-thon event (June 20 – July 30).

As a new member of the Clarion West board — and as a 2010 Write-a-thon participant — I invite you to join us this summer for the Write-a-thon and for the Clarion West Summer Reading Series at the University Bookstore. The readings feature this year’s instructors, each presenting recent works or works-in-progress and answering audience questions about writing, teaching, editing, and more.

Philanthropic climate change: Money no longer grows on trees

How do responsibly run, major non-profits raise money in today’s climate without crying “emergency?” Or do they have to?

iStock_moneyIn the past few months, I’ve been involved professionally and as a volunteer in a number of fundraising events and campaigns.

The good news is that people are still giving, quite generously, to organizations and individuals in need.

But the landscape of individual giving looks dramatically different, thanks to the economic downturn of 2008-9.

Most of us know someone who has lost what he or she thought was a secure job. We know someone struggling, or are struggling ourselves, with health insurance payments as high as 25 percent of take-home pay. We know people who couldn’t afford insurance or were refused it and who are now being crushed by bills for treatment of cancer or heart attack. Many of us know small community organizations, or tiny local businesses, that can’t pay their rent. Many of us who have traveled to third world countries are haunted by the difference in resources and opportunities, especially for women and ethnic minorities.

My observation is that in this economic climate, those who have good jobs and extra money are using their resources to help individuals and small organizations to address specific, immediate, and time-critical problems. (Note focus of Jolkona, a fundraising foundation website focused on attracting a new generation of “passionate” donors who want “connection” and “involvement” with recipients.)

This is not good news for many established non-profit organizations. Quite a few of them have evolved to provide deep, complex, well though-out  structures for communities — from arts education and social services to historic preservation and environmental policy. But they don’t deal in heart-rending emergencies, or enable donors to finance quick, visible solutions.

How can these major non-profits compete for the donor dollar in today’s climate — without crying “emergency?” Or should they?