Tag Archives: rejection

Third CW Strike

I applied, and was not accepted, for a third time to the Clarion West workshop.

cookies with eyes

My kids made these Illuminati cookies.

 

Dear Reader, if you found this blog post because you are searching for clues about how to write your own CW application letter, then… Alas, I cannot enlighten you.

 

 

 

Unlike the last two years, I was able to write productively in the anxiety-fraught days between the application deadline on March 1st and March 17th when I got the rejection email. And unlike my blogged reactions of the last two years, I’m not going to dwell on how devastated I feel this time.

In my writing “career” (the four years since I started writing down stories) the biggest mistake I have made so far was in January of last year. I was about 60,000 words into a novel and quit. Why? To write a new short story for my 2014 Clarion West application.

HUGE mistake, letting my desire to attend a workshop interfere with my writing. I derailed my novel completely. What I should have done was use an old story for the application and kept writing the novel. (I’m currently working on the outline for a new novel – more about that later.)

I’m lucky to live in the Seattle area because whilst the CW workshop is going on, the instructor for each week will do a public reading. I loved Cory Doctorow’s novel “Little Brother” and Nalo Hopkinson’s “The Salt Roads,” and Connie Willis’ short stories are amazing. I look forward to seeing those authors (and the instructors whose books I haven’t read – yet) in person.

Happy Writing.

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2014 Clarion West Application & Rejection

I applied to Clarion West again this year, and did not get in.

Rejection is a normal part of the writing life. I know that. We all know that. I honestly have no problem with submitting a story to a publication and the story getting rejected. I know it’s the story that’s being rejected, not me.

For anyone who doesn’t know, Clarion West is a six-week, 24/7 intensive writing workshop. Just sending an application is a huge commitment. Putting aside a huge lump of money. Figuring the mechanics of how someone else will take care of my responsibilities as I (potentially) remove myself from the lives of my loved ones for six weeks.

The application consists of two parts. 1) A 20 to 30 page short story in standard manuscript format; about 4000 to 6000 words. 2) A 700-800 word essay telling them about yourself. For me, the essay was much, much harder to write than the story. The essay is personal. Unlike my short story, the essay absolutely IS me.

Skunk cabbage blooming at the Mercer

Skunk cabbage blooming at the Mercer Slough on 1 April 2014. Pretty and stinky – it must be spring.

A couple months ago my twins had a school English class assignment to read a biography and write a book report. One of them chose Nelly Bly, the other chose singer Ke$ha. When I asked why the Ke$ha book report was only one page long, my daughter’s response was “Duh. She’s only twenty-three years old.”
Yeah. I really hate writing the two-page book report of my life.

The whole process of applying to Clarion West triggers my inner demons in a way that the submission/rejection process never does. After more than twenty years of recovery, it jars me into the realization that deep down, I will always have codependency issues. From the time the application window closed on March 1st, to March 14th when someone-who-would-know tweeted that the acceptance phone calls had started, to March 22nd when I finally received the rejection email. The wait (and everything that goes with it) was agonizing. This year was even worse for me than last year.

I love to write. I’ll keep on writing, and I will continue to submit. Rejections really don’t bother me because like I said, it’s not me it’s my story — easy peasy.

Right now, I don’t know if I will apply to Clarion West next year. Six whole weeks of immersion in the craft of writing would be pure heaven for me. But the price of that lottery ticket is painful. Also, the summer of 2015 will be particularly busy with family commitments, so disappearing for six weeks may be impossible.

Two friends, one a close friend, will join the 2014 Clarion West class. I am really, truly happy for them and their class mates. My most sincere congratulations to all eighteen of them.

Happy Writing.

Slushy Confessions

I resigned from my position as a First Reader at Strange Horizons. I held the position from mid-September 2012 to the end of July 2013, so that’s about eight-and-a-half months (SH was closed to submissions in December and January.)

Slush: crushed ice and syrup. Tasty.

the other kind of slush

I’m a bit sad it’s over. Slushing was a good experience, and I learned a great deal.

Writing instructors will often say slushing will benefit your writing. They’ll say it’s good for you. But I have to admit that when I applied I was a little vague about exactly what that benefit would be.

Here are a few things I learned from my first reader experience.

First, I learned that all of the standard advice about writing good fiction that gets repeated in every writing class and how-to-write book is actually true. I knew it on an intellectual level. Now I believe it, on a gut level.

Second, a form rejection letter/email means exactly what it says. The magazine has decided not to publish my story. That’s it. Really. As a First Reader, I sent form rejections most of the time. A thoughtful personal comment for a rejection letter takes time to write. Time that could be spent reading the next story in the FR queue, or writing, or reading that neglected novel.

Third, a personal rejection doesn’t necessarily mean my story is “close” or my submissions are getting better. As a first reader I occasionally added a personal comment to the rejection email because I thought I had something useful or helpful to say about the story. But even then, I only wrote that comment if time allowed.

Fourth, I think I’ve gotten better at giving feedback to members of my critique groups, at least when it comes to identifying story problem areas. Whether or not I’m better at identifying problems in my own writing, or figuring out how to fix them, remains to be seen ;-)

Lastly, I learned the secret to getting your story past the slush reader, and into the hands of an editor. The secret? Write a fantastic story. So simple in theory, but of course difficult in practice. As a first reader, it was the best feeling ever to read a story that I could pass on to the editors with a note that said I loved it. That made my day.

And now that I’m retired from slushing, I’m looking forward to spending more time writing, and making a dent in the piles of books that have accumulated around my house (at a faster rate) since I started slushing.

Happy Writing!

not accepted and moving on

A drawing by Alison Hetherington

by Alison Hetherington

I applied to the Clarion West six-week Writing workshop, and received my rejection letter last Friday (March 22).

Oddly, it wasn’t until after I sent in my application (five weeks before the deadline) that I realized how desperately I really wanted to go. It was like holding a lottery ticket. I hardly ever buy lottery tickets, and even when I do I don’t daydream about winning a million dollars (well, not for more than five minutes). But I did daydream about going to Clarion West, and how indescribably amazing and life-changing it would be.

Hoping for that golden-ticket phone call was far more stressful than I had expected it to be. I watched the forums on the Clarion West web site. On March 12, applicants on the forums were already speculating that acceptance phone calls were imminent. Although I made only a couple of brief posts myself, I saw the craziness I was feeling echoed in post after post from other people. Some “forum-ers” with far better Twitter-stalker skills than me found a tweet from one applicant who got their acceptance phone call on March 19.

I wish I could say that I was able to channel my anxiety into a flood of productive writing. But no. I have been at a creative stand-still for the past two weeks. Today I dredged up my last unfinished short story, a Sci-Fi story based on an early 1600s Border Reiver ballad. Because it’s time to shake it off, move on, and keep writing!

My rejection email included the phrase “our readers particularly commended your work”, which I’ve heard is a good thing. I will be thinking about participating in the Clarion West write-a-thon, and I hope to apply for the workshop again next year.

And this summer in Seattle there will be weekly Clarion West Instructor readings to look forward to.

Happy Writing!