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Birthing Stories: Five in Thirty-Five by Brittany Rainsdon

I’m Brittany. I’m a nurse. I’m also a mom. I just had a baby. And I got my fourth quarter entry in for the Writers of the Future Contest while working around giving birth. Crazy? Maybe. But sometimes our dreams make us push a little harder (pun intended) and crazy things make a certain kind of sense.

Discovering Writers of the Future

I first heard about Writers of the Future approximately two years ago, when I took an online writing class and was assigned to research potential markets. A few clicks made it clear this was the contest to enter—but it almost seemed too good to be true. In fact, I remember querying a few writer friends to find out if the contest was indeed legit. It was.

Another assignment involved reaching out to published authors from my target market and asking for an interview. Still intrigued by the contest, I hit up Sharon Joss, a previous Golden Pen winner (she also has eight novels under her belt). She gave me an entire page of writing tips and advice, but perhaps her most far-reaching was this: join the Writers of the Future Forum, a discussion board where members communicate about the contest.

I did.

I immediately found friends who wanted to exchange stories, talk craft, and some even seemed to have insider information on how to do well (Coordinating judge, David Farland’s tip emails were foreign to me at the time). They preached producing a fresh story every quarter, not giving up, and maybe (eventually) you would win.

They were right. Even if I didn’t win, my craft would. I would form habits. If I kept writing and then sending my best stories to other markets, I could even pro-out. That would be a win in and of itself. I’ll admit, I haven’t sold anything yet—but with two honorable mentions and a silver honorable mention from this contest, I have hope I’m on the right track. Writing professionally is a marathon, not a sprint.

At the start of Volume 35, one “forumite” set up a challenge—enter every quarter. I had already entered three in a row the previous year, so I committed to do four more. Obviously, at the time, I didn’t know I would deliver a little girl a few days before the end of the final quarter.

When two pink lines did show up a few months later, I determined to plow through all four quarters regardless. What’s a little morning sickness? But I discovered it was much harder producing stories while pregnant. I had three other children, and well, they didn’t exactly slow down when my body did.

Although it got harder to write with each trimester (and Writers of the Future quarter!), the real scrambling didn’t start until the end. For some reason (I blame hormones), I decided the old nursery needed to be completely redone and sanitized. I love my three other kids, but kids can be gross! We scrubbed the walls, painted, caulked, put up wainscoting, rented a carpet cleaner, and even sewed a matching nursery set. Coupling that with other health issues (thanks again, hormones), writing time became slim. Slimmer still as I felt like I couldn’t work on anything non-baby related until the baby came.

As the final quarter drew to a close, my story remained unfinished. With twelve days left in the contest and my baby overdue, I needed a boost. I took to the Forum.

Whenever I tell people my goals, it makes me more accountable. It’s the reason I’ve joined consistent critique groups in the past—friends help friends get things done. The Forum proved to be that and more.

When I told the “forumites” about my desire to finish, they were super supportive, but also reminded me to be reasonable. Having a baby is kind of a big deal, and they advised me it would be okay to take a pass this round. No judgment. I still wanted to finish, but it was a reality check that health and family came first. I told myself I would only write if I had time and it made sense.

I didn’t touch my story.

Instead, I focused on making my home baby-ready, caring for my other children, and eating as much spicy food and pineapple I could handle (spicy food to start contractions, and pineapple to prep the cervix for delivery). For the record, pineapple core is gross, but not so bad when blended into a smoothie.

When the baby still didn’t come, we scheduled to induce labor on the twenty-fourth. All my other children had come naturally, so medical intervention made me nervous—especially when well-meaning women would tell me their induction horror stories. And what would recovery be like? I didn’t think it would include writing. Still unwilling to admit defeat, I gave my laptop the side eye and packed it into my hospital bag.

Giving Birth

Rainsdon's BabyLucky for me, I went into labor on my own a few hours before my scheduled induction and had my little girl in my arms shortly thereafter. It was, perhaps, my easiest labor.

So, I wasn’t exactly giving birth with a typewriter atop my belly, but I was incredibly grateful I had my computer in the delivery room. When the rush of adrenaline came that wouldn’t let me sleep for hours, I had something to do.

While still in the hospital and snuggling my newborn close, I typed out everything but the last scene. I kept my promise to only write while it made sense. If I was tired, I slept, and when my other children came to visit, I visited.

Transitioning to home was difficult. The baby didn’t sleep, I didn’t sleep, and it seemed I had tripped just before the finish line. But my sweet husband knew my goal and offered to take the children on Friday afternoon (the twenty-eighth) so I could finish my story. A few hours later the deed was done.

On the last day of the contest, I edited as much as I could and then hit submit. It was my most rushed entry, I had no time for critiques, but hitting that button felt oh, so good. Four submissions in Volume 35—but by my count, I produced five in 35. I dare you to count differently. I birthed two babies that week!

I think I’ll keep pushing.


Brittany RainsdonBrittany Rainsdon grew up as the only girl in a family with four brothers. She’s reversing that trend with her own children—three girls and one boy. Brittany is a registered nurse and has worked in both medical/surgical and rehabilitation nursing. When she went to her first writing conference in 2017, she wore a new pair of green glasses and several people recognized her during lessons as “that girl in the glasses.” She kept the nickname and uses it as her tag on the Writers of the Future Forum. Brittany wants to eventually publish novels, but is currently focusing on writing short stories.

Alicia Cay certificates

How To Start Writing

I have always known that I am a writer. With the kind of knowing you feel deep in your bones and emanates from the very core of your being. And as writers must do, I write. Although that wasn’t always the case. How to start writing…

A Writing Contest

About eight years ago my Mom returned from a trip to Los Angeles with a couple of books she had gotten for me. One was the coffee table book, L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future—The First 25 Years, which she had even gotten signed by someone. The other book was the contest’s most recent anthology at the time, Volume 27. My Mom encouraged me to read about the writing contest and send in a story. Somehow she knew it too, before I had ever written a purposeful word of fiction, that I was a writer, and I just needed a nudge in the right direction. I appreciated the gift, thanked her, and promptly tucked the book away on a shelf. I don’t think I even cracked the binding.

A Writers’s Journey Begins

Three years later my Mom passed away, and it took another two years for the haze of grief to thin enough for me to realize, it was time to begin writing. But where to start? As if in answer, a writer showed up in my life and took me under his wing. He introduced me to the world of writing, showed me where to begin, and even took me to my very first Sci-Fi/Fantasy convention. Now, I had heard about the contest from those books my Mom had given me, but at the convention something happened that was going to change the direction of my entire life. I met a previous winner of the Writers of the Future writing contest who was kind enough to share her experience with me, and that, as the old saying goes, was all she wrote. I decided right then and there I was going to start writing, enter the contest, and win! This meant that I, who had never written a short story before in my life, now had a month to write one and get it submitted before that quarter’s deadline.

My First Story

The first thing I did when I got home from the convention was to dig out those books my Mom had gotten me, and I began to pour over every word. I learned everything I could about the contest itself, and began to read and study the stories written by previous winners. I even studied the contest judges, previous and current, reading at least one book or story from each of them.

I managed to get a story written and submitted by the end of that quarter. Two months later I was rewarded for my efforts with an Honorable Mention. I haven’t missed a quarter since.

Twelve Quarters Later

Twelve quarters and many stories later, I have attended other conventions and met other Writers of the Future winners, all of them kind enough to offer a word of encouragement or sign their story in one of the volumes I have collected. I also attended one of David Farland’s wonderful writing workshops, where he taught us how to bring our stories to life and immerse the reader into our worlds. A few of my short stories have even given way to novel ideas (pun intended), and I’m working on those now. Of course, I always make sure to get a story entered into each quarter of the contest as well.

I am beyond grateful. This contest started me writing and it has kept me writing. It gives me a deadline, and a goal worth achieving. Plus, there are those cool certificates that show up in my mailbox and keep me encouraged—nine Honorable and Silver Honorable Mentions to date—such a treat! The contest also pushes me to continue to improve my writing, and not only my writing, but in my life too. I had to come out of my shell to learn how to network. I’ve found other writers to talk to, I’ve made new friends, and I’ve become part of an awesome writing group. All of these things I have reached for because there was a need for it—because I want to be a better writer, and because I am going to win this contest. To do that, I need to write a story worthy of those who have come before me, and whose words grace the pages of each new Writers of the Future volume.

Oh, and that signature in the Writers of the Future book that my Mom gave me? Turns out she got Kevin J. Anderson, one of the contest judges, to sign it for me. So yeah, Kevin got to meet my Mom. Lucky guy.


Alicia CayAlicia Cay has had a loyal love affair with books since she could read, collects quotes, and suffers from wanderlust. She currently writes short fiction, has had two of her stories published in SF/F anthologies, and is working on her first novel. Alicia lives in Denver with a corgi, a cat, and a lot of fur. Follow her writing and traveling adventures at: aliciacay.com.

Dave Wolverton and Algis Budrys

A Different Kind of Writing Workshop

David Farland with Algis Budrys at the Writers of the Future workshop in 1991

When L. Ron Hubbard initiated the Writers of the Future contest, he knew that there would be awards and publications for the winners. As Algis Budry, the first contest administrator put it to me, “He wanted to make sure that this helped launch new writers. That it gives them publication and some notoriety, along with enough prize money from winnings and publication so that a new writer could invest in his or her career by purchasing a new computer, doing research, and so on.”

But he wanted more for the new writers. He wanted them to meet and mingle with real professionals, people who had struggled and made their mark on the field, and he wanted to do that in the context of a writing workshop.

So a different kind of workshop was envisioned. They knew that the authors who won would already be good writers—maybe even incredibly gifted and talented writers. So a decision was made early on: We’re not going to go back over the basics. We aren’t going to teach the writers yet once again how to polish a sentence.

How to Become Writers

It was reasoned that each of these writers would have learned to write, at the very least, a professionally sellable story, and probably a great story. So what do you teach a writer who already knows the basics of how to write?

The answer was to teach them “How to become writers.” In other words, teach them how to move from being an armchair quarterback and to get into the game.

You see, people have a lot of odd ideas about what writers do. They imagine that we go to scenic mountain resorts and type out a manuscript, then deliver it to an editor to great applause. What most people don’t know about writing is this: Writing can and should be hard work.

So a workshop was created to give advice that would be perfect for taking budding new writers into the professional arena.

Algis put the lesser amount into the workshop, and so I will cover his offerings briefly. He suggested that in the mid-1980s, most new authors weren’t being taught how to plot a novel or short story. He was right.

Plotting a Story

Throughout the 1930s to the 1980s, many in the mainstream were rejecting the idea of literature that they felt “relied upon plot.” Such literature—which included things like romance, mysteries, and science fiction—were called “genre literature,” and were not considered worthy of study. Certainly, in many creative writing programs, plotting was something that was never taught. In my school, Brigham Young University, several professors refused not only to teach how to write genre literature but demanded that students not even read or study it, since it was unworthy of emulation.

Now, it didn’t matter that the most popular stories in the world were well plotted, or that “genre authors” very often outsold literary authors a thousand copies to one. Nor did my teachers realize that their notions were antiquated and had been proven wrong in other mediums. For example, in poetry when many of the beat poets were suggesting that poets ought to revolt against form in writing, Robert Frost famously silenced them by saying that “Writing poetry without rhyme is like playing tennis without a net.” In short, it makes the artist weak and sloppy. His real answer to them, though, came in his own magnificent poems that used rhyme and near-rhyme so effectively that the rhyme schemes became invisible, so that you could read one of his poems in a natural voice and not discover until after you stopped and studied the poem that it was a perfect sonnet.

In short, Algis’s argument in favor of form is simple: A formed story can be more powerful than one that has no form. So he decided to talk about form in the workshop. How do you write a plotted story? He chose a simple adventure plot, and advised writers on how to handle it. As he put it, “This isn’t the only way to write a formed story, but if you use it, you can make an entire career using this basic plot line.”

So he taught authors how to write a simple story. You can learn about his structure in an article called “Writing to the Point,” which is available from Wordfire Press. It is one of the most insightful little books on plotting you’ll ever find.

When Algis wrote it, I don’t recall ever seeing any other book on plotting—and I looked. I was researching the craft heavily, and I really wanted to know. Eventually, I became an expert on plotting myself, and you can read some of my insights into it in my book Million Dollar Outlines, where I teach not only how to create a plot, but also teach enough advanced audience analysis so that a writer can figure out how to write a bestseller.

Of course, in the past thirty years, I’ve seen a number of other fine books on plotting come out, and they are readily available now.

Becoming Your Own Muse

L. Ron Hubbard wanted to talk about more than just plotting, though. He wanted to talk about a lot more. He wanted to talk about where ideas for stories come from, and how to generate them off-the-cuff, so that if an editor calls you looking for a story or a novel, you can compose the tale in a matter of a few hours, rather than agonizing over them for years.

So Ron contributed articles like “The Manuscript Factory,” where he emphasizes that an author is a factory that produces manuscripts for a living. If you aren’t producing, you’re like a factory that has shut down.

He also contributed articles like “Magic Out of a Hat,” where writers learn to draw upon their broad experience in travel and in learning various vocations so that they can “write what they know.”

Most writers are insular people—folks who make their friends in books, so that they have little in the way of first-hand experience to draw upon. But the most successful writers in science fiction have been people who have studied engineering, worked in the military, become doctors or researchers.

In short, his advice can be boiled down to “live a large life.” As a teen, Ron left home to travel the world, becoming a photographer in China, joining the Explorer’s Club, learning to fly a plane and pilot a ship, and eventually joining the military. All of his experiences became fuel for his stories.

So he designed exercises to help writers identify some of their own unique experiences. Maybe the author has worked as a cop or a prison guard? Maybe she’s been through an ugly divorce? Maybe he was abused as a child? All of that can add details and realism to a story.

And of course, he suggested that we keep learning. Ron designed exercises to help people learn how to go start up conversations with strangers, or how to research information at libraries.

In short, I think that he would say that the person who refuses to live life, to go out and experience it, to examine it, is probably not going to go very far.

Oh, yeah, and there is that productivity thing. I remember in college hearing a quote from an ancient Greek philosopher who said that if he could go out and come up with a perfect sentence in a single day, he felt gratified. It was enough.

But that’s foolish. One sentence a day won’t do it. Instead of writing one perfect sentence in a day, I’d rather write twenty pages of damned-fine scenes, and with some jobs, it might take more. A real writer sometimes has to roll up his sleeves and get to work. If a producer needs a hundred-page screenplay in two weeks, you write it in two weeks. I recall writing a Star Wars book at 3 a.m. and feeling exhausted, so I put in another two and a half hours before I caught some sleep.

All of that “Sitting around and waiting for the muse” is tripe. Real writers become their own muses.

So Ron suggested that we have our winners compose a story in a day. For many writers, that seems undoable. But most of our writers discover that not only is it doable, it becomes an essential skill.

The Point of the Writers of the Future Workshop

Last of all, L. Ron Hubbard wanted to expose the winners to some of the wisdom of the best current writers in the field, so on the last couple of days of the workshop, the authors get to hear from and hobnob with our contest judges, where they learn the industry secrets and gossip that you won’t find in any writing books.

The entire workshop is a big and exhausting event, and it is sometimes hard on some of our winners. For example, early on, Algis and I had to decide how to start the workshop. We might have people flying in from all over the world on a Monday. Some of our winners might have flown in from places like Australia, or London, or South Africa. They’d have terrible jetlag. So we considered giving them that first night off, but when we talked to students, most of them were excited to get started.

So we decided to introduce them to the workshop that first night in part so that our winners would be able to get some work done.

But we felt that there was something far more important that happened: When we introduce the students to one another on that first night, they always get together and begin to talk, to compare notes, and to socialize. They bond, and in effect, they often begin to become best friends for life. We’ve even had couples marry.

So if you win the contest, and you’re jet-lagged that first night, and I call you in so that we can all introduce ourselves, blame me. Sorry, you might lose a little sleep, but you’ll gain something more.

Really, what I want to emphasize is this. The point of the Writers of the Future workshop was never to “teach you how to write.” Instead, the goal was to teach you some more important skills, like “How to succeed as a working writer.”

 


David Farland

David Farland

Guest Blogger, David Farland, Coordinating Judge of the Writers of the Future Contest.

David Farland is an award-winning, international bestselling author with over 50 novels in print. He has won the Philip K. Dick Memorial Special Award for “Best Novel in the English Language” for his science fiction novel On My Way to Paradise, the Whitney Award for “Best Novel of the Year” for his historical novel In the Company of Angels, and many more awards for his work. He is best known for his New York Times bestselling fantasy series The Runelords.

David Farland winning Writers of the Future Contest in 1987

Prize Writing—Three Things to Know

Contest judge Frederik Pohl presents Writers of the Future Award to David (Wolverton) Farland, 1987

As many of you know, I got my start by prize writing. While I was in college, I won third place in my first writing contest and decided to see if I could win first place in a contest. I spent a year honing some short stories for various contests, in between my studies, and sent them out in the autumn of 1986. Within a few weeks I discovered that I had won not just one, but all of the contests that I had entered. One of the judges at Writers of the Future, Robert Silverberg, liked my story well enough so that he shared it with some editors, and this led to a three-novel contract with Bantam Books. I’ll always be grateful to Bob for that.

So I promised a couple of people on the list that I would talk about prize writing. If you think about it deeply, everything that you write is really for a competition. You’re competing for publication with other writers, for promotional monies from the marketing departments of various publishers, for literary awards, and of course for your reading audience. So these posts really apply to any writer. When you think about it, it would seem that there isn’t a lot that you can do in order to win a prize. Thousands might enter a competition, but only one will win. However, there are some things that you can do to increase your chances dramatically.

These things include:

  • Get to know your judge’s tastes.
  • Aim your story straight at your judges.
  • Make sure that your story is presented well.

This all might sound easier than it is, but let’s take this one step at a time. Your first step is to get to know your judge’s tastes. Now, if you’re talking about a contest judge, this person might be a teacher at a local university. The best way to gauge the judge’s tastes is to read anything that they’ve written. If your judge has written short stories, look at the age of the protagonists, the themes that the judge covers, his or her use of language, and so on. This will tell you whether the judge values crisp dialog over brilliant metaphors, slow pacing versus fast, and so on. Pay particular attention to the themes. If a judge has a penchant for writing about stories that deal with death, for example, you might realize that your story will hit them harder if you feature a death scene.

In some cases, you’ll have a panel of judges. For example, there are more than a dozen judges at the Writers of The Future. So if I wanted to win that contest, I’d look at the mix of writers. How many write only science fiction? How many write fantasy? What do each of their tastes seem to be.

One easy way to gauge their tastes is to look at past stories. You could read the grand prize winners from each anthology. By doing so, you’d begin to notice some patterns.

You can of course do this same thing with any publication. You could go to editor’s panels at science fiction conventions and listen to editors talk about their favorite books out. You could go to Publisher’s Marketplace on the internet and find out what each one of those editors has bought.

It’s really quite easy to learn the tastes of one solitary reader. If you’re facing a panel of judges, the task becomes more complex, but it is possible to write a story that will average out to be a winner.

So start studying!

 


David Farland

David Farland

Guest Blogger, David Farland, Coordinating Judge of the Writers of the Future Contest.

David Farland is an award-winning, international bestselling author with over 50 novels in print. He has won the Philip K. Dick Memorial Special Award for “Best Novel in the English Language” for his science fiction novel On My Way to Paradise, the Whitney Award for “Best Novel of the Year” for his historical novel In the Company of Angels, and many more awards for his work. He is best known for his New York Times bestselling fantasy series The Runelords.

Kary English, photo by Olav Rokne

Writers of the Future Taps Kary English as New First Reader

The L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Contest would like to welcome Kary English as the new first reader for contest entries!

The Problem

Due to unprecedented expansion, contest officials asked Coordinating Judge David Farland to help in the selection of a first reader to keep pace with the increase in entries. Dave immediately responded, “Obviously, I’ve had a number of amazing authors that I’ve helped mentor over the years, and so when I considered who I might ask to help out as a first reader, I really suffered from an embarrassment of riches.”

The Solution

“A dozen names almost instantly leapt to mind, but Kary English was right near the top. I wanted someone with a great eye for style, someone who understood storytelling well,” he continued. “Kary, as an award-winning author, has proven over and over to have a great eye, but more than that, her strong support for and commitment to helping new authors spoke volumes. We found someone who cares deeply about new authors, who will help nurture them, and who understands the artistry that is inherent in great storytelling.”

Meet Kary English

Kary EnglishKary English is a Writers of the Future winner whose work has been nominated for the Hugo and Campbell awards. She grew up in the snowy Midwest where she read book after book in a warm corner behind a recliner chair. Today, Kary still spends most of her time with her head in the clouds and her nose in a book. Her fiction has appeared in Galaxy’s Edge, The Grantville Gazette, Daily Science Fiction, Far Fetched Fables, the Hugo-winning podcast StarShipSofa, and L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 31.

When approached with the offer to be first reader, Kary said, “I was in high school when I first learned about Writers and Illustrators of the Future. My head was full of dragons and starships, and here was this contest that I could enter and possibly win. The contest has grown so much since then, thousands of entries every quarter, and from countries all over the world. I am delighted to join the contest as first reader so that I can play a small part in discovering and encouraging the writers of tomorrow just as the contest discovered and encouraged me.”

A Legacy of Helping New Writers

Over its 34 year history, the Contest has recognized 404 winners who have gone on to publish 1,150 novels and 4,450 short stories. Of those, 192 are still active with a writing career—that’s over 40%. Twelve of these Contest winners have gone on to become New York Times bestselling authors: Dave Wolverton (aka David Farland), Sean Williams, Jo Beverly, Nancy Farmer, Lisa Smedman, Karen Joy Fowler, Patrick Rothfuss, Tim Myers, Eric Flint, Dean Wesley Smith, Tobias Buckell and Elizabeth Wein. In addition, Contest winners have garnered 155 major awards. Collectively, the winners of the contests have sold over 60 million books over the years.

And with the last four volumes of Writers of the Future hitting national bestseller lists—and each of the winners becoming national bestselling authors and illustrators as a result—contest entries continue to increase each quarter with entries from around the world.

Photograph of Kary English at the Hugo Awards by Olav Rokne

Judges and Winners at the 34th Annual Awards Ceremony

34th Annual Writers & Illustrators of the Future Winners Announced

Darci Stone, a writer from Orem, UT and Kyna Tek, an illustrator from Gilbert, AZ were this year’s Grand Prize Winners at the 34th Annual L. Ron Hubbard Achievement Awards for Writers and Illustrators of the Future Contests in Science Fiction and Fantasy held at The MacArthur in Los Angeles, California. The gala event, presented by Author Services, Inc. and Galaxy Press was held on Sunday evening, April 8, 2018. A capacity crowd of 450 people attended the black-tie event, which had a theme of “Magic and Wizardry.”

We’ve experienced that history sometimes has a way of repeating itself. Thirteen years ago in 2005, Darci Stone’s husband, Eric James Stone stood on stage as a Quarterly Award Winner of the Writer’s Contest. And now his wife, Darci, who started dabbling in writing speculative fiction while dating and attending Eric’s weekly writing group sessions, has walked off with the Grand Prize as Writer of the Year.

For illustrator Kyna Tek, who was born in a refugee camp in Thailand and whose family later immigrated to America, winning the Illustrators of the Future Grand Prize is a dream come true.

In keeping with the evening’s “Magic and Wizardry” theme, the gala celebration opened with magician/mentalist Spidey and magician/illusionist Joel Meyers performing a visually stunning dueling wizards routine with floating objects appearing in mid-air. Later in the evening, they performed a very interactive routine with the participation of celebrities and audience members.

Coordinating Writer Judge David Farland and fellow Writer Judge Brandon Sanderson announced writer Darci Stone as the Golden Pen Award winner while presenting her a check for $5,000. Darci’s story entitled “Mara’s Shadow,” was illustrated by artist Quintin Gleam.

Coordinating Judge Echo Chernik and actress Marisol Nichols announced illustrator Kyna Tek as the Golden Brush Award winner while also presenting him with a check for $5,000. Kyna illustrated writer Erin Cairns’ story, “A Smokeless and Scorching Fire.”

Over the years, submissions for the Writer and Illustrator Contests have come in from over 175 countries. And this year we received entries from three new countries: Andorra, Seychelles and Benin. Selecting the two Grand Prize Winners from the thousands of contest entries submitted every year was not an easy process.

In her acceptance speech, Darci Stone commented, “My husband won a Nebula Award. I am fairly certain that this is a much bigger trophy. I would like to thank my artist, Quintin Gleim, for illustrating my words into an image. I hope one day that all of us will see our names, stories and artwork in best-selling books.”

Kyna Tek, who was visibly in shock when he heard his name called out said, “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.”

The awards show was held in the Elks Hall of The MacArthur, a historic Los Angeles landmark conceived in a visually opulent Gothic Revival architectural style with cathedral-like ceilings. The book signing and reception, which followed the awards event, was held in the equally well-appointed Grand Ballroom.

The keynote speaker was Ruben Padilla, a magician and founder of Narrative Strategies. In his address, Ruben delivered a heartfelt presentation to the winners and guests and stated, “The entire purpose of tonight is to celebrate, in all its fantastical forms, the creation of words and illustrations. Something magical happens to you when you write something down.”

Artist and Illustrators of the Future Judge Larry Elmore was presented with the L. Ron Hubbard Lifetime Achievement Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Arts. Larry has been an inspiration for countless artists over the years including this year’s winners Kyna Tek and Anthony Moravian who thanked him from the stage. It was Larry who told Kyna to enter the Contest after seeing Kyna’s artwork at a convention—and the rest is history.

Actress Judy Norton sang “My Father’s Song” written by composer/lyricist Pauline Frechette as part of an In Memoriam tribute to two of our esteemed Contest Judges who passed away over the last year, Jerry Pournelle and Yoji Kondo.

Galaxy Press’ President John Goodwin unveiled the print and audiobook editions of L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 34. The book was edited by David Farland and features artwork by artist Ciruelo on the cover. It includes stories and essays by well-known authors and artists Orson Scott Card, Brandon Sanderson, Jody Lynn Nye, Jerry Pournelle, Ciruelo and Echo Chernik.

For a complete listing of the contents of the book and the names of all the winners, go here.

Awards for each of the Quarterly Finalists of the Writers and Illustrators Contests were presented by actors Nancy Cartwright, Jade Pettyjohn, Sean Cameron Michael, Catherine Bell and Lee Purcell, along with judges from the Contests. Photos from the event are posted below.

All in all, a very magical evening for all this year’s Writer and Illustrators of the Future winners.

 

Larry Niven talks to the Writer winners

Writers & Illustrators of the Future Workshop – Day 5

2018 Writers Workshop

By guest blogger Eric James Stone (Writer winner WotF 21)

The final day before the awards began with a guest lecture from Nancy Kress, winner of four Nebula Awards and two Hugo Awards. She shared some of her insights about writing scenes, writing with multiple levels, and the importance to worldbuilding of considering the economics and power structure of a society. She also shared the three most common mistakes she sees in student stories.

She was followed by Doug Beason, a Ph.D. physicist and retired Air Force colonel who has written several novels. He talked about where to find information about recent scientific developments and how to develop science fiction ideas.

Nina Kiriki Hoffman, who was a winner in the first year of the Writers of the Future Contest and went on to publish over a hundred short stories and many novels, explained how to sign books and how to use journals of your life as a resource for stories. She then gave all the winners a copy of her story-generating tool, Stone Story Soup: A Story Cookbook, and a twenty-sided die. The winners then spent twenty minutes writing about their randomly generated characters.

Bill Fawcett, a book packager and writer who has worked with New York publishers for decades, took the winners through a detailed examination of all the steps a book goes through from manuscript submission until the published version hits the shelves.

Robert J. Sawyer, winner of both the Hugo and Nebula Awards, plus many others, talked about some of the problems in the publishing industry today, many of which are the result of Amazon’s dominance in selling books. He then encouraged the winners to write ambitious, powerful, moving, and distinctive books, rather than just trying to follow the trends of popular fiction.

Liza Trombi, editor-in-chief of Locus Magazine, explained the importance of having a good agent.

Eric Flint, a 1993 winner of the Writers of the Future contest (Vol 9) and author of the bestselling 1632 series, spoke to the winners about promoting your book and summed it up by saying, “The best promotion for a book is your next title.”

Gregory Benford, two-time winner of the Nebula Award, talked about being an astrophysicist first and then becoming a writer and how that helped give him a rich variety of resources to bring to his fiction writing.

Larry Niven, a recipient of the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award, as well as a Hugo and Nebula Award winner, gave advice about collaboration, the criteria to pick the right partner and the rules to follow. Namely, one of the writers has to have the power to veto. In a collaboration, the two writers can’t have equal rights. Second is picking a partner who is not a faster or slower writer. He then told some personal and affectionate stories about working with Jerry Pournelle.

At the end, three former winners, Eric James Stone (Vol. 21), Kary English (Vol. 31), and Sean Hazlett (Vol. 33), spent an hour answering questions from this year’s winners, sharing things they had learned since winning the contest.

2018 Illustrator Workshop

By guest blogger Illustrators of the Future judge Val Lakey Lindahn 

We reviewed everyone’s finished assignments, an illustration for the short story “The Death Flyer” by L. Ron Hubbard. We were all amazed at so many wonderful and varied scenes drawn from the story.

Next was a special guest speaker, animator Jeff Snow from Disney Studios who is known for his animation work on Zootopia, Batman, Spider-Man, The Simpsons, Tarzan; and over with Dreamworks—Shrek.

Jeff Snow shared his knowledge of visual thinking, intuitive editing, and developing storyboards. With humor and wit, he got all of us laughing about his experience advancing in the field of storyboarding.

He recommended the goal of an animator is first “Communicating” and then second you must be able to draw! Another recommendation is a book The 5 C’s of Cinematography. He emphasized using social media to make sure you play well with others and prove you are “easy to work with.”

Maryse Alexander, the Creative Director of Author Services then followed with a seminar on Color covering the use of color harmony and color depth in art.

Portfolio Critique

The Illustrator winners really look forward to receiving a review and critique from our Illustrator Judges—Larry Elmore, myself (Val), Echo and Lazarus Chernik. We sat around our “U” shaped tables with an extra seat on either side of us. The winners then sat on each side of us and received a 10-minute review of their portfolio, then in pairs rotated to the next judge.

And oh, what wonderful work and stories they tell with their illustrations. Can’t wait for you to see them in the new anthology, Writers of the Future Volume 34.

Echo, Lazarus, and I would like to thank our returning winners Bea Jackson and Dustin Panzino for helping with the portfolio reviews.

Brandon Sanderson addresses the Writer winners

Writers & Illustrators of the Future Workshop – Day 4

2018 Writers Workshop

By guest blogger Eric James Stone (Writer winner WotF 20)

The writers began the day by critiquing two of the 24-hour stories they had turned in the day before. Rumor has it that the two stories are singled out for critique by the process of David Farland throwing the manuscripts down the stairs and Tim Powers picking up the ones that traveled the farthest. (So far, however, there is no photographic proof of that process.)

For each critiqued story, the winners—other than the author of the story—offer their critiques in two minutes or less. Tim and David then offer their own critiques. The exercise is less about these two particular stories and more about teaching the winners how to be an effective critiquer.

After lunch, Tim and David spoke to the winners about the pros and cons of traditional publishing versus self-publishing.

That was followed by three guest lectures by Writers of the Future Contest judges.

Mike Resnick, the field’s all-time leading award-winner for short fiction and the editor of Galaxy’s Edge magazine, focused on the business side of writing. Among other things, he explained the importance of reprints and foreign sales, contract option clauses, and various tax provisions.

Jody Lynn Nye, author of dozens of novels and over a hundred short stories, talked to the winners about science fiction conventions, including practical advice on how to become a panelist or presenter at conventions, and how to act like a professional once you get there.

Best-selling epic fantasy novelist Brandon Sanderson explained his three “laws” about writing:

1. Your ability to solve problems with magic in a satisfying way is directly proportional to how well the reader understands said magic.

2. Limitations are more interesting than powers.

3. In worldbuilding, depth is better than width.

He also revealed the existence of a “Zeroth Law” that takes precedence over the others: Always err on the side of what’s awesome.

After the guest speakers, writers and illustrators, winners and judges all got together for a very large book signing party of Writers of the Future Volume 34.

2018 Illustrator Workshop

By guest blogger Illustrators of the Future judge Val Lakey Lindahn 

Early morning 8:00 a.m. and the Illustrator winners are learning about client management, networking, direct contact, mailing lists, website inclusion, in addition to directories used to find illustrators, and agents covered in detail by Echo and Lazarus.

Echo recommended sites important for artists to be on; such as Art Pic and Workbook. Our winner Reyna Rochin, also recommended “Up Work.”

At 11:00, Illustrator Judge Larry Elmore enchanted us with his original art including traditional painting for National Lampoon and Heavy Metal in the 70’s.

He described colors as flavors in traditional paintings when studying clouds and the different levels of colors in trees and nature depending on the light, time of day, and depth of field. He discussed how we each may see colors differently.

I mentioned that scientists recently discovering that 1 out of 3 women can see a color that no one else can and no males can because extra cone(s) were detected. Lazarus reminded us of the effect of color blindness and found a website that showed the same painting with the loss of red, then blue, or green. Each example would be how a colorblind person views the painting and lack of that specific color. Pretty impressive!

Larry in his talk emphasized that most people don’t “see.” Artists, however, “learn to see” —and training your eye is essential to see a Level 10 of color. Sometimes we achieve a level, say of a 7. Until you reach a higher level you cannot paint at a level 10, let alone appreciate the beauty and depth. It is something to strive for.

Judge Sergey Poyarkov was next with several unique and brilliant ways to market yourself. He lives in Ukraine, is quite well known there and throughout most of Europe. He has 6 large tomes ( beautifully designed and printed) coffee table size books of his work. With good humor, he dropped one of the heavy books on the table with a loud thunk and said “Here! —This is my business card!”

Annual Writers & Illustrators Barbeque

To top off this wonderful day, the judges, winners and their families joined the Author Services and Galaxy staff on the roof of Author Services for a barbecue. Round tables set with deep blue velvet chairs were surrounded with lovely twinkle lights. A dozen heaters with tall yellow flames danced to keep us warm and the aroma of Al grilling burgers, sausages, and Wild Salmon lured us up to the rooftop. Joann and many of the staff contributed homemade slaw, potato salad, barbos, not to mention the dessert table with Haagen-Dazs chocolate walnut vanilla ice cream, toppings of berries and nuts, freshly homemade fruit cobblers, pies and a large assortment of coconut ice creams! Yum and Nom nom, nom.

I looked around at the tables and will never forget the smiles, happy faces, and laughter of the winners!

Best and Cheerios’
Val

Writer & Illustrators winners with their art for the stories

Writers & Illustrators of the Future Workshop – Day 3

2018 Writers Workshop

Throughout the late afternoon, the writer winners returned with their 24-hour stories which were due at 5:00 p.m. sharp.

After that was the “Big Reveal.” This is when the illustrator winner’s artwork is displayed on easels in the L. Ron Hubbard Library. The artists and guests stand back and watch as the doors open and the writers flood in to find the illustration for their story.

Authors and artists connect and it’s a joyful and oft times emotional meeting.

Brandon Sanderson was also there and meet the artist (Bea Jackson) who did the illustration for his story “The Lesson,” which is in Writers of the Future Volume 34.  Bea is an Illustrator Winner from 2008 and featured in Writers of the Future Volume 24.

See all the photos below. The pictures tell the story.

The Writer Workshop reconvened after dinner and the winners heard from bestselling authors and Contest judges Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta. Their presentation, on the theme of “Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Was First Starting Out,” focused on how to act like a professional.

Kevin and Rebecca regaled the winners with stories illustrating lessons learned during their years of experience in the publishing industry. The discussion covered a wide variety of subjects, including how to dress like a professional, how to take responsibility for your own writing career, and how to meet your commitments as a writer.

Illustrator Workshop

From guest blogger Val Lakey Lindahn

Echo and Lazarus covered some important issues about Contracts and working with Clients. An excellent detailed advanced Illustration discussion with the three of us preparing for their homework assignment, but first a treat!

Ven Locklear (Illustrator winner from 2010), presented the process of developing the “Star Dynasties” Project. He explained how he collected references and created a 3D retro-futuristic city, society, and environment using Sketch-Up and Handyman Art Reference Tools (both free). He showed his step-by-step process to design the elements for seven different roughs.

He then demonstrated Photoshop techniques, using the Transforming Tool & Smart Objects for background textures (which were gorgeous), and Clipping Masks for Glow Effects — like fire and magic (which were equally stunning!)

Adar Darnov commented on Ven using and working with a full spectrum of tools in Photoshop. And Ven emphasized the importance of working with other artists initially for a faster learning curve.

Bruce Brenneise asked about budget and number of pieces, and Alana Fletcher contributed quite a few excellent questions throughout the workshop about “work in progress.”

Next, the Homework Assignment: Every illustrator has to do an illustration for the short story, “The Death Flyer,” by L. Ron Hubbard which is in Writers of the Future Volume 34. To do this, they first create thumbnails of their illustration. Next, they were shown by Lazarus and Echo how to do reference photos for their sketches. Using the Prop closet at ASI, costumes were found for the early 1900’s. The winners took turns modeling and photographing each other from their thumbnail sketches. [See photos below.]

What great fun trying different lighting for the optimum scary effects of zombies on a train and a damsel in distress (Jazmen Richardson). The only thing missing was her shoes. Echo and I, along with illustrator Maksym Polishchuk, set out to solve the problem. Luckily we found Emily Goodwin; who happened to have the perfect sized high heels to borrow so we could complete the damsel’s costume!

I so enjoyed seeing the comradery developing as they assisted one another directing, adjusting costumes and photographing the poses for a common goal —references for their final illustration.

Several artists chose to use everyone as zombies. That’s a dozen zombies! Photos below.

Stay tuned for more!

Best and Cheerios’
Val

Writer winners along with Tim Powers arriving for the workshop at Author Services, Inc.

Writers & Illustrators of the Future Workshop – Day 2

2018 Writers Workshop

Today the 2018 Writer Winners got into full swing with a day of instruction by David Farland and Tim Powers, along with practical assignments. Then the authors were sent off at 5:00 p.m. to write their 24-hour story.

What sets this Writing Workshop apart from others is that everyone attending is already a writer and a very good writer at that (evidenced by the fact that their stories won out over thousands of other stories submitted to the Contest). In fact, both instructors agreed that within the year, many of the winners attending will have gone on to publish one or more stories and many will begin garnering awards for their efforts.

So if they already know how to write, what is the point of holding a Writers Workshop?

Breaking the Speed Barrier

Both David Farland and Tim Powers, award-winning and bestselling authors in their own right, know the biggest barrier for a writer is breaking what they call the artificial speed barrier that can be the make-break point between dreaming and being a successful author.

As Farland described it, back in the early 1950s no runner had broken the 4-minute mile. In fact, it was commonly held to be impossible, with many athletes believing it couldn’t physically be done without the runner’s lungs bursting. That is, until 1954 when the first runner, Roger Bannister, broke it. And since then it has become the standard for all male professional middle distance runners.

David likens the process of writing a story in 24-hours to breaking the speed barrier for a new author. So this is the challenge each Writer winner is given at the end of today’s Workshop.

But as professional authors, David and Tim don’t just throw out the challenge without also providing the means of how to do it, and how to do it successfully. This is covered in detail in the “Story Ideas, Where They Come From” section of the Workshop.  Advice our authors readily took in.

Then, at the end of today’s Workshop, at 5:00 p.m. sharp, they were on the clock.

While the writers may be feeling the pressure and a bit anxious, Farland remarked that he only remembers 1 writer in the last 15 years who didn’t complete their story. In fact, many go on to sell the tales, as in the case of Tim Napper (WotF Vol 31). He wrote the short story “Flame Trees” in the writing workshop and not only sold it, but it was nominated for a Ditmar Award.

As Farland put it, “These are great writers, but many of them have never been tutored by a professional writer. As a college student, I was taught mainly by non-writers. My professors told you to ‘wait for inspiration from the muse.’ But in this workshop, we teach the authors how to hunt her down in her lair. In college, we were given weeks to write a simple short story, but in this class we will ask you to do it in a day. It isn’t hard, and I want our authors to begin stretching their literary legs, to learn just what amazing things they can accomplish!”

So, looking forward to tomorrow and reading the great tales the Class of 2018 are producing.

2018 Illustrators Workshop

Guest blog by Illustrator judge Val Lakey Lindahn

What a fantastic first day for our artist winners!

Workshop instructors Echo and Lazarus Chernik filled them with so much information about the business end of illustration as a career from 8:00 a.m. (Lazarus a self-confessed tyrant for starting so early) until 11:00 and then a well-deserved break to process it all.

During the week we’ll have guest speakers such as Larry Elmore, Rob Prior,  Sergey Poyarkov, Jeff Snow, Ven Locklear as well as myself talk to the winners. Today was my turn. In addition to showing my 40 years of art (in less than 5 minutes) I passed along my tips and techniques for creating props (nothing was sacred in my son’s arsenal of toys), lighting and taking reference photos for illustrating.

In the afternoon, after the winners shared their portfolios with everyone, Echo and Lazarus dived in on the subject in detail, including help and advice on how best to arrange them, including how to attract specific clients and where to put your strongest pieces. A key tool for any artist.

We have some returning winners, Bea Jackson 2008, and Dustin Panzino winner from 2011 who encouraged Jazmen Richardson—one of this year’s winners—to enter the Contest and she won. Dustin commented, “The quality of the art has really gone up in the portfolios!” And I agree. It is the best I’ve seen in my 30 years serving as a judge.

One of my favorite parts of the Workshop is the Salon featuring professional models dressed in fantastic costumes and makeup. Tonight the salon was decked out with large spiders, skulls, a jawbone and other props artfully arranged around the models in keeping with this year’s “Magical Wizard’s” theme. For a few hours, the Workshop was transformed into a terrific temporary studio for all the artists.

End of a long day with the artists returning to the hotel to review their homework—more about that tomorrow!