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Clarion West Writers Workshop

Clarion West Writers Workshop

Clarion West Writers Workshop is an intensive six-week program for writers preparing for professional careers in science fiction and fantasy . It runs up from late June through the end of July. The workshop is limited to 18 students per year. Each of the six weeks is instructed by a different professional writer or editor. The roster of the guest instructors changes yearly. Founded in Seattle , Washington in 1971, the workshop has been continuously held since 1984. Clarion West celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2008. [1]

The Clarion West board of directors currently includes Karen G. Anderson, Kelley Eskridge, Tod McCoy, Jeffrey Lemkin, Felicia Gonzalez, Phoebe Harris, VN Saunders, and Nisi Shawl.


The 1971 Clarion West Writers Workshop was founded by Vonda N. McIntyre , a Clarion Workshop graduate and Nebula and Hugo Award -winning author, with the support of original Clarion founder Robin Scott Wilson . It was modeled after the original Clarion Workshop founded in 1968 at Clarion University of Pennsylvania (itself inspired by the Milford Writer’s Workshop ). The original Clarion Workshop was slated to close after holding final classes in 1970, Clarion workshops in other locations. The 1971 successor workshops that sprang from this effort were Clarion West Workshop founded in Seattle, andClarion Workshop revived in New Orleans (later moved to Michigan in 1972, and San Diego in 2007). Clarion West operated until 1973, before a hiatus. [2]

In 1984, Clarion West JT graduate Stewart and Seattle writer, Marilyn J. Holt, reconvened the workshop with the support of founder Vonda N. McIntyre . Clarion West incorporated as a nonprofit organization with a board of directors in 1986 with the help of many dedicated Clarion West alumni. Currently the workshop is hosted by Neile Graham and Huw Evans. Although the workshop is located close to the University of Washington , it is not associated with the university. It has operated continuously to the present day. [3]

Workshop format

The workshop is a combination of education and mutual student criticism using the Clarion Method. The emphasis of learning is primarily geared towards hours spent reading, writing and critiquing. Normally, students are expected to write a complete draft of a story for the week, to be critiqued the following week. Ideas for these stories are up to the student, but the emphasis is that the writing takes place on the premises of the school. Work on ‘trunk’ stories, written before the workshop, is discouraged.

The class reads and reviews runs weekdays from morning to early afternoon. The remainder of the day is typified by writing for the next week’s book deadline, reading, and preparing reviews. The workload is intense, but breaks and socializing are typical at all hours. Weekends are free time to socialize, explore the local sights, and catch up on unfinished writing and reading.

Each student typically gets a weekly private lecture with each instructor to ask questions and gain insight from that professional writer or editor.

Although the focus of the workshop is on speculative fiction , such as sci-fi and fantasy , other genres, including horror , comedy , mystery , and literary writing. The workshop focuses on writing and criticizing short stories , but many aspects of a novel writing are also discussed in workshop. [4]

Extracurricular activities

The speculative fiction community around the Seattle area has built support for the workshop over the years, and many special events have become part of the Clarion West tradition. [5]

  • Clarion West Parties: These invitation-only events are attended by the students and administrators, graduated alumni, and many established writers, editors, agents, and fans in the industry.
  • Readings and Book Signings: These public events allow students and the public to experience readings by the instructing writers. They are regularly hosted by the local University Bookstore.
  • Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame / Locus Awards weekend: frequently the workshop coincides with the annual Locus Awards and Science Fiction Hall of Fame weekend events. This is a chance for students to participate in the world of writers and professionals from around the globe.


There are a number of classifications passed down from one class to the next in the manner of a secret society. That Traditions are Publicly Known include the yearly Clarion West class shirt (designed by the class and limited only to the classmates and instructors of That year), [6] and the practice of presenting unusual gifts To Each of the instructors. Classes often come up with new traditions and items to go to the next year’s class.


Space in the workshop is awarded to 18 applicants of all submissions received. The average number of applications is not disclosed and varies from year to year.

The application window typically opens January 1 and runs through March 1 for the year attending. Students are usually selected and informed by the end of March. [7]

Clarion West, Clarion , and Clarion South are all independent, they follow the same workshop and are considered sister schools. Since both Clarion West and Clarion workshops run concurrently, students are often encouraged to increase their chances of attending that year. Students must choose their preferred workshop. Each of the schools has similar but distinct guidelines.

Clarion Workshop Clarion Workshop Clarion Workshop Clarion Workshop Clarion Workshop Clarion Workshop Clarion Workshop.

Notable Clarion West instructors

See also: List of West Clarion Writers Workshop instructors
  • Octavia E. Butler
  • Ellen Datlow
  • Samuel R. Delany
  • Gardner Dozois
  • Harlan Ellison
  • Neil Gaiman
  • Joe Hill
  • George RR Martin
  • James Patrick Kelly
  • Ursula K. The Guin
  • Robert Silverberg
  • Michael Swanwick
  • Gene Wolfe
  • Roger Zelazny

Notable Clarion West graduates

See also: List of Clarion West Writers Workshop alumni
  • Daniel Abraham
  • Andy Duncan
  • Kij Johnson
  • Fiona Kelleghan
  • David D. Levine
  • Mary Anne Mohanraj
  • Eric Nylund
  • Susan Palwick
  • Cat Rambo
  • Benjamin Rosenbaum
  • Diana Rowland
  • Lawrence Schimel
  • Gordon Van Gelder
  • N. Lee Wood

Other Clarion workshops

Other Clarion workshops that use the same workshop format, but are independently run include:

  • Clarion Writers Workshop , held annually in San Diego, CA since 2007. It was founded at Clarion University of Pennsylvania in 1968.
  • Clarion South Writers Workshop , held biennially in Brisbane Australia . It was founded in 2004.


  1. Jump up^ “Clarion West Turns 25”. Locus Magazine, September 2008: Page 5
  2. Jump up^ Wilhem, Kate. Storyteller: Writing Lessons and More from 27 Years of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop, Small Beer Press, Easthampton, MA 2005ISBN 978-1-931520-16-4: Pages 32-35.
  3. Jump up^ About Clarion West:http://www.clarionwest.org/about
  4. Jump up^ Clarion West Introductory Information for Students Handout 2008
  5. Jump up^ Howle, Leslie. “Twenty Five Years of Clarion West”. Seventh Week, Fall 2008: Pages 4-5
  6. Jump up^ Example of a Clarion West class shirt, 2004:https://www.flickr.com/photos/doctorow/343613/
  7. Jump up^ Workshop Application Guidelines:http://www.clarionwest.org/workshop/apply