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.

At first it feels like nothing. It’s just a strange voicemail. Your heart rate goes up but a bit but you’re more confused than anything else. You’re not even that worried. You think: car accident, broken leg? Someone needs to drive her home. She’s going to be so pissed about the car.

The phone call goes in unexpected ways. The social worker calls you honey. The social worker doesn’t believe you about your Medical Power of Attorney, probably because you aren’t being an asshole about it, but she is being an asshole about it, and finally you snap. It is a good thing you have the conference room door closed. You inform her of her skewed priorities and it is only when the words “someone I love more than almost anyone else in this entire world is dying right now, so tell me where she is” leave your mouth that you realize that they are true, this is a thing that is happening to you right now, right this minute. She could be dead right now. The social worker wouldn’t know yet.

This is when you start acting irrationally. You say things to people as you leave the office that turn their faces in horrible contorted ways. You are crying and then not crying in hysterical patterns. You are fine for the entire drive until it is time to park, and then you cannot find any of the parking garages and start screaming out the windows at old men crossing the street.

You leave the car parked illegally and run through traffic. Fuck the car, the tow lots can have it.

You still feel nothing when they show you her body, which is not quite her but should be. You say her name quietly. You try to think of important things to say but you don’t need to, you really don’t; you talked to her yesterday, last night. She already knows, so at least all of that is okay.

There are other people there whose names you forget, whose grief and fear is inappropriate and unimportant compared to yours. You accept their hugs and their encouragements and can’t wait for them to leave. Most of all you want to be alone, alone with her and the people who are going to take care of her and bring her back to you. This is business. This is important.

While she is in surgery you make lists. You do work. You call, you console, you inform. You are some straightforward, centered, highly-motivated and unsinkable version of yourself that you only sort-of recognize. You wish you could show this whole episode to your therapist. Is this okay? Is this normal? I feel okay.

No point in feeling the true terror of the situation until you have to, if you have to.

She was seizing when she went into surgery. Like she was responding to your voice, to your being there, except then it turned into some electrical storm wrecking her against the soft restraints, the rails clanking in the small space of the elevator. Her eyes opened but that was not her.

The one thing you did tell her, you told her over and over again. Quietly and firmly and honestly, the way you told her when you told her she had to leave that place, she had to eat something. She listens to you when it really matters because even though you’re an asshole you won’t make asshole decisions on her part. That’s why you have her Power of Attorney. You make the decision for her.

“Come back,” you tell her. “You have to come back.”

You still feel not much. Instead of feeling you just do things: you eat because you should, you pace because you can’t stop pacing. OR staff are sympathetic and kind to you in a way that makes you wonder. A wonder that leads to the terror that you won’t feel until you have to, if you have to.

But you are lucky. A surgeon comes out, and then another surgeon–every time you talk to someone it’s someone else, you never remember names though you remember everything they say, your memory has become elastic and powerful and hungry–and you can feel the teeth of the terror snapping behind your heel. You know already you have vanquished it. You know it will not take her. She heard you, she didn’t hear you, either way she listened. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. The both of you, you’re free of it. You got away.