Clarion West, Money, And Me

Clarion West, Money, And Me

We have just 7 days left before the Butler Scholarship fundraiser ends. I won’t post about this every day, but I’m going to post about it three more times. This is the first.

Here’s a story I’ve told before, but it bears telling again. When I applied to go to Clarion West, I was at the tail end of a very difficult, life-changing year. In 2002 several things happened to me. The first is that I wrote more short stories in one year than I ever had before, thus making me feel like a real writer. The second is that I realized the whole working full-time for a blah job just to pay the bills thing was not cutting it in the keeping myself intact department. The third was that I got cancer, which put thing one and thing two in perspective right quick.

The cancer I had was caught very early, was eliminated by an operation, and thankfully required minimal aftercare to deal with completely. Still, that kind of thing will knock you on your ass in a minute. I decided that I needed to get out of New York and leave my job behind and focus on being a writer. And step one of that focus was to go to Clarion.

I applied to both Clarion and Clarion West. I did not have much money. Certainly not enough to cover tuition. Especially after paying to get out of my lease early, paying for a U-Haul, and leaving behind steady income. I started a “Send Tempest To Clarion” fund, and my generous friends donated. But I still did not have enough to pay tuition. I was willing to take out a loan, even at a high interest rate, because I knew this was important for me to do.

I got accepted to both Clarion and Clarion West. I opted for West because three of my heroes were teaching there that year. I spoke to Neile (one of the co-admins) on the phone and told her that I did need financial assistance if there was any, as I had little money. My thought was that if scholarships could cover just 1/3rd, I could get the rest somehow. Neile called me up shortly after I filed my financial aid application and told me that my entire tuition was covered. Not by the normal scholarships, though. A person had paid my full tuition. Someone who wished to remain anonymous.

I can’t remember if I cried right there on the phone or held it until after, but I did cry.

I do remember asking Neile to convey a huge thank you to that person when she called. I repeated this entreaty when I finally got to Clarion West all those weeks later. And I believe I’ve mentioned it on this blog a few times, too. But it bears repeating again:

Thank you, whoever you are/were. That was such an amazing gift.

Going to either of the Clarions is a giant commitment. Not only do you have the cost for tuition, but many also leave behind jobs, houses, apartments, family, financial obligations. And there’s no guarantee that going to the workshop will result in you getting published or going on to be a full-time writer. Of course, it’s not all about the writing. At the Clarions, students get to meet important people in the community and network, which is important in any career. And you make connections with the other students, who may go on to become great writers as well. Or, at least, really good friends and supporters.

Not every awesome spec fic writer went to Clarion or Clarion West. But it is an opportunity that many decide to avail themselves of and then benefit from.

When that anonymous person paid my tuition, I felt like she or he was saying to me: your voice matters. I believe that enough to give you thousands of dollars. Prove me right.

This is why, ever since its inception, I have been a supporter of the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship. Each year, this fund does for two students of color going to Clarion and Clarion West what that donor did for me, which is to say: your voice matters. It matters so much that we are going to give you thousands of dollars for this chance to improve your writing and meet people in this community who will further support you.

Except this time the money doesn’t come from just one person, it comes from hundreds, maybe thousands. It comes from those of you who have already bought tickets to win an eReader. It comes from those who don’t particularly want an eReader, but are willing to donate directly to the fund. I hope you’re one of those people.

Win An eReader and Support Writers of Color At The Same Time!

Win An eReader and Support Writers of Color At The Same Time!

As some of you know, every year for the past several I’ve done the Clarion West Write-a-thon, a fundraising event for the 6 week writing workshop I attended a few years ago. Usually what I do is split the money I raise between Clarion West and the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship, which assists writers of color who are accepted into Clarion West and Clarion Diego. This year I wasn’t able to do the Write-a-thon because I had no time. But I was feeling very guilty as I raised around $1,900 the last time. I vowed to come up with a fundraising idea that would require a bit less intense commitment from myself but would still raise a nice chunk of change.

Thus, I am pleased to announce that the Carl Brandon Society is holding a prize drawing to support the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship Fund. For those who don’t know, the Carl Brandon Society is an organization dedicated to racial and ethnic diversity in speculative fiction. So it’s fitting that the prizes available consist of three awesome eReaders. Entrants can win one of two Barnes & Noble Nooks, One of two Kobo Readers, and an Alex eReader from Spring Design. And to sweeten the pot even more, all of the eReaders will come pre-loaded with short stories, poems, and books by writers of color.

Tickets cost $1 each and you can buy as many as you want for any of the eReaders you’re interested in. Click here to buy tickets. The drawing began last week and will run through November 22, 2010.

I want to give a shout out to Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Spring Design as they generously donated the devices for this drawing, and also to the authors who are donating stories, poems, books and essays to tempt you. We don’t have the full list of authors yet, but they include: N. K. Jemisin, Nisi Shawl, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Terence Taylor, Ted Chiang, Shweta Narayan, Chesya Burke, Moondancer Drake, Saladin Ahmed, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz and more.

One final note: eReaders make awesome holiday gifts. So, even if you’re not interested in one for yourself, I’m sure there’s a book-loving person on your list who would love one. Tickets are just one dollar! And the proceeds go to an awesome cause.

Click here to buy a ticket, and click here to learn more about the Carl Brandon Society.

Magazine / eBook Coding Project Meetup At ReaderCon

Magazine / eBook Coding Project Meetup At ReaderCon

Since a good number of the people who are interested in helping with and hammering out details on the eBook Magazine project I posed about will be at Readercon in a few weeks, I think it would be a good idea to have a meetup there. I know there are several of you interested who won’t be there, so hopefully I can get together with you online to make sure we know about the skill sets, availability, and ideas of everyone who wants to be involved.

For the peeps who’ll be at Readercon, how does meeting during the dinner break (yes, over actual dinner) on Saturday sound?

For the online component of this project, people seem to use Google Sites to good effect for organizing such things. Would anyone be interested in setting up one of those with both public and private areas?

If You Build This, Magazines Will Come

If You Build This, Magazines Will Come

During WisCon I had a brief conversation with Jed Hartman about my continued sadness that more online magazines don’t have an eBook version of their stories so I can easily load them on my eReader and thus read more fiction. He agreed that Things Must Be Done, but there are questions of logistics and reader/audience desires plus the technology to make it all happen. We came to the conclusion that making this work is about more than just creating an eBook version of the magazine, but also delivery and access. There’s a niche here that needs filling, but in order to do that, we’re going to need coders.

I want to propose an open source coding project and gather coders around me to make it happen, but I have no flippin’ idea how to do that. I also want to get some more feedback on this idea and work out the kinks. Luckily, I have a blog, so I totally know how to do that. So here are the questions, issues, problems, and goals I see surrounding all of this.

  1. Relatively easy eBook creation. Though programs like Calibre can create EPUB (and other eBook format) files, Tobias Buckell recently pointed out to me that this is not the optimal solution. He equated it to people using Microsoft Word to create web pages. Yes, the program can do it, but the code it generates is from hell. Not fit for anyone except really clueless newbies. We wouldn’t want that for these eBooks. So a primary aspect is to figure out who or what will generate clean code for EPUB.
  2. How many eBooks? Many online magazines do the monthly or semi-monthly thing, but for those that publish every week, do readers want an eBook for every story, or is one per month good?
  3. Free or Not Free? Many online magazines are free, which is a yay. Should their eBooks be free as well? I am personally in favor of charging a small amount for the files for the convenience of having the eBook format. The fiction will still be free on the website, of course. What are other people’s thoughts on this?
  4. Delivery System. Outfits like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Sony will deliver magazines to subscribers automatically, but only if you have a device that stays within their ecosystem. Like, if I subscribe to a magazine through B&N but use my Sony Reader to read it, it won’t show up each month on its own, I’d have to download then transfer it. Plus, I imagine that many online magazines would want to sell or make their eBook versions available through independent eBookstores or just from their site. I had an idea that I’d like to be able to embed and deliver eBooks with an RSS feed like you do with podcasts. That way, if you subscribe to the feed, you automatically get the file. It would be nice if this worked with paid eBook files as well. This is where the major coding work comes in. How do you set this kind of thing up? And would you need an accompanying program to then transfer the eBook to your eReader?
  5. Subscriptions or Individual Payments? Going along with the system I described above, will readers want to subscribe up front to many months worth of a magazine or would they be happier just paying per month?

This is what I’ve come up with so far, but please feel free to add anything else you think should be under consideration and please give your thoughts, solutions, etc. to the above. I feel that if this is done right, we may end up with a really cool program or online service that can handle all of these things. But, as I said, I’d want this to be open source and made available to magazines for little or no cost, if possible.

I’d love any suggestions on how to proceed from here.