This is not the post-Clarion-West recap. I'm still working on that one. No, this post is about the frenemy of all writers: money.
No man is an island, even one who lives on an island at the end of the world, and early in 2022 I found myself in need of help. When the opportunity to attend Clarion West finally came up after two solid years of pandemic-related thwarting, I'd landed in a less financially secure place than I had been when I'd originally said: "Sure! I can totally afford six weeks away from work to fly to America and live that glam writer life!"
Friends, I could no longer afford it. My liquid assets had transformed themselves into a solid house.
Fortunately for schlubs like me, scholarships, grants and fundraisers exist, and I want to shout out those that carried my butt across the Pacific, covered my lost income, and kept me afloat in the US despite the absolutely brutal exchange rate on the Australian dollar.
On a more macro level, there has been a great deal of discussion lately about the affordability (or lack thereof) of workshops like Clarion West, so I want to openly go through the funding I received to show you how you can get there even if you're starting from zero. I couldn't have done it without the following assistance:
The George R R Martin 'Worldbuilders' Scholarship: Each year, George R R 'Game of Thrones' Martin offers a scholarship to a writer with a penchant for worldbuilding. This scholarship covers full tuition/accommodation for Clarion West, and it was a gamechanger for me. Without this scholarship, I never would have made it. My cohort was lucky enough to be a double-scholarship year, with mine carrying over from 2020, and the wildly talented and hilarious Yvette Lisa Ndlovu receiving the 2022 bequest. Read more about the Worldbuilders Scholarship.
The Clarion West Travel Fund: Clarion West has multiple pools of money to help fund students, particularly international students, who are faced with unmanageable travel costs. They were able to provide me with funding to cover one direction of travel from Australia to the US; I was able to cover the rest with the sheer volume of Qantas points I'd acquired during the pandemic. Read more about the various Clarion West scholarships.
RANT Arts Quick Response Grant: RANT Arts is a local funding body specialising in helping artists take up professional development opportunities. The Quick Response Grant is designed specifically for artists who need to take advantage of an opportunity at short notice - we didn't recieve word that Clarion West was definitely happening until April 2022, less than three months out from the workshop, at which time all the usual Australian grants covering that period had already closed. Fortunately, this is exactly the kind of problem the Quick Response Grant is designed to solve. This grant ended up covering half the income I would lose over the six-week runtime of the workshop. Read about the Quick Response Grant.
GoFundMe: At this point I had a shortfall of three weeks worth of income to make up, so I fired up this GoFundMe. I waited until very late in the day to do this because honestly I didn't think it would work. For over a month beforehand, friends in my cohort had to listen to me waffle on about being terrified it was a selfish thing to ask, and even more terrified nobody would donate and I'd look like a complete nonce with my dick in the wind, but lo: my friends and acquaintances and readers had my back more than I'd dared dream, and we smashed through the initial, conservative fundraising goal and almost made it to the actual, ideal goal. Either way, bam. That was the remainder of my lost income covered. I couldn't be more grateful.
Ultimately, fundraising took care of my Clarion West tuition (including accommodation and most meals), most of my travel cost, and all of my lost income. Of course, it would be naive to suggest that these are the only costs involved in attending. We had to feed ourselves on weekends, take care of our own travel costs within the local region, and cover any social outings or book-buying we wanted to engage in (and folks, there was SO MUCH book buying; I was not adequately forewarned about Seattle's incredible bookstore scene). But I was able to bridge this gap myself, and in enough style to travel around the US on the cheap (Amtrak! It's the best) for a full month afterwards, doing the digital nomad thing to cover my costs, and mostly crashing with friends and sleeping on the train. The upshot here is that the financial barriers involved in getting to Clarion West are not insurmountable. They're difficult, yes. I sank about as much time as you'd expect into all the above fundraising methods, and there's still an element that feels uncomfortably like begging when it comes to seeking funding for creative ventures (you need to spell out, in detail, your financial situation), and grant applications eat up a hell of a lot of time and effort for a return that is uncertain at best. Even if you get as lucky as I did, and all your funding sources pan out, you still need to deal with questions of whether your job will let you go for six weeks (I'm a freelancer, so try and stop me) and how to manage family and other home responsibilities while you're gone.
But if money is your main hurdle, know that there are options for you.
And if you have any questions about the process of fundraising through official and/or personal channels, feel free to reach out to me using my Contact form. I'd be happy to talk you through it.