I have a total of twenty-five certificates from my years of entering the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. So why have I offered a humble picture of one Honorable Mention? Well, it all started when …
I was in seventh grade. I devoured all the Choose Your Own Adventure books I could get my hands on. I literally couldn’t get them fast enough―so I started to write my own. I filled a notebook with Turn to Page 20 and so on. I don’t remember much about the story other than the antagonist, whose name was Hermes. He wasn’t a Greek god, but a lizard for some reason.
Fast forward some years, and I’d written several movie scripts, novels, and precisely one short story. When I first learned of the Contest and that it was free to enter, I figured, sure, I have a story. I polished it up and sent it in. I followed up my brave submission by joining Orson Scott Card’s Hatrack River and the Writers of the Future writers’ forum.
There, while waiting for my result, I found a repository of collected tidbits regarding what then-judge K.D. Wentworth liked, didn’t like, and tricks to formatting a submission. How to open a story in medias res. How to end it with a denouement. These were some great writing tips!
I got to work on my second short story, you know, just in case. Then one morning I received an e-mail with the subject: CONGRATULATIONS!!! I thought, did I win? Trina Phillips, who was as avid a submitter as I was, (Yes, I know I only submitted once, but it was an avid submission!) said she saw my name atop the Honorable Mention list.
So I hadn’t won, but in all honesty, I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I was quite thrilled! Honorable Mention? My name on a list? Tell me more. What, I get a certificate? Signed by the judge who read my story, a professional author who said, “Hey, kid, you got chops.”
A few weeks later, my certificate arrived in the mail. I looked at it and looked at it. Then I framed it.
This was no mere certificate or recognition; this was vindication. See, I wasn’t a popular guy in school, nor did I win intelligence awards or individual achievements. I had resolved myself as a face in the crowd of the world. And yet, there was a secret part of me who yearned, who thought―maybe.
The Honorable Mention was my yes. Yes, you can write.
While I recognize there are folks out there still awaiting theirs, to them, I would say keep trying. I had written a gazillion words prior to mine, all without a single mention―honorable or otherwise. Continue to put in the work, type away, read, and write. Because getting that congrats is a serious boost, it signifies you are on your way.
Perhaps you might frame the certificate because it could be the start of your journey to winning.
Oh, you say, what is this winning you speak of?
Well, having recently spent an amazing week in Hollywood, CA, at a workshop, followed by an incredible black tie gala event, I offer: Have you seen Volume 39? It contains my winning entry, “The Fall of Crodendra M.” A story of friendship and first contact―both of which are all too brief.
Tell me more, you request. How did you make it? What was the journey like?
To which I have my ready answer: It all started when …
TJ Knight (Dustin Adams) lives in New York state with his wife, son, and rampaging kitten. His other published works can be found online or in the pages of the Starlight anthologies, 1–4. When not writing or editing his current project—a middle grade fantasy trilogy—he spends his days at his other desk working (yuck!), his other, other desk playing video games (fun!) or in his little gym exercising (yay!).
He invites you to follow his writing journey through images posted on Instagram @author_tjknight.