Jennifer Ober presents illustration of Nnedi Okorafor

Writers & Illustrators of the Future Workshop – Day 8

The Writer Workshop & Art Workshop Join

It’s hard to imagine a writer whose career is more on fire right now than Nnedi Okorafor Ph.D. (Binti). Multiple Hugo nominations. Writing Black Panther stories for Marvel and her own series LaGuardia for Dark Horse. A forthcoming HBO fantasy series based on Who Fears Death announced by George R.R. Martin at the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards.

Nnedi spent the morning with our writer winners telling them how she went from a high school track and tennis athlete who’d never even thought about writing fiction to the multi-award winner and NYT Bestseller she is today.

Some writers have known they wanted to write since they were children. Not Okorafor. She discovered her craft by taking a creative writing class in college. It wasn’t long before she was hooked, and this in spite of her instructors actively discouraging her from writing science fiction or fantasy.

Okorafor called it magical realism and kept on writing. Two Masters degrees and one Ph.D. later, no one could tell her what not to write.

Journalism taught Okorafor to write clearly. Her childhood experiences taught her to write vividly and with words that conveyed the wonder of the fantastical. Her family taught her perseverance and that education was paramount.

The combination has led her to produce a body of work that is at once haunting and dreamlike while feeling utterly realistic. To call her a rising star would give the mistaken impression that Dr. Okorafor is a newcomer to the field of speculative fiction. She isn’t.

Okorafor was a rising star in the early 2000s, having published her first short story in 2000, her short story “Windseekers” appeared in Writers of the Future Volume 18 in 2002, and her first novel Zahrah the Windseeker in 2005. Today, she is a blazing comet whose work will light the skies of our imaginations for decades to come.

Contributed by Kary English, Writers of the Future First Reader and winner from WotF 31.

Promoting Yourself in this Day and Age

The combined workshop for both illustrators and writers continued in the afternoon under the banner of “Promoting Yourself in this Day and Age” given by President Galaxy Press, John Goodwin, and VP Public Affairs, Emily Goodwin, who were joined by special guests.

Hard-won tools were shared and practiced including formulating a message and sticking to it through various media channels such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter, the Writers of the Future Forum. Next up was journalism and how to present yourself and your book and get your message into a news story.

Dave Chesson of Kindlepreneur is an online book marketer. He provided tips on building mailing lists and email marketing and the importance of an author having a relationship with his readers.

Bill Fawcett (author, editor, anthologist, book packager) shared insight into targeting your market and exceptions to the rule.

And then it was a strategy meeting to coordinate the efforts of all winners and judges to make Writers of the Future Volume 35 a bestseller.

The workshop was followed by a now annual pizza party.

The evening was filled with a radio play inspired performance of L. Ron Hubbard’s sci-fi short “The Idealist.” Idealists generally start revolutions—and either die in them, or are condemned by the men they fought for. The story appears in Writers of the Future Volume 35.

All the winners were sent off with a suitcase full of books, their trophy, and story illustration and marketing materials. After some rest, they’ll be onto book signings and making their new release a bestseller.

2019 Writers of the Future Awards Event

The Writers & Illustrators of the Future Gala Awards Ceremony

Coordinating Writer Contest judge David Farland and Writer Contest judge Orson Scott Card announced writer Andrew Dykstal from Arlington, VA as the Grand Prize Golden Pen Award winner while presenting him a check for $5,000. Andrew Dykstal’s winning story, “Thanatos Drive,” was illustrated by Qianjiao Ma.

“Thanatos Drive” is a post-apocalyptic story wherein, Alan Li is struggling to defeat God, but is he following his own will, or is he just another one of God’s puppets?

Coordinating Illustrator Contest judge Echo Chernik and Founding Illustrator Contest judge Bob Eggleton announced illustrator Aliya Chen as the Golden Brush Award winner while presenting her with a check for $5,000. Aliya Chen illustrated writer Elise Stephen’s story, “Untrained Luck.” Her art depicts the two main characters: Mag and a rescued boy named Lio. Aliya is the Contest’s first Chinese grand prize winner.

This year, the gala took place at the Taglyan Complex in Hollywood on Friday evening, April 5, 2019. The grand red carpet and garden featured a 16-foot robot inspired by the latest anthology’s cover art by Bob Eggleton. The entire evening featured the theme of retro robotics.

The invitation-only black-tie awards event was streamed live. The gala began with tray passed hors d’oeuvres and cocktails, followed by a delectable Mediterranean four-course meal and the awards show, followed a book signing and reception in the plush foyer of the Taglyan.

Andrew Dykstal, winner of the Grand Prize Writer’s Award, said: “This is absolutely fantastic! I feel that my career as a writer has now been catapulted. It’s a tremendous honor to be here. The quality of the stories of my fellow writers in this contest is amazing. Having the opportunity as I have for this past week in workshops networking and learning from authors I grew up reading, and whom continue to influence and inspire me, has been an experience I will never forget.”

Aliya Chen, winner of the Grand Prize Illustrator’s Award, said: “I didn’t expect this at all. I’m overwhelmed and very grateful! Winning this Grand Prize Award is validation for me that illustration, which is a passion for me, doesn’t have to be limited to a hobby, but it’s definitely possible as a career. I also feel God has opened these doors for me. My twin sister, Felicia, who is also an illustrator like myself, is the person who actually learned of the Illustrators of the Future Contest and encouraged me to enter. We are both supportive of one another, and for that reason we both didn’t enter the competition at the same time. This is a moment in my life I will never forget!”

Joni Labaqui, Director of Contests for Author Services, Inc. said, “This year, our fourth quarter illustrator 2018 winner, Alice Wang, became the youngest winner to ever enter our contests and win, at the age of 15. Submissions for our Writers and Illustrator Contests over the last 35 and 30 years respectively, have come from over 175 countries. This year we had four quarterly winners from England, more than ever before in one year. Selecting the two Grand Prize Winners from thousands of contest entries submitted annually is not an easy process.”

The awards show opened with sci-fi stomp and body percussion dance featuring ROV-E, a Mars Rover Robot Prototype from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and dancers from EmCirque, a world-renowned aerobatics and dance troupe.

Event master of ceremonies, Gunhild Jacobs, Executive Director of Author Services, Inc. introduced keynote speaker, Ed Hulse, an award-winning journalist and historian who specializes in documenting American popular culture of the late 19th and 20th centuries.

Ed Hulse’s address included, “These storytellers all contributed mightily to the evolution of Science Fiction. And now you’re part of that evolution. You represent a new generation of writers, alternately building upon and superseding literary traditions now more than a century old. Yours are the ideas and concepts that will shape Science Fiction for years to come. I look forward to seeing how you’ll respond to the challenge of making science fiction relevant to the readers of tomorrow.”

Joni Labaqui, Director of Contests for Author Services, Inc. presented the L. Ron Hubbard Lifetime Achievement Award to Bob Eggleton, a Founding Judge of the Illustrators of the Future Contest, and winner of many awards, including 9 Hugo Awards and 11 Chelsey Awards.

John Goodwin, President Galaxy Press, unveiled the 35th volume of L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future featuring the work of the 12 new authors and 12 new illustrators from this year’s contests. Edited by David Farland, with cover artwork by Bob Eggleton, the book also features stories and articles written by renowned writers and illustrators, Dean Wesley Smith, Rebecca Moesta, Mike Resnick, Echo Chernik and L. Ron Hubbard. The new anthology is now available throughout the United States from Amazon.com, BN.com, BAM.com, in Barnes & Noble stores, Books A Million, or at GalaxyPress.com

Awards for each of the quarterly finalists of the Writers and Illustrators Contests were presented by actors Kate Linder, Lee Purcell, Sean Cameron Michael, Ernest Pierce, and Phil Proctor, along with renowned judges specializing in the genres of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

This year’s 12 quarterly award winners of the Writers’ Contest were each presented with cash prizes and trophies. They included: Kyle Kirrin of Creede, CO, Preston Dennett of Reseda, CA, Kai Wolden of Eden Prairie, MN, David Cleden of Fleet, Hampshire, UK, Rustin Lovewell of Gaithersburg, MD, Carrie Callahan Bardstown, KY, Elise Stephens of Seattle, WA, Christopher Baker of Ramsbury, Wiltshire, UK, Mica Scott Kole of Westland, MI, Andrew Dykstal of Arlington, VA, Wulf Moon of Sequim, WA, and John Haas Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

This year’s 12 quarterly award winners of the Illustrating Contest were each presented with cash prizes and trophies. They included: Emerson Rabbitt of Minneapolis, MN, Vytautas Vasiliauskas of Paris, France, Yinying Jiang of Oxford, Oxfordshire, UK, Alexander Gustafson of Essex Junction, VT, Christine Rhee of San Francisco, CA, Sam Kemp of Birmingham, West Midlands, England, Allen Morris of Cleveland, MS, Jennifer Ober of Atlanta, GA, Josh Pemberton of Seattle, WA, Qianjiao Ma of Arcadia, CA, Alice Wang of Bellevue, WA, and Aliya Chen of Fair Oaks, CA.

Dr. Beatrice Kondo, daughter of the late Writers of the Future Judge, Dr. Yoji Kondo, and a member of the Heinlein Society Board of Directors, presented Gunhild Jacobs, Executive Director of Author Services, Inc. with a letter of recognition. The Heinlein Society is devoted to the study and promotion of the late American Science Fiction author Robert A. Heinlein. During her presentation, Dr. Kondo said, “L. Ron Hubbard established the Writers of the Future contests as a means for new and budding writers to have a chance for their creative efforts to be seen and acknowledged. On behalf of the Heinlein Society and issued by its President and Chairman, George E. Rule, I would like to present a letter of recognition to L. Ron Hubbard and his enduring Contest on the occasion of the 35th Anniversary.”

Event attendees also included 23 world-renowned writer and illustrator contest judges specializing in the genres of Science Fiction and Fantasy. The 15 Writer judges in attendance included: Kevin J. Anderson, Dr. Doug Beason, Dr. Gregory Benford, Orson Scott Card, David Farland, Eric Flint, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Todd McCaffrey, Rebecca Moesta, Larry Niven, Jody Lynn Nye, Dr. Nnedi Okorafor, Tim Powers, Dr. Robert J. Sawyer, and Dean Wesley Smith. The eight illustrator judges included: Echo Chernik, Lazarus Chernik, Bob Eggleton, Larry Elmore, Dr. Laura Freas Beraha, Val Lakey Lindahn, Sergey Poyarkov, and Rob Prior.

In the 35 years of the Writers of the Future Contest, there have been 416 winners and 80 published finalists. The 416 past winners of the Writing Contest have published 1,150 novels and nearly 4,500 short stories. They have produced 32 New York Times bestsellers and their works have sold over 60 million copies.

In the 30 years of the Illustrators of the Future Contest, there have been 346 winners. The 346 past winners of the Illustrating Contest have produced over 6,000 illustrations, 360 comic books, graced 624 books and albums with their art and visually contributed to 68 television shows and 40 major movies.

 

ROV-E says hello to winners

Writers & Illustrators of the Future Workshop – Day 6

Writers Workshop, Day 6: All-Star Guest Lectures

Excitement in the writers’ workshop always ramps up on Thursday. The writers have recovered from their 24-hour stories, and a parade of big-name authors have arrived for talks and presentations.

Farland, Powers, and Card started the morning session with a quick talk on profanity, sex, and gore in short stories and fiction writing. While the specific amounts vary by genre, too much of any of these can turn off readers and limit sales. If you’re aiming to write a bestseller, do some research in your genre to determine what’s acceptable and what’s not.

Nina Kiriki Hoffman (Catalyst: A Novel of Alien Contact) treated winners to a demonstration of her dice-powered system for creating stories.

Dean Wesley Smith (Dead Money) gave an impassioned, data-driven presentation about potential success in the world of indie and self-publishing.

Dr. Doug Beason (Ignition), who has a doctorate in physics, talked about rocket ships, asteroids and the importance of getting the science right.

Jody Lynn Nye (Moon Tracks) offered tips, insights and cautionary tales on professional and convention etiquette for writers.

Dr. Gregory Benford (The Berlin Project) shared stories from his long and illustrious career as a writer and physicist.

Dr. Beatrice Kondo, a board member for The Heinlein Society and Ph.D. in molecular biology, discussed natural selection, genetics and the limits of CRISPR.

Past winners Kary English (“Totaled”), Martin L. Shoemaker (Today I Am Carey), Darci Stone (“Mara’s Shadow”) and Eric James Stone (“An Immense Darkness”) talked about life as a neo-pro and how winning the contest has advanced their careers.

Liza Groen Trombi, editor of Locus, gave a short talk on industry trends.

When the lectures ended, judges and winners headed for the event venue to rehearse for tomorrow’s award ceremony. They’ll be up late practicing their speeches tonight!

Contributed by Kary English, Writers of the Future First Reader and winner from WotF 31.

Illustrators Workshop, Day 5: Guest Instructors and One-on-One Portfolio Reviews

The winning illustrators started Thursday morning presenting their finished (or Work-in-Progress) pieces from L. Ron Hubbard’s short story, “The Idealist,” to the judges, guests and workshop instructors. It was a pleasing variety of artistic interpretations with an impressive quality—particularly under their tight deadline of only a few days. Echo and Lazarus Chernik www.echo-x.com gave some constructive criticisms and helpful advice on the skill of presenting one’s art.

Special guest, Craig Elliot (who has worked for the likes of Disney, Blizzard, DreamWorks, and several other juggernaut entertainment studios) presented samples of his work and artistic experience, giving an invaluable and motivating lecture while scrolling through his varied portfolio.

Brian C. Hailes (Illustrator winner from 2002) also had a chance to present with a portfolio slideshow, speaking of his experience and artistic journey over the last seventeen years since he sat in the very same seat at the 2002 Illustrator’s workshop.

Rob Prior, illustrator, fine artist, and ambidextrous painter / performer extraordinaire, was next to present, and gave a stirring rock-n-roll lecture on his unique artistic approach as well as sharing a preview to his upcoming BBC documentary, focusing on his process and motivations moving from photo realism to a looser, more spontaneous style of work. He and Larry Elmore www.larryelmore.com worked off each other with some fun stories and bits of advice.

Next came the portfolio review, where each winner was able to spend ten minutes one-on-one with each of the judges and special guests—an invaluable opportunity that any up-and-comer could use to take their work up a few notches.

Bob Eggleton (cover artist for volume 35), finished out the Illustrators’ day with a lecture on his life, loves, and early career experiences meeting some of the field’s most influential fantasy and sci-fi heavy-hitters in the commercial art world (and also playing off Elmore—as they’ve been long-time friends).

Then it was up to Award Ceremony orientation and rehearsal for tomorrow’s big night! Bring it on. It’s sure to be an evening long remembered, especially for this year’s winning writers and illustrators.

Contributed by Brian C. Hailes, Illustrators of the Future winner from WotF 18.

Writers of the Future Vol 35Book Signing

Writers & Illustrators of the Future Workshop – Day 5

Writers Workshop, Day 5: Guest Lecturers

Day 5 of the Writers Workshop was a full day of guest lectures by Contest judges.

The day opened with Kevin J. Anderson (Spine of the Dragon) and Rebecca Moesta (The Young Jedi Knights series) giving their popular and informative talk, “Things I Wish Some Pro Had Told Me When I Was Just Starting Out.” They promised the writers: “We’ve made all the mistakes so you don’t have to.” The talk started with Heinlein’s Rules for Writing, and then shifted to the topic of professionalism and how crucial it is to your career.

Next Dr. Robert J. Sawyer (Quantum Night) joined the class to share a message which arose again throughout the day: there are multiple ways to have a career, not just One True Path.

After Sawyer, lead instructors Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Game), Tim Powers (On Stranger Tides), and David Farland (The Runelords) returned to add their own comments on business processes for writers, and also to lead the writers in a critique group to examine one of the 24-hour stories.

Toward the end of the day, Eric Flint (1632) addressed the writers, reiterating that there is no one way to succeed, and they must learn what works from many writers and then forge their own paths. He also discussed the tools and the limits of promotion, and explained that self-discipline and consistent production can be their most effective promotional tools.

The last guest lecture for today was from Larry Niven (Ringworld), who explained that a writer’s experiences feed their writing. And consciously or unconsciously a writer’s work is informed by that of their predecessors, so it helps to know the history of science fiction.

After the guest lectures, the writers joined the illustrators and the judges to see the unveiling of Volume 35 and to autograph copies. Tomorrow the guest lectures will resume.

Contributed by Martin Shoemaker, Writers of the Future winner from WotF 31.

Illustrator workshop, Day 4: Professionalism, Self-Promotion and Guest Instructors

With their final projects moving toward completion, the illustrator winners alternated between studio time and presentations from all-star guest speakers.

Echo and Lazarus kicked off the morning with a presentation on branding, professionalism, and self-promotion, including tips and tricks for how to run a successful Kickstarter. The illustrators worked on their tight drawings, hoping to win final approval to proceed to a finished piece.

Contest judge and former Illustrator winner Sergey Poykarov regaled the illustrators with tales of winning the contest as a young artist from the Soviet Union who spoke no English. Poykarov has gone on to spectacular success as an artist, sculptor and television personality. His message to the illustrators focused on never giving up.

Poykarov is a hard act to follow, but Larry Elmore is the right person for the job. With more than 50 years of experience in the art world, Elmore’s name is synonymous with Dungeons & Dragons, Dragonlance, and SnarfQuest. Elmore is a rarity in an industry increasingly dominated by digital art. He still creates most of his work by hand, using paint, ink, and brushes.

How does it feel to be a grown man who makes a living drawing dragons? Neither Poykarov nor Elmore would trade it for anything.

Contributed by Kary English, Writers of the Future First Reader and winner from WotF 31.

2019 Big Reveal

Writers & Illustrators of the Future Workshop – Day 4

Writers Workshop, Day 4: 24-Hour Stories and the Big Art Reveal

There are 960 minutes from midnight to 4 pm, and the writers felt each one tick by as the clock counted down to the deadline for turning in their 24-hour stories. After a mad rush for printer paper, a stapler and extra staples, the stories landed safely in the hands of Tim Powers (On Stranger Tides), thus freeing the writers to head back to Author Services, Inc. for the big art reveal.

The art reveal is one of the highlights of the workshop, second only to the awards ceremony itself. In many cases, it’s the first meeting between the writers and the illustrators.

The writers are nervous. For most of them, this will be the first time anyone has illustrated their work, and they have no idea what the illustration will look like, or which illustrator will be working on their story. What scene will the illustrator choose? Will the characters look like the author imagined? Will they recognize the illustration for their story on sight?

Inside the conference room at ASI, the doors are closed. Twelve easels stand in a semicircle, each displaying a single, framed image. The illustrators gather in the back of the room. They’re nervous, too. The illustrations they’ve worked on will determine which one of them wins the Contest’s Golden Brush Award. But it’s more than that. What if the writer can’t tell which illustration is theirs? What if the writer doesn’t like their art?

The room goes silent.

When the doors open, the writers file in. They’re excited, but silent, too. Some recognize their artwork immediately and go straight to it. Others walk the semi-circle, inspecting each painting. There are gasps, and then, inevitably, there are tears.

Once the writers have found the illustration that goes with their story, the illustrators come forward to introduce themselves. The illustrators share information about their techniques and process, why they chose a certain scene or character, what they wanted to convey with their art.

Nervous silence has given way to excited chatter. This is a moment both the writers and the illustrators will remember for the rest of their lives.

Illustrators Workshop, Day 3: Color Harmony, Guest Instructors and the Big Art Reveal

The illustrators started their morning with a lesson from Echo and Lazarus on how to find clients—an important topic for any artist who wants to make a living from their work. After that, the illustrators selected one image from their nine thumbnails to develop into a tight drawing. If the instructors approve their work, they’ll turn this image into a finished illustration.

Maryse Alexander, Creative Director for Author Services, Inc., visited the workshop for a presentation on color theory. She showed the illustrators how to use color to evoke an emotional response in the viewer, to achieve depth and create a focal point in their work.

Val Lakey Lindahn, a professional illustrator for more than 30 years, talked to the illustrators about the importance of models and costumes for accurate painting and lighting. Val is a sculptor as well as a two-dimensional illustrator, and if she can’t find a suitable model for a project, she’ll sculpt or assemble one out of things like bones, found objects and clay.

After their lunch break, the illustrators spent more time in the studio, collecting references for their drawings, shooting photos where needed, and making progress on their in-class projects.

The big art reveal is a different experience for the illustrators. Most of them have never worked directly with an author before, and some have never worked for a client who isn’t an instructor. They’re not sure what to expect. In the art world, sometimes approval is limited to “good job, here’s your check.”

For the illustrators, the big reveal is nerve-wracking. What if the author doesn’t like the art?

When they see the writers respond, they’re baffled at first. They’ve never heard someone gush over their work like the writers do, and they’ve never seen someone moved to tears by their artwork before.

It’s a heady night the illustrators won’t soon forget.

Contributed by Kary English, Writers of the Future First Reader and winner from WotF 31.