Monday, June 4, 2012

Ways writers benefit from Clarion West's Write-a-thon

Clarion West (CW), the best speculative fiction writing workshop in the world, is gearing up for another six-week workshop, in which eighteen students from around the world come to Seattle and are taught by the best writing minds of the genre. They are also gearing up for the Write-a-thon (Wat).

The Wat is a kind of shadow workshop. Hundreds of writers set their own private goals and commit to focussing on their own writing in step with and in support of the main workshop. Each of these Wat participants then seeks sponsorship from their family and friends. That money goes to CW, which uses it wisely* to safeguard the education of future f/sf writers.

A group of generous donors have offered to give CW a $2,000 challenge grant if 200 or more writers sign up for the Wat by June 16th.

As of five minutes ago, CW has 77 writers signed up. Some are big names, at the top of their game. Some are taking their first tentative steps on the path to a writing career. This year will be a banner year: CW are going all-out with support for the Write-a-thon, support for writers. You will be part of a community.**

On CW's website, and on Facebook, Nisi Shawl posted "Five Tips For a Great Write-a-thon," which I'm reproducing here (with permission) along with my comments:

Five Steps to a Great Write-a-thon
1. Set your Write-a-thon goals.
You goal could be writing 500 words a day, or one story per week, or completing a work that’s been languishing in your laptop for months. Or all of the above. We’ve had writers take advantage of the Write-a-thon to submit stories or get a brand new writing project underway.
Last year Kelley wrote 41 stories in 41 days (you can read them all here). This is what's euphemistically called a 'stretch goal.' That is, it will just about kill you. Or, to paraphrase Bilbo Baggins, make you feel like butter spread thin over too much bread. But it also makes you feel like you're flying, that you can do no wordly wrong, that--just possibly, just for a while--you are god. But most people choose something more realistic: revising one old story a week to make it fit for publication; writing on new story in its entirety; writing the first act of a screenplay; polishing a collection--of stories, of poems; making the final push on the novel that's almost there.
2. Decide how you want to involve your donors.
Involving donors can be as simple as telling your friends to visit your Write-a-thon page and see what you’re up to. It’s completely your choice how to handle this. Kelley Eskridge and some others posted weekly updates on their Write-a-thon progress on their webpages or Facebook walls. A few writers have upped the ante by offering character-naming rights for donations of a certain level or above; Pamela Rentz and Karen G. Anderson offered to match donations; we’ve also had a few writers host fundraising events and readings. 
This is where you can get really creative: you can use the involvement of donors as personal/private encouragement, a will-steeler, or you use it as a very public goad: a blinding light shone on you and your practice. Last year, Kelley chose the very public, highwire act of get the prompt, write the piece, post the piece, comment on the piece (read her comments here)--all in one day. Every day. For six weeks in a row. Not everyone has to do that. Go take a look at some of the public pages of this year's participants and see what they're planning.
3. Create your CW profile page.
Here’s where you’ll first tell people about your goals and any special incentives you have for donors. Plus you get to post a short excerpt from your published writing or a work in process. And a photo! Probably your photo, but it could be an avatar or other image significant to your work. You’ll be able to update the profile page during the Write-a-thon, though changes may take a couple of days to get published. You can also include a link on the profile page so people can follow your progress on your blog, website, or Facebook page. 
This is your dagger in the table, your public declaration. You can make it as fancy as you like (a jewelled poniard), or as plain and efficient (a slaughter seax), but you have to stab the table for all the world to see. You have to commit.
4. Tell people about your Write-a-thon goals.
We hope you’ll tell people about the Write-a-thon early and often. You can send folks email, talk about it on your blog or Facebook page — or, if you’re shy, just point people at the Write-a-thon main page where they can see the whole list of Write-a-thon participants. Wondering what to say? Take a look at our Write-a-thon page for the Write-a-thon facts and figures and the overall Write-a-thon goal. The bottom line is that the money raised in the Write-a-thon is what enables us to hold next year’s workshop.
What Kelley did was post her work every single day, along with commentary. And I boosted the signal right here. And we both tweeted and Facebooked ourselves blue in the face. It worked. Kelley raised over $2,500 for Clarion West: to help emerging f/sf writers of the future. Kelley and I love this genre. We know you do, too. Share the love. It brings in $$...
5. Start writing!
And isn’t that really what it’s all about?
This is, of course, the point: to write, to encourage writing, to offer support to all those who write, or might one day write, in our wonderful genre.

Kelley and I got our start in the Clarion system. It's one of the reasons we work so hard to support it: it works.

So if you've been thinking about maybe giving it a try, now is the time: go sign up.

ETA: There are now well over a hundred participants--and there's still over a week to sign up. Join us!

ETA II: We ended up with 228 participants.
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* Kelley is the Chair of the Board. I've met just about everyone involved: it's a very, very strong and stable and smart organisation. I know, for sure, that the ship is well-steered. So even if Kelley got abducted by aliens tomorrow, CW is in safe hands. (There again, if there are aliens running around abducting people, I expect we'd have other things to worry about...)
** This year, there will be weekly Tweetchats (look for the #writeathon hashtag, time and day TBD) where participants can ask questions of an experienced writer, or just share their own progress. This year, the sign-up process has been simplified and streamlined. This year, the Write-a-thon is a big priority for the whole organisation. There are people on Twitter and Facebook ready to answer your questions. You are not alone.

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