And so we come, at last, to the end: the final week of Clarion South ’07, the final guest blog. And for a variety of reasons, there’s nobody better to look back at endings and partings than my own darling wife, Lyn Battersby.
Lyn’s gone from strength to strength since Clarion, although you’d be hard-pressed to convince her of that. Humility is a core aspect of her personality. Appearances in just about every Australian market, including highly regarded pieces in places such as Canterbury 2100, Daikaiju II: Revenge of The Giant Monsters, ASIM, and Borderlands, have consolidated her reputation as one of the most unique female voices in Australian speculative fiction. Horrorscope have anointed her as an Australian writer to watch and Alexandra Pierce, reviewing her story The Hanging Tree for ASiF, called Lyn’s writing ‘weird and interesting’– “you don’t want to look,” Pierce writes, “but you’re fascinated all the same.” Those who are familair with Lyn’s work would consider it an apt description- her stories horrify and mesmerise in equal measure, and those who read Battblush, her intensely personal Livejournal, will agree that is not just her fiction that has that effect.
Here then, to round off our look back at Clarion South 2007, is Lyn Battersby.
Clarion Week Six
Once upon a time there was a girl called Lyn. Lyn was a writer married to a writer. Lyn loved writing and with this in mind applied to join Clarion South, the six week ‘boot camp/Big Brother’ for writers.
Lyn signed up for Clarion South for one reason and one reason only. To get away from the family pressures for six weeks and write. (Okay, that sounds like two reasons, but it’s not. Take my word for it.)
She had a busy household that changed in number from week to week. Clarion South offered her the opportunity to go away for six weeks and be by herself. She could shut herself away from the world, forget it existed and immerse herself in the pleasures of the written word. Sure, there would be critting and being critted, but that wasn’t the real point of the exercise and she was fairly convinced the morning workshops would be a breeze.
If I could turn back time…
If I could turn back time I’d march up to Lyn and slap her on the upside of her head.
“Fool,” I’d say. “You think you got it made? You’re nothing but a one hit wonder, full of yourself because one little story got a bit of notice. You think the crits don’t matter, my friend? The crits do matter. They matter plenty, both to you and to the people around you. Go in there, concentrate, take it all in AND LEARN.”
In a way that did happen. Not by her – time travel is impossible – but by another class member and it came in the sixth week of her stay.
Yes, she was up herself when she started Clarion. She had been published in the small press. She’d even been nominated for several awards. She was going to Clarion for the peace and quiet and maybe to hand out a few words of wisdom gained from her experience as an author and editor.
What Lyn didn’t know at that stage was that she lacked agency. She let things happen to her and as a result the flash fame had petered out. What had happened to her star? Where had the brilliance gone?
It was during Week 6 of Clarion South that she learnt the most valuable lesson of all. My classmates had more to offer her than she could ever hope to return. They taught her that brilliance doesn’t lie in finding the perfect word, or having the perfect idea. Brilliance as a writer isn’t about talent or skill or being ambitious.
They taught her that brilliance is the child of two things: determination and humility.
Determination to believe in yourself and your product and to go after the best markets possible coupled with the humility to listen to others and accept that they are probably right when they insist that your character doesn’t have agency, or the POV is wrong or the plot mimics one used by another, more experienced author.
At the time it seemed silly to quibble over little problems during the first draft stage. It was only later, when the stories came out again and the next lot of drafting began, that those silly nothings took on a whole lot of importance and she realised what her classmates had been saying.
Then she could look at her work and say “They were right. This one word disrupts the flow of the whole paragraph.” Crits that had made her cry over the six weeks suddenly made sense. She made the changes accordingly and began to sell her work. And she thanked each and every 07 Clarionite for their contribution to her sales.
Two years on I look back at the Lyn who got off the plane at Perth airport, swearing she’d make it despite the six weeks of hell she’d just endured. I look back at her and I simultaneously want to slap her and hug her. “Yes,” I would say to her pale, sleep-deprived and homesick face. “It was hard. But believe it or not you’re now a better writer, editor and thinker than you were six weeks ago. In fact, you’re on the road to being a better person.”
She’d probably humph at me and send me on my way, but deep down she’d know it was true. She had grown within herself, thanks to the love and support of her sixteen classmates and seven tutors.
Six weeks of Clarion South were hard. By the time she finished she felt beaten and bruised and totally over writing. But she didn’t stop. And nor did they.
For her and her classmates Clarion South will never end. She has the emails to sustain her as well as the gauntlets and the phone calls. She’ll share in a wedding, a baby and a separation. She’ll share her acceptances and rejections with her friends and she’ll rejoice and commiserate with their news.
This story, unlike Lyn’s own writings, has a happy ending. Today Lyn does realise just how important Clarion South was to her. It helped her to become grounded within her craft, to look more critically at each word and to listen to all sixteen voices when they shout ‘ditto’ and ‘anti-ditto’.
And, to use an already clichéd addition to modern vernacular, that’s made of win.
Crits to note about this entry:
The 3rd person POV should be first person. 2 dittoes. Several anti-dittoes.
It’s too long. Anti-dittoes all around. Indicates length can stay.
The ‘Lyn’ character lacks agency. Well, I did establish that. Look at again.
The ‘Lyn’ character is well written and we see why she behaves the way she does. Good growth outcome. The ‘I’ character doesn’t have a background. What’s their motive? Resounding dittoes. Ummm, I don’t know.
The ending is clichéd. Everyone dittoed. But I state that in the text. I’m relying on the cliché. Remove it and find another ending that fits.
“I got the feeling that there should have been a third character mentioned. Maybe the week six tutor or something.” Tick Tick Tick. Add Simon into the next draft. Poor poor Simon Brown. He walked into a week where tempers were frayed. Thank goodness we ended on a high.
“I ditto the mention of another character but wanted to know more about the person who set Lyn straight in week six.” Total anti-dittoes.
“I anti-ditto that because I think the implication of the secret character works better than an actuality.” Only one anti-ditto. Everyone else dittoed.
“I think this plot was used before.” Check facts.