When I first considered applying to writing programs like Clarion West, I poked around the web in search of personal accounts from attendees. They were almost uniformly positive - enough so to convince me to undertake the personal and professional hurdles of clearing six weeks in the summer, along with tuition costs.
In retrospect, much of what I read contained the idea of what I experienced, yet I still somehow was unprepared for what it felt like. It was the difference between data and qualia, between the word "blue" and plunging headfirst into the sea.
Someday, I'll try to collect some of the best links to first-hand accounts, but for the moment, take a look at this essay by my friend and fellow Clarion West grad Robert Minto. He writes about many aspects of the program. He also address what I think is an essential aspect of the workshop, and something many participants experience: the possibility that you will fall short of your expectations, that you will experience failures, and that you will be encouraged to own your vulnerability as a writer.
Meanwhile, I'm working on a parallel account, which will address another important aspect of the workshop: community.