The word came down today that both Clarion and Clarion West had rejected me. However, as I have a pretty good idea of their notification schedules, today's rejection by CW was no surprise.
I was surprised to be completely rejected by both workshops. To be clear, I didn't expect them both to accept me - I didn't even expect one to accept me. I wasn't convinced my unheralded genius would bring the readers to their knees! But for those of you not familiar with the workshops, each has three possible responses: yes, no, and almost. Clarion gives you an "almost" by putting you on their waitlist, and CW does it by rejecting you with a more encouraging letter. Both gave me the plain no this year.
To the extent I was surprised, it was because when I applied for Clarion previously, they waitlisted me. As my writing has gotten better since then, I didn't expect a lesser outcome. I could say, "Oh, I don't know why they rejected me," but that's not true; I was rejected because at least 36 other applicants submitted better stories than I did. There is no mystery or conspiracy there.
As I said, by today it was no surprise, so it was a relief in some ways. I could go back to planning my summer trip to Colorado (which couldn't have happened if I'd been accepted) and my hiking trips to the Catskills. I took the chunk of money I'd been saving and lobbed it at my credit card debt. And, yes, I put in today's minutes toward my current story.
The thing is, I'm still discovering what needs to be fixed in my writing. As I continue to uncover problems and work towards solving them, my writing is getting stronger. It'll improve this summer whether I'm at a workshop or here. And maybe that's the best explanation for why I wasn't accepted. If my writing is still in a state where I can diagnose and treat its ailments, I don't really need Clarion yet, and I couldn't get the most out of it.