Clarion West Alumni News for May 2015

Spring has arrived in full force in Seattle, and at Clarion West we’re getting ready for the Six-Week Workshop, the Summer Reading Series, and the Write-a-thon. We have a busy and wonderful season ahead! If you’re local to Seattle, please join us for the Summer Reading Series on Tuesday evenings during the Workshop. The last reading, by our Petrey fellow Cory Doctorow, is a special event that we hope everyone makes time to attend.

The Clarion West Write-a-thon signups are open! This is our yearly fundraiser, and you’re invited to join us. You don’t need to be an alumnus of the workshop to participate. Whatever your writing goals are this summer, the Write-a-thon can help you get there—and you can help keep Clarion West strong now and into the future.

We still have spaces left in our last One-Day Workshop of the spring: Paul Park’s workshop on Point of View. Paul Park is a wonderful instructor, and we’re so pleased to have him teach for us. Join us on May 24 for what’s sure to be an inspiring workshop.


Ann Leckie (CW ’05) has been nominated for a Hugo Award for her novel Ancillary Sword. Congratulations, Ann!

Publication News

Alison Wilgus (CW ’14) has had two pieces published recently. Her story “Noise Pollution” appeared on Strange Horizons both as text and as a podcast read by Anaea Lay. She has also had a story called “The Last Wild Place” reprinted in Fantastic Stories of the Imagination—a story that she credits with putting her on the road to Clarion West.

Usman Tanveer Malik (CW ’13) has had two stories appear recently: “The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn” at, and “Ishq” reprinted in Nightmare Magazine. Both have had several favorable reviews appear since their publication.

Flavorwire published a wonderful review of Robert Guffey’s (CW ’96) new book Chameleo. Visit the site for the review and an excerpt from the book.

Indrapramit Das’s (CW ’12) story “Weep for Day,” first published in Asimov’s and anthologized in several year’s best collections, is now available in its entirety online, in this month’s issue of Clarkesworld Magazine.

Kelly Sandoval (CW ’13) had a story appear in April in Escape Pod: “In Another Life.”

Alumni Updates

From Karen Allendoerfer (CW ’87):
For the past two years I have been working in the field of science education for middle-school-age students. I teach molecular biology and neuroscience to gifted and talented students and homeschoolers at an educational start-up, and I also work with an organization that brings scientists into public schools to provide hands-on science curriculum and enrichment. This work has gotten me very interested in the role of science fiction in engaging young people in science. I’ve been editing and revising a novel called Hallie’s Cache that I first wrote during 2012’s NaNoWriMo that takes place in the year 2074 with a young adult protagonist.

I have also discovered the activity of geocaching, with my husband who recently found his 10,000th geocache. Geocaching is a “high-tech treasure hunt” like letterboxing but using a GPS. I go along with my husband for the ride, and am finding that it is fun to write and blog about it, even if I’m not as hard-core as he is about finding every cache in a given area, and have found only about 1/10th as many caches as he has. On the occasion of my 1000th cache find, I started a regular blog ( and recently had a short story about geocaching accepted to an anthology called “Geocaching GPS,” coming out in May 2015 at Geowoodstock (an international geocaching get-together). This is my first publication that isn’t a scientific paper!

Alumni Interview

Interview with Henry Lien, Class of 2012

AN: What are you working on now?
HL: I am done with short fiction for the next five years or so. I sold all the short stories that I wrote at Clarion West in 2012 and I will be concentrating exclusively on novels for the foreseeable future. I am finishing up revisions under the supervision of an agent on my novel The Taming of the Pearl. It is a YA Asian fantasy about a sport I imagined called Wu Liu, which is essentially kung-fu on figure skates. It’s the first of a trilogy. I wrote two precursor novelettes in this world at Clarion West, “Pearl Rehabilitative Colony for Ungrateful Daughters” (written for Chuck Palahniuk, published in Asimov’s in December 2013, and nominated for a Nebula) and “The Great Leap of Shin” (written for George R.R. Martin, published in Analog in January 2015). The first few chapters of the novel constituted my Clarion West application writing sample. A couple of my Clarion West classmates described it as “Harry Potter Meets Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” and that is pretty apt.

AN: Tell us something we don’t know. (Could be personal or could be something about SF, technology, science, or anything else)
HL: I devised a logical, working system to continue communicating with my former partner after he died of cancer; I wrote about it as my Clarion West personal essay; I turned the essay into a story at Clarion West; and Sofia Samatar bought it for Interfictions.

AN: What’s your favorite part of writing? Least favorite?
HL: I squirm a bit to say this, but my favorite part of writing is reading my own stories once they’re written. I try to write only stories that I have been wanting to read my whole life but have never been able to find. So for me, on a scale of 1 – 10, getting a story published is like a 3 – 4. Getting a story nominated for a major award is like a 4 – 5. Having a reader really respond to my work is like a 5 – 6, and it’s got a bit more lasting nutritional content. But writing a story that I have been trying to find my whole life, that’s a 9 – 10. It’s liberating because I know that even if I release a story into the world and the world says, “Eeew,” I still get to read something I’ve been dying to read.

AN: What’s your creative process like?
HL: I seal myself in a cocoon spun from my own saliva and the Songs of Dolphins and emerge with my naked body covered in a complex birthmark that forms the words of the story. Also, I use a combination of the “architect” and “gardener” approaches to writing that George R.R. Martin talked about. “Architect” type writers plan everything out. “Gardener” type writers let things grow organically. I take a hybrid approach. I do a lot of research and outlining, which constitute the architecture portion of the process. Then I put away all the notes and begin to write while referring to the notes as little as possible. I make up certain aspects of the worldbuilding as I write, relying mostly on sound to produce an image to sketch in the worldbuilding. And I let loose with voice in this stage, which is one of my favorite parts of writing. So that’s the gardening portion of my process.

AN: What one piece of advice would you give to the members of the incoming Clarion West class?
HL: I’ve got three pieces of advice.

  1. If you think you’re going to do a piece at Clarion West that involves research (and I personally would urge you to consider doing at least one piece that requires research), do as much of your research ahead of time as possible. You won’t have time to write, critique, bond, drink, sleep, and research while at Clarion West. Only one of these things can be pre-accomplished.
  2. I would challenge students to try as hard as they can to choose concepts for stories that only they could have written. Be mercilessly selective in deciding what story you choose to write. Ask yourself hard questions like, “Does the world really need another story about [insert popular magical creature or scientific theory or genre trope]? What am I adding to make this worth my time and my reader’s time?” And be constantly brainstorming in the months ramping up to Clarion West so that you will have options if you find that examining your story idea in this light makes it collapse into a pile of ashes.
  3. You should expect there to be a significant risk of Clarion West changing you profoundly. Re-entering civilian life afterwards, especially if you have a partner or spouse, can be difficult after such a life-changing experience. Thus, it’s best to break up with them beforehand. Just kidding. Sorta.

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