I received a fund-raising appeal from Clarion West the other day and it got me to thinking about what it's like teaching at a Clarion -- West, South, or Old Original. I've taught at all three and Lucius Shepard was right, years ago, when he urged me to consider the experience. "It's a really satisfying thing to do, Michael," he said. "It makes you feel like Mr. Chips."
I realize that you're having trouble picturing Lucius as Mr. Chips, but that's what he said.
It's very hard work, but when you can see students becoming better writers because of things you said, that pays for all. The only negative I can think of is that no teacher can be what every student needs, and so there are students I did not help much. That bothers me, and I apologize to each one of them.
Recently, two of my former students, Ellen Klages and Andy Duncan, won the World Fantasy Award for "Wakulla Springs," originally published by Tor.com. Andy was a Clarion West student and Ellen was Clarion South. I no longer remember their years (Andy came first), but I vividly remember their stories and what I said about them. As do -- long story -- they both, I'm sure.
I have no idea what they said when they accepted the award but I am absolutely certain that neither thanked any of their CW or CS instructors. This is proper because for all the help those instructors gave them, those students who go on to be published turn themselves into writers. It's a long, difficult process and all credit belongs to them and them alone. But this silence is particularly satisfying to a former teacher because because it emphasizes the selfless quality of teaching. Writing is, alas, necessarily all tied up with the ego and that can be wearying. Not so teaching, which is all about the students. If anyone thought any of the credit for what they achieved belonged to me, it would taint the experience.
Mr. Chips would agree with me on this one. As would Lucius Shepard.
You can read "Wakulla Springs" here.
You can go to Tor.com and check out the potentially award-winning new fiction here.
And you can contribute to Clarion West here.
Above: That's Ellen to the left and Andy to the right. As if you needed to be told.