Philip Brewer's Writing Progress


Thursday, 12 July 2001

I've added buttons to the bottoms of pages, so people who are reading several entries through can go on to the next one from the bottom, rather than having to scroll through to the top.

Today being Thursday, we had the reading at Archives Books. I said goodbye to Mo the cat. Geoff read a couple poems, one humorous and one moving. Then Mary read an excerpt from (I gather) a novel-in-progress set in the world of her Nebula award-winning novelette "Mars is No Place for Children." Finally, Geoff read a brand new short story about penises.

Today was the party. It was great fun. There was food (catered by the Owen cafeteria, so not great, but better than the food served in the cafeteria). There was also a cake decorated with the design from the front of the t-shirt which was very well done.

Speaking of the t-shirt, we got to see a sample today. It looks great! I'm very pleased.

After the reading, a few of us watched "Fight Club," which I had not seen before. The previews of that movie give a very strange picture of what it's about, a picture that is not very similar to what the movie actually is. There's a lot there that's worth watching, very strange and surreal, if you can get past the violence.

We've only had two stories a day this week so far, but we have five for tomorrow. I've finished my reading, but I haven't typed my critiques up yet.

Most people have made staggering improvement. Everyone has improved, but a few were already very, very good short story writers. In those cases, improvement has been more modest.

Writing is part craft and part art (and probably other things too, but let me deal here with this limited dichotomy). The craft part can be learned and it can be taught, and I think Clarion has just the right structure to help people learn it. When they arrived, our class members pretty much covered the spectrum in terms of their grasp of the craft: there were people who had it down pat, people whose story structures were just completely wrong, and everything in between. Everyone has the craft part now.

I don't know about the art part. I don't know if art can be taught. As with craft, people arrived with a wide range of abilities to do the art part. I'm not sure how much people got better at the art while they were here. There may have been improvements, but it may have just been that the better craft let the art shows through more clearly.

The most amazing thing about being here has been to see the work of the people who had the art already, but didn't have the craft. With their craft improved to the point where the art shines through, illuminated, reflected, focused by a well-crafted story so that it hits you like a laser beam to the soul, the effect is staggering. I am in awe.

Tomorrow is the last day. As much as I'm looking forward to getting home to my wife, I'm in complete denial about Clarion coming to an end. Tomorrow morning we'll give our critiques just the same as we've done for six weeks. But when we leave, we won't pick up manuscripts for the next class. I can't imagine what that's going to feel like.

I don't exactly have a plan for the journal, now that Clarion is over. I mean to continue it, at least for a while. I want to talk about going home, going back to work, picking up the responsibilities of my real life that I put down to come to Clarion. I want to talk about revising the stories I've gotten critiqued and sending them out to markets and maybe selling some. I want to talk about the new stories that I write. (I am planning on writing a new story for each story that I revise, as Jim Kelly suggested we do.)

I probably won't update every day any more (although I may--I've certainly enjoyed it these past few weeks). And I probably won't do it forever. But, if it fits in with the rest of my life, I'd like to keep it up though the end of the year. That should see me revise the stories I've had critiqued here, write about six new ones, and see them all out to at least their first market. After that, we'll see.

My dad is coming to get me on Saturday. My train is on Sunday. I get home around dinner time. I go back to work Monday morning. That's definitely not ideal, but it's what I could arrange.

To those of you who have come with me on this journey, I hope you've gotten something out of it. If you've even gotten as much out of reading about it as I've gotten out of writing about it, you've gotten a lot. If you've gotten a tiny, tiny fraction of what I got out of coming to Clarion, you've gotten a vast amount. I hope so.


Philip Brewer's Writing Progress homepage