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:

For 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…… 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.


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, 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

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

Mike Resnick (left) with writer winner Jonathan Ficke and his wife

Mike Resnick – Paying It Forward to New Writers

We recently had a chance to chat with Mike Resnick who was a guest speaker at the Writers Workshop and presenter for the 34th Annual Writers and Illustrators of the Future awards celebration here in Los Angeles.

Mike has been a full-time writer and editor for more than half a century. A prolific author, he has published 74 novels, over 260 stories, and 3 screenplays, not to mention being the editor of 42 anthologies. On top of that, he holds the distinction of being the all-time leading award winner, living or dead, for short fiction, a five-time Hugo winner (with a record 35 nominations), Nebula award winner plus a host of international awards.

Given his track record, and on behalf of struggling writers everywhere, we put forward the million-dollar question: How do you get the inspiration for your story ideas? His classic reply: “A pile of bills sitting on my table.”

Now, for anyone who knows Mike, you can appreciate both his candor and his sense of humor. Luckily for the writer winners who get to attend the exclusive yearly Writers Workshop, they are privy to much more from Mike as he explains.

Author and editor Mike Resnick giving hard-won advice to the writer winners.

“I enjoyed Writers of the Future this year, as I always do. It’s encouraging to meet the next generation of writers, and to guess which ones will eventually emerge as superstars.

“I figured that most of the judges would speak about the art and craft of writing, so this year—as per usual—I spoke about the business end of it: contracts, foreign sales, agents, killer clauses, the whole nine yards. Got some startled and troubled expressions from the audience but hopefully, almost all their questions were answered by the time I was done.

“Another thing I enjoy about these WotF weekends is that every night we gather in the lobby or the bar, and answer dozens of more questions. And, of course, the ceremony itself is always a class act, and this year featured some truly remarkable magicians.

“I try to keep in touch with a number of each year’s WotF finalists. I’ve bought from a couple of dozen of them for my magazines and anthologies, and have even collaborated with a handful of them. It’s good to know where my successors are coming from.”

As a judge for the Writers of the Future Contest since 2010, Mike takes pride in helping the newly published authors featured in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, get a leg up in the business. And this goes beyond just providing advice as Mike describes here:

Now that’s paying it forward!

Meet this year’s winners and the next generation of writers setting the trends with their diverse stories and visions here in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 34.


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!”


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!”


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.

man looking at bulletin board

Avoid Hesitation

When you sit down to write a story or the opening to a scene, you’re presented with a problem: how to begin? As a contest judge, I see too many tales that don’t work—right from the very first sentence.

The most common problem that I see arises from “hesitation.” You as an author haven’t figured out how to start your story. You haven’t brainstormed a scene yet, so you just begin writing in the hopes that it will turn into something. Perhaps you’ll tell me about the character, “Gunther Harlan was ten years old.” Maybe you’ll start with a setting: “The day began as any other day.” Or perhaps you’ll start with a conflict. “Gunther sat on a rock, panting from exhaustion. How did I ever get into this mess? he wondered.”

Starting a tale with any one of those three elements is okay, but if you spend two pages telling your reader about Gunther, or inventing the setting, or if you have Gunther wondering how he got into trouble, you’re wasting the reader’s time.

Most often, when I see this hesitant beginning, it’s obvious to me that you’re “ramping-up.” I suspect that the real story will start a few pages in, but if I’m judging the story for a contest, I will have to reject the story long before I find the real beginning, the place where your character and conflict and the action all merge so that the story comes to life.

As an author, it’s your job to create an opening that works, to get beyond that hesitation. If you find yourself spilling ideas onto paper in the opening of your tale, for example, if you’re brainstorming your character until the story takes off, that is all right. But when your story does take off, it’s your job to cut out all of the garbage.

This is true whether you’re writing a short story, a screenplay, or a novel. One piece of advice that you will hear from professional writers over and over again is, “When I finish my novel, that’s when I know what the story is truly about. So the first thing that I do is go back and throw away the opening, then rewrite it, with the ending in mind.”

Why do all of that work? Because with a novel, you typically don’t find your characters’ voices until you’ve written about them for fifty or sixty pages. You may not know how they think, their habitual ticks, or what they will do. So you need to let them solidify in your imagination.

So when you finish a tale, return to your opening and revise it.

As you rewrite your openings, you also need to pay close attention to what I call the treatment of your story. If you’re looking to win awards or contests, it isn’t enough to write a “journeyman-style” story, where you’re describing things as if you were a reporter. You need to bring your own art into it. You need to bring in the details that add life to the story. You need to spend some time considering the poetry in your language, adding richness to your descriptions, paying attention to the beats in your dialog, considering what metaphors to choose in order to make your tale more evocative and memorable than someone else’s treatment of the tale.

Mike Resnick addressing winners at the Writers of the Future Workshop 2017

Mike Resnick addressing winners at the Writers of the Future Workshop 2017

I listened to Mike Resnick talk to a group of new writers. Mike has won more Hugo and Nebula Awards for his short fiction than any other writer. He said that he spends about 80% of his time on a short story just crafting those first two pages, while the rest of the story takes another 20% of his time.

This means that he gets to know his characters, understand his conflicts and themes, all before he gets to page three. “If you don’t have a great opening,” Mike said, “one that hooks the reader in on several different levels, then you’ve got nothing. People will never read the story at all if they don’t love it from the start.”

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.

Galaxy booth at Dragon Con 2017

Dragon Con 2017 – Day 1

Today was the first day of Dragon Con in Atlanta, GA and it was jam-packed all day long.

Sales at the convention started at 10:00 AM and it was a full booth at the start all the way to the end of the day. Both Battlefield Earth and Writers of the Future are in great demand. Books-A-Million staff are also on hand helping with sales for the release of Battlefield Earth mass market edition.

As sales were going on, we went to CBS46 in Atlanta and did an interview promoting our new release on Atlanta Plugged In. You can see that segment here:

Following that, we had our Writers of the Future panel with several of our Writers of the Future judges including: Rob Sawyer, Mike Resnick, Todd McCaffrey, Jerry Pournelle, Larry Niven and Jody Lynn Nye.

Writers of the Future panel at Dragon Con

Writers of the Future panel at Dragon Con

Then the President of Dragon Con, Pat Henry, having seen the 9′ tall Terl in the hall, wanted to make sure that he didn’t get in without a badge. So he was provided a ladder that he climbed up to put a badge on him. Along with him was Jonnie Goodboy Tyler making sure he was safe as he placed the badge on Terl’s chest.

President Dragon Con Pat Henry giving Terl his badge

President Dragon Con Pat Henry giving Terl his badge

Terl, being Terl, also didn’t waste any time creating trouble. He grabbed Larry Elmore and his wife Betty thinking he could get some leverage. Fortunately, both were rescued from the clutches of the 9-foot monster in time for dinner!

Larry & Betty Elmore captured by Terl!

Larry & Betty Elmore captured by Terl!

The evening completed with a dinner with almost all the attending Writers and Illustrators judges at the Dragon Con.

Writers and Illustrators of the Future judges at dinner

Writers and Illustrators of the Future judges at dinner

Stay tuned for Day 2.


Mike Resnick

Q&A with Bestselling Author and Writers of the Future Judge, Mike Resnick

Mike Resnick has 5 Hugo Awards and has won numerous other awards from places as diverse as France, Japan, Spain, Croatia and Poland. He is also first on the Locus list of all-time award winners, living or dead, for short fiction, and fourth on the Locus list of science fiction’s all-time top award winners in all fiction categories.

Q: I’m a relatively new writer who is trying to break in through Writers of the Future. You’ve been a judge for years now. Do you think it lives up to its billing as an entry port into Science Fiction and Fantasy?

A: It’s hard to argue with any program or contest that can turn out Patrick Rothfuss, Eric Flint, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Robert Reed, Dean Wesley Smith, Dave Wolverton, R. Garcia y Robertson, Mary Turzillo, Stephen Baxter, Nick DiChario, Sean Williams, Tobias Buckell, David D. Levine, Jay Lake, Diana Rowland, and all the rest. I’m highly impressed.

Q: Do you think the World Science Fiction Convention has a future, compared to events like DragonCon or Comic-Con?

A: Do I think it’ll ever be a fifth as big as DragonCon or a tenth as big as Comic-Con? Almost certainly not. Do I think it has a future? Sure. As long as it hands out the Hugos, as long as the publishers support it, it remains the place for science fiction writers to do business and meet their peers. I do think that WorldCon over the years has been less than welcoming to those whose interests are not primarily in the written word, which explains the rise (especially) of DragonCon, and I’d like to have seen the powers-that-be handle it differently, but that’s history. As long as the Hugo remains our most prestigious and well-known award, there’ll be a WorldCon, and it probably won’t be any larger than it was last year in Chicago. They’ve picked a number of venues in the past decade guaranteed to cut the attendance in half, and fans find other cons and get out of the habit of going to WorldCon.

Q: How vital is an agent in the era of self-publishing and contracting New York markets?

A: To get you into print (or, more to the point, into phosphors), not important at all. To help you make a living, just about essential. Do you have a business relationship with agents in 40 or 50 countries? A good agent does. Are you capable of finding every hidden dragon and crouching tiger in a contract (which, never forget, is written by the publisher’s lawyers)? A good agent is. Do you know which publisher is bought up in a certain sub-category, which one’s having a hard time paying his bills, which one’s sitting on three not-yet-published books on the same subject you’re planning to write about? A good agent does. Etc., etc., and one more etc. for emphasis.

Q: In your capacity as a judge for Writers of the Future, would you like to see more Science Fiction stories or more Fantasy stories?

A: I think I speak for most, if not all, of the judges when I say I don’t care if it’s science fiction or fantasy. What I do care about — and it’s the same when I’m editing Galaxy’s Edge or one of my anthologies — is whether it’s good or bad.

Q: You’ve helped a lot of up-and-coming writers over the years. What’s the mistake you see them making most often?

A: These days? Self-publishing in electronic form. There are over a million e-books out there. With no established audience, there’s no reason for anyone to seek out and pay money for your books; and of course, by self-publishing, you give up your advance, which is what most writers live on. (Yeah, I know, Amanda Hocking churned out some legitimate self-published bestsellers as e-books . . . but first, you can’t name another writer with her track record; and second, the instant a legitimate publisher offered her a book contract with a bestseller-type advance, she jumped at it.)

Q: How important is it for a new writer to hob-nob with published authors at conventions?

A: It depends on the writer. The best example for not doing so is James Tiptree, Jr.—a multiple Hugo winner who turned out, years later, to be Alice Sheldon. That said, if you can’t write like James Tiptree—and mighty few people can—it’s always a good idea to meet the editors you want to work with and get to know them and what they’re looking for, and it’s not a bad idea to meet your fellow writers and exchange market information and other things with them. If you’re a dilettante who wants to sell a short story every 18 months, it’s hardly essential; but if you hope to make your living in this field, why would you not want to learn everything about it and meet the people who labor in it?

Q: Are there any conventions still running which offer face-to-face author-to-editor venues, other than WorldCon and World Fantasy?

A: By “face-to-face” I assume you mean in a social venue, and not the kind of “pitch sessions” a number of romance cons have (and which no science fiction con has). DragonCon’s starting to draw a number of publishers, though it still falls far short of WorldCon and World Fantasy Con. One other place with a large number of editors is Nebula weekend, though you probably should be a member of SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America) to participate.

Q: When you decide to pick a person to be a “Writer Child” how to do you choose? Do people apply for the job?

A: Over the years I have worked closely with a number of newcomers—I collaborate with them to get them into print, I assign them stories for anthologies I’m editing, I introduce them to editors and agents at conventions—and Hugo winner Maureen McHugh has dubbed them “Mike’s Writer Children”, a term that’s stuck.

I don’t hold auditions for Writer Children. Whenever I run across a newcomer whose talent truly impresses me, I offer to help in the ways I just described. Two or three have refused, which is fine—but since 1990, which was when I started doing this, I’ve had 23 Writer Children, and (here comes the brag) 9 of them have been nominated for the Campbell Award, science fiction’s Rookie-of-the-Year award.

As I say, I don’t seek them out. But I’ve edited 42 anthologies, I spent a few years co-editing Jim Baen’s Universe, I’ve taught Clarion, I’ve been a Writers of the Future judge the past few years, and I’m currently editing the Stellar Guild Books and Galaxy’s Edge magazine, and of course I read heavily in the field, so I come across a lot of new writers . . . and about once a year on average, one of them impresses me enough that I offer to “adopt” him or her, by which I mean to help them jump-start their careers.

Q: You have been critical of tie-in novels for Star Wars and Star Trek. Do you think you’ve softened in your opinion over the last two decades?

A: I was never critical in terms of economics, which is to say that a writer has to pay his bills and put food on the table, and I’ve never held it against someone for writing tie-ins or anything else.

That said, my criticism of tie-ins hasn’t changed. I think for the new writer, they militate against his learning his craft. The basic premise of fiction for the past eight centuries is that your characters change and grow from their experiences—but they can’t when you’re writing about unchanging movie or television characters. A science fiction writer must create logical and coherent societies, but not when his audience demands that he doesn’t do so because this would conflict with what he’s novelizing. And so on.

Q: I tend to be conservative in my thinking. How much should I hide my politics in order to avoid being blacklisted?

A: In a field that worships Robert A. Heinlein above all others, you’re worried about not being liberal? You see a lot of left-wing politics in Analog or over in Baen Books, do you?

The question is ludicrous, but here’s a serious answer: no one gets blackballed in this field for any political or religious philosophy. Never have, probably never will.

Q: Do you find it more taxing on your health to be prolific and productive in your 70s?

A: Not at all. If I put in an hour less per day than I did when I was, say, 40 or 50, well, I’m 20 or 30 years more skilled and hence get more production out of the time I do work.

2012 was an aberration. I never before and never again will have ten books published in a calendar year. That was a function of being the WorldCon Guest of Honor, and had been in preparation with various publishers for a couple of years. But in a typical year, I expect to have three to five books out (including novels, collections and anthologies), eight to ten stories (including novelettes and novellas), and maybe half a dozen articles. There are some things like screenplays that just come out of the blue; you can’t count on them, but they’re too lucrative to say ‘No’ to.

I think the best answer, and I’ve given it in a few other venues, is this: Pablo Picasso was once asked by a journalist what he did for a hobby. Picasso said, “I paint.” The interviewer said no, that was what he did for a living; what did he do for a hobby, to relax and unwind? Picasso’s answer: “I paint.” Me, I write.

Q: Does winning a major award like the Hugo make a difference when a writer signs book deals?

A: It makes it much easier to sell overseas. If you’re a new writer, if you don’t have any books out yet, then it makes it easier and more lucrative to sell your first book here . . . but once you have some books out, you have a track record—and your advance and your print run will be based on that and not the Hugo.

Writers & Illustrators of the Future Awards Event 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, indeed you could.

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

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

Which brings us full circle to the book signing.

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

Then it’s done.

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

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

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

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

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


Ron Collins

Ron Collins

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

Writers of the Future Workshop 2017 - Day 5

Writers of the Future Workshop 2017 – Day 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Signing & Barbecue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ron Collins

Ron Collins

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

Writers and Illustrators holding a copy of the book with their winning stories and illustrations outside Bang Printing in Valencia, California

WotF Workshop – Day 5

Nothing compares to seeing a book come off the press. Watching the machines print, stack, and cut, is a fascinating process. What takes that feeling to the next level is knowing it’s your book coming off that press. And that’s what the writers and illustrators experienced today at Bang Printing Press.

Everyone filed into Bang Printing’s conference room, which was just large enough to hold our group. Some of the winners were rubbing their eyes from the late night hanging out with the judges and other winners in the lobby of the Loews Hotel until the wee hours. During the short introduction several of the winners asked about the quality of the paper. Tim Napper said, “I’m not concerned about the paper. I want to see the book!” A great segue just before we were treated to a tour of the printing press.

Choong Yoon discovered a pallet loaded with packets of color prints of the illustrators’ work.  It was a surreal moment as every packet had his winning illustration on top and he happily had his picture taken with the stacks.

But the best moment of the tour was when the winners spotted their book for the first time. Scott Parkin snagged a book that had been misaligned and was marked for disposal. He asked permission to keep the copy and the printer allowed it; bringing new meaning to one man’s trash is another’s treasure.

At the end of the tour the printer handed each winner a copy of the book. The glue was still hot. Books in hand, and full of gratitude for the opportunity, the winners returned to Author Services for afternoon presentations.

Illustrator’s Workshop

The afternoon illustrator’s workshop consisted of inspirational presentations by Errol Gerson, Illustrator Judges Dave Dorman, and Sergey Poyarkov. Illustrators learned the importance of consistency, professionalism, and confidence.

Writer’s Workshop

After a brief lunch break, the writers reported back to the workshop to critique one of the 24-hour stories and lucky Tim Napper was the writer of the chosen work.  He found the exercise extremely helpful and said he would need some time to sort through all the feedback given.

Then the writers were treated to a series of guest lecturers, starting off with a presentation by no less than Tom Doherty, the publisher at Tor Books.  He spoke about the history of publishing and answered winners’ questions about the industry and his own publishing house.

Judges Mike Resnick, Robert J. Sawyer, and Orson Scott Card also took the stage, with each of them leading a discussion based on their own expertise. Daniel J. Davis talked about how happily overwhelmed he was by the amount of insight he was being given in a single day.


Laurie Tom

Laurie Tom

Guest Illustrator post by Laurie Tom
2010 Writers of the Future Grand Prize winner

Tina Gower

Tina Gower

Guest Writer post by Tina Gower
2013 Writers of the Future Grand Prize winner