This year I'm going to paint the walls and peel the old tile off the floor in the basement and (crossing all appendages) get the new swamp cooler installed. I did volunteer to help out with a few odd jobs, however. It was totally unenlightened self interest; I want to build up brownie points for next year.
Writers' conferences are great fun. I've been to two, Writers-at-Work and, a few years ago, before I married the Engineer, Clarion.
Writers-at-Work is a nice friendly little one week conference. Criticism is gentle. Students workshop in the morning and go to readings in the afternoons. There are real live editors and agents who attend and will read manuscripts and critique them. It's a feel-good sort of a conference. I would love to attend again.
Clarion however... Clarion is like nothing else. It is the premier non-professional science fiction writing conference in the world. To get in you not only have to pony up the money, you have to submit two manuscripts. You are competing with hundreds of would be writers from around the world for about two dozen places.
I remember waiting for the letter after I sent in my application and manuscripts. Finally the envelope arrived. It was very thin. I held it in my hand for a long time before I was able to open it. It was so thin I knew it must surely contain a rejection.
I think the happiest 5 seconds of my life were the seconds it took me to read, "You have been accepted." I shrieked with joy and victory danced until I was panting in exhaustion.
Clarion is six weeks of pure, unadulterated, exhilarating hell. Everyone is housed together in a university dormitory and for those six weeks you live, eat and breath and write together. Each morning the stories that were written the afternoon or night before are critiqued. And it's not gentle, find the positive, critiquing. It's a no holds barred, go for the jugular, ripping open of stories and guts. Of Clarions survivors, about a third go on to become published writers.
I became so immersed in dissecting and analyzing writing that it was over a year before I could read for pleasure again.
With Clarion, it isn't so much a question of would I like to go again, it's more a question of would I be brave enough to go again.
Part of me says yes. Part of me says no. Mostly I would like to finally publish something and go back as an instructor. That would feel like success.