There's a bit of small talk, not a lot, but a bit, and then Rob says, Kelly and Gavin can't make it to Clarion South, we want you to teach week five. The blood runs from my face. The first thought that comes to mind is I can't possibly, I just can't. The second, why not?
I give a tentative yes.
Rob says, great. But you can't tell anyone just yet. Most of the students are going to the Aurealis
Awards that night. I can't say anything, not until it's announced the following day.
Yeah, well, I better win something now.
The week before I taught at Clarion South was one of utter panic. Doubt, panic, doubt. I wondered what they could possibly learn from me, and what I might be able to bring to Clarion. Ultimately the only answer I could provide was me.
Now, whether that was enough, well, I don't know.
I knew I was going in on a low week: week five traditionally is. And I knew that week six with the amazing Jeff Vandermeer was going to be incredible. All I had to do was get them there. Keep them enthused, and show them that even a rather aimless, slacker like me can stay around, and can keep writing merely by keeping writing. I read their stories and tried my hardest to get at the core of what they were writing, to point out when they were taking the path of least resistance, and to get them to ask why. Why this word, this phrase, this image, this character, this story?
And it was a hell of a lot of fun. A brighter, more enthusiastic or generous* bunch of students I have yet to meet. Every story was (with work, and god, what story doesn't need work?) on a path to somewhere, and every writer prepared to challenge themselves. But more than that, in all of them, I could see a joy in what they were doing. You can write, and you can work, and you can refine. But if there's no joy there, in the work itself, then you've shackled yourself to one of the most unrewarding activities of all. No problems with this group.
And I must have done something right.
Monday morning, week six, a certain Mr Vandermeer walked into the crit room and found himself face to face with seventeen sock puppet wielding Clarionites. Bring it on! That kind of energy, that kind of challenging fun is a joy to teach, and a joy to be around.
Check out the Clarion South webpage. Look down the list of names on the honor roll for 2009, when it's posted, some you'll recognize, others you won't, but all of them you'll see again.
Oh, and I did win an Aurealis Award, funny thing was I pretty much forgot about it until yesterday.
Looks good next to the first one (just saying).
*Don't let me get started on the food. I felt completely spoilt: Angela Slatter's chocolate fondue was utterly divine.