Storyteller: Writing Lessons and More from 27 Years of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop
by Kate Wilhelm
Small Beer Press
I attended Clarion the year after Kate Wilhelm stopped teaching there. She (along with Robin Scott Wilson and her husband Damon Knight) was one of the original founders of the workshop. Wilhelm taught at Clarion for 27 years; this slim book is partly her workshop memoir and partly a writing guide that details advice and exercises she and other instructors gave to workshop students.
If you’re new to writing, or have just had a class or two taught by largely unpublished literary professors, the writing manual aspects of this book may be a minor revelation. But if you’ve already been to Clarion and are familiar with the Turkey City Lexicon (which isn’t mentioned by name here, but contains many of the same concepts), the writing advice in this book will be utterly familiar to you. In that case, you may find yourself skimming the writing advice bits and looking for the Clarion recollections and anecdotes. I had not remembered, for instance, that the Clarion workshop was hosted at Tulane in New Orleans before it moved to Michigan State. And reading about the trials and tribulations of finding an MSU dorm that would put up with the students’ shenanigans was quite entertaining.
Wilhelm fans will want to seek out this book; that’s a given. But I think that the reader who will be most helped by this book is someone who is thinking about or planning to attend Clarion. There are plenty of writing manuals and student Clarion journals out there, but Storyteller provides a historical perspective I don’t think you can find anywhere else.