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

Week One Instructor: Andy Duncan

Week One Instructor’s Best Decision: To impress upon us with his entire, considerable force of personality that we absolutely deserve to be here amongst the elite of speculative fiction’s future writers

Week One Instructor’s Worst Decision: To recommend the film Cannonball Run for potential group screening

Unexpected Week One Discoveries: It is fairly common to write pantsless, especially in 90-degree heat; it does not take long to lose one’s mind when writing in a house with other pantsless maniacs in 90-degree heat; sentient molds, etc

Photo on 6-28-15 at 11.46 AMWeek One Story Wordcount, Current: 3,400k, completed

Week One Story Title: How High Your Gods May Count

Week One Bummer: I have almost completely lost my voice due to a strangely-manifesting cold

Week One Highlight: The people in this house are amazing, both in talent and personality, and I am so grateful and overjoyed to be here. But let’s see how I feel next week.

Here I am at writer space camp, tucked into my tiny room, which I have cozified like woah because knowingIMG_1799 my work habits I will probably spend a lot of time locked in here, trying not to look at Facebook.

(The hardest part of getting ready for Clarion West was locking myself out of my Facebook account. I am thirty-one fucking years old. Seriously?)

The past few weeks have been the superlative superlative something something of my life. Getting ready to leave my job in the midst of relocating the office, which is my job, since I am the office lady; buying my first home and moving to the seriously suburban suburbs (OUR NEIGHBORS ARE ALPACAS); taking agility classes from the 2015 20″ Preferred and 24″ AKC National Agility Champion, Sarah Baker, who is a kickass teacher but holy hell no pressure there. Also class is in Sumner and I live in Lynnwood. If you don’t know where those places are imagine mapping something on your phone thinking you might go there and then saying “oh hell no” to your phone, because it must be lying to you. There’s a lot of driving.

Last night, my beloved, genius, disgusting, wonderful, batshit-crazy work teammates came out for karaoke. We were Those People in the karaoke bar. We were the karaoke dream team. I felt so loved and I don’t think I’ve ever had a big group of people that I liked being around so much. I hope that my Clarion cohort feels like that.

Anyway, what with all of the above I did not think about Clarion West until I walked up the front steps of the house this morning carrying my boxes, and it hit me that this is the closest I will ever get to actually going to Hogwarts or slipping into Narnia.

It took a lot of people to get me here, a lot of help and support and hard work–financially (see my last post, holy shit), emotionally (hi Ryan!) and personally (hi Grace!). And it has taken so many hours upon hours of writing and hurting and pushing and writing and waking up at 4:30am day after day.

So I’d better make it count.

I have two post-its on my desk. They are my goals for Clarion West. They are deceptively challenging.

  • Don’t say you can’t, because you can.
  • Be the person everyone feels they can come to.

But if I have learned anything from my husband and my therapist and my best friend and my dog and all the people who love me, it is that I can do anything. So step aside, I’m counting down.


Friends and family have asked how and where to donate to help me with Clarion West. Well, hold on to your butts: This is the place, and now is the time. For the next month, until May 3rd, I will be raising the $8,286 gold ducats (or whatever, dollars will do, just no Bitcoin) I need to get me into and through the Clarion West Summer Six-Week Workshop.

My PayPal is tmkaske@gmail.com. If you hate paypal, email me instead and we can figure out something more (or less!) old-fashioned. I am flexible when people are generously giving me money to, you know, pursue my dreams.

I will pick out a book from my personal library to loan to everyone who donates. It will be special for you! I love loaning books to people, so this is kind of a thrill for me as well. I don’t have a timeline on when I will be sending books quite yet. When do you want them? Now? I could do now. Also later. Let’s talk.

And thank you, everyone who persuaded me to say yes, everyone who suggested crowdfunding (which I would never have been brave enough to try without lots of coaxing), everyone who jumped the gun and sent me money already, and everyone who’s reading this now. Even if you can’t send anything to help me along, your support and enthusiasm and love is what got me here in the first place and what’ll get me through six weeks of crazy in the end.

Funds are approximately half Clarion West fees, and half paying for rent, bills, gas, cell phone, etc during the program.

I will update this page as donations are made.


$8,286   Needed

Money I already have from various sources:


Funds Raised So Far

$250    Don  <3

$30      Taylor <3

$250    Derek  <3

$100    Abby <3

$500    Anonymous wizard <3

$25      Tanja <3

$40      Anonymous <3

$66.60 Michael <3

$75      Grace <3

$25      Emily <3

$100    Andy <3

$100    Wilder & Tonja <3

$50      Jen <3

$100    Regina <3

$50      Shannon <3

$133.70 Cassie <3

$50      Collin <3

$100    Alexandra <3

$200    Jett <3

$150    Sam <3

$100    Parvathy <3

$1000  An anonymous elf owl dropped this money in my moon roof!!! WHAT!? <3

$50     Kayull <3

$50     Heather & Michael <3

$25     Cheryl <3

$100   Colin <3

$150   Tara <3

$20     Another Michael <3

$30     Brent <3

$100   Emily Again! <3

$100   Eric <3

$150   Lisa & Bentley <3

$100   James (I had no pockets, I had to stick this money in my bra) <3

$400   My Pops <3

$100   Jeremy <3

$500   Rebecca!?! <3

$100   Shannon <3

$500   Ryan’s Motorcycle Money <333


$25     Ed <3

$55     Paul <3

$50     Andrea <3

Total Funds Raised


Total Remaining





It has been a challenging couple of years. Not bad–challenging. Learning to take rejections and not let them impact my productivity is a big one. Learning to keep moving forward despite the light at the end being too faint to really see is another. But hey, keep trucking, because what’s the alternative? Giving up? Feh.

Despite being neither a superstitious person, nor a religious person, I often find myself offering up a little prayer before I check my phone in the morning. Please let the good thing happen, I think. I don’t even really know what the good thing is. And I’m fully aware that whatever the good thing turns out to be, it won’t really solve anything. There will still be more mental rubble-piles to climb, things to overcome, challenges challenges challenges.

Oh, but the good thing, it feels so good when you finally get it.

I am thrilled and still somewhat surprised to announce that I will be attending Clarion West this summer as a member of the class of 2015.

What is Clarion West?

Among other things, Clarion West puts on an intensive six-week residential workshop that does its best to turn baby speculative fiction writers into professional speculative fiction writers. It is taught by a different writer every week. Here’s this year’s faculty, of whom I am already terrified. Their job is to tear me apart, hooray!

Nothing can guarantee that you will go pro as a writer, as luck and determination are such enormous parts of the equation. But this is the place to get the tools. If I ever had a chance to do what I love, for real, with all of myself, then this is it.

They only take 18 people a year. It’s open to the entire English-speaking world. It is incredibly hard to get in. They swear they did not make a mistake in accepting me.

Holy shit.

Fast facts:

I will live with 17 other writers in a house near the UW campus, where we will spend basically all of our time writing, reading each others’ writing, critiquing, attending lectures, and going slightly mad.

The program runs from June 21st to August 1st.

I will be required to produce a short story every week. I currently produce a short story every couple of weeks while working full time and attending weekend agility trials, so this seems doable, but the downtime/thinking time/bathtime between writing sessions is a luxury that I won’t get. I wonder what that will do to me.

Ryan, Vesper and the cats will be on their own. Sorry, guys. Ryan’s being very brave about it. I hope nobody starves. I will probably get to see Ryan now and then, but I won’t, like, get to go home on weekends. I could, but from what I’ve heard there really isn’t time, the program is too intensive.

Does it cost money?

Oh sweet baby jesus yes it does. I haven’t heard back from the scholarship committee yet but Clarion isn’t cheap. For good reason–they house and feed you so you can focus entirely on the instructors and your craft. It’s not inexpensive to close out the rest of the world for six weeks.

If it was just six weeks of no paycheck a normal middle-class couple would probably be okay, but the last few years have been an asteroid field of unexpectedness. All sorts of exciting things have bounced off our savings, which were already depleted by our it-wasn’t-that-long-ago wedding, and were never that impressive to begin with. For a few terrible moments I really thought about saying no, because this is a financially irresponsible thing to do.

Absolutely nobody else agreed with me, though. Which is a relief. Because I think I might die of regret if I didn’t go.

I’m going to have to do some fundraising, which feels gauche and weird and awkward and isn’t something I’ve done. I was uncomfortable receiving wedding presents, so receiving presents for just being awesome? Oof. So uncomfortable. But people so far, even before the ask, have already started offering. Why? Because I just happen to live in a nexus of really amazing people, is why. I don’t know how I ended up here. I think it was on purpose? But seriously, it’s a great place to be. My people are the best people. I’m so fucking lucky.

So what now?

Well, first, I’m going to soak in this for a while. It still only feels sort-of real. Then, I’m going to invest in pants that look like pants but are actually pajamas, because if I’m going to write for six weeks I’m going to need more softpants.

I will be blogging my way towards Clarion West, especially the fundraising part, because I don’t want to use a crowdfunding site, because do I really need one? Can’t I just color in a thermometer thingy like in grade school? I’m going to do that one instead. So look for that.

Once I am at Clarion West, I hope to post here weekly. It may be brief. It may be incoherent. I will probably give myself a template so that it’s easy to just barf into. I doubt I’ll have a lot of creative juice left over after writing and critiquing 17 other stories and not sleeping and eating food that I didn’t cook myself and isn’t Asian. (LIFE IS SO HARD.) But there will be dispatches from the front lines so that you know I am not dead.


If you’re already inspired to help, my paypal is tmkaske@gmail.com. If you don’t like paypal, you can email me instead because there are so many wonderful options here in the future of 2015!

No I don’t accept Bitcoin but you’re so adorable for asking

In conclusion,

holy fucking shit this is real and it’s happening. I am so fortunate, and so excited, and still only believe it’s real like one-third of the time. The acceptance itself is such major validation–they only take 18 people! Those 18 people have real, latent talent! Therefore I! Must have! Some sort! OF TALENT!–that I already feel like I don’t need my feet to get around, I can just float.