"Slurp" by Lucas Durham

Showcase: Lucas Durham, Illustrators of the Future Winner

During my first week of college, I was gifted with one of Frank Frazetta’s published sketchbooks. I was amazed and inspired by the raw ideas and energetic gesture lines that leapt off every page. Since then, I’ve continued to be intrigued by other artists’ sketchbooks, because they’re a glimpse into someone else’s thought process. You can see how they study the world around them; how they muddle through a problem; how they take seeds of an idea all the way through to a final painting. There’s a vulnerability shared in the pages that you don’t normally find in finished work.

With that in mind, this year I’m releasing my first published sketchbook. Throughout recent years, I’ve built up a portfolio of visual artifacts: images originating from a variety of planned projects, studies, and art challenges. It includes some of my favorite drawing series, including a series of drawings pulled from abstract graphite blots, and portraits of women with fey traits. There’s also whimsical doodles, portrait studies, and of course, fan art from various media. The sketchbook demonstrates my artistic process as well as a glimpse into my everyday life—an intimate collection of who I am.

His book was recently launched on his Etsy Storefront and is available for purchase there as well as at conventions where he is showcased, including GenCon in Indianapolis, August 2-5, 2018.

Lucas Durham

Lucas is an Illustrators of the Future winner published in Writers of the Future Volume 29. Find out more about him at www.LucasDurham.com

National Bestseller 4 Consecutive Years

L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future a National Bestseller 4 Years in a Row

Nearly 100 aspiring writers and artists have realized a major accomplishment over the past 4 years as winners in the Writers & Illustrators of the Future Contests — when the book they were published in, L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, became a national bestseller.

The Hard Facts

The number of new books published annually is now over 1 million (data provided by Bowker) with more than 2/3rds being self-published. Yet the number of book outlets in the US has dropped significantly, from 38,539 in 2004 to 22,586 in 2018. Unfortunately, the average new book will sell less than 250 copies in the first year and less than 1% have a chance of being stocked in a bookstore.

Writers of the Future Provides Hope

At a time when getting a much-needed break as a writer seems next to impossible, having a contest such as Writers & Illustrators of the Future becomes all the more vital. In fact, a review of the previous 33 years found that out of 472 past writer winners and published finalists, 336 have gone on with their writing career, publishing at least one story. And 192 continue to write and be published—that is, over 40% who are still realizing their dreams as a writer.

Publishers Weekly Sci-Fi Bestseller ListWriters of the Future 34 Now a National Bestseller

In keeping with the Contests’ aim to give new writers and artists a leg-up on their careers, this past week L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 34, became a national bestseller, hitting the #10 spot on the Publishers Weekly Science Fiction bestseller list. This is the fourth Writers of the Future volume in a row to achieve national bestselling status—a fitting accolade for this year’s winners!

Volume 34, released in April, is a compilation of 12 top sci-fi and fantasy short stories written by 12 winners of the Writers of the Future Contest and illustrated by the 12 Illustrators of the Future Contest winners. While contest entries span over 170 countries, winners this year hailed from 9 different countries and include Belgium, Canada, Mexico, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, Venezuela, as well as the United States.


The winning authors listed alphabetically are Janey Bell, Eneasz Brodski, Erik Bundy, Erin Cairns, Vida Cruz, Jonathan Ficke, Amy Henrie Gillett, Diana Hart, Cole Hehr, N.R.M. Roshak, Darci Stone and Jeremy TeGrotenhuis.

Winning illustrators listed alphabetically are Bruce Brenneise, Adar Darnov, Alana Fletcher, Quintin Gleim, Duncan Halleck, Sydney Lugo, Anthony Moravian, Maksym Polishchuk, Jazmen Richardson, Reyna Rochin, Brenda Rodriguez and Kyna Tek.

Also included in Volume 34 are short stories written by New York Times bestselling authors and Writers of the Future contest judges, Brandon Sanderson and Jody Lynn Nye along with a fantasy short story by contest founder, L. Ron Hubbard. The cover art was created by internationally acclaimed artist and Illustrators of the Future judge, Ciruelo.

Discover why these are the best new voices in speculative fiction by reading their stories and seeing their art in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 34.

Meet the Illustrators

Meet the New Faces of Sci-Fi & Fantasy Art

Writers of the Future Volume 34 coverThis year’s release of L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 34 debuts 12 new illustrators with their own style of creativity and diversity in science fiction and fantasy art.

This latest anthology in the Writers of the Future series offers a full spectrum of artistic style. Publishers Weekly summed it up in their starred review:

“The 34th collection of Finalists for the Writers of the Future competition features expertly crafted and edited stories and art, running the gamut from humorous to bone-chilling.”

In 1983 L. Ron Hubbard created and endowed the Writers Contest, followed five years later with a companion Illustrator Contest, as a means to discover and nurture new talent in science fiction and fantasy. Illustrator winners are selected by a blue-ribbon panel of judges including Echo Chernik, Ciruelo, Bob Eggleton, Larry Elmore, Val Lakey, Gary Meyer, Sergey Poyarkov, Rob Prior and Shaun Tan.

Submissions for the Illustrators of the Future Contest have come in from over 170 countries. And here is a glimpse of the new artists you will meet in volume 34.

Kyna Tek

Illustrator of “A Smokeless and Scorching Fire”

Kyna Tek was this year’s annual Golden Brush Award winner and commented after the event, “When I saw everyone else’s illustrations in this contest I never imagined I had a chance. Thank you for this moment. I’m never going to forget it. I will cherish it forever.”

Kyna was born in 1980 at an unnamed refugee camp in Thailand along the Cambodia and Thailand border. His family eventually immigrated to Tempe, Arizona where he grew up a typical ’80s kid playing video games, watching movies, and reading comics.

It wasn’t until he attended college that he discovered his passion for drawing and painting. He immersed himself in studies of the arts and his skills grew exponentially.

After graduating from college he has continued honing his craft and discovering where he fits in the illustration world. He enjoys pursuing his ever-continuing education through self-study and creating inspired illustrations in the fantasy and science fiction genre.

Anthony Moravian

Illustrator of “Miss Smokey”

Anthony Moravian is an illustrator who uses classical techniques to create realistic fantasy themes. He specializes in charcoal drawings and oil paintings. Anthony was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and began drawing at the age of three.

Ever since Anthony was a child, he would draw from the collection of comics he had in his basement. He admired the creativity in fantasy and science fiction stories, and he works to capture some of their creativity in his paintings. He really began taking an interest in drawing fantasy art when he began playing fantasy-based video games.

Anthony graduated magna cum laude from the Associate’s program at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Upon recommendation from a professor, he worked sketch nights and events at the New York Society of Illustrators. It was there he began to take a great interest in realistic painting.

As a result, he began to work to capture some qualities that were often featured in classical realistic paintings while maintaining his interest in fantasy concepts. He currently lives and works in New York as a freelance illustrator.

Anthony had the honor of being an Illustrator Contest published finalist for Writers of the Future volume 33, and his art can be seen in that volume as well as volume 34.

Reyna Rochin

Illustrator of “Odd and Ugly”

Reyna Nicole Rochin was born December 30, 1990 in the suburbs of Los Angeles, California. Like most artists, she had crayons and paper in her hands since the day she could.

Growing up, there weren’t many other artists around her. She spent her childhood playing in the backyard, taking trips to the California beaches, and simply just trying to get through life in good grades.

Out of high school, she received a scholarship to play volleyball at San Francisco State University, which is where life took her next. With her sports background and a degree in Fine Arts emphasizing in drawing and painting, she had no clue what to do—so she took up a career in personal training.

A few years later, painting still captured her interests in her off hours. She eventually made the decision to return to school and was accepted to the Savannah College of Art & Design for MFA in Illustration.

Today, she spends her time working hard at school in Atlanta, power lifting and reading when she gets the chance.

Adar Darnov

Illustrator of “Turnabout”

Adar Darnov was born in 1993 in Teaneck, New Jersey. His family moved to Mt. Kisco, New York where growing up he always engaged in creative activities. Just like many other creative boys, he built cities out of toys and drew his favorite TV characters.

He continued on this path taking many art classes eventually enrolling for his undergraduate degree in illustration at School of Visual Arts in New York City. After visiting with some childhood friends who were playing Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering, Adar remembered how much he loved fantasy art when he was younger. This caused him to pursue fantasy illustration in earnest, especially leaning toward a realistic style.

Jazmen Richardson

Illustrator of “A Bitter Thing”

Jazmen Richardson was born in 1998 in Auburn, New York. Living in the middle of nowhere most her life, her imagination was able to roam through the fields surrounding her home.

Jazmen has been drawing and creating stories since she could walk and hold a pencil. Whether they made sense to the viewer or not at the time, each story’s characters were as real to her as another family member.

Though her family is full of creative hearts, she is the first to pursue it as a career.

After graduating a year early from high school to pursue an artistic mentorship, Jazmen was able to attend Ringling College of Art and Design of Sarasota, Florida to study illustration and the business of art and design.

She has been working in digital art for two years now, and is moving toward a specialty in oil painting.

Jazmen concurrently works convention-like events striving to make connections with other artists and improve herself and her work. She may be quiet, but there is nothing more gratifying than meeting new faces and experiencing stories other than her own.

Sidney Lugo

Illustrator of “The Howler on the Sales Floor”

Sidney Lugo was born in 1994 in Guarico, Venezuela. “Sid” to her friends, she grew up most of her life in Caracas, Venezuela and moved to Boston at age nineteen to study Interactive Design.

Her childhood memories serve as inspiration for many of her drawings. She developed an interest in fantasy and sci-fi from a young age.

Sid spent a lot of time looking at French comic books and stories, especially those from the comic anthology Métal Hurlant. These kinds of surreal sci-fi and fantasy stories stimulated her imagination and inspired her path as an artist.

Outside of her studies, she continued to learn and pursue her interest for art. She continues to learn and improve her skills in order to work as a storyboard artist and work on her own comic book.

Sid is currently a graphic design working as a freelancer for private clients.

Quintin Gleim

Illustrator of “Mara’s Shadow”

Growing up in the forests of southern Ohio, Quintin was transfixed by stories of fantasy and science fiction from early childhood. Starting out primarily as a digital artist he made the switch to oil painting after attending Illuxcon in 2016 and has been captivated by traditional mediums ever since.

Currently he is hard at work creating images for his illustrated novel set in a post-apocalyptic American West, populated by fantasy creatures, dinosaurs and other prehistoric beasts.

Quintin received a BFA from Shawnee State University in 2017 and currently studies at the Columbus College of Art and Design in pursuit of an MFA.

Alana Fletcher

Illustrator of “Flee, My Pretty One”

Alana Fletcher was born in 1996 in Middletown, NY. She was introduced to the arts at a young age while growing up in Michigan. She took figure-drawing classes at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, and continued to develop her work within online communities. She began painting with a mouse in Photoshop, but eventually obtained a Wacom tablet to continue to expand her capabilities.

Alana is now attending Ferris State University for Game Design and Digital Animation in Grand Rapids. She concurrently works as a freelance illustrator and concept artist.

Duncan Halleck

Illustrator of “All Light and Darkness”

Duncan Halleck is an illustrator and concept artist working in the entertainment industry and specializing in the genres of science fiction and fantasy. He began his journey as an artist at a young age, copying cartoon characters and superheroes from books he found around the house and spending hours studying movie stills from The Lord of the Rings. As he grew older, he developed a deep passion for science fiction and fantasy literature and devoured the works of authors such as Ray Bradbury, Ian M. Banks, and J. R. R. Tolkien. Always an avid doodler, his love for the arts never ceased throughout his school career, his notebooks attesting to his ceaseless drive to create and explore new ideas.

After graduating high school, several yearlong stints in cities across the US and a close brush with architecture school, Duncan settled down in Belgium with his wife and aged English Pointer.

Shortly after the birth of his first daughter and a time as a landscape painter, Duncan decided to pursue a full-time career in digital art and illustration and began in earnest to study the fundamentals of art and improve his skills as an image-maker. His passion for the fantastic carries through to this day and finds an outlet in the alien landscapes and future metropoli that populate his hard drive. Currently, he freelances for small publishers and developers out of Brussels, where he can be found hiding from the rain with a cup of tea, a good book, and a photon blaster.

Bruce Brenneise

Illustrator of “The Face in the Box”

Bruce Brenneise grew up in the countryside by Lake Michigan; nature and fantasy were two of his main interests from childhood. He continued to not-so-secretly focus on magic, monsters, and myths while studying scientific illustration at the University of Michigan. Pursuit of diverse environments and experiences led him around the world in search of artistic inspiration: a field sketching trip to Southern Africa, months amid ancient ruins of Anatolia, not to mention six years working and traveling throughout China and other parts of East Asia. The landscapes he has explored and the vistas one can only find in fiction are at the heart of Bruce’s current work as an illustrator and independent artist.

He currently lives with his wife and carnivorous plants in Seattle.

Maksym Polishchuk

Illustrator of “What Lies Beneath”

Maksym “Max” Polishchuk was born in 1999 in Lviv, an ancient Ukrainian city located at the crossroads of Western and Eastern Europe. Lviv, with its diverse culture and rich history, ultimately became one of the primary sources of Maksym’s inspiration, who was always fascinated by the history concealed behind each ancient structure.

Such fascination with history, coupled with the discovery of texts of Tolkien and J. K. Rowling, is what ultimately ignited Maksym’s interest in illustration. Art was the only way of transforming the stories and worlds he saw in his imagination into something more tangible. In order to help him achieve his dreams, his mother sent him to an art studio, which he attended almost daily over the span of six years, and which helped him nurture his talents and skills.

Maksym moved to the US just before his freshman year of high school. Even though his world was transformed completely, the one thing that remained constant was art. Today, Maksym studies political science and international relations at Loyola University Chicago in hopes of creating a better world that is not limited solely by the boundaries of the canvas.

Brenda Rodriguez

Illustrator of “The Minarets of An-Zabat”

Brenda Rodriguez was born in Mexico, but moved to the US before her first birthday and has been here ever since. She started drawing as a child and has never stopped loving it. Brenda attributes her passion for character creation to her interest in video games. Her favorites include The Legend of Zelda, Kingdom Hearts, and Final Fantasy. She recalls being inspired by them at a young age as a child, and on throughout her life thereafter. To this day, she can thank Nintendo and Square Enix for fueling her aspiration of getting into the entertainment industry as a character artist.

Brenda graduated in spring of 2017 with a degree in Computer Graphics Technology from Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis. She is now working as a freelance artist and polishing her portfolio to officially break into the industry.

Writer Vida Cruz (l) with Illustrator Reyna Rochin (r)

Filipino Fantastic Fiction

Vida Cruz, a resident of Manila, is the first Filipino writer winner in the 34-year history of L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest. Not only that, she also took first place in the 2nd quarter with her Filipino style fantastic fiction story, “Odd and Ugly,” beating out thousands of other entries from across the world.

Booklist describes her story as “a deeply atmospheric and moving Beauty and the Beast tale incorporating Philippine myth,” while Publishers Weekly called it a “breathtakingly beautiful ode to transformation which stirs the imagination with Filipino folklore.”

Vida first started writing when she was 8 years old. But her career began in earnest as a journalist for GMA News Online followed by writing for Drink Editorial and Design Inc. and 51Talk Philippines.  To realize her dream of being a writer, it’s taken much hard work, ignoring the naysayers, and perseverance—but it has all paid off. For Vida, the future indeed looks bright.

As a role model for aspiring writers, her advice is simple. “This isn’t an easy road and there will be a lot of times when you will be disappointed. But you should keep at it because every word you write is an investment.”

Beauty & the Beast Recast

The Beast in Vida’s story is a kapre, a fabled Filipino tree giant—a cigar-smoking beast of a nature spirit with a fraught history tied to African slavery. “I’ve had the image of a kapre and a girl looking at each other in my head for a long time, but I couldn’t get their story to work.” Then something clicked, and the story wrote itself in one week as Vida describes in this video interview.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_ZLDJqiBio?rel=0]

The artist for her story is Illustrator Contest winner Reyna Rochin. Reyna talks about her visually rich depiction of the story (which has already sold at an art gallery as a painting) and how the Filipino culture has influenced her life.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_AXDaArYJZQ?rel=0]

Filipino Fact or Fantastical?

In her award-winning short story, Vida shares an element of Philippine culture and mythology. The center of the piece is a kind-hearted kapre who falls in love with Maria, a human woman. Sound fantastical? But what if the kapre really lived? There are some who believe these tree spirits are more than just folklore and with good reason.

For the backstory of the kapre, watch the video produced by the Aswang Project on the origin of the cigar smoking giant from the Philippines.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUrxlu1J0N8?rel=0]

As for Vida’s depiction of Filipino folklore and the kapre, you decide.  Read “Odd and Ugly,” available in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 34.

Ciruelo, Illustrators of the Future Judge

Ciruelo’s “Dragon Caller” Provides Magical Cover for Writers of the Future Vol 34

We are very excited to announce that world-renowned artist Ciruelo has provided the cover art for L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 34 releasing April 2018. And we hope you like it too! Known for his fantasy paintings, Ciruelo is perhaps best known as the illustrator of The Official Eragon Coloring Book.

“Dragon Caller” depicts a high magician standing on a platform carved with symbols which amplify the power of his summoning a dragon. Ciruelo stated, “The scene depicts some kind of collaborative relationship between dragons and humans, which is the kind of situations I prefer to paint instead of battle scenes among them.”

Last year and for the first time, we successfully paired the skills of two masters when we gave Larry Elmore’s cover art to Todd McCaffrey and asked him to write a short story based on the painting. And so Larry Elmore’s “Crimson Dawn” inspired Todd McCaffrey to write “The Dragon Killer’s Daughter” published in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 33.

Based on its success, we are once again pairing two accomplished professionals. Ciruelo’s “Dragon Caller” was given to Jody Lynn Nye from which she has written her story called “Illusion.” By the way, for those of you who don’t know, Jody was co-author with Anne McCaffrey on many projects including The Dragonlover’s Guide to Pern. About working with Ciruelo, Jody stated, “I love having something to inspire me when I write. I was delighted to have the opportunity to write a story based on the splendid piece of artwork that forms the cover of this anthology, a fantasy painting by Ciruelo. It so happened that the subject matter dovetailed neatly with another fantasy series I have been working on. Instead of treating with the main character of that series, this story hearkens back decades to her employer, a great wizard—or so he seems.”

After being introduced to the Illustrators of the Future contest by fellow contest judge Larry Elmore (Dungeons & Dragons cover art), Ciruelo became a judge in 2017. “I feel honored to have been invited to be part of this prestigious contest which I considered to be an invaluable opportunity for writers and artists to start a professional career. And I’m personally thankful because the Fantasy / Science Fiction genre benefits from this generous event created by Mr. Hubbard.”

Now that you have seen the cover for Writers of the Future Volume 34, what do you think?

Vida Cruz, WotF 2nd Quarter 2017 winner

Meet the Winners – Vida Cruz – 2nd Q 2017

When it comes to writing advice, many writers will tell you not to stop writing. I’m going to be contradictory for a bit and tell you that yes, you should stop—at the right time, for the right reasons.

I’ve been writing stories since I was eight years old. Not much to tell about what I wrote in that period because what sticks out in my mind are long-winded attempts at Harry Potter fanfiction. What you should know is that I joined certain clubs—the literary club and the school newspaper in grade school, the latter of which was my club high school. As a college undergrad majoring in Creative Writing, these clubs morphed into workshops at the collegiate and national levels; and while I didn’t join the school paper or the literary publication, I did help start a creative writing student organization. Two years after graduating with what was apparently the longest thesis in the history of my program at that point—250 pages—I took a leave from my job as a journalist to attend the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Workshop in San Diego (it was there that I met my friend Leena Likitalo, a first place winner fresh from the Writers of the Future ceremony in 2014). Even if it wasn’t always clear to me that I wanted to be a writer, it was always clear that I wanted to write.

You might glean from this short history of my writing life that I work hard, perhaps even passionate. That much is true. But that history doesn’t mention that time I stopped writing for three years to focus almost exclusively on drawing and playing the violin. It doesn’t mention the six months immediately after my graduation where I couldn’t write a new draft or even revise the 32,000-word novella I submitted as part of my thesis. Nor does it mention the two-month dry spell following my stint at Clarion, or the four-month non-writing period following the completion of my second-ever novella.

I didn’t stop writing during those times because I wanted to. I stopped writing because I’d run out of things to say. I repeatedly failed to understand that the reason creativity is likened to a well is that it is finite. Time and again I’ve hit the bottom of that well because I couldn’t tell when the waters were beginning to dry up.

And if I’d done some introspection much sooner, I would’ve realized that after I took a trip with my family to Hong Kong six months after my post-graduation burnout, I’d written the two stories that won me a slot at Clarion. I would’ve realized that in the two months of writing nothing after Clarion, I started the novella that got me lovely but devastating rejections and a few invitations to submit more stuff. And now, I know that in the two creatively-empty months following another painful rejection for that novella, I won Silver Honorable Mention for the third quarter of the 2016 Writers of the Future contest.

At the end of those two months, I wrote the story that won me first place in the second quarter of the 2017 Writers of the Future contest.

When I got the call that I’d won in August, I’d been on another writing hiatus since May—self-imposed this time, to head off another burnout before it took hold completely. With a new slew of rejections under my belt, I’d been starting to despair of my stories ever finding an audience. If I didn’t stop writing, at least for the time being, I was going to hate it—and that may have made me quit for good. But not long after I won, I was finishing a short story I started years ago and writing down the first five pages of what would become the first chapter of a novel in progress. It was nice to know that even though I was mostly writing words into the void and learning to be okay with that, some of those words reached people who actually liked them.

So, if you’ve been writing for hours on end, day in and day out, I say stop—at least for a little while. Give your brain a break. Fill the well. Because when you eventually return to your writing—and if you’re serious enough, you will always return to it—you never know, you might just write your WOTF-winning story.

Larry Elmore & Rob Prior onstage painting a dragon at the Writers of the Future Vol 33 awards ceremony

Can You Draw a Dragon? How Illustrators of the Future Inspires Students

I am teaching in a home school environment and have students who are artists at heart.  Each week I teach an art class that focuses on specific skills as well as ideas that inspire.  These classes validate the imaginative minds of my students in addition to simply being fun.

After this year’s Writers and Illustrators of the Future Event, I was inspired to teach a class on dragons.  I first showed my students (ages 4 to 14) portions of the live stream event starting with the opening sequence with the live action painting of a dragon on stage by two amazing artists, Rob Prior and Larry Elmore:

This was followed by Pat Henry’s fantastic “Dragons 101” speech.  The kids really loved this presentation and the wheels were turning!

I then showed them a YouTube tutorial (Art for Kids Hub with the very kid-friendly artist from Utah named Rob) on how to draw a dragon.

The students followed along and drew their own dragon.  Most of the students were certain they could never draw THAT, but all achieved successful results. Here are two samples of the finished products.

drawing of a dragon

drawing of a dragon

The students especially appreciated the fact that they could choose specific colors and personality traits for their dragons, even though they had to follow certain steps to learn the basics.

Art empowers anyone who will jump in and give it a try, and I thank the Writer’s and Illustrator’s Contest for not only featuring the creative efforts of some of our finest new artists on the scene, but also for inspiring the Future Artists of the Future, if I may coin a name for the group, to find their own personal genius through the arts.


Sisu Raiken

Sisu Raiken

Guest Blogger, Sisu Raiken received a BA in Music from Upsala College and studied at The Mannes School for Music, The National Shakespeare Conservatory and The National Improvisational Theatre in New York City. She has taught voice, acting and fine art and also has directed musicals and plays. She has held the position of Artistic Director at The New Village Leadership Academy, an independent school in Calabasas, California from 2005 to 2013. She is currently on the arts faculty for Every Kid’s A Genius.

Michael Michera on the red carpet with singer Joy Villa

Spotlight on artist Michael Michera

Michael Michera is a self-taught artist who found out about L. Ron Hubbard’s Illustrators of the Future Contest quite accidentally from a friend who then persuaded him to enter. That accidental encounter resulted in Michael winning the grand prize.

The contest, which is in its 28th year, costs nothing to enter. And thousands of artists enter every year from all over the world. The judging is done by top professionals and is anonymous, meaning the judging is done blind without reference to name, gender or nationality.

About Michael and His Art

Grand prize winner, Michael Michera

Grand prize winner, Michael Michera

Michael was born and raised in Poland where he currently resides. When it comes to art, he has been passionate about prehistoric animals since childhood, when he began drawing dinosaurs and creating his own creatures from his imagination. Later his interest expanded to include all animals and biology in general. He read many books on this topic and earned priceless knowledge for his current work as a concept artist.

As a youngster, Michael watched a lot of horror and sci-fi movies and it is those films, and most particularly the movie Alien, that has influenced his art.

Michael has always been fascinated by traditional drawing as well as comic art. He loves to experiment with art styles, though he most enjoys creating robots and futuristic designs of sci-fi technology. He uses digital painting and 3D sculpture in his creations.

Illustrators Workshop and Awards Celebration

As a winner of the Contest, Michael came to Los Angeles and attended the Illustrators of the Future Workshop the week prior to the awards celebration. The workshop is exclusively for the artist winners, and instructors include Coordinating Judge Echo Chernik along with judges Lazarus Chernik, Ciruelo, Larry Elmore, Sergey Poyarkov and a host of special guest artists and art directors.

Author C.L. Kagmi with the illustration Michael did for her story

Author C.L. Kagmi with the illustration Michael did for her story

During the seminars, the artists learn both the practical and business side of illustrating including how to put together their portfolio, how to brand and promote themselves, as well as practical experience on drawing. Each artist also has one-on-one time with professionals to get advice on their work.

During the week, the Writers Workshop is also taking place and so Michael met author C.L. Kagmi who wrote the story he illustrated, “The Drake Equation.”

For Michael, winning the grand prize was the best day of his life. In his acceptance speech, he talked about how artists and writers can together change the world and that he was glad to be shaping the future together with his fellow artists and writers.

He ended by saying, “Thank you for everything. This is a very important day for me and probably the best week in my life. If this is my American dream, I don’t want to wake up.”

We look forward to seeing much more of Michael and his creativity in the future.

Artist Ciruelo during the portfolio review of the Illustrators Workshop

Artist Anthony Moravian

Anthony Moravian is a tall, quiet kind of guy, but his art speaks volumes. He describes his style as fantasy inspired by classic renaissance paintings and, so, not surprisingly, he specializes in charcoal drawings and oil paintings as you can see here in his portfolio.

As a Finalist in the Illustrators of the Future Contest, we asked Anthony to illustrate one of the winning stories, “A Glowing Heart” written by Anton Rose. Anton’s story is about a boy faced with a terrible decision. His mother is dying, and the only way he can save her is by killing something beautiful.

Author Anton Rose with Anthony and his art for the story "A Glowing Heart"

Author Anton Rose with Anthony and his art for the story “A Glowing Heart”

In doing the illustration, Anthony said he was inspired by the story’s theme of doing what is necessary, even it if is something you would rather not do, which prompted him to capture the feeling of grief in the protagonist over what he had done. He further elaborated on his selection of the scene he chose from the story, stating that reading and writing play a large part in his process when doing an illustration. He tries to balance the two in order to maintain interest in the illustration and he can do this if he understands all of the elements of the story.

I read and enjoyed Anton’s touching story immensely and have to say that Anthony did a great job capturing both its mood and spirit. His illustration appears in the latest edition of the Writers of the Future anthology, Volume 33.

A bit about Anthony. He was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and has been drawing since the age of three. Anthony graduated magna cum laude from the Associate’s program at the Fashion Institute of Technology and is currently honing his art at the Art Students League of New York.

He came out to Los Angeles to attend this year’s Illustrators of the Future Workshop and the annual awards event. While here he met the author of the story as well as a host of artists from all corners of the globe as part of the Illustrators Workshop.

According to Anthony, the whole experience was wonderful and he had a great time meeting the other illustrator winners and professional artists and art directors who were part of the workshop. As he summed it up, “The seminars were very thorough. The critiques during the portfolio review were, perhaps, the most helpful parts of the event. I look forward to putting what I learned to good use.”

You can meet up with Anthony and see his art on display today (April 14) between 7:00-9:00 PM along with fellow artist Yader Fonseca at the Barnes & Noble in Union Square, Manhattan. They will be there signing copies of Writers of the Future Volume 33 which contains their art.

Anthony will also be doing another book signing, April 15, at Books-A-Million in Paramus, New Jersey between 1:00-3:00 PM.

For information about author book signings, visit the Writers & Illustrators of the Future facebook page.

Illustrators of the Future Winners 1992

An interview with Illustrators of the Future Winner, Illustrators of the Future Judge and Academy Award Winner, Shaun Tan.

With the Academy Awards event coming up just a block away from our headquarters here in Hollywood, I am reminded of one of our many Illustrators of the Future winner alumni successes.


That would be Shaun Tan, 1992 Illustrators of the Future winner when he, as a young teenager, was the first Australian to win this contest.


Almost two decades later, on the 27th of February 2011, Shaun Tan (along with Andrew Ruhemann) was presented with an Oscar for best animated short film, The Lost Thing.


We have since interviewed him about his own journey from being “lost” to being found and to now helping others to be found. I wanted to share some of his insights and his advice to any of you who are where he was.


How did you first find out about the L. Ron Hubbard Illustrators of the Future Contest?


I found out about both the Writer and Illustrator Contests in a copy of Analog Magazine. I started to submit as I had nowhere else to send my work. I got a couple of rejects and I got a response, a little handwritten note from Frank Kelly Freas, which was amazing. That was maybe the first contact I’d had with another artist, let alone an artist of that caliber. The comments encouraged me to submit again. And I finally won. It was quite a big deal as nothing was really happening in my life aside from going to school and doing my drawings in my bedroom.


What was it like to get the call “you won”?


Illustrators of the Future Winners 1992

Shaun Tan (bottom row, second from right)

When I got the call that I had won the contest it took a long time to register. It was probably the first time I’d ever had an international telephone call in my life. The person who called proceeded to explain that winning involved a trip and a workshop and also that they were inviting me to the writers’ workshop, not just for the illustrators’, because I had to travel such a long way. And traveling from Western Australia to Washington, D.C. was perhaps one of the longest trips a contestant has had to make. I was very grateful that they were able to host me to both workshops.


I was also interested in the writers’ workshop because I actually began my interest in science fiction as a literary interest. I’d always been a painter and had done a number of art classes and was very talented as a young artist. But as a teenager, my key ambition was to be a short story science fiction writer. I was really obsessed. I spent far more time writing than illustrating or painting.


You also submitted short stories to the Writers Contest. How did the Writers Contest and the Writers Workshop help you in your writing career?


The writers contest helped me in my writing career, especially at that young age, principally by just having a deadline. Nothing motivates you more into doing work than having an objective and a deadline. And the great thing about a contest like this was simply having something to submit to. I didn’t really have anywhere else to send my stories. At the time, there were a couple of very nascent science fiction magazines being published in Australia, but nothing like the industry that exists in the United States or Britain.


I never had any great ambitions or expectations, so it was a fun thing. It was like “oh – the deadline’s coming up yet again, I had better submit something.” That alone was quite a powerful motivating force.


What did you learn from the Illustrators of the Future Workshop?


A lot of the discussion was actually not as much about the craft of illustration but professional practice, markets and money─difficult information to acquire, especially in those pre-Internet days. It was  fascinating and a very realistic, very rational, methodical approach to craft. There was no false illusions about how easy it would be to work in this industry.

Meeting with these very established, accomplished writers and artists far more senior than myself and who were in some ways a little bit intimidating but super friendly, was the one thing that endeared me. What cemented my admiration for the science fiction and fantasy community was that sense of camaraderie, helpfulness, sheer friendliness, positive energy, no sense of competitiveness and no sense of selfish withholding of professional tips. It was extremely generous and people were just really nice. That was the first thing─how wonderfully nice people were. Secondly, just to see people who were so dedicated, particularly to a form of literature and art that I’d previously been led to believe in my mainstream environment as being quite obscure.


Tell me about your career since winning the Contest.


Since winning the L. Ron Hubbard Illustrators of the Future Contest and participating in both the illustrators’ and writers’ workshop, my career has followed a slow trajectory. I had time—I was still studying at university, various subjects and wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. But having had that experience in Washington D.C. and having received that award and the kind of confidence boost that comes with that and with a better understanding of the industry that surrounds science fiction writing and illustration, I began to seriously consider being a professional illustrator. It was not something that I had thought about as a career. So I entered the contest almost as a hobbyist with an interest in something, like a very impassioned fan of the genre.


Afterwards I started thinking maybe this could be a career, and maybe not, but it was worth trying. I began to send my illustrations off with more confidence to other markets, some British and American magazines and had small amounts of success there. In the meantime there was a burgeoning movement of locally produced science fiction and fantasy in Australia, especially throughout the ‘90s and I had much more confidence in just submitting work to those. The fact that I had the award meant that people paid slightly more attention than maybe they otherwise would have.


It meant that I was able to progressively both have work published and train myself in the absence of any other formal training through a succession of small jobs, eventually leading up to professionally published book covers and higher paid work. These then began to support me once I finished my studies, eventually leading to picture books and particularly children’s literature, which is now where I’ve made a name for myself.


How many books and/or short stories have you published or illustrated?


I’ve lost count of the number of books and short stories that I’ve worked on, but it must be in the order of maybe twenty books. And if you include illustrations for stories on various magazines or periodicals, I would say about 250. And if you include theater productions and designs for feature films, it would be maybe eight of those. So, quite a lot of work and quite a variety too.


How has winning the Illustrators of the Future Contest as a seventeen year old teenager affected your life?


I think that perhaps winning such a big award at such a young age gave me a sense that it was possible you could actually win an award that felt very distant and far away, organized by people that you would otherwise never meet that seemed like from another universe. Since the age of seventeen and that trip to the exotic land of the United States, I have had this sense that I’m working in a global community.


That germ of confidence way back then has allowed me to approach these other things with confidence. A key ingredient to being a successful artist is believing that you can do stuff. Once you get that out of the way, which is a huge hurdle, then you can get on with doing it.


How does winning the Illustrators of the Future Contest compare to winning the Oscars?


Shaun Tan with his Oscar in 2011

Shaun Tan with his Oscar in 2011

Winning an Oscar felt like a very similar experience to winning the L. Ron Hubbard Illustrators of the Future award and actually a similar pattern of the unexpected, traveling to the United States, discovering a whole community of people with like-minded interests, in the case of the Oscar, animation and film design.


As a young person, I was very introverted and I lacked confidence in myself. And I think the experience of having to not just go to win an award and have it given to you from somewhere far away, but to actually go there and participate, that was very important for me personally in my development as a confident artist who could communicate with other people. Otherwise, it may have taken me a lot longer to find my feet in that part of my life.


Why did you decide to become an Illustrators of the Future judge?


Becoming a judge is a big decision because it’s a big responsibility. Having been on the other side of the equation and being a contestant, I realize the extent to which your hopes really hinge on the decision of a person that you’ve never met, in a distant place, and that you’re hoping that they will really examine the work as closely as possible.


I also feel there’s some responsibility to give something back because it was such a good thing for me and such a helpful thing for me that I would like other people to experience that. To have their work commented upon and have the feeling that a person such as myself is not any different to them. I still feel the same as I did when I was seventeen. I still feel I’m not entirely sure what I’m doing and I spend most of my time just mucking around in my bedroom trying to come up with ideas for stories. My bedroom has now turned into a studio, but it’s just as big and just as messy. And I think a lot of young or new artists that are approaching this contest would take some comfort from the fact that I don’t feel like a wise professional preaching down to them. I’m actually there with them and I understand—particularly in speculative fiction—what they want to achieve and the problems that they’re facing as a young artist.


How do you view L. Ron Hubbard’s vision with the Writers and Illustrators of the Future contests and what they have accomplished?


I think L. Ron Hubbard’s vision for the contests is extremely generous and  based on a realization that great art doesn’t just happen. It does have to be nurtured and encouraged, especially because it’s a vocation that really challenges your self-confidence and self-knowledge. And it can be a difficult thing to pursue as an individual, particularly because your work is by nature isolated, intensively self-reflective, idiosyncratic if it’s any good, and produced in solitude. And I think there’s some awareness in the contest of the need to have some centralized focus, bringing together of the disparate threads of imaginative people into a singular community, something that extends into the future as well. So, not just about what’s happening now, but about things that are going to happen, work that’s going to be produced that we have no concept of. That’s a very generous vision.


You have entered both Contests. From your perspective, how do these contests affect the field of speculative fiction?


The contest affects the field of writing and illustrating for speculative fiction by providing a forum for discussion, a place for critical reflection, a feeling amongst amateur artists that their work is valued, that the word amateur is not necessarily a negative word, that it’s something that suggests promise and undiscovered success. I think also just the sense that you become part of a tradition, especially as the award has been going for so many years, it becomes something that makes you feel connected to a longer history of production, so that you are part of a continuum of experience, not just an isolated event.


Is there anything else you would like to say about your success and winning the contest back in 1992?


Well, I think it’s kind of nice to be here in a position to reflect on winning the L. Ron Hubbard Illustrators of the Future Contest and see it not as a weird, strange event that it may have seemed at the age of seventeen, but actually part of a continuum of experience. And it’s only something that I’m able to understand in hindsight. And I wish I could have said to myself back as a seventeen-year-old “don’t worry, it’s all going to be okay.”  This is quite a great business to be in. But I think people were already saying that to me back in Washington, D.C. at the workshops and the illustrators’ discussion group─that this is worth pursuing. That was maybe the first time I’d ever heard that from another person. So it’s really nice to see it as a singular history, not a scattering of random events.


Shaun Tan’s Illustrators of the Future award in 1992 was just the beginning of an outstanding and impressive array prizes and recognitions in the fields of writing and art

Shaun Awards

Shaun Awards