Summer 2020 Review

by the Clarion West Workshop Team

2020 challenged all of us in ways we never expected. At Clarion West, this meant trying different approaches and making new connections. In April, One-Day Workshop administrator Tegan Moore (CW ’15) pivoted on a dime to pull together 43 free online classes. We followed this in May with another set of 13 classes, offered on a sliding price scale.

Meanwhile, the Clarion West Six-Week Summer Workshop team, Rashida J. Smith (CW ’05) and Jae Steinbacher (CW ’14), planned a memorable summer for the 18 members of the now-postponed Class of 2020/2021. With executive Director Marnee Chua, they cooked up an expanded version of the annual Clarion West Write-a-thon fundraiser that included flash fiction critique groups, 33 free classes, weekly prompts and craft talks, and a Slack forum with 527 active participants.

Between April and August, we reached 449 unique writers with our free and sliding scale online classes. We also held nine classes and workshops for teens. This made summer 2020 a hectic time, but an exciting one for our community. Here’s what some of the folks who joined us for the ride had to say:

“When the pandemic began, writing felt like trying to unmoor a ship. I’m so grateful for the weekly flash fiction goals and co-working sessions of the Write-a-thon, as well as the weekly craft talks with true luminaries. Sprint by sprint and week by week, spending the summer with CW put me back into a regular habit of writing and inspired me to release more of my weird and my fun back into my words.”

—Serena W. Lin (CW ’20/21)

“Over this summer I’ve had some of the most illuminating conversations with some of the best people, and learned a ton! I felt unbelievably lucky to share (virtual) space with thoughtful, approachable instructors and a creative, inspiring cohort, with organizers who went above and beyond to make this experience as close to the real thing as possible. In these extraordinary times, these classes, sprints, the Write-a-thon critique groups, and other events served as welcome balms that reminded me about the power of speculative fiction — and just also [were] a whole lot of fun. As an international student, I’m also very grateful for the accommodations in the time slot, and for the opportunities to attend events like the Nebula Awards that I could never have attended otherwise. It’s been a fantastic induction into the community — I cannot wait for more.”

—Varsha Dinesh (CW ’20/21)

“Thank you so much for all of these wonderful opportunities! The Write-a-thon was so much fun this year, thanks to the critique groups and especially those sprints with Jae and Rashida!”

“I really appreciate that you have been offering these learning opportunities during the pandemic — it’s really helpful and makes me feel very supported. Thank you!”

“I’d love to attend the summer workshop one day, but as the mother of a young child, it’s hard for me to be away for that long. So online workshops, including multiweek workshops, are a great option for me.”


This article appears in the Fall 2020 edition of The Seventh Week, Clarion West’s semiannual newsletter. You can read the entire newsletter at www.clarionwest.org/seventhweek.

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