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Hello, fellow Clarion aspirant

March 3, 2010

I seem to be very nostalgic about the chats that went on last year with Jordan, Randy, Jamie and so many others.  Some of those chatters went to the workshop, others did not.  There was a whole thread about sharing the biographical essays we sent to CW.  My essay from last year is here.  My current essay is below.

This was a neat insight into some of last year’s applicants, so I thought maybe we’d do it again.  (See new thread at CW 2010 forum.)  Participation is strictly voluntary, but it helped get to know people and appreciate how different our styles were, just from an essay.  Besides, I can’t post my application story since it’s sold awaiting publication.  Even if it hadn’t sold, I couldn’t share it and still hope to sell it.  But no one’s likely to buy my bio, so here it is.

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Scott W. Baker’s Clarion West Essay

One day I decided to write a novel.  I had just read the first three Harry Potter books (as a grown man) and decided if J.K. Rowling could do it, so could Scott Baker.  (That’s me.)  As it turns out, I was wrong.  While I haven’t totally abandoned that novel project, I’ve learned enough to realize how weak that first attempt really was.

It was eleven years ago that I started that novel.  A third of my life.  Since then, I graduated college, got married, accumulated two cats and two dogs, became a math teacher, and had a daughter (well, my wife did most of the having) that I just watched turn three.  Life is pretty good.

The stories keep coming as I live my good life.  Sometimes they come fast and easy, leaping from fingers to keyboard at the speed of hunt-and-peck.  Other times are slow, painful, empty.  Those times pass and the writing resumes.  I feel incomplete when the words won’t flow.  My life has three big pieces: family, teaching, and writing.  Take away one and I’m incomplete.

That will be the hard part of going to Clarion West, separation from my family.  My daughter is my world, my wife is my stars.  Luckily they love me, too.  Besides, how do I tell little Abigail that she can grow up to be anything she wants to be if I won’t pursue my own dream?  For eleven years I’ve had the same dream and I’ve never been closer to it.  Sure, I’ve been selling stories through those years, mostly to tiny markets for tiny money and the big thrill of seeing my name in print.  But who dreams of tiny?

Last year I was on the Clarion West waiting list.  A short list, to be sure, but no one dropped out and I missed out.  It was still the biggest validation my writing career had received.  A few days ago I received a second big validation when one of my stories became a finalist in L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future contest (incidentally, my application story).  I will send this application before I know whether I place.  Place or not, this suggests I’m capable of writing a story at a professional level.  That’s just one story; I want all my work to be like that.  The time to make that transition has arrived.

I can do it alone, but it will take a long time.  Form rejections aren’t going to cut it.  I need high-value feedback now more than ever.  The more I can get, the more time I can focus on my writing, the faster I’m going to evolve.  I don’t want to wait another eleven years to achieve my dream.

The teacher in me wants to share all I have learned in my decade of writing.  No formal training outside of high school, but I’ve read umpteen writing books, participated in three different online workshops, and earned enough rejections to papier-mâché a large piñata full of chowder.  I want to lend my voice to others’ craft almost as much as I still need their voices to help shape mine.

What I may need most from the workshop is to escape the loneliness of being a writer.  I may well be the only speculative fiction writer for a fifty-mile radius.  I’ve never been to a convention (plans always fall through) and never been to a workshop.  I have writing friends online, but text and images aren’t quite people.  No man is an island; if I keep trying to be, I’ll drown.

I already know how I will celebrate my acceptance, should it happen.  I intend to go to Wal-Mart and purchase several Nerf dart guns.  I envision a dorm-wide dart war with assassinations and full-scale assaults…it will be glorious.  Hey, you can’t write all the time.  Of course I’ll have to buy replacement darts before June because my daughter and I will lose them all before then.  Losing things is one of my specialties.  Even as a child, my mother called me “The Absent Minded Professor”.  I’m still pursuing my personal flubber.

I’m a nice guy (unless I’m assassinating you with a piece of foam capped with a suction cup).  More importantly, I’m fun.  Not life-of-the-party fun, more math-teacher-imitating-an-applauding-tyrannosaurus fun, Hawaiian-shirt-to-work fun, laugh-at-my-own-flaws fun.  I get along with people and they tolerate the heck out of me.  Plus I’m housebroken.  Mostly.

So, howdy.  I’m pleased to make your acquaintance and I hope to see you this summer.  I hope Clarion West can be part of my writing journey.  I hope I can be a part of the legacy that is Clarion West.

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