Sunday, 8 April 2018

I'm going to Clarion West!


So yeah! I'm going to Clarion West this year!

If you didn't know, Clarion West is a really awesome science fiction and fantasy writing workshop that runs for six weeks in summer every year at Seattle and is usually taught by a faculty of award-winning authors and editors. Many students who attend this workshop also go on to have illustrious writing careers of their own too. I've been meaning to attend this workshop (or its sister workshop, Clarion UCSD, which is the original Clarion workshop but runs in San Diego around the same time) for years now but never had the courage to apply.

Many reasons as to why: didn't think I'd have money for the most part, didn't think I was good enough, didn't think I could leave work long enough, didn't think I could leave family behind, etc.

But something sparked inside of me late last year. I felt I should at least give it a go this time round. So I did. They requested a sample of my best work and an application essay. I sent in a short story which I was really proud of and then I wrote the best damn application essay I could. Then I sent it all in. Huw Evans (the workshop administrator at the time) wrote back saying I would expect an answer before March 31st. I shrugged and promptly forgot all about it... until 16th March.

It's funny how 16th March 2018 started out pretty much like any other day. Groaning out of bed, dragging myself to the bathroom to brush my teeth and shower, and then dragging my shell to the train station in order to go to work.

But the funnier thing was as I was brushing my teeth, I thought about how it was already past the half way mark of the month and I still hadn't received any news about Clarion West. I started thinking, yep, not getting in, and shrugged and went on with my day. You see, I'd been submitting some short stories to my favourite publications these past few months and I was getting nothing but rejections. At this point I was expecting nothing short of a rejection from Clarion West as well.

But just as I was about to step on the train, I received a call.

From Namibia.

Which stunned me for a bit. I remembered reading other former attendees of Clarion West saying that they had missed calls from them because they thought it was a random cold caller from a strange foreign country.

Was this is it?

Was this the call from Clarion West?

"Hello, this is Huw Evans. I'd like to invite you to our workshop."

It felt like everything was placed on pause. Everything around me went quiet. I was dumbstruck.

And that was it. Just like that I knew I was going to Seattle in June to attend a science fiction and fantasy writing workshop which I've been wanting to attend for... oh, I don't know, forever?

It was crazy for the first week or so because Huw had told me not to announce it publically just yet as they hadn't finalised the list of attendees. But once they did, I immediately went on Twitter to find out who my fellow Clarionites were. I actually recognised some names and I'd be lying if I didn't tell you I felt a little intimidated. I felt soooo intimidated in fact. Some of the other writers had already been published in places like Clarkesworld and Uncanny and other fabulous places. I started feeling I was going to have a huge case of impostor syndrome.

It's a bit of an understatement that I'm nervous that I'll be going to Clarion West. I'm going to be part of this wonderful family as well as a huge network of amazing writers. Not to mention that I might be fellow students with a future famous writer... heck, maybe several famous writers. The mind boggles.

I'm nervous. I'm scared. But most of all I'm excited. I can't wait for June.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Happy New Year!

So, 2018 already huh? Time for some resolutions!

Write a short story every fortnight
Lol. I don't even know if this is possible, because my usual resolution every year is to write a short story every month and I've failed every year I've attempted it. Writing a short story every fortnight means writing two short stories a month. How is that even possible? Well, I have a plan mapped out, aaaaaand if I stick to it, it should work out. Maybe. Anyway the goal here is to keep writing, and from there, to keep submitting, which I was lax on in 2017.

Focus on writing English short stories
I spent a lot of time in 2015, 2016, and 2017 reading and writing in Malay. My goal back then was to get good at writing in my native language, and have it be up to my standards writing in English. I think I have succeeded in that aim. After all, I did get published in Dewan Sastera, Tunas Cipta, and even had two Malay novels published (after winning a novel-writing competition no less) so I will, for now, call it a day in writing in Malay and will now pivot back to focusing on writing in English once again, which is my first love anyway. Writing in Malay was fun and I will be back... maybe in a few years.

Get published in a SFWA qualifying market
Not really a resolution, but more a goal I want to strive towards to in 2018. I've always wanted to break into this market. Have been meaning to since I started writing seriously, but I've never really been serious in how I've been going about it, possibly because I didn't have the confidence. Didn't know if anyone would really want publish my writing. Now that I have been published, in Malaysia, and elsewhere, I finally have that confidence to push for SFWA markets. So this year, I want to be more serious about it, which is where my previous two resolutions come in. Focus on writing quality stories that are good enough for SFWA qualified markets. I might not be able to make it in this year, but it's a good year as any to start working towards achieving that goal.

This is probably the first year in a very long while that I don't resolve to write (and finish) a novel. Hah, I've done that, several times over now. Though I haven't gotten round to rewriting my English novel manuscript yet but I'm sure its time will come in future years. For now it's short fiction, and most importantly, it's short science fiction.

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