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Author: Robert J Howe

Writer’s Workshops: Under the Black Flag

Writer’s Workshops: Under the Black Flag

Clarion 85 shirtI actually once said to a fellow writer, “The best thing you could do for art is cut off your hands and bury your typewriter.”

Beyond the words themselves, it’s hard to know what’s worse about this: that I said it to someone I’m sure I liked or that I can’t remember to whom I said it.

I know it was at the Clarion Writer’s Workshop in the summer of 1985, then held at Michigan State University in East Lansing. I knew it was someone I liked, because I liked every one of my fellow workshoppers. As I got to know the 16 other participants, I felt these are my people!

The context for the remark was a workshop session. For those unfamiliar with the format, everyone in the workshop delivers an oral critique of a manuscript handed out — and one hopes, read — in advance, then the author responds. Clarion workshops are machines for producing pithy one-liners — often put downs — the best (worst?) of which are memorialized on tee-shirts printed in the last week or two of the workshop.

So how was my comment received? With laughter, unbelievably. It was even graphically depicted in our year’s tee-shirt. (Image courtesy of Bill Shunn.)

I should say that my class was, according to our instructors, famously cohesive and collegial. Either they lied to make us feel good or other Clarion classes went at each other with lawn darts.

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