Clarion and San Diego

For those of you who like these sorts of things, a recap of my last week.

Clarion: No real specifics here on account that I told the Clarion students that what goes on there stays there, and I would look like a real asshole if I turned around and blogged in detail about it. But I can say some things on a general sense. First, this year’s crop of Clarionites is smart and talented and I would not be in the least surprised if you see them selling stories very quickly (in fact one sold a story last week, so there you are), and I really enjoyed spending my week with them, both in the classroom setting and then outside the class as well — mostly at meals, which is one reason I gained a few pounds last week, ooof. But it was worth it. And the Friday Night Ukulele Hoedown will almost certainly go down in Clarion history. I will say no more about it. You had to be there, man.

Second, Clarion was a learning experience for me, which I regard as a positive thing. I have done the workshop instructor thing before, of course; I did three years at Viable Paradise. But there I was accompanied by seven other instructors, who shared the load of critiquing, lecturing and other sorts of student/instructor interaction. At Clarion, it was largely just me for a whole week. Before it happened I wondered how it would go, and whether I would be able to actually be useful to students flying solo. Clarion in itself is scheduled so that as an instructor you get a fair amount of time with each student, which helps a lot. But largely it’s on you. I decided the way I was going to be most useful was to talk to the students about the practical aspects of the writing and publishing life, which is a focus that will come to no surprise to anyone who spends any amount of time here. So I did that and generally it seems to have worked. Color me relieved.

I’m relieved that I think I’m a good writing instructor in the workshop setting. I think it’s interesting as well since to be blunt about it I would have been an absolute disaster as a workshop student, primarily because at the point in life where a workshop might have been useful, my attitude toward workshopping was “Are you an acquiring editor? Are you going to pay me for this story? No? Done with you.” In other words, I was a prick about it. Perhaps more generously to my former self, I think it continues to be true that workshops are more useful to some people than to others, with much of that contingent on a personal willingness to engage in the process. As an instructor, I’m working with students who have self-selected to be open to this particular process (generally; there’s always the chance the student doesn’t know themselves well enough and misjudged their ability to handle criticism), so that makes the process congenial, from an instructor point of view. I am glad I as an instructor never had to deal with me as a possible workshop student. I probably would have pushed that smug little jackass out a window.

So yes, Clarion: A very positive experience for me, and I hope a positive experience for the students as well.

San Diego: Well, I don’t think I’ve ever been shy about expressing how much I genuinely enjoy San Diego and its environs; it’s pretty much the perfect city for me. This last week reinforced that general opinion, since it was perfect weather all the time I was there, and walking past the eucalyptus groves on the UCSD campus reminded me why no matter where I live I continue to think of myself as a Californian in exile. I’m not in a huge rush to get back to California on a full time basis, mind you — I like where I am — but this is about mindset as it is anything else. But if I were going back to California, San Diego would be a prime destination.

That said, most of my time last week was spent on the UCSD campus, since that’s where Clarion was, and that’s what I was there to do. When I lived in San Diego for a summer in 1990, I would occasionally get onto campus to visit friends, but this was the first time I spent any real time there, and I have to say it’s a very nice place to go to school. I’m hoping California’s current budget crunch (another reason I’m not in a rush to get back, although it’s not as if Ohio is covering itself in glory on this matter either) doesn’t gut the place. But even if it does, it’s still in La Jolla. Dear UCSD students: You are lucky bastards. Remember that.

I was in San Diego to work, but Krissy and Athena were on vacation, so they did all the vacation stuff you’re supposed to do, including the zoo, the Midway, Sea World (see previous entry with dolphin pictures) and of course the beach, which I managed to accompany them to once. I’m pretty sure they had fun all week long.

My own non-Clarion big event was a reading at Mysterious Galaxy bookstore, which was, happily, well attended (it was standing room only) and at which people seemed to have fun. It was fun for me since I had family there and also a couple of surprise guests, including one of my best friends from college who just happened to be in town and showed up; I had real moment of (happy) cognitive dissonance when I saw him standing there. He went to dinner along with me and my family and Greg van Eekhout, who also popped up for the reading and who I was happy to get to spend a little time with. The reading was also nice because some of the fans there noted my daughter in attendance, and as Zoe’s Tale was dedicated to her, asked her to sign the book as well. So here, for historical purposes, is Athena signing her first autograph:

And there you have it. San Diego and Clarion: Fun for everyone involved.

20 Comments on “Clarion and San Diego”

  1. It sounds like a wonderful project. I hope to see some results from this come across this blog. Did I notice your daughter with a Nook?

  2. With the pen grasped in the correct hand, Athena is clearly headed for greatness.

  3. I got to go to San Diego once for a conference for work. Of all of the places I have been able to visit, San Diego is my favorite place although San Francisco follows a close second. I think the conference I went to was in November and the weather was still nice with highs in the mid 70s.

    Congratulations to Athena for getting to sign her first autograph. It sounded like she had a nice visit there, as well

  4. San Diego is a wonderful place. I was fortunate to spend some time there in 1981 and in 1985 (at the beginning and end of my time in the Navy). My wife and I early in our marriage considered different possibilities for where to live in California and it was at the top. For family-related reasons, we never ended up doing that, but I can see why others make that choice (even with the cost).

  5. As you were departing, I arranged for all the surfers of San Diego to join hands and spell out your name with candles. If you would have just turned your head slightly …

    It was great having dinner with you and Krissy and Athena and your friend. Y’all come back real soon.

  6. I haven’t been to SD since I was in my early teens. I’m glad it’s lost none of its charm in the intervening twenty-plus years.

    So Athena’s a lefty! As my (lefty) mother frequently opines, “If the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body, and the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body, then only left-handed ppl are in their right mind!”

    Sounds like everyone had a wonderful time. I’m glad you all enjoyed yourselves!


  7. The UCSD campus is great, but I liked it better when I went there in the mid-eighties. Back then, almost the entire area around the library was a eucalyptus forest. It looked really cool rising out of the trees like that.

    Still a great campus, though.

  8. Well, there pretty much is always at least one student at Clarion who resembles yourself as a younger writer–so I’m sorry if that was the case (no need to comment on that, obviously). One of the toughest things I observed being involved with Clarion intermittently since I was a student there in 1997 was good instructors being driven away–never to teach again–by disrespect and outright abuse by students. It’s one thing if you don’t want workshop feedback and don’t seek it. But it’s amazing how many people will sign themselves up for an experience like this, and then respond with outrage when they receive actual criticism from instructors, rather than unqualified praise.

    On the other hand, the majority of students are pretty neat people, and I remain close with a number of my 1997 peeps to this day, and though I haven’t been in touch with all of the instructors, they have my eternal respect and gratitude.

    San Diego is my favorite place that I have visited in the U.S. (And I have been to all of its corners and many of its middles.) I can’t describe why, but I find it simply perfect. I would love to live there. We’re going to visit family there later this summer.

  9. It’s always good to see the next generation get started off on the right foo… err, left hand. :) Go, Athena!

  10. I’m with Steve Burnap @11. I liked the campus better when it was less built up. I was there from 80-85, when there were still only 4 colleges, Third College didn’t even have a name, and the Warren dorms were the old BOQ from the military base. Those eucalyptus groves are nice, but they always bring back memories of having to go through them on a moonless night after having seen the original Nosferatu for the very first time. I am not ashamed to say I ran. Fast.

  11. Quite appropriately, this is the picture of Athena where I see the most resemblance to you. Usually, she looks far more like her mother (quite luckily for her, perhaps) but she does seem to have your eyes from this angle. Did her lefty-ness pop out of nowhere or does she follow one of her parents in that respect?

  12. Great picture of Athena with the Niki de Saint Phalle sculpture! If you guys liked those sculptures and want to take a road trip to Italy (because who doesn’t?), head for Saint Phalle’s Tarot Gardens.

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