The Clarion Blog-A-Thon: The Final Stretch

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 8.442% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

This summer has been what we call “Sweeps Week” at La Casa McJuddMetz, since everything that’s happening feels like a bad plot twist from a soap opera. Daughters moving in!  Cancer scares!  Heartache among friends and family!  Oh, the drama is flowing fast and fierce, and so my commitment to the Clarion Blog-A-Thon wavered.
In addition, I am writing the hardest thing I have ever written.  This novel is, I kid you not, shredding my writerly self-esteem.  Why?  Because instead of just charging in and writing the thing chapter by chapter, which would at least give me the satisfaction of seeing my fine prose and going, “Well, I got somewhere,” this time I’m trying to plot the whole thing in advance.  And I am not a plotter.  All my stories flow from instinct, me starting at a weird opening line and struggling my way, sentence by sentence, to the end. I know some people can write random scenes and then stitch them all together at the end like some sort of literary Frankstein(‘s monster), but for me I need to know why and how we got here.
Planning this novel scene by scene makes me feel as clumsy as a foal taking its first steps.  I don’t even have the satisfaction of having written stuff at the end of it.  I just have this morass of ideas, written up clumsily on the Clarion Echo, and every day I’m going, “God, I’m shit.  I’m total shit, aren’t I?  I’m horrid.”
Such is the joy of the writer’s life.
So in the middle of all of this chaos, my eye slipped off my end goal for the Clarion Blog-A-Thon.  But Clarion?  Is why I am not total shit.  The Clarion Writers’ Workshop is why I’ve had stories published in two dozen different magazines; they levelled me up, taught me how to critique and redraft my own stuff, and I owe them.
As such, I’d like to raise an additional $250 for Clarion before the week is out.  For that, I’ll ask your help.
Every day, between now and Friday, I will be posting about the additional prizes I’ve got for the Blog-a-Thon, some very cool.  I’ve gotten the prizes to encourage you to donate, but at this point the Blog-A-Thon is officially over and I am struggling on my own to complete it for my alma mater.  So I will ask your help; please donate, whatever you can, to help me in a quest that’s been particularly difficult this summer.
To start this Week Of Prizes, I’ll start off with a secret that I don’t think I’ve revealed before. For Neil Gaiman was one of my teachers at Clarion, and he’s the one who gets the most press – mainly because he’s the one who actively told me, “Go ahead and blog about me.  I’m all out there, anyway.”  Other teachers were more reluctant to be shared on the Interwebz, and so I haven’t blogged about them as much, simply to respect their wishes.
This gives the impression that Neil taught me the most, though.  Which is a lie.  I learned a metric ton from each teacher.
Nalo Hopkinson's "The Chaos"But if I had to choose the one who I point to as being responsible for my whole career, it’d be Nalo Hopkinson.
Nalo caught me at the moment when I was most down, literally eight hours after I’d been looking at plane flights out of Clarion – I was on the verge of quitting.  And kindly, calmly, she inspired me to get back on the horse after the terrible story I’d written – all without making any promises of success.  (You never make promises of success to a writer.  Fate is cruel, and you will be crueller.)  And then she gave me some of the bones of advice that have shaped the foundations of my writing, discussions of how to write characters and writing from the body and character voice.
She inspired me.  And so I’m glad to have one of her books in the prize pool today.
The Chaos is a YA novel about a world gone literally berserk – and as is Nalo’s hallmark, the protagonist is a feisty, fascinating girl with strong opinions on life, wandering through the craziness of a Toronto beset by magical weirdness.  As usual, the voice is worth reading alone, because there’s something about the way that Nalo writes that feels like you’re being lectured to by some incredibly fascinating character as they have wild adventures- which, in fact, you are.  I kept reading it, thinking, “This can’t get stranger,” and no, it kept getting even odder.  It is a fun and vibrant read, and you can win an autographed copy for a mere $5 donation.
The current prizes are:

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