It’s hot today. Writing when it’s hot always reminds me of Clarion—of the many sweaty hours sitting at my desk in Owen Hall, writing fiction. And I was already thinking of Clarion. In 2001, Clarion started on June 3rd, so I spent much of May getting ready to go. Since then I’ve found my thoughts turn to Clarion every May.
Thinking about Clarion reminds me how I’d been wrong about which activities would teach me the most. I’d imagined that the benefits would flow from writing a lot and getting critques on my stories. Those activities were beneficial, but what taught me the most was doing a critique of a classmate’s story and then hearing another 20 critiques on the same story. Especially when one of my fellows had a different take on the story from my own, I learned something. Some of those insights were pearls of great value that I secreted away and have used many, many times since then. Even when I disagreed, just the notion that the story could be viewed that way changed the way I thought about stories.
Sadly, I don’t have an active local critique group, so I’m not in a position to recreate that aspect—the most valuable aspect—of the Clarion experience this summer. But that’s okay. I can still write a lot. I can still read a lot. I can still think critically about the stories I read. And on hot days like today it will almost feel like I’m back there again.