Clarion South is an intensive writing and critiquing workshop held over six weeks in Brisbane, Australia - and it is intense. The format is a crit session lasting from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm Monday to Friday with afternoons, evenings and weekends free to write, crit, socialise and do mundane housekeeping tasks like washing and eating.
During the course you are expected to write at least six stories and critique those of the rest of the group. This means writing one story and reading and critting a minimum of sixteen stories a week. The daily average was three stories to be critiqued every day which can be anywhere in the short story range. The longest story at this Clarion South was, from memory, slightly over 8,000 words. I found reading and critting a story usually took me between between one and one and a half hours. The crit then had to be distilled down to a two minute summary for the crit room. With sixteen classmate's crits plus the tutor's unlimited time and a general discussion this limit had to be adhered to rigidly to get through the work load. The person being critiqued is not allowed to comment until the class crits are done.
Inevitably some participants find it hard to have their work dissected so intensely. Clarions can prove difficult for those who take criticism of their work as criticism of themselves but the work being submitted is not polished. It can't be. It is first draft and I counted myself lucky if I could manage a spell and grammar check before I handed it in. Crits were honest and meant to help in my experience because we were all there to improve our skills in writing and critiquing and there was no point in any other approach. Because there is such a range of sub-genres being produced it is not always easy for those whose interests lie in one particular area to comment on another with which they are unfamiliar but over the workshop everyone's writing became more experimental as we were exposed to ideas and styles.
My goals in attending Clarion South were to gain skills in writing to a tight deadline, to try writing in areas I had not tackled before and to improve my critiquing skills. I feel I achieved all these objectives but I also gained in other ways. I am now much more confident in backing my own opinion in writing and critiquing and that increase in self-esteem flows on to other areas of life. The website is still active and there is continuing contact between the group with celebration and support available in equal measure.