(Back row from left to right: Brendan Carson, Liz Adkins, Alex Hong, Angie Rega, Angela Slatter, Mac North, Aidan Doyle [leaning forward], moi, Amanda le Bas de Plumetot,Su Lynn Cheah, Ben Julien, Stephen Turner, Steve Mitchell. Front row: Mark Tremble, Steph Wong, Tracy Meszaros, Suzanne Willis, Lisa Bennett.)
I've just come back from the test of endurance and faith that is the experience of teaching a week at the Clarion workshop for science fiction and fantasy writers. In this case, I was teaching at Clarion South, in Brisbane, Australia. That poses its own challenges, in terms of overcoming jetlag and landing on your feet. Throw in a tight book deadline right before I left, and you had the makings of a fuzzy-brained time Down Under, for yours truly and the students. Luckily, though, jetlag was minimal and the students were all nice to a fault. Clarion South also has a great support system and truly inspiring organization courtesy of founders Kate Eltham and Robert Hoge--factors that also contributed to a great week.
I realized just how imaginative the students were when, on the first day of critique, they pulled out sock puppets (you can see some of them in the photo above) and started to critique in odd voices...something that blew a circuit in my brain at first ("I know my mind's going to reset soon. I just know it will..."). Five days of morning critiques, individual afternoon sessions, and lovely dinners with smaller groups of students followed, during which I tried my best to be of use through lecture, analysis, consultation, and, er, bringing the silly. Personally, I like to challenge the students in the critique sessions but be much less serious outside of them. Since it was also the sixth week of the workshop, I tried to give each student some kind of exit strategy to help with their re-entry into the wider world.
I read some great stories, made new friends--and also picked up some recommended reads of Australian authors from the students. As you can see, just like good writers everywhere, the students read widely outside of the genres in which they write...
From Amanda le Bas de Plumetot: "I've really enjoyed reading the Garry Disher's Inspector Challis books in the last 12 months, especially: Dragonman, Snap Shot, Kittyhawk Down, and Chain of Evidence."
From Tracy Meszaros: "The Nargun and the Stars by Patricia Wrightson. A children's book that was published around 1974 and I think my whole generation of children was raised on its wonder, it's creepiness and its beautiful evocation of the relationship between whites, aborigines and the land, through creatures from the Aboriginal Dreamtime. Also, The Turning by Tim Winton. Collection of short stories published [recently]. I love especially the first story 'Big World' with its stunning denouement. Tim Winton is such a master stylist that he gets away with seemingly the exact same style and voice for each story and yet they are each unique."
Between now and Monday I'll be blogging a couple more times about the experience--including wombats, koalas, avid readings, monkey puppet sightings, manic hand gestures, and more student recommendations...