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Writer winner Amy Henrie Gillett

A Little Light in a World of Darkness

Amy Henrie Gillett hopes to kindle people’s hearts and minds by contributing a little light to a world that sometimes seems so dark. And so the story of how “All Light and Darkness”—published in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 34—came to be as told by Amy.


“All Light and Darkness” began as a final project for my college Creative Writing class. It was not speculative fiction originally and lacked much of the refinement the published version has (hopefully). However, the voice and format were there, as well as the plot.

When I first decided to pursue the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest, I recalled this piece, originally titled “Stay” and rewrote it to fit a science fiction world I’d begun building for a potential series. This world was conceived during a six-month period where I wanted to start a novel. I began that novel and soon found myself overwhelmed by my ambition and inability to meet my own expectations. That’s when I decided to turn to short story writing to improve my technique.

Originally, I treated short stories as a means to world-build, develop voice, invent characters and conflicts, and get my name out there in preparation for novel writing. However, to my surprise, I discovered a real passion for short story writing.

Short story writing demands development of plot and depth in a very small word count. It demands precision and eloquence, and I think it allows a flexibility of format and voice that novels don’t. A writer can use a very strange format or voice in a short story that readers would grow tired of in a novel. Not only that, but short stories seem to demand meaning–a reason to be read. I like to write poignant stories with layers of meaning in them, and I like those reflections to be the centerpieces of the stories and not a tangent. I write to inspire and change, and entertaining readers is the means by which I attempt that.

Novel writing requires more subtlety with themes and presents numerous thoughts and ideas throughout the story, and it demands much greater attention to entertainment.

I have fifteen drafts of “All Light and Darkness” saved to my computer and a few other drafts in hard copy. Any time I made a major change to my manuscript, particularly if I removed any content, I made a new file. I submitted to the competition for the first time at around Draft 8. The story was over 16,000 words long, and I expected a win–thought I was the best thing since Bradbury.

I received a flat rejection.

For those of you unfamiliar with the competition, a rejection means that, in all likelihood, the story wasn’t read all the way through. David Farland tried a draft or two then said, nope.

I told myself I must have been rejected because of word count. Anyone could see it was a massive piece, and I thought there was no way it would have been rejected if it’d been read all the way through. So, I cut it down to 14,000 words and submitted again.

Again, a flat rejection.

My ego in shambles, I decided I should probably learn how to do this short story thing correctly. I started stalking the Writers of the Future forum, signed up for David Farland’s “Story Doctor” weekly writing tips, and scoured the internet for short story advice. Then I hitched up my pants and submitted what was then “Stay” to Critters.org.

In the meantime, I wrote a new story and submitted it to the competition. Another rejection.

The Critters Community did a fantastic job on “Stay.” Not only did I get some very positive feedback, I also received respectful, but firm, recommendations on changes. I accepted many of those recommendations, and thus began the heartbreaking process of their execution. They say if you don’t bleed over your words, you’re not doing it right. Well, I bled.
I went through each critique line by line and wrote up a list of the suggestions I agreed with or wanted to try out. The list filled a whole page of college ruled paper. Sometimes you have to swallow your preconceptions, try out the changes, let it sit, and then decide whether they’re a win.

In the end, I changed the entire first scene, beefed up the climax, cut out a middle scene, and deleted the last 1000 words. Oh, and gave my character a new power. And got rid of a cast of minor characters. And toned down my purple prose…. And changed the title.

I didn’t take every recommendation, but man, those people really knew what they were talking about. After I made the edits (the hardest was removing that middle scene and deleting the last 1000 words), I was so excited by the final product that I submitted three days early. It just felt right. It was about 11,000 words long and had a different focus from the previous versions. I expected at least a semi-finalist slot.

Draft seventeen won second place.

What I’ve discovered is that I’m too much of a perfectionist writer. Not that I plan to submit any piece I don’t feel I’ve done my utmost on, but I need to do it more efficiently. I do a first draft then print it and do a second, send it to one or two first readers, do another draft, read it out loud, do another draft, send it in for a group critique, do another draft, read it out loud again, do another draft and then finalize my manuscript for submission. Not only that, but I’m an edit-as-I-write writer too. It’s a long, grueling process. From the time I first retrieved “Stay” from the proverbial trunk, it took me a year to turn it into “All Light and Darkness.”

I’m hoping that in time, I can do a first draft followed by a proofread, send it to a critique group, write a second draft, read it out loud, make hopefully only minor corrections, finalize the manuscript and send it out. I want to take that year and whittle it down to a month. There will hopefully be several other stories written in the world of “All Light and Darkness”–not to mention a few novels–so I don’t have a year to write each one. Regardless, if I learn as much with each new story as I did with “All Light and Darkness,” then maybe someday I will become a Bradbury.

So, onward! Onward to the next draft, the next critique, the next rejection, the next submission… and always, onward to the next story!

Writer and Artist Collaboration

Duncan Halleck and Amy Henrie Gillett

Duncan Halleck is an illustrator and concept artist working in the entertainment industry, specializing in science fiction and fantasy. In the following video, Duncan explains how he painted his image for “All Light and Darkness.”

Read “All Light and Darkness” in Writers of the Future Volume 34 and let a little light into your world.

Robert J. Sawyer giving N.R.M. Roshak her award

“As You Like It” Alien Style

There is no doubt the influence of William Shakespeare on the English language and literature and that now includes science fiction.

Case in point is N.R.M. Roshak’s story “A Bitter Thing,” which takes its title from Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”:

“O, how bitter a thing it is to look into happiness through another man’s eyes.”

And in her story, the other man is an alien.

Roshak grew up reading her father’s extensive science fiction and fantasy collection from Asimov to Zelazny, but it was her degree in philosophy and math that put her on the route to speculative fiction.

What Is It Like to Be a Bat?

In an interview with her hometown paper, the Centretown Buzz (Ottawa, Canada), Roshak explains how she came up with the idea for her story.

“I loved science, but even more, I loved imagining myself into alien points of view: what would it be like to be human-but-not or human-but-other? I had planned to study science at university until I read Thomas Nagel’s famous paper, ‘What Is It Like to Be a Bat?’ which argues that we can never know what it’s like to be a bat, only what it’s like to be a human having bat experiences. To a long-time imaginer of self-as-other, this was like waving a red flag in front of a bull. I plunged into the argument, only realizing once I held a philosophy and math degree that I greatly prefer imagining to arguing.”

To which she adds, “I may never know what it is like to be a bat, a telepath, or an alien; but there’s much to be learned in the imagining, to explore what it means to be human by imagining what it is to be partly or wholly inhuman.”

Her Journey With the Contest

Roshak first learned of the Contest from a fellow member of her writing group—Ken Liu, international bestselling author and a 2003 Writers of the Future winner published in volume 19. In fact, as the only members of their writing group, Roshak and Liu shared a special comaraderie as she explains in this interview talking about her story.

As a winner of L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers Contest, she has since attended both the Annual Celebration and the exclusive Writers Workshop. Now she is hitting the airwaves talking about her Hollywood experience including writing tips from the Workshop and the 3 rules of being a writer.

Read N.R.M. Roshak’s story “A Bitter Thing” to discover happiness as seen through the eye′s of an alien in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 34.

Writer Vida Cruz (l) with Illustrator Reyna Rochin (r)

Filipino Fantastic Fiction

Vida Cruz, a resident of Manila, is the first Filipino writer winner in the 34-year history of L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest. Not only that, she also took first place in the 2nd quarter with her Filipino style fantastic fiction story, “Odd and Ugly,” beating out thousands of other entries from across the world.

Booklist describes her story as “a deeply atmospheric and moving Beauty and the Beast tale incorporating Philippine myth,” while Publishers Weekly called it a “breathtakingly beautiful ode to transformation which stirs the imagination with Filipino folklore.”

Vida first started writing when she was 8 years old. But her career began in earnest as a journalist for GMA News Online followed by writing for Drink Editorial and Design Inc. and 51Talk Philippines.  To realize her dream of being a writer, it’s taken much hard work, ignoring the naysayers, and perseverance—but it has all paid off. For Vida, the future indeed looks bright.

As a role model for aspiring writers, her advice is simple. “This isn’t an easy road and there will be a lot of times when you will be disappointed. But you should keep at it because every word you write is an investment.”

Beauty & the Beast Recast

The Beast in Vida’s story is a kapre, a fabled Filipino tree giant—a cigar-smoking beast of a nature spirit with a fraught history tied to African slavery. “I’ve had the image of a kapre and a girl looking at each other in my head for a long time, but I couldn’t get their story to work.” Then something clicked, and the story wrote itself in one week as Vida describes in this video interview.

The artist for her story is Illustrator Contest winner Reyna Rochin. Reyna talks about her visually rich depiction of the story (which has already sold at an art gallery as a painting) and how the Filipino culture has influenced her life.

Filipino Fact or Fantastical?

In her award-winning short story, Vida shares an element of Philippine culture and mythology. The center of the piece is a kind-hearted kapre who falls in love with Maria, a human woman. Sound fantastical? But what if the kapre really lived? There are some who believe these tree spirits are more than just folklore and with good reason.

For the backstory of the kapre, watch the video produced by the Aswang Project on the origin of the cigar smoking giant from the Philippines.

As for Vida’s depiction of Filipino folklore and the kapre, you decide.  Read “Odd and Ugly,” available in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 34.

Darci Stone (center) with fellow writer winners Cole Hehr and Amy Henrie Gillette.

Darci Stone’s Confession on Winning

Darci Stone is the author of “Mara’s Shadow” and winner of the Writers of the Future Contest 2018 grand prize Golden Pen Award.

Darci Stone and Eric James Stone being interviewed at the 2018 Writers of the Future Awards Event.

Darci Stone and Eric James Stone being interviewed at the 2018 Writers of the Future Awards Event.

Award-winning authors are no stranger in her household as she is married to 2005 Writers of the Future Contest and Nebula award winner Eric James Stone. It was Eric who introduced her to the world of writing and encouraged her to enter the Contest. As Darci confesses, “I do want to thank my husband for badgering me, repeatedly, to submit my story. If I remember correctly, he was the one that actually uploaded the file and hit send.”

Being married to a published and award-winning author certainly helps if you want to be a writer, but it’s not feasible for most aspiring authors.

In that regard, L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers and Illustrators of the Future Contests are unique–all entries are anonymous and so ethnicity, color and gender play no part in the judge’s selection of who wins. There is only one criterion for getting a chance at winning and, as Darci discovered, you have to hit send.

Since learning last year that she was a finalist with a chance at winning the grand prize, Darci has been vocal in her encouragement of others, especially women, to pursue their goals. To the audience and viewers watching the awards ceremony, she stated simply, “I want to encourage all women listening tonight to pursue your own dreams. Never limit yourself because of other people’s expectations.”

“Mara’s Shadow” was Darci’s first submission to the Contest, and the only story she has written. As her husband put it, “As a writer, she’s never received a reject.” On that count, Darci admits, “If you read the first draft of my story you would be shocked that I’m a winner because it was terrible. And I’m not just saying that to be modest. It was really bad.” She went on to thank everyone who read her story and gave her the feedback and insight she used to make it a better story. The rest is history.

In her story, which takes place in Vietnam, Darci pulled elements from her own life to weave into the plot. That includes a female scientist as the protagonist and a moth as the villain of the piece. It’s a rather odd combination but not without reason as she explains in this interview.

To read Darci’s story and enter the diverse new worlds of these award-winning short stories, get your copy of L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 34.

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.

 

Judges and Winners at the 34th Annual Awards Ceremony

34th Annual Writers & Illustrators of the Future Winners Announced

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kyna Tek, who was visibly in shock when he heard his name called out said, “When I saw everyone else’s illustrations in this Contest I never imagined I had a chance. Thank you for this moment. I’m never going to forget it. I will cherish it forever.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Writers of the Future logo

Writers of the Future Contest – 3rd Quarter 2017 Winners

 

The judging results are in! And here are the 3rd Quarter 2017 Writers of the Future Contest winners.

 

Congratulations to you all!

 


Winners:

First Place – Darci Stone from Utah
Second Place – Erik Bundy from North Carolina
Third Place – N.R.M. Roshak from Canada

 


Finalists:

K.L. Evangelista from Australia
Neil Flinchbaugh from Illinois
K.D. Julicher from Nevada
Django Mathijsen & Anaid Haen from the Netherlands
M. Elizabeth Ticknor from Michigan

Semi-Finalists:

Dawn Bonanno from Illinois
Lee Carroll from Kenya
David Cleden from the United Kingdom
Jose Pablo Iriarte from Florida
A.J. Martin from Ohio
John M. Olsen from Utah
David VonAllmen from Missouri
Corey White from Australia

Silver Honorable Mentions:

B. Morris Allen from Virginia
Ron-Tyler Budhram from Kansas
Travis Burnham from South Carolina
Taylor De Smidt from California
Frank Dutkiewicz from Michigan
LeeAnna Guido from New York
Barbara Lund from Utah
Robin T. Quackenbush from Virginia
Brittany Rainsdon from Idaho
Josh Schlossberg from Colorado
Charles D. Shell from Virginia
Patrick Stahl from Pennsylvania
C.K. Stevenson from New York
N. Immanuel Velez from Virginia
Robinne L. Weiss from New Zealand

Honorable Mentions:

Dustin Adams from New York
Nicholas Adams from Utah
Mike Adamson from Australia
Ingmar Albizu from Pennsylvania
Kyle Appleton from Massachusetts
Brian Peter Asman from California
Alexandra Balasa from Texas
Joe Benet from North Carolina
Rick Bennett from Utah
W.B. Biggs from Mississippi
Rob Bleckly from Australia
Alicia Cay from Colorado
Sarah Celiann from Illinois
Yuk Chi Chan from Singapore
Jordan A. Chase from Oregon
David J. Cochrane from Louisiana
Scott Forbes Crawford from Washington D.C.
Joshua Crowder from Georgia
Paulo da Silva from Germany
Heather Lee Dyer from Idaho
Amaka J. Egbe from Texas
Matan Elul from Australia
Jason Evans from Illinois
Benjamin Scott Farthing from Virginia
Margaret McFaffey Fisk from Nevada
Jonathan Ficke from Wisconsin
Steven Fischer from Wisconsin
Anne Fleeson from North Carolina
A. J. Flowers from Michigan
Laurie Gailunas from Michigan
Brian C. Hailes from Utah
Clint Hall from Georgia
Philip Brian Hall from the United Kingdom
Scot Hanson from Idaho
Brother Raban Heyer, OSB from Arkansas
Gary J. Hurtubise from Canada
Mitchell Inkley from Utah
Stephan James from Missouri
Edmund Jonah from Israel
Tandiwhe Kongela from Washington
Steve Kopka from Illinois
Jason Lairamore from Oklahoma
A.A. Leil from Massachusetts
Bonner Litchfield from North Carolina
Hank Lyne from The Netherlands
Russ Madison Jr. from Georgia
Mo Mamdouh-Motleb from Canada
August Marion from Washington
James Maxstadt from North Carolina
Robert J. McCarter from Arizona
Shawn McKee from Texas
Devin Miller from North Carolina
Wulf Moon from Washington
Karin E. Nalepa from Ohio
Dana Nisewarner from West Virginia
Leslie Starr O’Hara from North Carolina
Rosie Oliver from the United Kingdom
Kirstie Olley from Australia
Fredrick V. Omoike from Texas
Y.M. Pang from Canada
Isaac E. Payne from Pennsylvania
Vasillis J. Petrovic from Greece
Breany L. Pfeifer from Nebraska
Jeff Pusateri from Illinois
H.L. Reinhold from the United Kingdom
Jack Ryan from Arkansas
Samantha Lynne Sargent from Canada
Emery Schultz from California
Abhishek Sengupta from India
Michael Silton from California
John Skylar from New York
Robert Anthony Smith from New Jersey
Crystal Sosa from Texas
Stephanie Sorth from California
C.L. Spillard from the United Kingdom
D.A. Xiaolin Spires from New Jersey
Tim Stevens from New York
W.B. Sullivan from Massachusetts
Dan Summers from Michigan
Vincent Sutherland from Arizona
Gretchen Tessmer from New York
Laura Thurston from Minnesota
Rebecca E. Treasure from Mississippi
Andrew Valorson from Wisconsin
Wendy Van Camp from California
Dawn Vogel from Washington
Corrine Watson from North Carolina
Luke A. Wildman from Indiana
J.M. Williams from Korea
Thomas Woodward from Minnesota
Ramez Yoakeim from Australia