Illustrators of the Future Class of 2017

Writers & Illustrators Workshop Wrap-Up

At the beginning of the week, I had said that this was a contest like no other and that remains true today, as this is the largest on-going contest for Writers and Illustrators in Science Fiction and Fantasy. In 2013 I was a winner in Volume 29, it was my first entry and I had done many school projects that had become successful in their own right. But I had no business plan for myself. Coming here I was inspired by the guest lecturers and the Judges. I remember being overwhelmed by the generosity and felt obligated to make sure I was successful enough that I could do the same in the future.

Coming back I can see some of the faces have changed and the content has changed but the spirit stays the same. The hunger of the winners for the knowledge and the desire from the Judges to assist all the winners, those things never change. With a revamped business section, new experiences and fields of art to draw from have added a new perspective for the Winners. These changes can be seen throughout the days but it all builds from the same spirit set by L. Ron Hubbard and that is to “pay it forward.”

The seminar doesn’t stop once leaving the Contest. As an award winning Illustrator (and Writer), you have a network of working professionals that help support each other. Everything from paperwork and practices, to advice and contacts. As a winner you become part of the rising tide and along with each other, we all rise.

To those who have yet to experience this contest, I recommend it. If you are doubting your work is good enough, stop self-rejecting yourself and submit. If you have graduated and have found it is hard to get published and don’t know where to start, submit your work. If you think that you are living too far away to start a career in illustration or writing, submit your work. If you think you are too old to start, submit your work; then we will be waiting for you and will see you in the future.

Pictured above (L to R): Illustrator winners Hanna Al-Shaer, Michael Michera, Preston Stone (2016), Joshua Meehan (2013), Illustrators of the Future Contest judges and instructors Echo Chernik, Val Lakey Lindahn, Lazarus Chernik, illustrator winners Yader Fonseca, David Furnal, Rachel Quinlan, Anthony Moravian and Ryan Richmond.

 


Joshua Meehan

Joshua Meehan

Guest blogger, Joshua Meehan.
Joshua Meehan is a freelance science fiction and fantasy illustrator. He was an Illustrators of the Future winner in 2013 in Volume 29. His client list includes Paizo Publishing, Analog Sci-fi magazine, Fantasy Flight and Bethesda. Joshua’s illustration for Robert J. Sawyer’s short story “Gator” is in the latest Writers of the Future anthology, Volume 33.
www.joshuameehan.com

Writers & Illustrators of the Future Awards Event 2017

This is, of course, the day of the achievement awards ceremony. It’s held at the Wilshire Ebell Club Theatre, which is an amazingly cool place.

At one point, a little later in the night, I found myself standing in the big room where the final book signing would be held. The gala event was over, but the winners had not yet arrived. The room, therefore, was fairly quiet. Just a few people milling around. In an adjoining room, there were several tables covered with newly released copies of Writers and Illustrators of the Future, Volume 33 all waiting to be signed. Other tables had drinks on them, and still, other tables were covered with trays of food. But the tables I was looking at were a large collection in the middle of the room, each placed together to form a rectangle.

Inside the rectangle, there were fourteen chairs (five to each long side, and two to each short side), facing out. Each table was covered in a tablecloth of pale gold, and in front of each chair sat a blue pen. The pens seemed to be locked and loaded, lined up in perfectly regimented order. In just a few minutes the winners would arrive, take these seats, and begin to use these pens to sign books. But right then everything was quiet and stable. A calm before the storm.

This “calm before the storm” is how I’m feeling about this year’s class of winners. Their book is ready to launch, as—for many of them—are their writing careers. I can feel that storm brewing within this group. I can’t wait to see what this gang does.

In the meantime, I suppose I should go back in time a bit. (Everything about the Writers f the Future is focused on science fiction and fantasy, right? I figure I’ve got some leeway to let time travel happen here, so I’m going to take it).

Earlier this morning, the winners had been quiet and subdued. I walked over to ASI, to take in the hair and make-up process going on. Along the way, I spied three of the guys having a quiet conversation in the hotel lobby. Two others were at a Starbucks, sipping coffee and having a quiet conversation. They all had speeches to deal with, and in the end, they would all deal with those speeches beautifully. But in the morning, it seems to be a little stressful.

I watched Molly Atkins and C.L. Kagmi get their makeup done. I chatted with Ziporah Hildebrandt as she was waiting her time in the seat. Family members of Molly and Ziporah came into town, and I got to chat with them for a while. This was great fun. After a whole week of watching the winners go about their work, seeing their kids, parents, and other significant others was a special treat.

Before too long, it was time to travel to the Wilshire. We piled into a bus and headed off. Conversation throughout the ride was lively. Jake Marley and Stephen Lawson chatted up a storm. I asked about their previous experience with speaking in groups, both had some but Stephen took the lead due to his work in the military. When we arrive, the winners got their pictures taken, and made their way down the red carpet, and had a series of fantastic interviews.

The thematic element of the event this year is the red dragon, painted gloriously be renowned artist Larry Elmore. This means the red carpet is decorated with the head of a red dragon and patrolled by a knight in shining armor. Families and visitors took seats, and the event began.

Bottom line: this ceremony was huge when I was last here in the late 1990s. It was loud and raucous, and a lot of fun. Those events paled, however, in relationship to what it is now. This is a huge presentation. Contest judges Rob Prior and Larry Elmore kicked off the festivities by painting a dragon together as a trio of fire dancers kept the audience entertained. Then came an overview of L. Ron Hubbard and the contest itself.

Mike Resnick received a lifetime award and give a speech about his writer children and how he has always nurtured new writers. As one of his earlier writer children, I can completely confirm this…watching Mike get this award was a highlight of my week. Mike’s efforts to help new writers over the years dovetail perfectly with this contest, a fact that was represented by the rows of past winners I was sitting with who had all been published in or with him. Of course, his speech was fantastic.

Then Pat Henry, co-founder and President of Dragon Con gave a lively dissertation about fandom, the convention, the value of fantasy and science fiction, and dragons as a whole.

So, yeah, the early part of the show was great fun, but the time had now come for the presentation of the awards. I could easily put myself in the winner’s shoes and realize that they were probably getting more nervous as time went by. As David VonAllmen said, there may well have been 1200 people in the building, but there were millions more looking in on the Internet. No pressure, right?

Anyway…the winners’ talks may well have taken forever to get here, but they started off with a bang when Anton Rose gave a fantastic speech for his story “A Glowing Heart.” From this point on, winner after winner came to the stage and made brilliant moments. Perhaps the most powerful speech came from a writer who wasn’t even here. Walter Dinjos, a Nigerian winner (for “The Woodcutter’s Diety”) sent a beautiful video from his home in which he thanked L. Ron Hubbard and the contest and went on to note how he missed being with his writer class and would be looking forward to finding them as their careers unwound. Afterward, Larry Elmore, who was presenting the illustrator’s award, paused, looked out at the audience, and said “That was a moving video. You can tell he has the same heart as the rest of us.”

Yes, indeed you could.

And, yes, there was moment after moment for the winners, culminating in the announcement of the illustrious “Golden Pen Award,” the top achievement in the contest in which the judges selected a grand prize winner from the top four winners of each quarter. This year the candidates were Dustin Steinacker’s “Envoy on the Ice,” Doug Souza’s “The Armor Embrace,” Andrew Peery’s “Useless Magic,” and Jake Marley’s “Acquisition.”

When Jake’s name was called, pandemonium broke out. There was screaming and laughing and joyous crying—and that was just from Jake! The rest of the crowd, including this fantastic set off on a round of thunderous applause as he bounded down the aisle, hugging his friends and receiving big claps on the back. To say the least, this was a very popular winner. Jake gave a beautiful acceptance speech. At one point the screen flash on his beautiful wife and daughter smiling, with tears in their eyes, literally unable to hold still. Later I would speak with one of them and she was effervescent. “I’m so proud of him!” she would say, literally glowing as she held a copy of the book to her chest. “He’s been gone at the Writers of the Future for so long and I haven’t seen him or hugged him until today and I’m so proud of him I can hardly even finish my sentences and I’m so ready to burst.”

Which brings us full circle to the book signing.

The winners arrive and take their seats. Books are purchased, and the signing commences. I wander around in the background, watching as the lines of people walk through and the writers talk to each of them as they personalize the books. It’s a long process. Past winners Megan O’Keefe and Laurie Tom are there, making sure the writers always have water, which is considerably more important than they might have thought before going through this. It’s hot there, you know? The lights are on, and the people move by, and you’re talking all the time, which means your voice gets dry. Water is a big deal at a signing. Consider this lesson number 10,058 of the Writers of the Future week.

Then it’s done.

The winners pile into busses, get back to the hotel, put on their everyday duds, and head to the after-party to chat, sign each other’s books, have a little snack, and basically just decompress.

It’s nearly 3:00 by the time I get back to the room and shut off the light.

But, who is minding the clock, right? This Writers of the Future thing is all about fantasy and science fiction.

Time is our plaything, and tonight it’s on the side of these 14 amazing winners.

For a glimpse of how the day transpired, click HERE.

 


Ron Collins

Ron Collins

Guest blogger, Ron Collins.
Ron Collins was a Writers of the Future published finalist in 1998 and a prize winner in 1999. He has gone on to publish about 100 short stories in prominent magazines and anthologies. Each volume in his fantasy serial Saga of the God-Touched Mage, hit the top 10 on Amazon’s bestselling Dark Fantasy list in the US, UK, and Australia. His short story, “The White Game” was nominated for the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s 2016 Derringer Award. The first four books of his current SF series, Stealing the Sun, are available now. Find out more about Ron at typosphere.com

Bob Ciano

Illustrators of the Future Workshop 2017 – Day 5

Day 5. Portfolio day. The winners have been through the gauntlet. They pushed through their assignments and have the tools to succeed.

Larry Elmore started the day giving his advice to the winners. Listening to him is a special treat with his amazing wealth of experience. He spoke about how technology has influenced his work for reference gathering and about lens distortion when taking your reference. His tip was to use an 80mm lens as it will be similar to the human eye. Regardless of technology, he has used models for 40 years and gave sound advice for keeping everything legal to protect yourself. One of the beauties of technology is the distribution outlets for your projects. While many of the older publications are now gone, new outlets have evolved thanks to the internet. So the age of technology has really made it an incredible time to add revenue streams that make you money while you sleep. All this advice was really good, but the primary force of the talk was about how an artist sees. Not just look but to really see it, to the point where you understand the shapes and patterns. Cataloging your visual library is a lifelong journey but is vital to an artist’s visual vocabulary and once you understand the shapes and patterns you can manipulate them, distort, and make something new.

Bob Ciano, has worked as a Creative Director for Wired magazine, St. Mary’s College, Life magazine and the New York Times. He gave his lecture with the illustrators about their business plan and reinforced their usage rights as artists. He asked some great questions which the winners will need to ask themselves regularly. Questions like: What art do you make? Who is your target? What has the response been to your art? Are you getting work? Because if you are not making your living on your art you are not a professional. He talked about the invoice, the basics being: Who it goes to. When it’s due. How much. The most important thing he looks for in promotional material is to do something different, even if it’s something small. You must market yourself. This includes research on your other illustrators. You must be a good designer, and a good marketer using a website and social media. Make sure you are making projects that stand out, not just portfolio pieces. Don’t worry about the rejection letters as it usually takes 3-5 years to have enough clients to not work a day job, but it works that way in all industries. He discussed how to sell by targeting who you want to work for. Do you have a promotion piece and are you going to send it to them every month until they tell you to go away or give you a job. Art Directors and Creative Directors are busy people and it takes many tries sometimes to get the timing right and the right project to come along. The key is to never stop sending.

The Winners broke for lunch and then upon returning conducted round robin style portfolio reviews with each of the visiting judges providing a vast wealth of knowledge to draw from. Each Winner had 20 minutes for each session with their choice of Ciruelo, Larry Elmore, Bob Ciano, Echo Chernik, Lazarus Chernik, Val Lindahn and past winners. With so many biases and different experiences each Portfolio Review would be different and it seemed to be a pattern that after the timer quite a few artists and judges went over their time. That just speaks to the level of art that is winning the competition, each year builds higher from the year before.

Past Illustrators of the Future winner Ven Locklear came to talk and showcased his work and his experiences working at Liquid Development. He has worked on games ranging from Farmville to Halo 5, and with companies like WB Games, Zynga, Disney Interactive, 343 Industries, and Bethesda. Most of his presentation was how he entered into the industry and provided avenues for the winners if they would like to pursue a similar career path. In this case there were a couple winners who definitely have that style and they were able to converse further after the fact.

Most of the night the winners spent rehearsing at the theatre where the event is fast approaching, all anyone could talk about was the humongous dragon that wrapped around the stage. If you cannot attend the event personally make sure to catch the live streamed event to see all the winning pieces as well as who wins this year’s Golden Brush Award.

Photos from today’s workshop, HERE.

 


Joshua Meehan

Joshua Meehan

Guest blogger, Joshua Meehan.
Joshua Meehan is a freelance science fiction and fantasy illustrator. He was an Illustrators of the Future winner in 2013 in Volume 29. His client list includes Paizo Publishing, Analog Sci-fi magazine, Fantasy Flight and Bethesda. Joshua’s illustration for Robert J. Sawyer’s short story “Gator” is in the latest Writers of the Future anthology, Volume 33.
www.joshuameehan.com

Larry Niven

Writers of the Future Workshop 2017 – Day 6

Saturday is essentially a “Cavalcade of Stars.” For the winners, this means that today they don’t have to go anywhere except the classroom, but about every hour or so a new judge stops by to give them something new to think about (luckily, the brains of the winners are infinite storage cells for all the stuff that’s going on).

Nina Kiriki Hoffman starts the morning out with a fun exercise for creating idea, which gets C.L. Kagmi (3rd place, Q3) pumped. “I loved that exercise,” she said. She has this great idea, now, you see, but she has a problem: All she wants to do is go writer, but there’s a whole day’s worth of learning to sit through. Somehow, she manages. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with, though. Very little is more fun to see than a writer with an idea burning in her mind.

Doug Beason was next up. He talks about focusing on characters and relationships in science fiction. “It’s not good enough to just put cool technology and ideas into pieces anymore,” he says. Nancy Kress and I have a little conversation about this in the cracks of the session. My own little pin on this kind of thing is that, as time moves forward, what used to be considered harder science fiction has turned into contemporary fiction. But then, what do I know, right? Doug spends thirty minutes answering questions that range from the use of metallic hydrogen to the kinds of programs available to get kids interested in space.

Jody Lyn Nye talks about conventions. Specifically, how to work with a convention as a professional writer, giving our winners tips a steady stream of ideas and advice. She echoes Kevin J. Anderson’s talk a few days back about how to be a professional writer. It’s a solid hour filled with great stuff.

Then the group gets to sit with Nnedi Okorafor, who starts by asking “what do you want to hear from me?” and then spends the next 45 minutes answering non-stop questions. She discusses her own journey to becoming a professional writer—which is a topic almost every new writer I know loves to hear. The paths we take are all so different. I mean, there are similarities, of course, but it helps to hear that there is no one “right path.” She talks about writer’s block—or at least why she doesn’t believe in it. “When things aren’t coming, I’m not blocked. But I know I just have to wait. It always comes.” I love this thought pattern. This was an energetic conversation that would probably still be going if Tim Powers hadn’t kept a semi-firm handle on the agenda!

And the highlights keep coming.

Next up is Jerry Pournelle, and then Larry Niven. It’s clear to me that there are more than a couple of our winners who are doing their best not to go into full-out fan mode. Jerry talks about the difference between being an author and being a writer, coming back to that point often, but focusing on the work. “Concentrate on the story,” he said. Larry spent most of his discussion on the act of collaboration. He talked about respecting the other writer, and he talked about matching skillsets. Both he and Jerry talked about using each other’s strengths while creating their stories together.

Then came a session with six past winners including Megan O’Keefe, Laura Tom, Steve Pantazis, Martin Shoemaker, Kary English, Brennan Harvey, and myself. As might be expected with seven voices, the result was a scatter-shot of ideas that were all primarily focused on what happens next. Megan passed around an approach to story structure, and everyone picked out things that struck us as valuable to think about as the winners go home. Questions came in about web presences, how to use critique groups, how to deal with an audience and the pressures that come from having a bit of notoriety. Among others.

Since I participated directly in this session, I found myself looking around the room and thinking of the people I came to the program with back in volumes 14 and 15. Amy Casil and Scott Nicholson were at the forefront. Jim Hines, Steve Mohan, Jason Schmidt. I was remembering Carla Montgomery, who helped me title “Stealing the Sun.” Stephano Donati and Franklin Thatcher, who were my roomates. Don Solasan. Bill Rowland, Scott Huggins. I could go on, but this isn’t meant to be about me, right? (too late, I hear you say, too late!)

Much of the conversation focused on this new community that these winners are stepping into. And it is a great community. But I wanted them to look around the room now and realize that this is their class. These are the people who can still be around year after year. “These are your people,” I tried to say at the end of the session.

And that was that.

Except, of course that since this is Writers of the Future week. There’s always more to do even when the workshop comes to a close.

Next is a session for Q&A on the award ceremony, then a break for dinner, and finally a trip to the Wilshire Ebell Theatre for a rehearsal.

Yes, friends, the Awards Ceremony is tomorrow. [April 2, 2017 – 6:30 PM – Pacific Standard Time]

I think the gang is ready.

Here’s the link to the photos for the day.

 


Ron Collins

Ron Collins

Guest blogger, Ron Collins.
Ron Collins was a Writers of the Future published finalist in 1998 and a prize winner in 1999. He has gone on to publish about 100 short stories in prominent magazines and anthologies. Each volume in his fantasy serial Saga of the God-Touched Mage, hit the top 10 on Amazon’s bestselling Dark Fantasy list in the US, UK, and Australia. His short story, “The White Game” was nominated for the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s 2016 Derringer Award. The first four books of his current SF series, Stealing the Sun, are available now.

Illustrators of the Future Workshop 2017 – Day 4

On Day 4 it was another early morning. The artists had been working throughout the night and into this morning. The drive and passion of the winners has been an inspiring part of this year’s seminar.

We had an awesome lecture from Maria Ragusa-Burfield, owner and founder of Altpick. A Professional Portfolio site for artists. It provides a vehicle for talent to utilize the web and connect artists to more buyers. She was very impressed with the work and provided some great advice on how to advertise themselves by talking about their process and promoting their work through a website, email list, and social media platforms to build a network. She surprised them with a page for each artist and with an article to promote their work with the Writers of the Future anthology!

The seminar then covered the different ways you could self-publish your work through sites like Patreon and Kickstarter. Each needs a different business model to be successful and we focused on Kickstarter since more of the winners were interested in it. Lazarus and Echo have done 13 successful Kickstarter projects and showed the kits and campaigns they had run. Then the clock struck 11 AM and it was the deadline for their assignment.

All the judges, the past and current winners huddled around each artist as they presented their final piece. Each one had a unique and stunning take on the work over the course of just two days. Yader Fonseca had an incredible painting that used the silhouette of his three tigers to look like a mythical Cerberus. While Rachel Quinlan’s art had such a successful composition and the most integrated use of “the dragon” curveball included in the brief. Anthony put his reference to great use and had a great value structure. Ryan Richards could be seen down in the lobby every night working on his piece and the work paid off creating a very complete piece. Chan ha Kim’s work was filled with fantastic details in her pen and ink drawing. David Furnal’s art had one of the strongest uses of shapes to frame the main character. Michael Michera’s piece had the most ambitious composition and Hanna Al-shaer’s art really had a Saturday Evening Post vibe. All in all, it was an impressive display and we were able to review all before lunch.

After Lunch we had 4 esteemed judges present their work, Val Lakey Lindhan, Sergey Poyarkov, Ciruelo Cabral and Rob Prior. Each shared their process, experiences and advice that is quintessential to their work. Then the writers came down as we setup to sign the first batch of books. The assembly line really grew into an efficient machine. Although for many artists this was their first book signing. So it took some getting used to and would be a good warm up for the coming weekend.

Then to top it all off the Winners were invited to a barbecue hosted by Author Services up on their roof! As the sun sets and the lights began to glow we could feel the anticipation in the air for the event that would come up this weekend! Get ready for a show!

Photos from today’s highlights can be seen HERE.

 


Joshua Meehan

Joshua Meehan

Guest blogger, Joshua Meehan.
Joshua Meehan is a freelance science fiction and fantasy illustrator. He was an Illustrators of the Future winner in 2013 in Volume 29. His client list includes Paizo Publishing, Analog Sci-fi magazine, Fantasy Flight and Bethesda. Joshua’s illustration for Robert J. Sawyer’s short story “Gator” is in the latest Writers of the Future anthology, Volume 33.

Writers of the Future Workshop 2017 - Day 5

Writers of the Future Workshop 2017 – Day 5

The group is dragging a bit today. If you’ve read yesterday’s blog, you’re not surprised by this. It’s been a couple jam-packed days and late nights in a row. “I think I hit a wall today,” said Ziporah Hildebrandt (2nd place, Q4). Of course, you couldn’t tell it by the way she went about the day. Same thing with David VonAllmen (one of our two published finalists from St. Louis). A few days ago he was commenting that the pace of the week itself isn’t too tough, but today he told me that the information flow is amazing, so amazing. “There’s this steady flow of really smart people telling you things you really want to know,” he says.

That’s kind of the thing here, you know?

The pressure of the moment isn’t bad at all, but the experiences just keep on coming and coming until you feel like you’re trying to catch a river.

Today is Friday, though, which means first up is a workshop session where three of the “24-hour” stories are going to be critiqued. The specific stories are selected at random, or if you believe the legend Dave Farland throws the manuscripts down a set of stairs and Tim Powers goes and picks up the three that make it the farthest down the way. Sounds like as good of a way of doing it as any, eh?

For each of the manuscripts, each winner gets two minutes to comment on the story. Once they’re finished, Tim Powers and Dave Farland take the floor to provide their thoughts. I love this part because every manuscript has someone who says “I can’t believe this is a first draft written in 24 hours.” Literally, all three manuscripts under discussion had someone comment that they felt it was publishable as is. Much fun. Afterward, some of the winners tell me this critique session was different from others they’ve done. “Two minutes,” said Doug Souza (1st place, Q2) when I asked what was different. He proceeds to talk about trying to structure comments to fit the time, and how suddenly two minutes goes by in a flash. Others talk about the quality of the stories. Some are disappointed their manuscripts weren’t randomly selected, others were happy theirs weren’t. One of the selected stories is titled “[Untitled].” The group has much fun with that.

If anything, I think this session shows exactly how tight this group of winners is becoming. I’m guessing there are several long-term friendships beginning to form this week, and I think that’s pretty cool to watch.

After lunch, Robert J. Sawyer spent an hour talking about focusing your efforts on a theme, on research, and on how to think about doing what I’ll call “big books.” This was a fantastic talk, using some of the greatest works in Science Fiction’s history to cement his concepts.

Then Mike Resnick discussed contracting, business, science fiction fandom, selling to Hollywood, and (of course) Lara Croft. Seriously. You had to be there. [aside: all right, sorry to be that guy who does the in-talk, but when the winners get around to reading this, they’ll like it … sorry about that].

Nancy Kress finished the afternoon with a fantastic conversation wherein she discussed three personal breakthroughs her career has been formed by, giving some advice on how to fit a writer’s life into a personal life (copious notes were taken by many winners there), and her one soapbox topic—making science really work.

Each of the three had great Q&A sessions that could have gone on longer if Tim Powers hadn’t put his foot down and moved the group along.

Book Signing & Barbecue

Picture about 15 full-sized work tables lined on both sides by maybe 40 writer winners, illustrator winners, and judges. Picture a palate of over 300 trade paperback. Picture maybe ten helpers turning pages to help the flow of those 300+ books go from one end of the tables to the next in roughly an hour. Imagine all those winners in need of hand massages at the end of the process. I spent a chunk of my time taking books from Molly Elizabeth Atkins (another St. Louis published finalist), finding page 362, and passing them to artist Joshua Meehan so he could sign the illustration he did for Robert J. Sawyer’s “Gator.” Along the way, Molly kept a running conversation going about how her signature was going (“Oh, that’s a good one!” or “Oh, no!”). Similar conversations came from others. Ville Meriläinen (2nd place, Q3) and Sean Hazlett (2nd place, Q1) sat next to each other and occasionally augmented their signatures with an extra little surprise for a few lucky folks.

The whole event is raucous and loud. Across the way judges Mike Resnick and Jerry Pournell are trading stories. Jerry says he wants a shorter signature, and someone says just to use “JP.” He just sticks with “Jerry Pournell,” which seems to make a whole lot of sense. I mean, if I was Jerry Pournell, I think that’s how I would sign my books. [grin] Judge Kevin J. Anderson is at the far end of the room, cracking jokes. Rumor says he had the record for biggest book signing of all time until some guy named Dave Farland overtook him. Hmmm … wonder where he is these days? Oh, right. He’s at the other end of the table.

At one point, I step back and look at this with a little detachment. When you think about this, it dawns on you that these winners are sitting in a room, signing books with some of the biggest names in the industry.

Bottom line: The whole event is raucous and loud. A considerable amount of fun.

When that’s done, the group goes upstairs for dinner on the roof. It’s a casual event, burgers and hotdogs and sausage and chips and potato salad and dessert and … fantastic conversation that ranges from writing topics to dogs to kids to rock music and bagpipes played in empty cemeteries. Yes, you read that right.

When that’s done, the gang slowly disburses back to the hotel where they will undergo a final fitting for dresses and tuxes.

The whole thing comes to a close at 10:00. All total, it’s just another day of catching rivers at the Writers of the Future Workshop.

Tomorrow, of course, starts at 9:30 AM sharp. Here’s the link to the photos for the day.

 


Ron Collins

Ron Collins

Guest blogger, Ron Collins.
Ron Collins was a Writers of the Future published finalist in 1998 and a prize winner in 1999. He has gone on to publish about 100 short stories in prominent magazines and anthologies. Each volume in his fantasy serial Saga of the God-Touched Mage, hit the top 10 on Amazon’s bestselling Dark Fantasy list in the US, UK, and Australia. His short story, “The White Game” was nominated for the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s 2016 Derringer Award. The first four books of his current SF series, Stealing the Sun, are available now.

Writers of the Future Workshop 2017 – Day 4

Welcome to Due Date Thursday. Stories are to be turned in no later than 4:00 PM. No exceptions. That’s the tough news. The super-cool news is that this is also Writer-Meets-Illustrator Thursday, meaning that after the work is done, each writer is going to finally see their stories as interpreted through the eyes of a remarkably gifted visual artist.

What many of the writers don’t know is that I’ve decided to reprise my time here, and join them in writing a story in 24 hours. It’s great fun. By lunchtime today, I’m almost done. I take a small break to reset my brain and go get lunch. On the way back I find Ville Meriläinen (2nd place, Q3), Sean Hazlett (2nd place, Q1), and Dustin Steinacker (1st place, Q1) sitting in the lounge. Ville is “done,” meaning he’s written “the end” but he’s still polishing. Sean and Dustin are still adding words. We talk a little, mostly about what the exercise means, what they’ve learned doing it, and how they might use it going forward.

Later, after the deadline has passed, I find Ziporah Hildebrandt just outside the classroom. Ziporah is the 2nd place winner of Q4. She hails from Massachusetts. We’re standing just outside the classroom beside Robert J. Sawyer and Mike Resnick. Jody Lynn Nye is within earshot. “How did you use your prompts?” I ask her. Her face lights up. “My object was my favorite thing,” she says. “It was a set of old locks.” At this point, she goes on to describe her talking with a stranger who just happened to be a locksmith, and who proceeded to tell her about the history of this kind of lock and key. She then shows me how she baked this into what sounds like a totally remarkable science fantasy story.

Her experience is not unique. Literally, everyone I talk to has some cool twist on something that happened while they worked their prompts into their stories. I can’t begin to tell you how much fun that is to hear about. “I wrote 2,000 words on my first story,” Jake Marley (1st place, Q3) said, “then decided it was going to be too big and went back and wrote another.” This is the thing here, you know? That’s how it all works. Just write. You never know how much you can accomplish until one puts a focused effort into hitting a tough goal—but when you do, you suddenly find yourself going above and beyond. Here’s my money plopping down on the better than even line that Jake will finish that original story, too.

Yes, awesome.

Andrew Roberts (3rd place, Q4) probably wins the persistence award, reporting in at less than 2 hours of sleep last night. “It needs work,” he told me. But, yes, he hit the deadline, and yes, there’s some stuff in there he really likes.

The Big Reveal – Artist & Author

Then it’s time for the Illustrator/Writer match game.

The artwork is lined up with perfect precision. The artists stand aside. And the doors are opened to allow the writers to file in. The goal is to pick out the art that represents their stories. As they file in I see huge goofy smiles and hear a few gasps of delight. At one point there’s a call of “that’s mine!” A few minutes later the artists join the fray. Conversation fills the hall in a swelling crescendo of excitement as creative minds meet up, shake hands, pat each other on the back. “This is so amazing,” one writer says to his illustrator, “Come here and let me give you a hug!” As I’m walking around, I hear illustrators talking to their writers. “I loved your story,” is a common refrain. Music to the heart, man. If the conversation is music, this is like John Coltran and Miles Davis mixed with Mozart. And, what the heck, let’s throw a little Dylan in there, too. I hear he could write a little. [very big grin] Since this is a science fiction thing, feel free to throw in a little David Bowie.

I found Doug Souza holding onto the artwork for his piece. He’s the Q2 first place winner from here in California. He was literally stunned. “That’s a fantastic piece,” I said. It’s an image of a mech suit and a young lady, gorgeously portrayed. Doug tries his best to put his thoughts into words, but it’s hard. “I love it,” he said. He talked about the relationship between the characters, and the perfection of the piece all the way down to the expression on the woman’s face. Another person stopped by and said that when he saw the artwork, he knew he needed to read that story.

It is, I suppose, easy to make this part of the week sound hyperbolic and over the top. If you haven’t been part of it, perhaps it feels almost too much to say that seeing what an artist does with a story is one of the most amazing things that can happen to you when you’re part of Writers of the Future. Let me tell you this is not the case.

Writing is about communication, you see. To see your work converted into a visual media by another creative person is one of the most intimate forms of communication there can be. It’s something deep and visceral. When another artist gets something you did so deeply that they can reflect that back in that kind of fashion…well. It’s really magic. It was magic when it happened to me, and it was magic to watch happen all over again. This was a total treat to watch unfold [see pics here].

Of course, the day wasn’t over.

Kevin J. Anderson on the Publishing Business

After a break for dinner, the winners assembled one more time, this time to hear New York Times bestselling author Kevin J. Anderson give a 90-minute discussion about publishing, writing, and things to think about when it comes to making a career in this industry. Making this the last presentation of the day is like having an entire cherry tree on top of your ice cream, right?

So that’s day 4. Or, at least that’s the presentations for day 4.

There is still work to do, though. As they leave the classroom, our winners are given three manuscripts to read—three of the stories written in the past 24 hours are going to be workshopped tomorrow. It’s 9:00 PM and the winners are sent to their rooms with homework.

Welcome to the life of a writer, eh?

There’s always more work to do, and tomorrow is another day.

To see all of the events of today in photographs, click HERE.

 


Ron Collins, guest blogger Guest blogger, Ron Collins.
Ron Collins was a Writers of the Future published finalist in 1998 and a prize winner in 1999. He has gone on to publish about 100 short stories in prominent magazines and anthologies. Each volume in his fantasy serial Saga of the God-Touched Mage, hit the top 10 on Amazon’s bestselling Dark Fantasy list in the US, UK, and Australia. His short story, “The White Game” was nominated for the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s 2016 Derringer Award. The first four books of his current SF series, Stealing the Sun, are available now.

Illustrators of the Future Workshop 2017 - Day 3

Illustrators of the Future Workshop – Day 3

It was an early start for the winners and based on the look on their faces they didn’t get much sleep. They were busy working on their assignments. Some worked digitally and some worked traditionally. Lazarus began the morning early and presented the theme for the day: Portfolio Presentations. Each day there has been a recurring overall theme, “You are good enough to do the work, that is why you are here.” Today the winners would learn how to sell their portfolio to clients.

Part of selling to the client is making sure to hit all of the important parts within the brief. In the assignment “the Red Dragon,” handling client curveballs (where the client changes what they ask for) became a point of critique. This became a good example of how to communicate and take care of your client. Between critiques, the Illustrator winners had now proceeded to the reference gathering part of the creative process. Creating a good sketch is important, helping to ensure the gestalt or “the overall” is working well, as well as structuring the message for one’s eventual audience. Yet it is the reference that the artist can use to really sell the image. The winners took turns posing as each other’s references for their pieces, setting up lighting, using props. Anthony Moravian’s reference piece was particularly extensive and everyone was happy to jump in. With many expressive faces, we all gathered together to scream at the imaginary horrors. With each winner’s reference pack, they were able to flesh out their ideas and really tighten up the drawings for presenting later.

The winners were then gotten to “sell” their portfolio in a controlled environment. It really helped the winners work out the kinks and see the order of presentation and how to comport themselves. Each artist would present their work and for some, it was their first time in public speaking, yet all went full force and impressed the judges. For David Furnal, we all gathered around his tablet and really got into the great line work. Including his graphic novel “Another Girl, Another Planet.” After seeing each presentation we broke for lunch.

After lunch, the seminar continued with judges portfolios. Lazarus showcased his “Brand Management” portfolio. Echo had her many fantastic art nouveau works and many different styles. This was a way to specifically show how to organize your portfolio and how to sell it and showing how your clients will go through your portfolio. Winners were coached on what they should sharpen and fine tune for stronger presentations. One interesting point that Lazarus talked about was to “Walk the customer through” your portfolio instead of letting them walk through your work. Show the client what fits their need and sell your services to fix their problem. The artists began their one-on-one sessions on how to orchestrate their portfolio. Each artist had different approaches. And by the end of the day, they had strong portfolios and even stronger websites. The art was already good, it was just a matter of how they told the story through the portfolio.

The rest of the day was tuxedo fitting and fellowship … until when the surprise hit! As the tuxedo fitting was taking place, the writers’ room was completely filled with easels of each piece of art in the upcoming Writers of the Future Volume 33. As the illustrators stood by, writers entered the room, reviewing the art display to find their piece. Once found, their illustrator would come up to the writer to introduce themselves! As an artist, there is a lot of work that has to go into a cover piece. Reading the story multiple times to pick up on the minute details and tone. The artists and writers were thrilled to meet each other and instantly hit it off. A very cool moment that they will remember forever.

There were just a few more surprises. With such a full day, the perfect capstone to the night was the Salon Figure Drawing session. The artist gets to just relax and get into the heart of what the winners love to do—draw. Everyone had different styles, tools, and techniques. As a special treat, they could even sketch side-by-side with the judges, seeing their masterful strokes.

After such a great day the winners were sent off with a complimentary t-shirt featuring Larry Elmore’s “Crimson Dawn” from this year’s book cover!

Tomorrow the artists will be presenting their assignments, so look forward to that.

A ton of cool pics from today’s highlights can be seen HERE.

 


Joshua Meehan

Joshua Meehan

Guest blogger, Joshua Meehan.
Joshua Meehan is a freelance science fiction and fantasy illustrator. He was an Illustrators of the Future winner in 2013 in Volume 29. His client list includes Paizo Publishing, Analog Sci-fi magazine, Fantasy Flight and Bethesda. Joshua’s illustration for Robert J. Sawyer’s short story “Gator” is in the latest Writers of the Future anthology, Volume 33.

Illustrators on their way to the workshop.

Illustrators of the Future Workshop 2017 – Day 2

On day 2 the Illustrator Winners started bright and early, meeting down in the lobby of the Loews Hotel. They began with a tour of the famous Author Services building. Floor to ceiling, the sheer prolific nature of L. Ron Hubbard’s career is always a great milestone to aspire to. Towards the end of the tour, Joni brought them into the Writers and Illustrators of the Future Lounge where, in addition to all the published works from past writer and illustrator winners, photos of all the judges were up along the walls, along with each of the 32 volumes of the Writers of the Future anthology proudly displayed. Now knowing the full breadth of the Contests’ legacy that they were now a part of, the winners headed down for the opening seminar.

Echo and Lazarus began at a ferocious pace providing a lot of information. Luckily each winner had their notebook to write down their questions for later, of which there were many. During the beginning of the seminar, Echo and Lazarus went over several subjects including Illustration vs. Fine art, the many hats you must manage as an artist, and how buyers see your service—already providing considerably more than the “20-minute optional class on the business of art” Echo had received when she was in art school.

In the afternoon the winners returned to another informative session. Lazarus broke down how to price one’s work for the bare minimum fee, enlightening the winners about pricing in general and ethical guides. Echo and Lazarus provided handout kits with information on licensing, negotiations, business plans, sample contracts, who you contact and how to read creative briefs.

Our newest Illustrator judge, Ciruelo, just arrived from Spain, brought his advice learned from over 30 years of experience of having worked with publishers from all over the world. He reinforced the importance of being able to recognize and communicate the needs of the client so as to make the client happy. This involved knowing why they hired you, and then how your work should go beyond just fulfilling the needs of the client. He reminded the winners to nurture their artistic voice so that they continue to grow. Val Lindahn also reflected on the importance of doing your personal work as the passion will shine.

In addition to different guest speakers who will be addressing the illustrator winners this week, we also have a guest photographer covering the Workshops–notable Thorsten von Overgaard, Danish writer and photographer. His photographs of the Illustrator workshop are here.

A ton of cool pics from today’s highlights can be seen HERE.

 


Joshua Meehan

Joshua Meehan

Guest blogger, Joshua Meehan.
Joshua Meehan is a freelance science fiction and fantasy illustrator. He was an Illustrators of the Future winner in 2013 in Volume 29. His client list includes Paizo Publishing, Analog Sci-fi magazine, Fantasy Flight and Bethesda. Joshua’s illustration for Robert J. Sawyer’s short story “Gator” is in the latest Writers of the Future anthology, Volume 33.

Writers of the Future Workshop 2017 - Day 3 - on the way to the library

Writers of the Future Workshop 2017 – Day 3

A subdued tension hangs in the air this morning.

Yesterday’s conversations about craft have been absorbed, and the collection of this year’s winners have spent the night with the knowledge of their story objects working their way into their psyches. They’ve shared moments. They’ve gotten comfortable with each other. This morning they know the learning session is going to be about agents and editors, and how to deal with that end of the business. They know they are going to go to the library, and they know they are going to ignore their mother’s advice and go out to talk with strangers.

They also know they are going to be writing a story today—the “24-hour story” as it were.

The specter of it looms. The feeling as the morning session gathers is like being on a roller coaster car that’s been slowly climbing to its peak. Now it’s cresting. Story time is coming.

No going back.

I got a chance to chat with Anton Rose before the morning session started. Anton is from the UK and is the Q1 third place winner. He’s the guy with the phone cord as his story object. He’s looking forward to the challenge. I ask him how he’s enjoying the event so far, and he tells me that he’s enjoying the camaraderie. He has online support for his writing, he says. “But I don’t have a lot of people in my area doing speculative fiction. It’s nice to have real people to talk with.”

No surprise there, I suppose. This group of winners seems to have really bonded already.

Anton also says he’s been anticipating the 24-hour story. As the rest of the group files into the classroom, it becomes more and more obvious that all the winners have been thinking about this, too.

That said, if there is any topic that can divert the attention of new writers from the roller coaster ride, it’s a discussion about agents. The conversation is lively. Questions are asked. “You don’t want an agent,” Dave Farland said. “You want the agent.” Tim Powers agreed. “It’s like finding a spouse,” he added. “You don’t want to get married just because you found someone who will take you on, right?” There was more, of course. A whole lot more. And it was clear the winners were in full learning mode, which made this session a lot of fun to watch.

Then came the walk to the library for research, and the assignment to find a stranger to strike up a conversation with.

I brought up the rear during the walk to the library. Watching the entire column of writers trekking through Los Angeles made me think about the future. How many of the stories that are going to be written today will we see in magazines? I’m guessing a few. How will the things they research in a moment influence those stories? Some, I’m guessing, but I’ll put my money on the idea that the biggest influence on these stories will be the “conversations.” I tell a few of them that I can viscerally remember the people I talked to down to the point of what they were wearing and how their voices sounded as they spoke. Knowing you’re going to let someone’s persona influence your art has a way of changing how you store those memories I guess. Or, maybe it’s just me. The proof will be in the pudding.

Molly Atkins (published finalist) and Dustin Steinacker (Q1 first prize winner) kill two birds with one stone and conduct their conversations right there at the library. It’s fun to watch both take on animated tones, and even more fun when Dustin’s interview candidate pulls out a notebook and starts to show him maps and charts. “He was into celebrities,” Dustin told me afterward. There was more, too, Dustin went on in some depth that I won’t report on here because I have no idea how it will show up in his story. But let’s just say I’m intrigued. There’s every chance I may use the base concept in something I write soon, myself. That’s how ideas move through the world, right? They pass from person to person, morphing at each step.

Sean Hazlett (Q1 second place winner) takes a unique approach, calling an uber to take him to the Hollywood sign. “It’s only a couple minute drive, but I figure this way I get to sight-see and I get a captive audience.”

I had great fun pretending to be a hard-shelled street detective as I did my best to keep the Author Services photographers informed of where the winners were as they scattered around the area.

By 4:00 PM, however, the waiting is over. The winners gathered back in the classroom for a few additional moments of advice, then Tim Powers stood at the door and said “All right, it’s time. Go!”

Off the winners went.

Sitting here—jotting down these thoughts—I’m recalling the energy of this moment when I was here, and I’m imagining the work these winners are doing. I’m thinking about the people who were in my classes, and the stories I know they wrote that eventually got published. I can see their faces in my mind. Then I’m thinking about these thirteen winners working away. I can see them sitting in the hotel lobby and at the side of the pool. I can imagine them in their hotel rooms like I was back in the day. Typing away. Then sitting back and thinking. Staring out into space, and typing again. I’m thinking about words being put down on manuscripts as I’m sitting here. Thirteen stories. Let’s say 5,000 words each. Believe me, a lot of these winners will hit that number. Assuming they do, that’s 65,000 words that are being created today.

65,000 words. Twenty-four hours.

How awesome is that?

A ton of cool pics from today’s highlights can be seen HERE.

 


Ron Collins

Ron Collins

Guest blogger, Ron Collins.
Ron Collins was a Writers of the Future published finalist in 1998 and a prize winner in 1999. He has gone on to publish about 100 short stories in prominent magazines and anthologies. Each volume in his fantasy serial Saga of the God-Touched Mage, hit the top 10 on Amazon’s bestselling Dark Fantasy list in the US, UK, and Australia. His short story, “The White Game” was nominated for the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s 2016 Derringer Award. The first four books of his current SF series, Stealing the Sun, are available now.