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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.

Photo by Tegan Mierle on Unsplash

One Foot in Front of the Other by Wulf Moon

I know a truth. We are all going to fall. Many times. Perhaps I know this truth better than some because I was born with a disconnected spine and extreme in-toed feet—my left and right foot pointed directly at one another. I could not walk without falling. Kids laughed at me. My knees were not knees, they were horrible black and brown scabs. But I also know a secret. You can lay on the sidewalk, or you can get back up and start walking again, bloody knees and all. The choice is yours.

The same is true with writing. We are going to fall. Many times. We are going to think we’ve got it, that this time we can keep it up, only to trip and drop flat on our face and wonder what in the world just happened. It’s inevitable. When one is learning to walk, it is an absolute. When one is learning to write, it is also an absolute. What makes us soldier on? I suppose a core belief that we’d rather be walking than lying in the dirt. There is also that innate sense that we were born to write, and if we can just get our balance and catch our stride, we know in our heart of hearts we have the potential to soar like the wind.

But first, we must learn to walk. As in life, so in writing.

In life, I learned to walk at six years of age, when I finally had a successful surgery and corrective casts that turned my feet back out. My back, doctors left alone, so I have always been disabled, but that hasn’t stopped me from walking, running, even dancing, and yes, I still fall at times, but after the pain subsides, I always get back up.

As in writing, I have always known that I’m a writer. It’s in my blood. At fifteen I wrote an SF story that was a winner in Scholastic Inc.’s national writing contest. The editor at Science World, circulation 500,000 copies per issue, bought and published it in 1978. My first pro sale. I won so many contests after that, I was certain I was on the path to a professional writing career.

And then I fell. Living in a violent household, I escaped and got placed in a foster home. I didn’t care if I lived or died, and took many risks with my life. While at college I ended up in a hospital, my biggest fall of all, and came face to face with what falling would cost me. Saving my life required a change of life. I had to burn my bridges behind me. For me, that meant extreme measures, and I signed away my full scholarship, left bad friends … and I stopped writing.

It wasn’t until 1994 that I took up writing again. The Nebula Awards had come to Eugene, Oregon, and my wife encouraged me to go. When I signed up, I met Dean Wesley Smith. He noted I was from town and asked if I had anything published. As I listed some credits, his eyes lit up. “You’re a professionally published writer!” For the rest of the convention, he introduced me to everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, like this: “Have you met Moon? He’s a published writer!” I was beyond embarrassed, but by the end, I got the point. It was no small thing to achieve a professional sale, I was indeed a writer, and I should stand back up and walk the path again.

Dean introduced me to the local writer’s group, Wordos. They introduced me to Writers of the Future, and I started submitting and collecting certificates. My next pro sale was in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds II. From there, I queried the editor at Pocket Books, and he said I could submit my Trek novel. When literary agent Donald Maass represented me on it, I was certain my career as a novelist had begun. This wasn’t walking, this was running with the bulls!

Wulf Moon's certificatesAnd then I fell. The novel was rejected. At the same time, my wife became seriously ill. It took years to get her back on her feet, and when she was finally safe, we moved to escape the memory of that ordeal. In spite of it all, I kept submitting to Writers of the Future as able, and got an invite to attend the awards gala when it was held in Seattle. At the after party, I sat with Kevin J. Anderson, and he asked about my writing. I told him about the certificates. “They don’t hand those things out lightly,” he said, looking me straight in the eye. “This is a huge contest. That you have that many says a lot. It’s a Big Deal. Keep writing, Moon.”

And so I have. Through all the subsequent trials–as my wife’s health tanked again when she was diagnosed with cancer, as we lost our business and home in the recession, as we brought her through the treatments and got her stabilized—I would write as I was able. And I made a commitment a few years ago that in spite of the adversities, I would do my best to enter WotF every quarter. Out of the thirteen times I’ve entered with David Farland as coordinating judge, those twelve certificates you see above—from HM to Semifinalist—are the result. I have many more, but these are the ones with Dave. They aren’t wins, alas. But each one says I have not given up, and whether I win this contest or not, I am walking the path.

I am grateful for this contest. It has helped many of my friends jump start their writing careers. And the honorary certificates and critiques you get from the contest coordinators validate your writing and help you improve. In my case, I know there is no way I can have so many consistent near misses, over so many years, without my writing being of professional caliber. That’s comforting. So, I lower my head, lean into the wind, and keep on walking. Virtually everyone else has had to walk this path to achieve success (even my favorite author, Frank Herbert, with the most brilliant book of the 20th Century, Dune), so why should I expect anything different? A good personal rejection, a contest certificate, a judge that writes us an encouraging note–these are signposts along the path that we shall reach our destination if we stay the course.

I know a truth: The difference between success and failure is getting up one more time than you have fallen.


Wulf MoonWulf Moon feasted on fantasy as a young child when he lived with his Chippewa grandmother. He begged stories from her every night and usually got his wish—fireside tales that fired his imagination. If Moon had a time machine, those are the days he would go back to. Since he doesn’t have a time machine, he tells stories. Learn more at driftweave.com.

Blog photo by Tegan Mierle on Unsplash.

Writers of the Future Golden Pen Award and books published by the winners

Some Important Facts You Should Know About Writers & Illustrators of the Future

The Writers of the Future Contest began in 1984 and the companion Illustrators of the Future Contest followed 5 years later. Both have grown to become the largest merit competitions of their kind in the world. While we never give the exact number of entries, we can say that there are thousands of entries each year with contestants submitting from 177 countries.

So far, the Contests have honored 404 Writer winners, 80 Writer published finalists and 334 Illustrator winners hailing from 44 nations over the first 34 years. In addition, they have awarded nearly $1 million in prize money to the winners.

Why This Is Important to Your Career

A review of the 34 years has found that of the 484 writer winners and published finalists, 336 went on with their writing career publishing at least one story and 192 are still active with a writing career—that’s 40% still writing!!

Now combine the above with the fact that the number of new books published annually is now over 1 million. The average new book also sells less than 250 copies in the first year. And less than 1% of the new books published have a chance of being stocked in a bookstore.

What Industry Professionals Have to Say

See why established professionals in the business say what they do about the Contest and to its value to the future of science fiction & fantasy.

So, isn’t it time you entered?

For the Writer Contest: www.writersofthefuture.com/enter-writer-contest/

For the Illustrator Contest: www.writersofthefuture.com/enter-the-illustrator-contest/

Another article you may be interested in: Brand New Science Fiction

C Stuart Hardwick signing copies of his story in Writers of the Future Vol 30

C. Stuart Hardwick: Winning Is Just the Beginning

Writers of the Future Volume 30Hands down, the best and most useful part of winning the Writers of the Future contest and being published in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 30 was the people. I’ve often compared it to reaching the end of the Yellow Brick Road and instead of yelling, “Ignore the man behind the curtain,” the wizard reaches out a hand and says, “Here, let me help you.” The workshop to which winners are treated is full of wizards, from childhood heroes of literature and art to instructors and invited guests who all give generously of their time and experience to help the next generation and the genre.

The Popcorn Speech

One such wizard is Kevin J. Anderson, who when time allows, gives what he calls “the popcorn speech.” It’s nothing revolutionary—just the idea that success comes from consistent effort, not a single shining moment of razor-honed brilliance. You can make yourself crazy trying to pop that one perfect kernel or you can relax and make some popcorn, leaving the duds in the bottom of the bag. Writing, he says, is like that: put enough work out there, and if you’ve any talent at all, something will stick.

The Nuclear Reactor Theory of Success

There is a closely-related idea that I call the Nuclear Reactor Theory of Success. This isn’t revolutionary either. It starts with networking 101: you meet someone and they introduce you to someone and so on. Eventually, the growing chain of introductions leads to an opportunity, and that leads to a slew of new introductions and the cycle repeats. Pretty soon you have a burgeoning network of contacts and opportunities, compounding like neutrons in a nuclear chain reaction.

And that’s where the magic happens. As the popcorn flies and your chain reaction grows, it starts to radiate its own luck.

Many aspiring writers harbor the misconception that “if you write it, they will come.” They think, or at least hope, that if they can just “break in” or “break out” or break something, somewhere, the world will be their oyster; the fans and the money will come rolling in and they’ll be recognized as the next Leo Tolstoy cum J.K. Rolling.

Yeah……..no. It doesn’t work that way. In fact with rare exception, it has never worked that way, not even for Tolstoy or Rolling.

This mentality ignores the cold reality that writing is a business, and businesses take time and capital to develop their brand, whatever else they may get right. It’s a myth and a prescription for misery to count on one unlikely shortcut to bypass that reality. Those who believe it are apt to hold back, waiting for the big break or big win that may never come. Or they may labor forever, polishing the life out of their One Great Creation instead of getting their work and their name out into the world, soliciting feedback, and growing as artists and people. And then when a break does finally come their way, they are likely to hang on it, Madam Bovary style, instead of sticking the feather in their cap and moving on, taking the next (sometimes frightening) step down their personal road. Worse, when the untrod path grows moss, they may grow cynical, blaming “gatekeepers” for their lack of professional attainment while driving away the very people and institutions who might have helped them.

When I won Writers of the Future, I knew exactly one writer (me) and I had maybe a dozen posts on my nascent blog, so I decided to interview my fellow winners—mostly just to scare up some content. Since then it’s become a tradition, and I’ve made friends and contacts in each subsequent WotF class. During the workshop, I camped out at the bar, listening to Mike Resnick and Eric Flint triple and quintuple my knowledge by the minute, sharing their advice and a career’s worth of hard knocks.

Mike gave me hell for not belonging to my local writers′ guild, so when I got home, I joined. That led to a bunch of appearance opportunities—but more importantly, to friendships that have paid unexpected dividends—from sharing the costs at local cons to getting a hug from “The Trouble with Tribbles” author, David Gerrold. It also led to my first gig as editor, helping with a locally-produced anthology.

With my fellow WotF winners and local guilders, I now had a posse to run with at conventions, so I could leave my inner wallflower at home and hang with the cool kids. But more than that, I had colleagues—colleagues who share tips and opportunities, make introductions, collaborate, critique each other’s work, and prod each other onward and upward.

That’s how I heard the popcorn speech—another WotF alum and I found Kevin in the hotel bar at WorldCon and he and Todd McCaffrey strong-armed—I mean persuaded me—to attend his Superstars workshop. I heard Kevin′s talk there, but I also met a whole new group of colleagues. This included the impressively mohawked Quincy J. Allen, who introduced me to a publishing tool that I now use to produce custom signed ebooks. Those help entice new subscribers onto my newsletter mailing list and let me give readers I may never get a chance to meet in person just a little something extra.

This is also how I learned about Taos Toolbox, a writing workshop taught by Walter Jon Williams and another WotF wizard, Nancy Kress. Since my WotF win, I′ve continued to hone my craft and was looking for a quality workshop to help up my novel-writing game. At Taos, I met a family of prairie dogs, George R.R. Martin, and Avatar scriptwriter, Steven Gould. I also made friends with a whole new group of awesome up and comers to share and grow together with.

Another writer friend told me about the Jim Baen Memorial Award—a competition focused on near future space sci-fi and tailor-made for my literary tastes. My first entry made the finals. Then it sold to Analog Science Fiction & Fact—a dream of mine since I was eight! I went on to final twice more before placing, and now I’m going to the International Space Development Conference to be honored alongside Amazon and Blue Origin founder, Jeff Bezos! More important, I’ll meet a whole new group of contacts—aerospace geeks, engineers, entrepreneurs and space exploration advocates. Who knows where that might lead?

The chain reaction grows…

The Future Is NighLast year, I hit up a few of my WotF friends to put together an anthology; nothing big, just an ebook for cross promotion and lead generation for our respective newsletters. It was a smash success—so much so we decided to take it to the next level. By the time you read this, “The Future is Nigh—A Treasury of Short Fiction by Award-Winning Authors” will be available in print and on Kindle.

So here I am, four years on, an Analog regular, a multi-award winning author, and now a publisher! My stories have gotten Hugo and Nebula buzz. I just found out I took first place in the annual Analab reader poll for my story, “For All Mankind” about two women who save the world in an Apollo-era spacecraft! I’ve gotten a back-stage tour of the Kansas Cosmosphere with a group of writer friends, been invited inside the Orion space capsule, and received an email from Spider Robinson saying “Go Cat, Go!”

What’s next? I’m working on a novel…and a few other things… We’ll see.

None of this might have happened without the Writers of the Future win, but none of it happened because of that win. It happened because I viewed the win not as a finish line but as a rung up life’s ladder. Because together with allies made at the WotF workshop and since, I keep climbing those rungs wherever they lead. Of course, I’m no networking mercenary and you shouldn′t be either. These are wonderful people, and knowing them is its own reward. But if my Reactor Theory can nudge you beyond the introversion so common among writers, then put the spurs to ′er.

Life′s a journey. Go boldly.

Stuart


C. Stuart HardwickIn addition to winning the Writers of the Future contest, C Stuart Hardwick is a Jim Baen Award winner, a James White Semifinalist, and an Analog Analab Reader Poll winner. His work has appeared in Analog, Galaxy’s Edge, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Forbes.com and Mental Floss, among others. A southerner from South Dakota, he grew up writing radio plays and has been known to wear a cape.

More at cStuartHardwick.com

Another article you may be interested in: Brand New Science Fiction

Writer judges Hal Clement, Robert Silverberg, Frederik Pohl and Jerry Pournelle

Why Is Writers of the Future the Top of the Top Writing Contests

If you are an aspiring author or know someone who is, then this article is for you. Find out for yourself why Writers of the Future is the top writing contest in the world and why you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by checking it out.

Created by L. Ron Hubbard to Provide for the Future of Science Fiction & Fantasy

Robert Silverberg

Robert Silverberg

“What a wonderful idea—one of science fiction’s all-time giants opening the way for a new generation of exciting talent! For these brilliant stories, and the careers that will grow from them, we all stand indebted to L. Ron Hubbard.”Robert Silverberg

For over three decades, Writers of the Future has grown to become the premiere writing competition of its kind in the world.

The Contest is free to enter with the ability to upload one’s submission online making it available to anyone anywhere on the planet. (English language only.)

The Contest is open to those who have not professionally published a novel or short novel, or more than one novelette, or more than three short stories, in any medium.

But, it’s a review of what Contest judges and past winners turned-to-Contest-judge say about the Contest that makes it clear why it is now the top writing contest in the world.

Kevin J. Anderson

Multiple New York Times bestselling author Kevin J. Anderson, a Contest judge since 1996, notes that perhaps L. Ron Hubbard’s greatest legacy is that with this Contest he has created another generation of writers.

Rebecca Moesta

Bestselling YA author Rebecca Moesta, a Contest judge since 2007, discusses how the Contest provides for the future of Science Fiction and Fantasy. 

Nina Kiriki Hoffman

Writers of the Future winner from the first year and Contest judge since 2000, Nina Kiriki Hoffman talks about the importance of paying it forward. 

Dr. Doug Beason

For Contest judge Dr. Doug Beason, the Contest provides a sense of family and a sense of togetherness, everybody there to help each other out. 

Tim Powers

Multiple World Fantasy Award Winner, Tim Powers explains how the Contest takes promising writers and provides a future.

Dr. Jerry Pournelle

New York Times bestselling author Dr. Jerry Pournelle was originally mentored by Robert A. Heinlein and became a Contest judge in 1986 to follow in Mr. Heinlein’s footsteps of paying it forward.

 

Proven Track Record for Over Three Decades

The Winners

For 34 years, the Writers of the Future Contest has established itself as the top merit competition for speculative fiction. Hear it from the winners themselves what it means to win the Contest.

It Levels the Playing Field

Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Participant in the first workshop in Taos, NM in 1986 and now Contest Judge, Kristine Kathryn Rusch was interviewed by SciFi Magazine about the Writers of the Future Contest.

“To my knowledge, it’s the longest-running contest currently going on in science fiction,” says Rusch, when asked why Writers of the Future is such an influential force in the sci-fi world. “It’s anonymous—which is important—and it only deals with new writers, which levels the playing field a bit. It’s also had tremendous success. The writers chosen have for the most part gone on to have great careers. I think that comes from having professional writers as judges and not academics. Writers know what makes good fiction.”

Robert J. Sawyer

The only thing the judges will see is the story itself with a number assigned to it. They have no inkling of age, sex, nationality or ethnic of the contestant. So it is only by the merit of the story alone that will determine a finalist or winner. Contest Robert J. Sawyer explains how this is: 

Judged by the Best in the Industry

From its inception, the judging panel of professional writers have been some of the most celebrated names in the science fiction and fantasy field. The judges for the first Writers of the Future volume in 1986, included Gregory Benford, Algis Budrys, C.L. Moore, Robert Silverberg, Theodore Sturgeon, Jack Williamson and Roger Zelazny. The panel of judges has continued to grow with many of today’s masters of science fiction and fantasy who were themselves winners in the formative years of the Contest.

Judges at the 1996 Writers of the Future Awards ceremony at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

(Left to Right): Doug Beason, Kevin J. Anderson, Jerry Pournelle, Larry Niven, Algis Budrys, Jack Williamson, Frederik Pohl, Tim Powers, Gregory Benford and David Farland.

For a full list of Contest judges past and present, go to the Writer Judges section.

Judges at the 1996 Writers of the Future Awards ceremony at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

 

The Judging Process

Here are Contest judges David Farland and Robert J. Sawyer discussing how the judging process works.

 

Writers & Illustrators of the Future:

The Search for Tomorrow’s Legends

Click here to enter the Contest.

Sign up for our Writers of the Future newsletter for writing tips and updates from Contest judges and winners.

 

computer on a desk

Lou J. Berger on Writers of the Future

I want to chat about the Writers and Illustrators of the Future contest.

For many beginning writers (and illustrators, but I’m going to only talk about the writing side), the WoTF contest is a nice way to hurl your creations up against the wall of professional editing to see if, like perfectly cooked spaghetti, they stick.

It’s free to enter, the contest is made up of four quarters per year, each a separate contest, and the competition is worthy.

Although official numbers aren’t ever released, I have heard through the grapevine that three thousand submissions per quarter stream in from over 175 countries around the world.

Of those three thousand, many are simply not up to par. In fact, the vast majority of the entries don’t have more than the first few pages read, and David Farland is the wizard behind the process, culling through the stacks of submissions for those gems.

The better stories are awarded Honorable Mention status, and Joni Labaqui sends out beautiful, artistic certificates with the author’s name, the title of the story, and the words “Honorable Mention” blazoned across the page.

I have one up on my cork board in my office.

The top sixteen best stories are broken into two categories, Semi-Finalist (for stories 9-16) and FINALIST (stories 1-8).

The Semi-Finalist stories are those that rose almost all the way to the top and, for that particular quarter, were considered VERY good, but not quite as good as those top eight Finalist stories.

Joni sends out a different certificate, still artistic, still with the author name and the story title on it, but with the words “Semi-Finalist” instead of “Honorable Mention.”

I have one of THOSE on my cork board, too, from 2011.

Mike Resnick, who is not only the most award-winning author alive, began editing Galaxy’s Edge magazine back in 2013, proving that he’s a damn fine editor as well.

Having taken me under his wing (through my relentless pestering of him, no doubt) as one of his Writer Children, he included one of my stories in his inaugural edition of Galaxy’s Edge, way back in March of 2013.

Since then, I see him at conventions, I took a writing course on a cruise ship with him TWICE, and we remain in contact. He’s published SEVEN stories of mine in Galaxy’s Edge.

Nancy Kress, an award-winning author in her own right, co-taught me in Taos during the 2010 Taos Toolbox workshop, along with Walter Jon Williams. Carrie Vaughn came to talk to us about how her Kitty Norville series had changed her life, and we all left Taos after the workshop was over, inspired to become like our new-found heroes.

Kevin J. Anderson, a prolific author and a man who believes strongly in paying it forward, spearheads his Superstars Writing Seminars in Colorado Springs, and I’ve attended that event THREE times. Kevin has invited me to his home for movie night, for New Year’s Eve, and has never turned down my requests for advice as, slowly, I climb each rung of the ladder to professional authorship.

Mike, Nancy, and Kevin are all WoTF judges. They take their time to pay it forward to the beginner writers (regardless of age), who dare to take a chance with their lovingly crafted prose, and work as judges for the contest.

Kevin’s wife, the insanely intelligent Rebecca Moesta, had a birthday party a few months ago, and I attended that event, once again visiting their lovely home. I remember sitting on the couch next to an elegant woman, but I didn’t recognize her. She wasn’t a frequent attendee of the other gatherings at the Kevin and Rebecca castle.

Somebody called her “Joni,” I think it was Rebecca herself, and I asked her, “You aren’t Joni Labaqui, are you?”

She admitted she was, and I stuck out my hand gleefully. “I’m Lou J Berger!”

See, Joni called me on a cloudy day in 2011 to tell me that I’d made it to the Semi-Finalist level with my story “Immersion,” and I was so unfamiliar with the WoTF processes that I assumed during the call that she had to call over three thousand people.

I may have said something to the effect of “Well, thanks for the call, but you have SO MUCH WORK yet to do!”

There was a moment of awkward silence, and then she said, brightly, “Okay, bye!”

*facepalm*

Anyway, there on the couch at Rebecca’s party, we talked for half an hour or so about the Contest.

“Why haven’t you been submitting any stories?” she asked me directly.

I thought about it for a half second. “Because I’m too pro by now. I sold stories to Mike Resnick, and to a handful of anthologies, and I got paid pro rates for all of them. I’m out, right?”

She beamed. If there is one thing Joni lives for, it’s helping ignorant people (such as myself) learn something new.

“Nope,” she said. “If any of those anthologies or any single issue of that magazine in which your story appeared failed to sell AT LEAST five thousand copies, we don’t count it.”

Stunned, I fell silent. I didn’t KNOW how many copies were sold!

I asked around, and none of the anthologies had moved five thousand copies. One editor refused to divulge whether they had or not, but I’m betting not. That’s one “gray area” story, because I couldn’t get confirmation.

I asked Mike. He didn’t know, and sent me over the publisher, a kind man named Shahid. He laughed at me and said “not yet, but we are working on it!”

One maybe story. The one that the editor wouldn’t confirm numbers on. That’s it!

So I went to the WoTF rules. There it is, in black and white, Rule #5:

“5. The Contest is open only to those who have not professionally published a novel or short novel, or more than one novelette, or more than three short stories, in any medium. Professional publication is deemed to be payment of at least six cents per word, and at least 5,000 copies, or 5,000 hits.”

So, given this NEW information (to me), I began to submit again.

Last night, the phone rang. Caller ID blocked. I answered.

A warm voice came across the line: “Hi, Lou. It’s Joni.”

Memories of our conversation came flooding back. The last time she’d called me directly, it was back in 2011 to tell me I was a Semi-Finalist.

“Hi, Joni!” I said, so pleased to hear her voice. Folks, this woman lives for helping people succeed.

Then, it hit me. Why was she calling ME?

“Wait…Joni, why are you calling me?”

The smile came through the phone: “You’re a Finalist, Lou!”

And….wow.

My story is in the top eight of the fourth quarter submissions for 2017. The top THREE of those top eight are called Winners, and they get an all-expense trip to LA, and the bottom FIVE of those top eight get a nice, artistic certificate, to add to their cork board (we all have cork boards, right?), with the word “FINALIST” on it.

I’m hoping for a Winner determination but, you know what?

Between you and me?

If I get that certificate with the word “Finalist” on it, I’m a happy, happy dude.

More as I hear it.

 


Lou J. BergerLou Berger started writing just shy of his 40th birthday. He lives in Centennial, Colorado with three kids, two Sheltie dogs and a kink-tailed cat.

Kevin J. Anderson (center) with the Blue Angels

Kevin J. Anderson Meets the Blue Angels at Barksdale AFB

The Barksdale Air Show on Sunday was packed to capacity with over 50,000 public in attendance to see—well mostly to see the Blue Angels perform.

But not before the Blue Angels went to see Kevin J. Anderson, where he was able to brief them about Writers of the Future Contest and show them the most recent release, L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 33.

In addition to greeting the Blue Angels, Kevin was on hand to celebrate this year’s national bestseller—Writers of the Future Volume 33—and autograph copies of the book at the Barksdale Air Force Base Air Show 2017 for delighted local fans.

Kevin was interviewed by the Air Force media while also promoting the Contests to everyone who came to visit the booth. Civilians and enlisted military will now be entering the Contest as a result of Kevin’s enthusiasm for it at the show. Other attendees who came by to get Kevin’s autograph, picked up material to tell friends and relatives whom they know want to become writers or illustrators.

Kevin J. Anderson, photo by Sarah Thompson

Kevin J Anderson and the Blue Angels at Barksdale AFB

Blue Angels Flying in Delta Formation

Blue Angels Flying in Delta Formation

Writers of the Future Contest Judge and author of over 140 books, 54 of which have been national or international bestsellers, Kevin J. Anderson is visiting the Barksdale AFB promoting Writers of the Future this weekend and signing books at the air show.

Within minutes after arriving in town, Kevin was in the KTBS TV newsroom in Shreveport, LA promoting that he was in town for the weekend and inviting fans to come see him.

Kevin had his first book signing on Friday at the Post Exchange where he again invited science fiction and fantasy fans as well as aspiring writers and artists to visit him at the air show taking place over the weekend to get their books signed and find out more about the Writers and Illustrators of the Future Contests.

Kevin has written numerous novels in the Star Wars, X-Files, and Dune universes, as well as unique steampunk fantasy novels Clockwork Angels and Clockwork Lives, written with legendary rock drummer Neil Peart, based on the concept album by the band Rush. His original works include the Saga of Seven Suns series, the Terra Incognita fantasy trilogy, the Saga of Shadows trilogy, and his humorous horror series featuring Dan Shamble, Zombie PI. He has edited numerous anthologies, written comics and games, and the lyrics to two rock CDs. Anderson and his wife Rebecca Moesta are the publishers of WordFire Press.

David Sakmyster

Focus on David Sakmyster, Writers of the Future Volume 22 Winner

Take a good conspiracy theory and some intriguing historical research, add in a shot of psychological horror (can we call it tension?) and anything psychic, supernatural, paranormal, or just plain freaky … mix it up … make a few hundred interesting things happen … dump it into a manuscript, and you’ve got yourself a David Sakmyster novel.

“I’ve always been drawn to conspiracy theories to explain some of the stranger-than-fiction events of our time,” he said in a recent interview. “The possibility that, for example, serial killers, lone shooters, and assassins may be products of purposeful design, rather than random genetics, is fascinating.”

Can you see why his work has been described as Indiana Jones meets the X-Files?

Writers of the Future Volume 22

Writers of the Future Volume 22

For followers of the annual Writers of the Future anthology, this doesn’t come as particularly stunning news. His ghost story, “The Red Envelope,” won second prize in the 2005 version writers’ contest. Clearly, he’s been busy ever since, publishing four stand-alone novels, a five-book series (Morpheus Initiative, put out in omnibus last year), and four more books in collaboration with others (The Jurassic Dead series with Rick Chester, and Lazarus Initiative, with Steve Savile). Not to mention numerous short stories and novellas. His screenplay, Nightwatchers, has been optioned for production.

David with Tim Powers at the Writers Workshop, 2006

David with Tim Powers at the Writers Workshop, 2006

“Much of my success came from the contacts I made during that week,” David said when I asked him about his thoughts on the contest. “The lessons I learned from Tim Powers, Kevin J. Anderson, and many other guest lecturers, and also very importantly, from the advice of past winners were important. I’ve kept in close contact with several past winners. We’ve gone on to co-write books and give each other blurbs and support, share readers and reviewers, and of course continue to share advice on what works in this crazy business.”

On the process side, he’s a guy who outlines diligently “I spend more time plotting than writing,” he says, but then usually finds the final story looks nothing like the outline—it’s important to take unexpected paths, he says. Go figure, right?

On the personal side, he currently lives in Rochester, NY, likes to play tennis, and has a twelve-year-old daughter, Isabella, who was only 4 months old when David went to the workshop, but who is now “an energetic and delightfully brilliant middle-schooler who loves to watch science fiction and horror shows with her old man.” She’s also a reader who may someday be a writer, too (“One can only hope,” David says). Seeing that David’s own dad got him started in the field by reading him stories from Edgar Allen Poe, one suspects this may be an acorn that doesn’t fall too far from the tree.

“I’ve had three different day jobs since 2005, but never strayed far from the writing world, which has been my first love all along,” David said. “Four different publishers, an agent that’s come and gone (the same with a Hollywood manager), then some more focus and success with the self-publishing and marketing route… It’s been an interesting ride, to say the least!”

Kevin J. Anderson and David at the Writers of the Future Annual Awards 2006 after-party

Kevin J. Anderson and David at the Writers of the Future Annual Awards 2006 after-party

Kevin J. Anderson and David at the Writers of the Future Annual Awards 2006 after-party

“I owe a lot to Kevin J. Anderson. In addition to working with his Wordfire Press, his mantra during that week’s lessons, how when approached with a request for a story or to help with something, we should just say: ‘I can do that!’ It’s worked well for me, introducing me to new people and ideas; I’ve found myself venturing into places I didn’t think I’d be good at—like screenwriting. Shortly after that celebration, a fellow winner (Judith Tabron, I’m talking about you) suggested I try writing a screenplay, and I thought heck, why not adapt ‘The Red Envelope’ as a test case? Did it, loved it, and while I’m still shopping that one around, I went on to adapt other stories and create some new ones—including the aforementioned optioned script, which I hope to be able to announce soon.”

In other interviews, David has ruminated about the time that’s passed since his time at the workshop. “I’m surprised I’ve been at it this long.” At its core, it’s clear that his success has been a result of David’s flexibility and persistence, his ability to deal with changes in the publishing world and stick to his art. He’s a guy willing to do the work, and who loves the opportunity to work with people—an opportunity being a prizewinner so clearly provided to him.

“It was an amazing experience,” David said. “I will forever be grateful to L. Ron Hubbard and all the great people at Galaxy Press. Hopefully, this career still has a long way to go.”

 


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

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.