The following reply mail has been received from the MSU adminstration:
Thank you for being in touch about the Clarion Workshop and for letting us know of your enthusiasm for what it can provide.
Significant budget reductions from the state of Michigan required us to look at every program receiving state support. Difficult decisions about several very good programs had to be made in order to protect quality in core areas. Because we share your sense that the Clarion Workshop has served its
participants well in the many years MSU has provided support, we hope you will now assist Professor Matheson in finding ways for Clarion to flourish without a significant MSU subsidy.
We are confident that with so many satisfied participants, and so much good will, that Clarion can continue on with community support. If a plan were developed by the Clarion leadership that is fiscally prudent, Provost Simon and I would be pleased to review it with an eye toward a continued association between the Workshop and MSU.
Wendy K. Wilkins
College of Arts & Letters
If you'd like to receive your own copy, send an email to MSU's Interim President and Provost, Dr. Lou Anna K. Simon at firstname.lastname@example.org, and the Dean of the College of Arts and Letters, Dr. Wendy K. Wilkins at email@example.com. Please copy any messages to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are a few of the letters that have been sent so far, by
Karen Joy Fowler, writer and Clarion instructor/organizer; Lisa Tuttle, writer; Alyx Dellamonica, writer and reviewer; Justina Robson, writer; Mary Turzillo, writer; Carter Scholz, writer, muscician, and polymath; Cory Doctorow, writer and web savant; Mike Ward, Publisher; Jay Lake, writer and editor; and Tom Whitmore, bookstore owner and convention organizer.
If, after reading these letters, you're tempted to write one yourself, please do.
From Karen Joy Fowler
To Dr. Lou Anna K. Simon and Dr. Wendy K. Wilkins:
I am, of course, distressed to hear of MSU's decision to cancel funding for the Clarion workshop. This partnership has been a wonderful one with a long, successful history. We appreciate all the support we've had from you over the years and wish it were continuing. Please let me know if there is any chance of reversing this decision. MSU has been a wonderful home.
From Lisa Tuttle
Dear Dr Simon,
I'm writing to say how shocked and saddened I was to hear that funding for the Clarion Writers Workshop has been cut.
I was myself a Clarion student -- back in the early 1970s -- and have always felt it to have been one of the most important and helpful influences on my development as a professional writer. Although Syracuse University, where I took my degree, had a creative writing department, I feel I learned more about the art and craft of writing from the professional writers who taught me at Clarion. I sold my first short stories within weeks of leaving Clarion (while still an undergraduate at Syracuse) and I date that as the beginning of my professional career, which now spans almost thirty years and has resulted in five novels, twelve books for children, half a dozen non-fiction books and almost a hundred short stories.
For more of my thoughts about the Clarion experience I'll refer you to my book Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction (A&C Black, 2001).
It's not just me that Clarion has helped, of course. And at a time when writing courses -- even degrees in creative writing -- are more popular and sought-after than ever before, it is especially hard to understand why Clarion, which has produced so many professional writers, and which has been functioning so well for so long, should lose its funding.
I'm writing this in the hope that it is NOT too late, and that this decision could be reconsidered, and Clarion might still have a future.
About Lisa Tuttle
From Alyx Dellamonica
This is a short note written in hopes of encouraging the University to
reconsider its decision to withdraw funding from the Clarion program.
By way of introduction, I am a Canadian science fiction writer and reviewer
living in Vancouver, British Columbia. My reviews appear regularly in LOCUS
Magazine and Science Fiction Weekly; my fiction in a range of venues--most
recently as a selection for the newest Year's Best Science Fiction
I attended Clarion West in 1995, and consider the experience to have been
vital to my learning about the SF field while developing my writing ability.
What's more, almost everyone I know who is currently in the field has been
to one Clarion or the other.
I chose to go to Seattle rather than Michigan for reasons that boiled down
to money and geography: it was less expensive for me to attend the workshop
nearest my hometown. For East Coast SF writers in both the U.S. and Canada,
a cancellation of the Michigan Clarion would represent a significant barrier
to workshop attendance, one that would also put more pressure on Seattle to
educate the up and coming writers in the field. The body of literature
produced by SF writers would, I am certain, be the poorer for it.
If there is any possibility that the funding for this program can be
salvaged, I urge you most strongly to do so.
From Justina Robson
Dear Dr Simon, Dr Wilkins
CLARION EAST FUNDING
I have just heard that the funding for this workshop has been
discontinued and I believe as a result that it is likely the workshop
will have to close.
I am writing to you as an alumnus of Clarion West, its sister program in
Seattle, which I attended in 1996. Although I cannot attribute my
successes entirely to Clarion West it formed a critical landmark in my
progress, giving me a great leap forward in my abilities as a writer, a
critic, an editor and a human being for which I will always be grateful.
Perhaps most importantly the Clarion workshops are an endangered species
of workshop - a situation where the fundamentally important imaginative
arts of Science Fiction and Fantasy are taken seriously and taught and
criticised with the passion they require. Nowhere else is there a
formal setting where students are brought into prolonged and direct
contact with mentors from all over the relevant fields. It provides an
insight gained via experience of what it is like to make a living from
the creative arts.
It was the first SF writers, during the age of the Stuarts in Britain,
who lit the imaginative fuse that gave rise to all the achievements of
contemporary space exploration, microbiological science and medicine.
It was the Fantasy writers of all ages who kept the flame of culture and
civilisation alive during periods of deep depression in human history,
and who inspire multitudes of people today to rise to the challenges of
life, lifted by the power of other people's visions and dreams. I
include, of course, all those writing mainstream and other forms of
There are many great writers and artists who would succeed without
Clarion, and have. But some of us have benefited enormously as
individuals and the arts as a whole have benefited enormously from the
presence of this workshop, whose ripples reach much further than the
story pages of the monthly magazines.
Please encourage those in power to reconsider Clarion East's funding.
From Mary Turzillo
Dear Dr. Lou Anna K. Simon:
I have heard recently that funding for Michigan State's prestigious Clarion Workshop has been cancelled. As a writer and winner of the 1999 Nebula Award, I must write and urge you to attempt to find funding for this program. A list of the graduates will include award-winning screenwriters, novelists, editors, and others in the literary world.
Its cancellation would be an enormous blow to the world of letters in America.
Mary A. Turzillo
From Carter Scholz
Dear Dr Simon:
I am writing after hearing that MSU has decided to stop funding the Clarion
Writers' Workshop. Living in California in a time of massive budget
deficits, with a teacher for a wife, I appreciate how hard MSU is being
squeezed financially. Yet I wonder if you realize just what a resource you
have in Clarion.
I attended the Workshop at MSU in 1973. It gave me the confidence to
become a writer. I learned practical matters, and a breadth of approach,
that I would never have learned in an MFA writing program. I could not
have afforded one in any case. Thirty years' worth of Clarion graduates --
including, from my generation alone, Kim Stanley Robinson, Bruce Sterling,
and Robert Crais -- have gone from journeymen to working professionals with
an astounding success rate, and have produced a staggering diversity of
work that should be a source of pride to MSU by its association with the
Workshop. Clarion's reach goes beyond science fiction. My own most recent
novel, RADIANCE (Picador USA, 2002), is not "science fiction", but the
seeds of it were surely sown at Clarion.
Clarion is to a large degree self-supporting; it charges tuition and its
instructors work more for love than money. MSU's contribution is important
to its stability and tradition, but I have no doubt that Clarion will
survive. Its supporters are ingenious and dedicated. Its companion
workshop Clarion West is already independent of any institution.
The larger loss, I think, will be to MSU. It seems to me that an important
role of public colleges is to provide just this sort of broad access to
eclectic, practical, non-degree-based education. I wish that you would
revisit your decision, and carefully weigh what you are losing against what
appears to me to be a very modest cost.
Author of Radiance and other works
From Cory Doctorow
Dear Drs. Simon and Wilkins,
I am writing today to urge you to reconsider your withdrawal of funds from the Clarion Writers' Workshop at MSU. I am a graduate of the workshop, class of 1992, and a successful writer, largely thanks to the tuition I received there.
I began writing and selling stories when I was about 16, but it wasn't until I arrived at Clarion, five years later, that I really understood what it meant to be a writer -- that I really understood that I'd been missing in my work. The lessons there are the ones that I applied in the stories that I wrote that led up to my winning the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer at the 2000 Hugo Awards, that led up to the publication of my wildly successful first novel, "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom," last January, and to the sale of my next novel (to be published in January 2004) and my short story collection (to be published in September 2003). The lessons from Clarion -- the critical thinking, the rigorous application of prose to problems -- are the ones that have enabled me to write for Wired Magazine, Business 2.0, the Globe and Mail, and the Guardian; to serve as a commentator on NPR, the CBC and the BBC; to participate in regulatory efforts at the FCC and in other venues.
I began writing stories at 16, and I workshopped them at the SEED Alternative School in Toronto, a public secondary school whose writers' workshop was run on principles brought back from Clarion by the legendary editor and writer Judith Merril, who brought these techniques to the Toronto Board of Education through a series of writer-in-residence placements. After graduating, I stayed in high-school for an additional year, just to continue gaining the benefit of the workshop meetings, and then I found myself at the Cecil Street Writers' Workshop, a peer workshop *also* founded by Merril, which includes the likes of Karl Schroeder, author of "Permanence" and "Ventus," and David P. Nickle, winner of the Edgar Award for Best Horror Story. This was one of *three* workshops in Toronto that run, to this day, on principles derived from the Clarion workshop and founded by past Clarion instructors, who vigorously evangelize the Clarion methodology in every city they find themselves in (today, I live in San Francisco, where I attend a peer workshop with Lisa Goldstein, one of the Clarion instructors from my year, along with Clarion grads Martha Soukup, winner of the Nebula Award, and Lori Ann White, winner of the Writers of the Future Grand Prize).
Clarion consistently trains and turns out the sharpest, most talented, most wildly original voices in our field. Where lesser programs exert a normative pressure that forces all the work coming out of them to a kind of even keel of sameness, the Clarion workshop manages the nearly impossible trick of bringing out writers' *individual voices*, turning out vividly dreaming graduates whose work turns the field on its ear every five years or so.
The Clarion program is a sterling example of the kind of program that marries academic and creative excellence, an international calling-card for MSU that bespeaks its visionary commitment to fostering brilliant fledgling writers and giving their talents to the world.
Please, consider the value of continuing to fund Clarion.
From Mike Ward
Dear Dr. Simon and Dr. Wilkins:
I am writing you with regard to the recent MSU decision to cease funding
the Clarion writers' workshops.
These are highly regarded by writers, editors, and publishers, and your
past support of them has greatly influenced the positive reputation of
the University in the literary field.
I beg you and the University reconsider the decision to drop the
funding. Without training grounds such as these, how will writers hone
their skills, and where will we find the new writers for the next
Very truly yours,
From Jay Lake
Drs. Simon and Wilkins --
My name is Jay Lake. I am a member of SFWA, the Science Fiction and
Fantasy Writers of America, as well as co-fiction editor of the critically
acclaimed POLYPHONY slipstream anthology series and an award-winning
author of short stories.
It is my understanding that funding for the Clarion program has been cut
at your university. I am writing to urge you to restore this funding --
the Clarion workshops are a critical anchor to the field of speculative
fiction, providing as they do access to high level professional training
and advice for beginning writers of promise.
While speculative fiction may not enjoy the same high academic regard as
some other forms of publishing, it is a major, culturally significant art
form with deep roots in American letters and world literature alike.
Works from THE EPIC OF GILGAMESH to Margaret Atwood's latest book ORYX AND
CRAKE are firmly anchored in this tradition, and speculative fiction has
filled the minds of generations of children and adults with a sense of
wonder and the true possibilities of life.
Michigan State University's ongoing support of Clarion has been an
integral part of the health of the field. Even in these trying financial
times, cutting off this support for such a rare and distinctive form of
arts education can only be the falsest of short-term economies. It is my
hope, and the hope of hundreds of other professional writers, editors,
publishers and critics, that your fine school will reconsider this
Very truly yours,
Jay Lake, SFWA
From Tom Whitmore
I've heard that MSU may be unable to continue funding for the Clarion Science
Fiction Writers' Workshop. I hope that you will reconsider this.
Science fiction has been the source of many great ideas, and the inspiration
for several generations of thinkers and doers. Most of the people in the space
program, for example (the engineers, not the astronauts), cut their teeth on
Heinlein and Clarke. The combination of good writing and good science that goes
into the best science fiction makes livelier minds; and the fact that a lot of
kids _read_ science fiction and fantasy means they are reading, and that makes
them more likely to be good students by the time they get to the University
I've been an owner of a science-fiction bookstore for over 25 years. I was one
of the two chairs of the World Science Fiction Convention in 2002, a convention
of over 5,000 members with a million dollar budget run entirely by volunteers
(including myself). I've been an active fundraiser for Clarion West for several
years, and I've done massage on the Clarion West students for the last 5 years
as a donation from my massage therapy practice -- my desire to support these
workshops is palpable and current. If you can't give Clarion full support, at
least give it something and give the organizers some time to begin fundraising
on their own -- a workshop of this quality, with this much continuity, deserves
respect even in hard times. I don't know exactly what your constraints are; I
haven't seen your budget. The times are hard right now, I know. And I think the
small amount of money that Clarion represents is an investment in a future that
we're all going to have to live in. It's a small investment for something that
has returned large benefits in the past; we may never know what the benefits
are when we get them. Without support, many writers wither. Without new
writers, the genre withers. Without the genre, we lose hope in the future and
the sense of what dystopias we need to avoid.
Please continue funding Clarion. It's a source of hope in the world, and we
need that now more than ever.
Partner, Other Change of Hobbit
Former LOCUS reviewer
(affiliations for your information rather than implying that those
organizations support my stand)
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Eileen Gunn is the editor and publisher of The Infinite Matrix. She also writes short stories, two of which have been nominated for the Hugo award. Her cryptic and hard-to-navigate personal site, Imaginary Friends, was a Cool Site of the Day way back in 1997.