I am a cautionary tale.

I’m not warning anyone away from Clarion or Clarion West. It is one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life, and the best six weeks I have ever had. It made me a real, grown-up writer. It is Hogwarts. No, it is Narnia.

But if you know anything about magical worlds, you know that once you’ve learned what you need to learn, the doors close and you can’t go back. And anyone who’s been there is changed, one way or another.

Thing is, when everyone leaves the big old house north of the UW campus, we seem to go through some sort of Fate Scrambler. There’s no predicting whose careers will suddenly take off. And there’s no predicting who will return to the real world with a belly flop instead of a splash.

I arrived at CW with too much confidence. Not in my writing–I’m proud of the work I did during my six weeks and in the work I’ve done since. But I really thought I had my shit together, personally, 100%. I knew who I was and I was happy and fine, and Clarion West was a challenge I could handle. My friendships and experience there were intense and unprecedented but I was certain I could transition them back into the real world and I would be okay.

I was totally confident until I got home.

It was a complete surprise to discover that I am one of those people who leaves the workshop and suddenly, out of nowhere, has a major existential crisis. Before Clarion West I thought I was happy, stable, content. Returning home I felt like I had lost my sight and hearing. This place was colorless, passionless. My job was meaningless, my relationships too quiet, my life far, far too careful.

It’s been a little over three months since I left the back driveway of our magical house, and I don’t have answers yet. I’m still trying to figure out how to incorporate the me that I found at the workshop–a person far more passionate and unpredictable than I thought she was, someone who drinks too much and talks too much and indulges immoderately in the joy and pain of her work–into a life with a paycheck and mortgage and husband. There have been big changes and might be bigger ones.

Anyone who has asked me how I’ve been, post-workshop, knows already: it has been hard. It has been harder than I ever imagined it would be. I have cried, and scared my husband, and hurt feelings, and compromised my job. It is frightening.

The point is, I was not expecting this. I thought I knew my shit, and I thought I knew myself. I wasn’t young, I wasn’t searching. I found something anyway.

It has been painful but very, very worth it.

So bear that in mind, as Clarion and Clarion West application season begins. You might learn something you aren’t expecting to learn.

Good luck.

“That’s not a sandwich,” Elise said as her sister swung the refrigerator door open. “It’s a monster.”

“Sandwich,” Devilfish Review, October 2015


I was given the opportunity to do a little write-up on the Hugo Awards for the Stranger, Seattle’s only newspaper, which you can find here. It is my first piece of paid journalism. That feels kind of special.


From Locus Magazine, August 2015, which my photo is also in a couple times from the Locus Awards. It’s like I actually exist in the world!

I knew Clarion West would be a good experience, and I knew it would be impactful, and I was expecting it to be some of the craziest and weirdest and hardest fun and work of my life. All true. But more intense. Harder. More fun, more work. Way weirder. I don’t feel like the same person, even though I know at my core I am. I’ve mutated. Leveled up. Evolved.DSC_0901

I wrote things I didn’t expect to write. I critiqued better than I thought I could. I learned more than I think I even realize. It was absolutely, totally worth it.

Six weeks ago if you’d asked me what I do I would have told you my day job, the thing I get paid for. That’s not true anymore. My most profound change is I no longer question who I am or what I’m doing. I’m a writer. Nobody who succeeds in this type of workshop is anything but a writer. Whether I stay one is up to me, but for the last few months there was no questioning it. Now I just have to keep going, keep looking up, and keep my priorities straight.

For vast moments since I left that house I am heartbroken by the absence of my classmates. It is profoundly bittersweet. I have friends around the world, amazing people. But they no longer live down the hall from me; I don’t get to have coffee with them every morning, or hear them singing or playing music as I go about my day. I miss that deeply. I didn’t think I would connect with that as much as I did.

I am so tremendously grateful that I had this experience. I still can’t believe I was so lucky: lucky enough to get in, lucky I was in a place in my life that I could accept the spot, lucky I had friends and family to help me raise the money to go, lucky to land with the class I did. I don’t know who to thank or how to start. The only thing I can think of to do to show how deeply I have been moved and changed by this experience is to work my goddamn tail off, to write like I’ll die next year, to sink my heart into my writing and make good art even when it feels like I don’t have a free moment in the day.

I can at least do that.IMG_1947



Week Six Instructor: Cory Doctorow

Week Six Instructor’s Superpower: Everything. Articulate charm? Absolute sincerity? Awesome absurd outfits? Endless ability to get shit done? Cory is the only person on the planet who gets choked up when he talks about DRM. He bursts out into song. He is way less intimidating in person than he might seem from his writing. He is so fucking nice.

Unexpected Week Six Discoveries: It wasn’t the writing that was the hard part. I could keep writing. I could write another story right now. It’s the reading. God, please, nobody make me read another piece of short fiction for critique for at least a month. I will put out my own eyeballs.

Week Six Bummer: We didn’t learn the secret word you put in your manuscript so that it automatically sells. I Cory forgot to tell us. Maybe it was corpuscle? Gloaming?

Week Six Highlight: I finally dragged some of my people out of the house, whining and complaining, all the way to Discovery Park. Once we got there and I showed them the Puget Sound and our pet mountain they stopped complaining.

Week Five Instructor: Nalo Hopkinson

Week Five Instructor’s Superpower: Dance moves


Week Five Story Wordcount, Current: 4100 words out of 5500ish, currently contains NO CONFLICT GO ME

Week Five Story Title: shut up, don’t look at me

Week Five Bummer: This was by far the fastest-moving, shortest of the weeks. Unbelievably fast. Over-before-it-began fast. I am already in mourning and trying hard, hard, hard not to be.

Week Five Highlight: I wrote a unicorn orgy and then after critique (which was heavy on the “Tegan, you wrote a unicorn orgy”) I spent an hour watching the naked mole rats at the Pacific Science Center. Life is fucking magical sometimes.


Week Four Instructor: Susan Palwick

Week Four Instructor’s Superpower: Empathy. We got into some deep shit about trauma and Big Feelings and how it’s our responsibility as speculative fiction writers to offer people hope, and not just trendy ironic bleakness. I can be ironic and bleak with the best of them but that’s not my writing, not 100% of the time.

Unexpected Week Four Discoveries: My experiment for last week was to see if I could take an emotional kernel, build a metaphor over it, and work backwards from that. Usually I do the opposite, with the metaphor and plot there first, and I don’t figure out what I’m really trying to talk about until, like, draft three. There’s not enough time for that in a week. Last week’s story (which ended up being called Epitome, if you’re wondering) was the most successful I’ve written here, in terms of my classmates’ critiques. Susan seemed to really like it as well.

Week Four Story Wordcount, Current: 3300 out of probably 6k

Week Four Story Title: The Kingdom Eternal

Week Four Bummer: We are now counting down towards the end. Time feels finite. It makes me sick to my stomach that this isn’t forever.

Week Four Highlight: Skyping with Neil Gaiman? Bumping in to Kij Johnson at Greg Bear’s house? Drunk texting Andy Duncan? This whole week has been fucking surreal.


Week Three Instructor: Tobias Buckell

Week Three Instructor’s Superpower: Plot & structure analysis, holy wowzers. The man is a story machine. Also, he’s very good at watching drunk people be drunk.

Unexpected Week Three Discoveries: I can still write a story in a week even if my brain is all, “don’t write a story this week.”

Week Three Story Wordcount, Current: 3400 out of a likely 5500, but I am not worried. Yet.

Week Three Story Title: I HAVEN’T GOTTEN THIS FAR

Week Three Bummer: Connie Willis, who was supposed to be our week four instructor, fell and is in the hospital. We have a replacement teacher who is, I am certain, totally great, but is still not Connie Willis.

Week Three Highlight: The spontaneous Friday post-party party that lasted until way past when everyone was too drunk. Definitely saw the inside of everyone’s souls this week.

Runner-up to that is getting the next 1/3 of my crow tattoo finished. I like how this is bookending the workshop; I’m scheduled for my last appointment on the day I move out of the CW house.

Week Two Instructor: Eileen Gunn

Week Two Instructor’s Most Surprising Non-ironic Quote: “Oh, but that was back when I was in that biker gang.”

Unexpected Week Two Discoveries: I can actually survive quite happily on four hours of sleep and very little food if these are tempered by extremely high-quality company and lots and lots of beer

Week Two Story Wordcount, Current: 6,200, drafted but unedited

Week Two Story Title: Feather by Feather (working title)

Week Two Bummer: We have all made a lot of plans to do things but because of the heat nobody’s been motivated to leave the house much

Week Two Highlight: Actually sleeping through the night last night, thanks to earplugs and juuuust a little bit of dog xanax