Guest Post: Autodidactic Asphyxiation. By Don Pizarro

Don Pizarro’s writing has appeared here and there: the ‘zines Reflection’s Edge, Everyday Weirdness, and Crossed Genres, the anthologies Rigor Amortis and Cthulhurotica, a spot in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, a contest in Fantasy Magazine, and other places.  His current project is Bibleotheca Fantastica, an upcoming Dagan Books anthology, which he is co-editing with Claude Lalumière.

Don can be found on Twitter and at his blog warm fuzzy freudian slippers.  Come say hi.


It’s a dream of mine to graduate from Clarion, Odyssey, or any of the other big science fiction, fantasy, and horror workshops out there.  I’d give almost anything to go.  Anything, that is, short of six straight weeks away from a steady paycheck and a couple of grand in tuition, room, and board.  It’s just not something I can afford to do right now, and according to the anecdata, I’m not the only writer in this pickle.

Maybe I can’t go to a “Big Workshop” now, but I’ve known for awhile that I can take a peek behind the curtain.  And so can you.  Writer Warren Ellis famously talks about how all he and his cohort had to learn the art of writing comics was a single page of Judge Dredd script from a 2000AD Summer Special.  These days though, there’s such an embarrassment of riches for the aspiring writer–enough to choke on!

I’m not talking about all the various respected online workshops. I’m not talking about the high-quality online classes taught by your favorite writers.  I’m not even talking about the nigh-infinite amount of fine writing and writing-related websites, such as this one.

I’m talking about the pages upon pages of the experiences and reflections of Clarion, Clarion West, and Clarion South graduates. (And that’s if you didn’t get enough from Andy and John’s last post.)

Not enough for you?  How about the same with Viable Paradise?

Still not enough?  How about being an aural fly on the wall at past Odyssey lectures?  Heck, Uncle Orson himself keeps some very useful material on his website, and it stands to reason that at least some of it is being discussed at the Boot Camp.

And if that’s still not enough, well… Google is your friend.

I’m fighting myself to not list my own archive of links to the Writing Wisdom of the Masters.  Not because I’m being a greedy bastard, but because I don’t have the space here.  And, because I really don’t have to.  If you’ve found your way to this site, you’re almost certainly Interweb-savvy enough to find your way to just about any writer whose brain you’ve ever wanted to pick.  Interviews, teaching, preaching, anecdotes, stuff that you wouldn’t otherwise get unless you were sitting down with them at meals between workshop sessions–it’s all out there, waiting for you to find!

Granted, autodidactic asphyxiation can work the other way too.  Because poring through the resources I’ve listed, and everything you can find online, won’t give you the chance to sit down with folks at meals between workshop sessions. It won’t give you two, four, or six straight weeks of living and breathing The Craft.  There’s no camaraderie to be had from squirt-gun battles in the hallways, and there’s exactly zero chance of having the experience of writing a story, having it workshopped, and then immediately selling it to an editor of a major magazine.

Yes, I’ve counted the cost, and I know exactly what I’d be missing if I never make it to Clarion or Odyssey or Viable Paradise.  Maybe I’ll get there one day.  In the meantime though, all I can do is to keep learning and to keep writing.

That keeps me busy–and content–enough for now.

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  1. Sandra Wickham
    16/01/2012 at 3:14 pm Permalink

    I really need to organize my own files of writing advice. I keep old Writer’s Digest magazines, Locus articles, handouts from workshops, notes from convention panels, but it’s all resting about not getting used. I will also start an online collection.

    Thanks for your post and encouragement. (aka, a kick in the pants)

  2. Don
    16/01/2012 at 7:32 pm Permalink

    I really only hold on to those books and articles that really have an
    impact, so I tend to know where to find what I need from them.  Online
    stuff is definitely easier to track.  My biggest pain is trying to keep
    track of notes, which I do tag and store and label and date… but if
    they’re not used right away, they tend not to be. 🙁

    Glad you enjoyed the post.  Thanks for letting me play in the sandbox! 🙂

  3. J M Perkins
    17/01/2012 at 2:15 am Permalink

    You and me both Don, maybe I’ll see you there one day.

  4. Don
    17/01/2012 at 9:40 am Permalink

    Here’s hoping!


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