Well. I probably shouldn’t be sticking my head into this, but I’m going to. Because why not.
So very recently, just yesterday in fact – Gaiman tweeted this.
For those of you who don’t know, Clarion is essentially a six week writing workshop that many famous authors and editors have either attended or taught at. It’s highly esteemed and everyone wants to get in, hence Gaiman’s tweet.
But not everyone’s happy about that. And at first glance I kinda understand why. Getting to Clarion is hard work and not everyone has the advantage of doing it. Obviously. I don’t live in America, I’m not exactly oozing cash, and I’m 20 years old. I still live with my parents. I’ve never been to a con, never been to a workshop, nothing. I watched the Hugo awards live from my Australian university library with a stack of unfinished assignments next to me. And I’m not going to lie, it’s not fun watching everyone else get to go because they have the position to go to workshops, or are free of responsibilities such as children, money, etc. So yes, Clarion is absolutely not the foundation of being a writer and Gaiman is wrong in that regard. You don’t NEED Clarion.
But it’s not what he actually said.
Gaiman didn’t say that you couldn’t be a writer if you didn’t attend this workshop. He didn’t say you aren’t a writer if you don’t (some are even responding to this with #notarealwriter…really?). He endorsed the workshop, saying that if you’re writer you would want to head over here. If you tell someone that they “if you like food you want to, no, NEED to try this restaurant”, they aren’t saying you don’t like food if you don’t troop along at once. They’re using hyperbole to carry across their feelings, which is exactly what Gaiman did. He didn’t make any claim about the legitimacy of authors if they don’t attend – he simply stated that getting yourself over there is something you should want to do. An innocent comment that’s been subject to outrage blown way out of proportion. Most people aren’t outraged, granted, but it’s sad to see a mountain made out of a millhole, and a well-intentioned one at that.
Let’s not shoot ourselves in the foot, yeah? And maybe let’s not jump at his throat either. Neil Gaiman does so much for charity, so much for new writers. He’s a towering literary figure who does very well for himself in the mainstream spotlight, and he could stay there. Instead he mingles with us poor commercial peasants, teaches workshops and actively publishes in our circles. He’s a voice of the people, so to speak. Let’s not wildly misinterpret his words and assert that he’s stated what “real writers”, because he never has. Smarter people than me know this.
Again, yes a lot of people (including me) are not in the position to even think about going, especially those who live outside of America and the Western landscape. But you know what? We’re still writers regardless. Writers write, that’s the first ground rule and nothing can change that. Gaiman knows this, and so do we all. Let’s not pretend otherwise.