Supporting an International Community of Writers

The following message was sent to us from Tania Chen as part of our 2021 #successstories series:

My name is Tania Chen, and I am a Chinese Mexican queer writer living in Mexico City. I guess I consider myself primarily a speculative horror writer. I love horror, whether it’s in film format, or book, or art, I think horror just speaks to me in ways that other genres do not. 

I was excited to take an online class by Liz Hand, The Haunting of YOUR House, in October 2020. That was my first class with Clarion West. After that, I applied to Laurie Penny’s Novella Writing Bootcamp at Clarion West, and it changed my life. 

I think things happen for a reason, and at that point in my life, I came across a Twitter post, and I decided to take my chances and apply [for Laurie’s workshop], and I unexpectedly got that yes! I went in with zero expectations, I had never done a writing workshop before and I was just blown away by the organization and the commitment, the quality, and just how dedicated everyone was to writing. 

From there, things just began snowballing, and a couple of months later I had my first story accepted in an anthology by Neon Hemlock, Unfettered Hexes: Queer Tales of Insatiable Darkness, edited by dave ring (you should all really check that one out because it’s also an amazing work of love by dave, and it’s just an incredible project as well). 

A year ago, honestly, I could not have expected any of this to happen. 

I always loved writing, I always wanted to publish, but I didn’t have the support or the knowledge to become involved in the community in the way that I have now, and again that is thanks to the support of Clarion West. They not only offered me a chance through the workshop, but they also helped me connect to the online speculative community. 

And for international writers like myself, geographical location is the biggest barrier because attending any class that is on site is just financially impossible for most of us. The fact that Clarion West has done their classes online, I think that it’s a lot of work and it shows a lot of dedication on their part to actually want to enrich the community and to support BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) writers abroad. 

A lot of us live in countries that are not as liberal as the US, so there’s a lot of other struggles that we go through, and a lot of other obstacles that we face in our home countries. And by having this door open to the speculative community online and in the United States, and to be in touch with publishers there, and other writers that live there, it’s enriching. I love meeting other writers. I love seeing what they are working on. I think it’s important that we all have a voice and that we all have a chance to express this voice. 

Especially during these times of the pandemic, I think that art, whether it’s written or drawn, whether you’re a singer or an actor, is what’s nourishing us. It nourishes a part of ourselves that is easy to forget when you’re caught in the everyday struggles of work and … you know, Capitalism as they say. 

Personally, I write because I want to inspire other people. I want to express what’s inside of me, but I also want that whatever I share inspires others to share their own stories or that it sparks something in them. Because a lot of times reading what other writers are doing makes me happy. I also want to have that effect on other people. I want them to feel things, to feel encouraged, and to feel like they should also write and share, if that’s what they’d like to do. This is also one of the reasons why I am a slush reader for Nightmare and for Strange Horizons.

The second reason why I like to write is that I want to help others. I think of my situation and I think of where I was a year ago and I think of all the incredible support that I got from Clarion West and from everybody that I met through it and I want to be able to do the same for other people, especially for other BIPOCs. I want them to know that your voice matters and you should share it. I want to be knowledgeable enough that people can come to me and ask me questions, because that’s how you pull each other up.  That’s so important, we are all writers and we are not in competition with each other. We are here to share our stories, and the most important thing is to make a strong community that supports each other. 

I just want to say thank you to everybody at Clarion West, thank you to all my friends online, you are all amazing. I love you so much. I look forward to this coming year and all the best! Happy New Year!

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