Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Workshop 2015

The Clarion workshop began on June 21st. This year our writers in residence include: Christopher Barzak, Saladin Ahmed, James Patrick Kelly, Karen Joy Fowler, Maureen McHugh, and Margo Lanagan.

Each week the writers will be doing readings at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore.

2015 Mysterious Galaxy Reading Schedule

Wednesday, June 24th - Christopher Barzak
Wednesday, July 1st - Saladin Ahmed
Tuesday, July 7th - James Patrick Kelly
Wednesday, July 15th - Karen Joy Fowler
Wednesday, July 29th - Maureen McHugh & Margo Lanagan

If you are interested in supporting Clarion, we encourage you to sponsor a writer in the Clarion Write-a-Thon. The Write-a-thon is a great way to sponsor a  writer  to help keep Clarion's future bright.The Write-a-Thon runs through August 1st. Sign up HERE.


Director's Corner by Shelley Streeby, Professor in the Literature and Ethnic Studies Departments at UCSD and Clarion’s faculty director


Hello from Clarion 2015! This week marks the beginning of my fifth summer as Clarion’s faculty director.

I am happy to say this year’s workshop is off to a terrific start and promises to be as great as the previous four I have experienced. During the Write-a-Thon, I’ll once again be sending weekly updates about the Clarion class. I’m also joining the Write-a-Thon myself this year to finish three writing projects and support the Clarion Workshop. I hope our collective efforts will make it possible for talented writers of the future to keep coming to Clarion regardless of financial need and we can continue to bring these amazing Clarion cohorts to the University of California at San Diego each summer.

This year, we once again have an international Clarion cohort, with one writer from Canada, two from Australia, and one from the United Kingdom, as well as one who has lived in London, Melbourne, Dubai, Toronto, Edinburgh, San Francisco, and Beirut. Several of this year’s Clarionites have Chicago connections, and there are a few writers from California. Once again, the students are living on the beautiful western edge of campus close to the Pacific Ocean, and once again the UCSD Library is hosting a Steampunk Tea in their honor, along with a Clarion exhibit, to kick off the workshop.

First-week instructor Chris Barzak did a fabulous job of creating the conditions for a successful Clarion 2015. He put a lot of thought into teaching the students how to do round-robin critiques, providing guidance that the students have already beautifully put into practice. From the start, this group was great at critiquing. They also quickly began to write new stories in response to Chris’s creative suggestions about ways to get started and what a writer should do if she is stuck. These included locating a compelling image and speculating about what within it could be used in a potential story as a character, a setting, a conflict, or a particular scene that the writer hopes to “arrive at” in her story at some point. Chris also advised the students that rewriting classic stories can provide another way to begin. Finally, he encouraged the students to write down funny things people say during critiques and to use them to make a t-shirt or a cool replicated scrapbook (digital or print) with photos and such contributed by all. The students are now doing just that on a collective document on the Clarion 2015 Google Drive.It’s always a wonderful moment when I walk into the common room and first see the faces of the 18 people whose stories stood out amid the huge pile of application stories we read every spring. The photograph at top shows their happy faces at the end of week 1 after the final critique. It was an intense week of work and getting to know each other, but here at the end they are still full of energy and spirit, which bodes well for the weeks to come.


The end of week 2 finds the 2015 Clarionites still full of energy, producing more and more new stories and having a good time in multiple ways. Instructor Saladin Ahmed had much to do with this; he inspired us all with his illuminating critiques and made class a fun place to be. 

At Saladin’s Mysterious Galaxy event, he read us a zombie Western, “Mr. Hadj’s Sunset Ride” (available to read here), and told us about his hopes of eventually writing about his great-grandmother, who was a private detective and a friend of Malcolm X. And on the last day of class, he led a very helpful session on where to publish, on what kinds of stories different editors want, and on keeping ties with each other after Clarion.

Finally, Saladin and the students invented a new Clarion tradition when he presided over the 1st Clarion (Mostly) Women's Invitational Arm-Wrestling Tournament. I’m looking forward to seeing what other new traditions this Clarion cohort invents!


This was an especially action-packed week for the 2015 Clarionites. The highlights included having Jim Kelly as their week 3 instructor, hosting two prominent editors, and, at the end of the week, attending Comic-Con!

Jim Kelly provided a much-needed boost of energy to the group. They had all been producing new stories at a frenetic pace and also were putting a lot of time into generating insightful critiques. As often happens during week 3, people began to get tired. But Jim kept the group focused and excited about writing and critiquing stories. Going into week 4, we are excited about how this group has come together and by the high level of talent we are seeing.

Many of our Clarion 2015 writers are already publishing stories in excellent venues, including Jess Barber, who was asked to sign copies of her story “Coma Kings” in 2015 Year's Best Science Fiction when the group visited Mysterious Galaxy for Jim’s’s reading.

The Clarionites were also grateful for the opportunity to meet this week with Charles Coleman Finlay, editor of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and with John Joseph Adams, editor of Lightspeed.



And today the Clarionites used their free tickets to attend Comic-Con 2015, always a good release after a hard work week. They will return tonight to greet Karen Joy Fowler. We are all greatly looking forward to week 4 in the Clarion classroom with Karen. 



It was an action-packed week at Clarion. We were fortunate to have Karen Joy Fowler  as the 4th-week instructor, and we also enjoyed connecting with several visitors.

On Sunday, in response to the group’s invitation, film director Alex Rivera talked with the Clarionites after his Comic-Con panel about building collaborations between SF/F writers and filmmakers. The next evening, students met with UCSD neuroscientist Bradley Voytek, whose research on disease and the human brain makes him a popular speaker on the subject of zombies.

And on Thursday we hosted an especially lovely crew of visitors, including Shauna Roberts (class of 2009), who presented the Leonard Pung Award to Lilliam Rivera, and Lisa Bolekaja (class of 2012), who presented the Octavia E. Butler Award and owl necklace to Melanie West. Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination Director Sheldon Brown was also able to join us at dinner, where a festive time was had by all. 

Karen’s Mysterious Galaxy reading was also a big hit. On Wednesday, she read a new short story to a large and enthusiastic crowd. She also talked about her research and writing process, including her insight that “the actual story I write rises up from the ashes of the story I start out thinking I'm going to write.”

In class, the students appreciated that she encouraged them in the strongest possible terms to write the stories they want to write and that only they can write. She also advised them never to end a story with someone laughing or crying. And then, Clarionite Adrienne Brown reports, “she made us cry before she finished with us.”  It was a definitely a powerful week of teaching on Karen’s part. Their group selfie on the last day of class shows how resilient and happy they were at the end of that traditionally most difficult time, week 4.

Now on to week 5 and anchor team Margo Lanagan and Maureen McHugh!




This was another busy week for the Clarionites. They said goodbye to fourth-week instructor Karen Joy Fowler and welcomed anchor-team instructors Maureen McHugh and Margo Lanagan. 
Right away, Maureen and Margo gave the class several stimulating writing exercises. Students found especially valuable the exercises dealing with technique and the mechanics of inspiration and point of view. While Margo inspired the students with image and text writing prompts, Maureen asked them to think harder about voice and memorable details in description. 
All of this activity is definitely paying off. According to the archive Story List, on July 22 the group passed a quarter million Clarion-written words, or roughly 1,000 double-spaced pages. 
After all this hard work, the Clarionites needed some time to relax. Thursday night, David Brin shared his thoughts and experiences with the group, and on Friday, many of the students decided to have a game night to unwind. A few even made it out to the beach this week. 
Now I’m hearing faint sounds of distress coming from those for whom the impending separation is starting to seem real, though all of them seem also to be determined to continue to create community after Clarion. On to week 6!