Clarion really does change you. You come here, and you expect to learn, you expect your writing to change and improve, you expect to maybe network a little, meet some famous people, meet some childhood heroes. That all happens. But what also happens is that who YOU are changes. I don't know whether it's baring your soul to 17 strangers, or the hothouse pressure-cooker boot camp atmosphere, or the increase of your critical faculty as applied to your own work, or something else entirely, or some combination of the above. I don't know. But you do change. Some of the dross gets burned away. Nicola described it yesterday as 17 individual crucibles, taking in information and skills and lots of stuff, and then turning the heat up high. Burning away lots and seeing what you have left. Sleep deprivation is undoubtedly part of it. Emotional stability goes out the window for a few weeks, as you burn to learn as much as you can, as fast as you can -- hopefully without breaking. There are people who come to Clarion excited, talented, hopeful -- people who then leave and never write again. I hope that doesn't happen to anyone here. It had damn well better not happen to me. I expect you guys not to let that happen to me. Feel free to yell, if necessary.
It really is a once-in-a-lifetime, life-changing experience. If you're thinking of doing it, first make sure you're in the right place and time for it (lots of people do it too early, and that can kill your writing), then be sure you can leave you job, your family, your life for six weeks, then scrape up the money (they do offer some small scholarship money -- and if you love science fiction/fantasy, the Clarion workshops are a great place to donate money to) -- then go.
I probably should have saved that great big speech for after Clarion, but I'm all excited now, and I plan to be exhausted later. :-)
Tomorrow night at 5 p.m. I read at Elliot Bay Books. Come if you can. It would be great to see some of you there. I'll be having dinner there afterwards, and attending Nicola's reading at 7:30.