Old Friends from Clarion

by Mel Gilden

For a long time I fought participating in FaceBook and other online societies.  When I sit at my computer I am generally working.  Playing games and telling my friends what I had for breakfast seemed like a waste of time.

But when I put a couple of my novels up on the Kindle Store of Amazon.com my attitude changed.  Now, in addition to writing a book, I had to promote it.  And one way to do that was to tell all my "friends" on Facebook and LinkedIn and anywhere else I could think of.  Doing this I've actually sold a few ecopies of the books I offer.

One of the side benefits of signing up for Facebook that I hadn't expected, was finding old friends — genuine friends I hadn't seen or talked to for many years.  One of the friends I rediscovered was a young lady with whom I'd attended a writers workshop many years ago.  It was one of the Clarion science fiction writers workshops, I believe the only one to be held in New Orleans.

Still up and running.

That particular workshop had the usual assortment of men and women who wanted to be writers.  Most of them were willing to work very hard at it — they would not have come if they hadn't — but a few were just odd.  Some had drinking problems.  At least one of them paid his bills by selling marijuana.  Another had all the money he needed, but consistently submitted stories whose plots were stolen from famous published stories that just about anybody who read sf would recognize.  His new takes on old stories were never an improvement.  One of the guys was a big sloppy boor of a man who wrote the most beautiful prose.  Some of the girls were pretty cute, but that didn't prevent a few of them from also being very good writers.

I had been to a workshop like this one the previous year — with different teachers, a different location, and mostly different students — so I thought I knew what to expect.  One of the things I expected was that stories would be photocopied, and each student would get a copy that he could read and mark up so it could be discussed the next morning during class.  I quickly learned that for exotic reasons I never quite understood, a photocopying service was not available.  So instead of finding a quiet corner and reading, we were forced to walk along and read the stories cafeteria style — each page having been taped to the wall.  I think it was because of this that the criticism was not as penetrating and insightful as it had been the year before.

Other stories and events may strike me later; I was there for six weeks, after all.  Or something on Facebook may just set me off.