Clarion West 2013: And one day, I got in

Clarion West 2013: And one day, I got in


It was around this time last week that I got a call.

I was at work, manning the desk on a solo Sunday shift, playing my role as a one-person news service that my colleagues and I often get to on weekends.  My phone rang. A +20 number. I had no idea what that was, so I Googled it. My phone was still ringing. I found out that +20 was international dialing code for Egypt. Right, except that I don’t know anybody in Egypt and there’s no way anyone in Egypt would have reason to call me — my life is parochial, and does not extend much further beyond the cramped borders of the island nation I call home.

So I rejected the call, thinking: Prank, or international scam. (It’s happened before.)

A minute later, the same number calls again. I reject the call a second time, thinking, what the hell, right? Wrong number, get your shit together.

Two minutes later, I get a call with a +1 code that said it was from California. By this time, my mind is in full WHAT THE FUCK mode because I hardly get any international calls, ever. If the +1 number had called first, I might have picked up, because I had a colleague in New York covering the Samsung Galaxy S4 launch. As it was, I immediately rejected the call, by now convinced that an international network of scammers with fake numbers was trying to hack into my phone.

Seriously, what the hell. I’m at work, I’ve got stuff to do.

My shift ended. I stayed in the newsroom for two more hours because the first race of the Formula 1 season was on, and the sports desk gets ESPN and I don’t. It was a good race, I had a good time. While celebrating the Iceman’s well-deserved win, I forgot about the strange calls entirely.

Then I got home, and I checked my personal email account.

The calls hadn’t been from Egyptians, hadn’t been from spammers.

It had been from the folks at Clarion West, trying to get a hold of me.

See, I applied for Clarion West this year. Completely under the radar: I told no-one. Not friends, not family, not fellow writers or colleagues. I just put together a couple of stories I’d written, wrote up a short essay, and sent it in. It was a pipe dream, and in the grip of particular superstition I didn’t want to jinx it by talking about it.

It was apparently a strategy that worked. Because the calls finally did get through. And the news? I’d been accepted. I was one of the eighteen. In the words of Kevin Flynn set to a Daft Punk backdrop: I got in.

I am a first-time applicant, and if I had done my due diligence, I would have known that acceptances come in the form of a call, not an email as I had been expecting. Instead, I had tried my best to forget about my application, burying myself in work, thinking if the acceptance email comes, it’ll come, and so be it. Thus: Blindsided by the call, like a complete and total butt.

It’s been a week since, and I still can’t quite believe it. I am thrilled, honoured, nervous, excited, or some unholy combination of all four. Since the embargo on our acceptances was lifted earlier today I’ve been stalking some of my fellow attendees on Twitter and getting myself worked up over the idea that in just three months we’ll be together in one place, being taught in turn by Elizabeth Hand, Neil Gaiman, Joe Hill, Margo Lanagan, Samuel R. Delany and Ellen Datlow.

I asked — and I am the first Singaporean to have been accepted into the program. Possibly because not many have tried — I’ll never know.

I want to thank the Clarion West organisers, the staff and the readers, for taking a chance on me, for giving me this rare, priceless opportunity to work on the craft that I love.

I am grateful. I am happy. I am not yet convinced this is not a dream.
I suppose I have three months to get used to the idea.

** Photo is a selection of the items we randomly gave out at yesterday’s Speculative Fiction Tea Party, which I’ll get to blogging about… Soon. I promise.

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