This FAQ has been recently updated.
Please review carefully for new information as some content has been changed.
What is the Clarion West Six-Week Summer Workshop?
Every summer, Clarion West holds an intensive six-week workshop, either residentially in Seattle or online, geared to help you prepare for a professional career as a writer of speculative fiction. Class sizes are limited to 15 in virtual workshops and 18 students in residential workshops. Each week features a different instructor (or team of instructors), a highly regarded author or editor offering their unique perspective on the field. Short fiction is the workshop’s focus, with an emphasis on speculative fiction. Students will spend their first week getting to know each other and learning how to approach short fiction workshopping. Weeks 2 through 6 will include writing a story a week for workshop and preparing to respond to classmates’ work.
Come prepared to build your own culture of workshopping while writing new stories; to experiment, take artistic risks, and be challenged; and to offer supportive and constructive criticism to your classmates. Our updated critiquing styles, which veer away from the traditional Milford model, center around the author’s vision for their work. You’ll learn how to ask questions that invite a dialogue about a work and generate discussion, and you’ll be asked to think deeply about the choices in your work by your classmates and instructors. Instructors may also offer lectures on topics of interest to the class and individual or small-group conferences to discuss writing techniques or professional concerns. And you’ll be welcomed by Seattle’s vibrant speculative fiction community, whether or not you’re here in person! There will be many social activities offering you time to meet folks near and far. You’ll come away with essential tools for improving your writing as well as a set of friendships and professional contacts that can last a lifetime.
What is speculative fiction?
Speculative fiction, often described as science fiction, fantasy, and horror, invites readers to imagine possibilities that challenge and expand their understanding of the world. There are as many definitions of speculative fiction as there are authors working under its broad umbrella.
Am I ready for Clarion West?
We encourage you to apply when you feel ready to bring your work before a table of peers and to try new things under the guidance of an instructor who is a pro in the SFFH field. Maybe you know there’s something you want to improve in your work, but you don’t quite know what it is. Or maybe you do know what you’d like to strengthen, and you need support and feedback. Maybe you just want to explore all the genres you can write. You will need to be open to change and to learning, and willing to experiment and possibly fail in your writing.
Most of our applicants are writing and submitting work to publications, though many do not have a first publication, and some are still mustering the courage to send their work out. Some of our applicants have received emerging writers grants or awards; some have not. If your work is already being recognized with professional awards, or if you’re already publishing in dozens of magazines, Clarion West may not be the right fit for you. Likewise, if you already have a book deal or published books, your career may be far enough advanced that Clarion West may not be the right level of workshop for you. We make exceptions for international writers or isolated writers seeking a wider community of peers. If you’re not sure, reach out to our staff and tell us what you’re looking for!
Clarion West’s mission is to support emerging and underrepresented voices by providing writers with world-class instruction to empower their creation of wild and amazing worlds. If that’s you, please apply!
Students are speculative fiction writers, both published and unpublished, who want to speed up their development as writers by learning their strengths and how to achieve their intentions for their work, leveling up in areas they wish to improve, and developing professional connections within the field. Students should also be excited about a collaborative workshop culture and contributing to the dynamics of the group.
Clarion West’s students have ranged in age from 21 to 70. Starting with the 2024 workshop, we welcome students aged 18 and above. We have no minimum education requirements for admission: our students have included those with no post-high school education to those with PhDs.
Approximately a third of Clarion West’s students each year identify as PGM (People of the Global Majority) or BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color), and many identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ communities.
Students must be able to speak and write in English, however we welcome students from outside the United States, and students have attended from all over the world.
We aim to accommodate all writers who feel that they are a good fit for the rigors of the workshop. There are classroom breaks and writing time built into the workshop, however you should read through testimonials from past participants. The section about time, energy, workload, and self-care in Deciding Whether to Attend Clarion West, for Disabled Writers by Noe Bartmess (CW ’16) may be especially helpful.
Clarion West has made a commitment to holding the workshop in ADA accessible spaces, accommodating deaf and blind writers, and welcoming service animals required for disability assistance. Read more about our accommodations at this link.
Clarion West students are parents, grandparents, working class people, people with GEDs, veterans, immigrants, expats. There is no mold for who attends our workshop. However, this workshop is not necessarily a good fit for everyone. If you have specific questions after reading through the description of the workshop environment, please check with our staff!
If you need financial assistance to attend, please let us know by completing the scholarship application portion of the online application. If you are selected as a student, we will do our best to make it possible for you to attend. If you have further questions or concerns about scholarships, see the scholarship information below.
The application process
How do I apply?
You will create an account at our application page to begin your online application.
If you cannot use the online application form, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you an application form and instructions on applying by mail. We recommend you apply as early as possible to provide our team with more time to review and confirm applicants.
The application takes approximately 45–60 minutes to complete and does not need to be completed all in one session — you can save your application and come back to it at a later time.
When is the application deadline?
Applications for 2024 will be open December 1, 2023, through March 1, 2024. We will accept applications through 11:59pm PT March 1, although we encourage applicants not to wait until the last minute. If your application is not complete by that time, it will not be accepted.
May I have an extension and send my application in late?
Do you accept students from other countries?
Yes, as long as they are proficient in speaking and writing in English. We’ve had students from Canada, the U.K., Ecuador, Switzerland, France, the Philippines, Australia, Nigeria, China, the Netherlands, Vietnam, New Zealand, Mexico, Brazil, and elsewhere. Students from other countries are eligible to apply for our scholarship assistance.
Do you set age limits for students you accept?
In previous years, we’ve had students as young as 21 and as old as 70. We’re excited to announce a change to our age policy: Beginning with the 2024 workshop, we will accept students who will be 18+ by the starting date of the workshop.
Options for writers younger than this are the Alpha Writers Workshop and Shared Worlds, designed specifically for young people interested in writing speculative fiction. (Note: Neither workshop is affiliated with Clarion West, but we’ve heard good things about them.)
Do you require any previous education?
No. We’ve had several students with no college education and several with PhDs.
What if I applied last year and didn’t get in?
While everyone hopes to get accepted on their first try, many of our successful applicants apply multiple times before being invited. Your prior application history does not help or hinder your chances, so we urge you to apply when you feel ready to attend, regardless of whether you’ve applied before. We do encourage applying with a new draft or entirely different sample, as our reading assignments are randomized and your work may be considered by one or more of the same readers as a previous application cycle.
What materials do I need to apply?
An anonymized sample of your work. In a single document, you may submit up to two short stories of up to 10,000 words total, or a longer story of up to 10,000 words, or a novel excerpt of up to 10,000 words with a synopsis of up to three pages. Please follow proper manuscript format. Your manuscript should be formatted in 12-point Courier font and double-spaced, with one-inch margins. It should not exceed the word limit, even if it includes a synopsis. Set your margins flush left and do not justify the text. We prefer PDF documents, but also accept .doc, .docx, and .rtf files. Please be sure to anonymize your sample.
You’ll be asked to provide short answers to the following questions:
- Why do you want to attend Clarion West now? What are your goals for the workshop?
- Tell us where you feel you are in your career/writing practice, and your experience critiquing or being critiqued by others (if you have any).
- What genres do you write? Are there any you’d like to explore writing in at the workshop?
- What skills or attributes as a reader, critical thinker, or classmate, or life experiences/perspectives, will you offer your workshop peers?
- Why do you write, and what does “success” as a writer look like to you?
- Is there anything in particular that you’d like your instructors and/or peers to know about you?
Your contact information valid through June 2024: your phone number, email address, and mailing address. (For international folks, there will be options to provide phone numbers we can contact via apps like WhatsApp or Signal.)
If you plan on applying for a scholarship, you’ll need some personal and financial information on hand to fill out the online form. We need information about your income, your recurring household expenses, your anticipated workshop expenses, and a few other things. We recommend downloading our paper scholarship form and using it as a worksheet.
Your writing sample
What about my writing sample? What kind of work should I submit? Must it be speculative? Must it be short fiction?
You should submit your best fiction writing. Period. It’s to your advantage to submit short fiction so our readers can see that you can end a story as well as begin one, but our readers don’t care what genre you’re writing in. Novel portions are fine as long as you include a synopsis (and yes, the synopsis does count toward the 10,000-word limit).
Can I send more than two stories? A short story and a novel excerpt + synopsis? How about a few flash pieces?
Please send no more than two stories that you consider to be your best work. If you submit two short stories, the totaled word count of both should be 10,000 words or fewer. A single longer story or a novel synopsis should be no longer than 10,000 words. If you have a great flash piece or two to include as your short story submissions, please send them! Don’t feel that you need to fill up the word count.
If I send part of a novel, what part should I send?
It’s best to send the first chapter. It’s harder to make an accurate assessment of a random middle chapter, and nearly impossible to make one from the end. In general, it’s easiest for our readers to assess a piece with a complete arc (beginning, middle, and end) to get a sense of your skill for handling all the parts of a story, but if you think a novel chapter is your best work, please use it. And don’t forget a synopsis!
What do you mean by a synopsis?
A description of what happens in the novel, from the start through to the end, whether or not you’ve actually written the whole novel yet. This shows us the shape of the whole story. The synopsis should be less than 2,000 words — and just a reminder that these words do count toward the 10,000-word total for the writing sample.
Can I send a previously published story? A story accepted but not published?
We are shifting to only allow unpublished stories. This helps keep our submissions anonymous, and it means we’re seeing work that hasn’t been edited by a professional editor. Please only submit work that has not been edited by or published in a magazine. If your work has been accepted but not yet edited or published, that is acceptable.
How about a screenplay?
No poetry, screenplays, plays, or comic scripts. Please only send short stories or novel segments. This workshop is focused on storytelling through prose. Instructors may discuss other formats and genres during the workshop, but that’s not what we’re looking for at the time of application.
How about a children’s novel or picture book script?
Please do not send picture book scripts or stories for children, as that is not our readers’ area of expertise. Adult or young adult is the best age range for a work sample for us.
How about fan fiction?
We’d rather see what kind of world and characters you can create.
Is it okay if my writing sample is longer than the word limits or doesn’t follow standard manuscript format for typeface and margins, et al.?
No. Our readers will not consider samples longer than 10,000 words. Their time is a limited resource, so we must impose a strict limit. Your application is better served by showing us how creatively you write rather than how creatively you interpret the application guidelines. If you have questions about standard manuscript format, see William Shunn’s reference document and Vonda McIntyre’s manuscript preparation guide.
What are Clarion West’s policies on plagiarism and writing with AI?
We want your own, original work. Spell-check, grammar-check, and AI-generated prompts that you then wrote your own story from are fine, but we are not interested in any story where AI apps or generators wrote or drafted any portion of its text.
Clarion West has a zero tolerance policy for plagiarized submissions. If a portion or the entirety of a submitted work is found to have been plagiarized, the application will be rejected outright with no refund of fees.
You can find more information about these guidelines in our Integrity and Ethics policy.
What should I name my submission file?
We are anonymizing writing samples, so please use the title of one of your stories and the year. Example: GalaxyQuest2024. Please do not use your name.
How many files should I prepare?
One: one for your writing sample(s). If you are sending two stories or an excerpt and a synopsis, they should both be included in the same document.
What if I send the wrong file?
Let us know ASAP. We may have already forwarded your work to our readers, but it still may be possible to catch it before they read it. Unfortunately, if they’ve read it, it’s too late. None of our readers have time to read revisions.
Do letters of recommendation help me get in?
What if there is information that would be helpful for you to know that isn’t covered on the scholarship application?
Feel free to add an explanatory note. However, please don’t send us copies of official papers — just explain your situation.
What are the fees? How do I pay?
For 2024, we are making changes to our application fee structure to make it more accessible. Instead of offering an early application discount at $35 and reverting the fee to $60 near the end of the application cycle, we will be offering sliding scale rates that follow our financial aid policy and allow applicants to choose the rate that best meets their needs for the duration of the application cycle:
- $15 Helping Hands discount
- $35 Supporting rate
- $60 Sustaining rate
Supporting rates don’t fully cover the costs of application processing, but they do go a long way toward supporting the process. Sustaining rates support the full cost of application processing for every individual.
If the $15 Helping Hands discount remains a financial burden, applicants will also have the option to reach out to Clarion West staff for a fee waiver.
Can you accept the application fee in the currency of my home country?
Due to the expense of processing fees for international currency, we can only take U.S. currency.
Can I pay the full tuition early to reserve my place? Can I be on your waitlist?
We will let you know if you are accepted for the class or the waitlist. Please do not attempt to pay the tuition before you have been accepted to the class.
Can a friend pay for me? Can I pay under a name that’s different from the name on my application?
When you apply, you’ll be able to note whether you are paying the fee or someone else is. At the end of the application, you can assign the fee to another person. You will need their email address to do so.
Once the payment has been submitted, you will see that it is ready. Then you can submit your completed application.
Who should I contact if I need help with the application process?
If you have any questions about the application process or if you encounter trouble submitting your application, you can contact us at email@example.com.
When will I hear back?
We aim to respond to all applications by early April. Please consider this as you make summer plans; we typically do not decide on our full class before reading the majority of applications, so we may not be able to rush a decision for you.
If you are coming from a country where you must obtain a visa to enter the United States, we recommend beginning that process as soon as you apply. In the past, accepted students have found it difficult or impossible to obtain a visa between notification of their acceptance and the start of the workshop.
What’s Clarion West like?
During Clarion West, 18 students live together in one building for six weeks in June and July, or 15 students spend six weeks meeting virtually and critique each other’s weekly submissions. Generally, the first week is a time for introducing the class to one another and exploring some elements of story through flash or other exercises. Usually in weeks two through six, each student writes one piece per week, typically short story length. There are other events as well, like online socials or parties in the broader Seattle speculative fiction community, and weekly readings given by instructors.
Each week is taught by a different instructor who is a prominent editor or writer in the field. Classes run weekdays 9am–12 pm; during afternoons and evenings, students read and critique pieces for the following day, write their own piece for that week, and (optionally) socialize or attend other events.
Classes and Critiquing
Students critique 3–4 submissions each day, 5 days a week Monday–Friday. At the start of the workshop, each student signs up for a regular day each week to submit their story. It will be distributed on paper and/or electronically at the end of the following day’s class. The rest of the class prepares brief (90–120-second) verbal critiques by 9 am the day after that. (For example, submissions turned in Monday evening by 9 pm are distributed Tuesday at the end of class and critiqued on Wednesday). Sunday nights involve a short house meeting and a brief introduction to that week’s instructor.
Clarion West is pleased to offer a handful of new workshop methods for students to use. See our workshop method information to learn more about the development of these methods and the history of Clarion West’s workshopping practices. We also include information on our core values.
On weekday mornings from 9 am–12 pm Pacific time, students sit around a large table or meet on Zoom to participate in workshopping. Depending on the method, each class member should prepare a 1–2-minute verbal critique for each submission. It’s okay to read from notes. The workshop staff or facilitator will help run the class so that everyone who wishes to speak has an opportunity to do so. Instructors may also take charge of running the workshop format and will deliver comments and feedback to authors as well. In all of our new workshopping methods, authors are welcome to speak throughout the critique; they may even be leading it themselves! Classmates may opt to additionally hand over written comments or email their comments to the author after class.
Critiques take about 45 minutes per piece. In virtual workshops, we take 10-minute screen breaks every hour. During virtual classes, students are expected to mute their mics when not actively speaking to avoid disruption. We prefer that students keep their cameras on while actively discussing a story, but students may turn cameras off when needed at their discretion. In person, there are usually a couple 5–10 minute breaks throughout the class, though you can leave to use the restroom or get up and stretch whenever needed. The instructor sometimes gives a short lecture or assigns readings to the class. The first week may have a different format, depending on the instructor (such as multiple short assignments, or readings).
Snacks, water, coffee, tea, soda, etc. are allowed in the classroom. We ask students to keep phones on silent and to use laptops only if needed while giving or receiving a critique. Instructors have leeway to make changes to classroom policy, unless a student has requested an accommodation.
Writing and submitting
Generally, each student submits one piece per week, written at the workshop. Pieces are typically 2,000–4,500 words long. Submissions are capped at 8,000 words, unless the facilitator and that week’s instructor allow a longer story. There are no lower word count limits. On the day a piece is critiqued, the author will have a 30-minute afternoon meeting with the instructor. Most instructors meet with students individually, but some prefer small-group conferences. Submitting a piece every week is encouraged if you have the ability to do so, although some weeks students need to take extra time for R&R. In the case that you do not have a new story to submit for workshop, you will still be able to meet one on one with the instructor, and you may ask them to look at an older story.
Diversity and Inclusion: The Workshop Culture and Critique Methods
In 2020, Clarion West began to examine the way we run our six-week workshop in terms of inclusivity and representation. We saw discussion in the broader writing community around traditional workshops, and how these can often stifle marginalized voices or force underrepresented writers into a box.
In Fall 2020, we surveyed alumni of the six-week workshop on their experiences with regards to safety, inclusion, and access. We heard from a number of alumni, especially PGM or BIPOC writers, that they didn’t always feel supported in the classroom. Based on these responses and other findings from teachers like Matthew Salesses and Felicia Rose Chavez, we convened a working committee of alumni and six-week instructors to design and test new models in experiential sessions.
We ran a first series of designing alternative workshop models and testing them in Spring 2021, and a second series in Spring 2022. This process is ongoing, but we developed a series of workshop models we’ll continue to use and update. You can read their descriptions here, or read more about our process here. An overview of our workshop models and workshop core values can be found here.
Clarion West is dedicated to training our staff, instructors, and students to utilize a variety of methods that best meet the needs of each class. Some of the more significant changes to our process include:
- Providing a trained facilitator in every class session who is present to advocate for all participants and help each new instructor get to know their class and their critique goals better;
- Offering time for the class to develop a set of community agreements and updating these each week;
- Providing a variety of critique options for the group to decide what will work best for their unique needs. Every group is different, and we want to recognize this by providing the time and space for each group to develop their own rules;
- Allowing greater agency for authors to determine their critique goals and to set their own limits;
- Encouraging the use of an author statement or introduction to each story, allowing the author’s needs to frame the response; and
- Providing time during a critique for authors to respond to comments or pose additional questions of their own. Sometimes this will be in a format different than what some participants may be used to.
We will continue to review our workshop models and student experiences each year to inform our style and format as we move ahead.
Other optional activities
Weekly public readings or conversations by that week’s instructor. When the workshop is held in Seattle, public events are in Greater Seattle-area venues, typically within a 20–30-minute drive. Students can sign up to be driven to most locations by workshop staff or trained volunteers. Virtual readings typically take place over Zoom or are livestreamed to YouTube.
Each week students will be invited to other public events, parties, and meetups with members of the Seattle speculative fiction community or the international writing community. Attendance at these events is optional, but many recommend the opportunity to blow off steam and broaden your network. Clarion West staff and volunteers try to make safety our number one priority at any off-site or social event, and safety considerations, ride sharing, and information about the area are provided for these events. Virtual parties are typically held over Zoom or Gather.Town; we are open to other suggestions!
A few other activities include:
- Hour-long weekly visits (in-person or virtual) by “muses” (writers, editors, agents).
- Some years, students coordinate their own group Skype or Zoom meetings with writers, agents, and editors.
- Students sometimes organize recreational trips (hikes, sightseeing, swimming, etc.).
- Virtual workshops have offered sprint sessions, crafting sessions, social games, movie nights, and even escape rooms.
There are plenty of informal socialization opportunities in all workshop formats. While these may require a little more advance planning to do virtually, students have still organized group movie screenings and other social gatherings.
How stressful is it, really?
Clarion West is a very intensive experience. The weekly structure doesn’t offer a lot of spare time, and writing and critiquing can be emotionally demanding, especially if the subject matter deals with personal issues.
We will offer space at the start of the workshop for students to share access needs and make requests of the community. (These can also be shared privately with staff and communicated anonymously to the group.) Sometimes individual students find it helpful to check in around sensitive topics, or the class may agree to include content warnings with their author statements. Each class is different in how its members approach their own needs and difficult conversations. Staff will do their best to accommodate the needs of individuals and the entire class.
We encourage students to maintain any activities they would normally do for the benefit of their mental health, including exercise, rest, meditation, and reaching out to friends and family. Keep taking your medications and attending therapy sessions if you can! Don’t drop your entire support network. Staff are not trained mental health professionals, but we do want to know how you are doing and can point you toward resources if you are feeling overwhelmed.
In the classroom, you will always have the support of one or more workshop staff members. Staff are often on the workshop premises into the early afternoons on weekdays, and they are generally on-call throughout the six weeks for problems or emergencies. In virtual workshops, staff members check in on all students throughout the week and are available to schedule one-on-ones at any time. Students are also paired with alumni mentors they can reach out to for advice or support. There is also time each week on Sundays for the entire class to discuss any housekeeping issues. Sometimes all you need is a listening ear after some criticism on a story — we’re available for private conversations anytime you need us.
Many writers worry that they’re not good enough or have other writing-related insecurities. We try to make Clarion West a safe place to be open about worries regarding your writing and career, and instructors and guest muses often talk about common worries and insecurities (and especially “imposter syndrome”!).
When critiquing, students are asked to “help build” each other’s work, rather than searching for its flaws. This doesn’t mean ignoring where a story needs work, but the first focus is on understanding the author’s goals for their work and how to help the story achieve them. Critiques start with what’s positive about the piece and address questions or concerns posed by the author in their author’s letter. In our efforts to update the workshop culture at Clarion West, we will continue examining what critiques our students find to be the most helpful, and what methods produce the most positive experience.
You can read more about people’s experiences at Clarion West (and Clarion UCSD, its sister workshop) at a site maintained by Clarion ’09 alum Liz Argall.
I’m introverted. How social will I have to be? / I’m extroverted. Will there be social opportunities?
You’ll have plenty of social opportunities, but you’re not required to be social. We encourage you to spend time with your classmates, but you will also have plenty of opportunities for alone time. Typically classes are able to “introduce” themselves through an email listserv or a Slack or Discord organized by staff before the workshop begins, so by the time Week 1 rolls around, you’re no longer complete strangers.
You also don’t need to get in your socialization at the workshop — in fact, we’d say it’s pretty impossible to get your fill of the wonderful people you’ll meet! We hope you’ll continue building relationships with your class after the workshop through mailing lists, private chat, social media, and/or video chat. Class members may also meet up at conventions or plan reunions. (Clarion West often hosts gatherings for alumni at selected cons!)
Do you have an anti-harassment policy?
What is your confidentiality policy?
Clarion West has a strong confidentiality policy which requires consent in all media. This will be given to students at the workshop.
Classes will have opportunities to craft their own expectations around confidentiality, but the bottom line is, if you don’t have explicit permission to share an anecdote/photo/etc., don’t share it.
Practicalities: Money, food, and accommodations
How much does Clarion West cost?
The total cost for the 2024 residential workshop is $5,200. This covers tuition, room, and partial board (students will be on a dining plan with a daily allowance). All students stay in the workshop residence. Wireless internet access is free.
For those who need tuition assistance: A number of full and partial scholarships are available and are usually enough to keep tuition/room/board from being the determining factor. There are also travel assistance funds available. You apply for scholarship support when you apply to the workshop. Requesting scholarship support does not affect your chances of being accepted.
Incidental Expenses for Seattle Workshops
We also recommend that students attending a workshop in Seattle budget about $700 for additional expenses (meals out with your class, books, optional outings, class t-shirts(!), and no more than $5/week to contribute to a class gift for that week’s instructor).
Seattle and the surrounding area offer excellent outdoor and tourist activities. You may want to budget for visits to attractions such as the Locus Awards, the Seattle Zoo, the Seattle Museum of Pop Culture, and endless trails and water activities. Much of Seattle can be reached via public transportation. Let us know if you are planning to bring a personal vehicle. Clarion West staff and volunteers will also help coordinate rides.
You will need to arrange for travel to and from Seattle, and you should bring a laptop that can withstand the rigors of six weeks of writing, reading, and commenting upon stories. Some students have run crowdfunding campaigns to cover these expenses.
Do you offer scholarships?
Clarion West is dedicated to promoting new voices in speculative fiction and offers a generous amount of scholarship support, made possible by our passionate and dedicated community. All students are eligible for scholarships. You can apply for a scholarship when you apply for the workshop, or request a scholarship form via email, a phone call, or letter. Scholarships are allocated primarily based on need. Our scholarship funds include some assistance for disabled students. You can learn more here.
Applications and scholarships are open to international as well as U.S.-based applicants, and there are some travel assistance funds now available to students who need additional support.
Do I have to stay in the residence?
Yes. Clarion West rents out rooms for the students and is charged rent based on there being 18 students in the workshop. We’re a nonprofit organization and can’t afford to pay rent for students who live off-site.
Over 35 years of experience have taught us that the residential program is most effective when all students are on-site and have few outside distractions. If you are living off-site, you will not only miss out on the opportunity to connect with your fellow students, but you are much more likely to be distracted, which can also affect the morale of the entire class.
Can I attend while working full- or part-time?
Trying to work full-time or part-time, even telecommuting with flexible hours, would make it very hard to participate, and we do not recommend it.
Many students take breaks from their work or school or are in transition during the period of the workshop.
Can partners visit? If I live locally, can I go home?
You can have a partner visit you for a day or two on the weekends with prior notice. (We may request additional notice depending on COVID precautions.) For additional comfort, you might also consider renting a hotel room or airbnb for their visit. Some local people go home overnight occasionally or even for a weekend in the middle of the workshop, but you should not count on going home frequently.
What are the food options?
Students will have a dining plan with a daily budget they can split between meals. We anticipate this will cover lunch and dinner in the dining hall, and breakfast will be the students’ responsibility. (However, if you use UW’s District Market for prepared meals, you may be able to cover all your meals with the dining plan.) We ask about specific food needs ahead of time (vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, lactose-free, etc.), but if you have uncommon food allergies or dietary needs, please give us ample notice to reach out to the dining facilities.
We also supply snacks in the classroom, including breakfast bars, fruit, trail mix, tea, etc. Students often buy and share other snacks and drinks.
What are the facilities and area like? Are they accessible?
Participants will stay together in ADA accessible dorms at the University of Washington. Dining facilities are within a tenth of a mile from the dorms, and all access is on level ground or includes ramps. The classroom space is within the same building as the dorms. Students will have access to laundry facilities and a printer. More information will be provided to accepted students.
Students that have access needs are encouraged to contact firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss specific needs. Floor plans can be made available upon request.
We cannot guarantee parking accommodations for students. Those who need parking should contact email@example.com prior to the workshop and can expect to pay an additional fee.
How do students handle healthcare?
We provide a list of suggested local providers and hospitals, including some who offer services on a sliding scale based on your financial means.
Students with U.S. healthcare plans will need to confirm what their plan covers locally (for example, a plan may cover care fully, partially, or not at all, or for some providers but not others; it may require you to pay up front and file for reimbursement later). Plans may or may not cover refills out of the students’ home area. Some healthcare plans offer three-month mail-order refills for many medications.
Some international students may have access to travel insurance that includes healthcare through their home countries or through credit cards, or may have access to commercial travel insurance. We highly recommend you purchase travel insurance, as healthcare in the U.S. can be expensive and incredibly difficult to navigate.
What are Clarion West’s Covid-19 policies?
Clarion West will be using state and federal CDC guidelines, information available on the Washington State COVID-19 Data Dashboard, and the comfort and needs of our students, staff, and instructors to determine our on-the-ground protocols throughout the summer.
Mutual respect and health and safety remain priority goals. Students and instructors will have an opportunity to discuss additional COVID-19 health and safety concerns when setting community guidelines and update policies to meet the needs of the group.
Our full policy is available here.
Who do I contact about other practical and/or accessibility-related concerns?
Accessibility at the Summer Workshop
Is the in-person workshop accessible?
Clarion West is committed to hosting our in-person events and workshops in accessible spaces. The 2024 workshop will be held in ADA accessible dorms at the University of Washington. We are currently searching for a space for Summer 2025 and beyond that meets our needs. Features must include ramps to enter buildings, elevators, door frames of appropriate width for wheelchair access, and beds and counters at appropriate heights. We consulted with Andrea Kovich of Studio Pacifica in 2022 and will continue to follow her recommendations and further guidelines as we select new spaces.
We will also consult with building management to determine where visible and audible alarm systems are installed for the safety of deaf and blind students.
We will share floor plans and information about mobility access, such as distances between housing and dining facilities and classrooms.
Students may request ASL interpreters or other accommodations in and outside the classroom. Service animals are welcome. We also take regular breaks, and at any time students may stretch, refill beverages, get snacks, take bathroom breaks, etc.
What about in-person events?
All our in-person events will be held in accessible venues in and around the Greater Seattle area. We hire ASL interpreters for our in-person readings. For all other events, we are able to hire ASL interpreters with two weeks’ advance notice.
All of our public parties will also be held in accessible locations. These events are entirely optional to attend, and we will communicate to students when the facilities offer quiet rooms or areas apart from the rest of the party. At our outdoor parties, students often found spaces to be slightly apart from the rest of the party if noise or crowding was an issue.
Is the virtual workshop accessible?
Clarion West uses Zoom to run virtual classes and workshops. Within Zoom, we will always enable automatic captions. Live captioning or ASL interpreters may be requested. We recommend applicants include information about accessibility needs in their application, but our general policy is to ask for two weeks’ advance notice for interpreters or captioners. We may be able to accommodate requests made with shorter notice, but we cannot guarantee this.
Recordings of classes may also be requested; for the summer workshop, these will be available for a week from the recording date.
Whenever possible, we will provide students with presentation materials (slides, documents, etc.) in advance of classes. Likewise, for longer planned meetings like orientation, we will provide an agenda with breaks. Workshop classes themselves will include 10-minute breaks every hour. Students may get up and stretch at any time. While we recommend students keep their cameras on as much as possible during class, we understand some people may need a break when they are not actively speaking or being workshopped. We will ask non-speakers to mute their microphones.
What about virtual events like parties or readings?
We have held virtual parties over Zoom and also Gather.Town. We are seeking ways to make both experiences as accessible as possible. We continue to use automated captions in Zoom and will hire professional captioners or ASL interpreters when requested. Gather.Town seems to be making improvements to its interface for blind users. We are open to other recommendations for virtual event hosting software and apps.
What about neurodivergence?
Workshop staff are working to make the Clarion West classroom a space that feels as comfortable and safe as possible for our students. We will offer time for students and staff to share their access needs and develop a set of community agreements wherein those can be respected and supported by their peers. There will be chances to discuss this in a group setting or to anonymously make requests to staff members for accommodations.
The workshop is a space in which 15–18 individuals will come together to share drafts of work that may feel very vulnerable and personal. To the best of our ability, we will do everything we can to accommodate the needs of the entire class. When competing access needs exist, we will meet with all parties to determine a workable solution. The class’s community agreements, Clarion West’s code of conduct, and our harassment policy will all act as guiding documents to address conflict.
How do I request accessibility accommodations?
You can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org at any time to ask about accommodations or make requests. If you are applying to the six-week workshop, you’ll be able to include information in the application about access needs. No one will be turned away due to accessibility requirements.
If you are accepted as a student and need to update your accessibility information, reach out to workshop staff. We recommend making requests for ASL interpreters or live captioners with at least two weeks’ notice before all events.
There will also be opportunities to share other access needs, in a group or anonymously, at the start of the workshop.
After Clarion West
How many participants turn into professional speculative fiction writers?
In recent years, we have had several students start publishing professionally almost directly out of the workshop. Some students come in published already, and continue to publish afterward. We’ve had students go on to found magazines or become editors of already existing ones, and students who’ve moved into graphic novels, comics, children’s books, interviews, podcasts, screenwriting, and game writing. In some recent classes all members have gone on to publish professionally. In any given year, Clarion West alumni have hundreds of publications sold.
Portions of this FAQ were developed by Noe Bartmess (CW ’16) based on Noe’s post: Deciding Whether to Attend Clarion West, For Disabled Writers.