When I got the call that I was accepted to Clarion, I was standing on the waterfront in Valdez, Alaska. My fiancé, Bevin, was in the middle of tech week for a play that she was producing when Tanya called me and said, "Hey, do you want to spend 6 weeks this summer writing fiction with a team of incredible teachers and other aspiring weirdos like yourself? Also it starts in 4 weeks and we need to have your answer tomorrow." Coordinating a phone call with your partner over a 4-hour time difference to ask her if she would mind if you went away again and also spend all of your money on playing make-believe in Californa is, well, not a conversation I'd wish on anyone. 'm kidding, of course; it went very well (clearly), because Bevin is incredibly supportive of me. But it was still a big decision.
If you knew me in person, then you know I've talked about it enough: the Clarion Writer's Workshop at UCSD was an incredible and life-changing experience for me as both a person and a writer. And I wouldn't have been able to do it if not for scholarship support from the Clarion Foundation, which helped to ease some of the financial load. Don't get me wrong, if I had absolutely bankrupted myself and lost my job in order to attend Clarion, it still would have been worth it. But it didn't come to that, for which I'm grateful. And so naturally, I want to give back.
How Does It Work?
The Clarion Write-a-thon is exactly what it sounds like: a fundraiser for the Clarion Foundation to support the program and aspiring writers like myself attend and drastically transform their own career trajectories. It's like a walk-a-thon, only instead of doing laps, we, well, write a lot (mostly because us literary folk are not typically athletic). It takes place over six weeks from June 22 — August 2, running parallel to the actual Clarion workshop. So it's kind of like going through Clarion again, only everyone's doing it together remotely instead of squatting in the common room with overheating laptops and a case of PBR.
Basically, the way it works is you pledge money, and we write and write and write until we reach our goals, and then in the end we let out a big collective "Yaaaaay" and everybody's happy because you've supported a good cause with your hard-earned dollars and I've also helped support that cause plus also I've written a whole bunch of stuff and then the Clarion Foundation gets money which helps a student attend and so everybody wins! Now let's dance!
What's In It For Me?
Besides the satisfaction of playing benefactor to the next generation of science fiction and fantasy authors, you also receive the satisfaction of playing benefactor to the next generation of science fiction and fantasy authors, and me. All donors also receive a free High Five, courtesy of me, redeemable only in person. If I receive more than $100 total in pledges, I'll also start offering some "stretch rewards," like Kickstarter, such as naming a character in a story after you (or another name that you'd prefer), as well as custom / commissioned stories and poetry. Maybe I'll even throw in an original song for a few lucky donors! Who knows! Only one way to find out!
What's Your Goal / What Are You Working On, Anyway?
My goal for the Clarion Write-a-thon is to write 25,000 words over the course of the next six weeks for my novel-in-progress, Dirty Old Town. Dirty Old Town started as a short story called The Good People which I wrote for the third week of Clarion, which can best be described as an Irish Boston Punk Rock Magical Realist Noir. Robert Crais, the instructor that week, was quoted as saying, "Ya know, when I saw that someone wrote a detective story for my week, I got really excited that I would get to tear someone a brand new ass hole. And after reading this, I gotta say...it's all right. I think you did a pretty good job here, Thom. For a first draft, I mean," which I hope ends up on the published book jacket.
(Please note that 25,000 words still won't be enough for a complete novel draft, but it's my goal for the six weeks of the write-a-thon, factoring in for weddings and travel. I've got about 30,000 words right now, and I hope to have the complete draft done by the end of August, but we'll see how that goes)
How Do I Give?
You can go directly to my author page on the Clarion Write-a-thon website and donate right there. Ain't that convenient?
What If I Don't Want To Donate?
Well then (1) you're a jerk, and (2) why have you continued reading this far?
What If I Have Another Question?
Then you can leave it in the comments, or you can email me, or you can contact me telepathically (although admittedly, my reception's been a little shaky).
Are you really telepathic?
Then How'd You Know I Was Going To Ask That?