The Clarion conference was begun in 1968 by Robin Scott Wilson; it was the first of the sf writers conferences aimed at writers-to-be. Wilson got the idea for it after attending the Milford writers conference, which was a workshop for writers who were already selling professionally. To attend Milford, you had to be a published author, while Clarion was meant for people who wanted to be writers.
The first few Clarions were held in Clarion, Pennsylvania, where Wilson taught at the local college. His involvement with Clarion ended in 1971 when he left the college and moved to Chicago. Clarion itself migrated to Michigan State University, where it was held until 2007 when it moved to UC San Diego.
Clarion was set up to be an intensive six-week program, during which attendees would write stories which would be critiqued by other attendees and the writers-in-residence, who changed each week. The concept was a phenomenal success: attendees had a subsequent high success rate for selling stories. Damon Knight and Kate Wilhelm instructed at every Clarion conference until the 1990s and were sometimes referred to as the "Godparents" of Clarion.
Other, similar, conferences sprung up later, including Clarion West, which was started by Vonda McIntyre after she had attended the original Clarion as well as a one-shot Clarion at Tulane University in New Orleans. In 1969, Minneapolis fan Frank Stodolka organized a series of local writers workshops that brought out Clifford Simak and Gordy Dickson as mentors to the aspiring writers who attended.
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