Eleven years ago I had the privilege of attending the Clarion West Writers Workshop for Science Fiction and Fantasy in Seattle, Washington. For anyone who hasn't heard of it, the Clarion Workshops are intense, to put it mildly. For six weeks, seventeen students are taught by professional writers - ours were Octavia Butler, Bradley Denton, Nalo Hopkinson, Connie Willis, Ellen Datlow, and Jack Womack. Every morning we'd get up, scrounge some breakfast, and then head to a critique session. Three students would have their heads on the block. We'd have read their stories and go around the circle, analyzing, criticizing, and trying to suggest cures for whatever ailed the piece. The last person to go would be the instructor. After being roasted by seventeen other people, the author was permitted to do two things: 1) ask for clarification and 2) thank everyone.
This has been such a valuable lesson for me because when you write professionally, you can't argue with your readers. You can't complain that they "didn't get it". It was your job to make them get it. Your only remedy is to learn from mistakes, sit back down at the keyboard, and do better next time.
In the science fiction and fantasy genre, a lot of professional writers groups use the Clarion style of critiques, and it was my time at Clarion West that qualified me to join Critical Mass, a writer's group in New Mexico that helped keep me working hard for the next ten years. Meanwhile many of my former workshop mates were finding their own way in critique groups, earning degrees and research grants, and winning awards and accolades such as Hugo and Nebula nominations and novel publishing deals.
It's been a privilege to be associated with my former classmates, and it's been a blessing that social media like email and Facebook have allowed us to keep a connection and be a part of each others lives and careers. This year, we decided to celebrate with a reunion anthology. Since the workshop was in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, we titled it, Under the Needle's Eye. Eleven of us have contributed stories and novel excerpts, and it was my privilege to oversee the copy editing and to convert the book to Kindle format. I have to say, my classmates' work leaves me both humbled and bursting with pride.
And I made us this book trailer:
I hope it conveys some of the sincere admiration I have for my classmates and the incredible fun it was putting this project together. The anthology is FREE today and tomorrow on Amazon, so come find us Under the Needle's Eye!