Contributed by Wulf Moon
Day Five of the Writers of the Future Workshop began with critiques on the three randomly selected 24-hour stories that the winners read overnight. At the end, Tim Powers (On Stranger Tides) and David Farland (Runelords) made their comments. The final advice from Powers: “I do think when you’re writing, don’t kill the dog, don’t kill the kid. My wife won’t read a book that has a dog that’s killed in it. I wrote a book where I killed the dog, and I had to bring him back to life in the sequel. For my wife.”
The afternoon began with guest instructors. Leading off were Contest judges and husband-and-wife team Kevin J. Anderson (Dune sequels) and Rebecca Moesta (Star Wars: Young Jedi Knights). Their theme centered on being professionals and a professional image. Anderson said: “You are always, always, always on stage. You can’t be really nice on a panel and be really snarky off the panel.” Moesta followed with one of the ways a writer could be snarky. “When somebody else is successful, never whine about somebody else’s success. You do not know the work and what they went through to get there.”
Next came Larry Niven (Ringworld), outlining his rules for collaboration. Two key points were never enter into a collaboration with a writer you don’t trust and be aware that collaborations are always more work, not less. Niven said, “Research is fun. You’ll find it generates stories. You don’t get lucky if you don’t research for fun.”
Following that came a joint presentation with Dean Wesley Smith (Poker Boy series) and Todd McCaffrey (Dragonsblood). While McCaffrey has had much experience in traditional publishing working in collaboration with his mother, Anne McCaffrey, he focused on indie publishing and getting a manuscript publication-ready. “If we write a series,” McCaffrey said, “it’s been my experience that every new book in a series increases sales for all the other books as well.”
Dean Wesley Smith presented his approach to indie publishing as a pulp writer, citing that twenty-seven million people have bought his books. He warned the writers not to *fix* things after they’ve written them. “Chances are, you’re cutting out your voice,” Smith said. “If you polish something like a rock polisher does, it’s going to look like everybody else’s.” He said you don’t want your story to look the same. Same is death. “That’s why you don’t rewrite.”
Next came the reveal of L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volumes 36 & 37. The drape was lifted off beautifully stacked volumes to the delight of everyone in the room. Writers, illustrators, and Contest judges signed hundreds of books for bookstore publicity purposes and for one another. Many said they felt like real authors now, and indeed they are.
A special barbecue for all followed in the Roosevelt Hotel’s Garden area, where winners enjoyed socializing with the judges. United Public Radio interviews began, where winners had the opportunity to talk about their experiences with the Contest to the network’s global listeners. Joe Montaldo was their host.
A special presentation was made to each judge in appreciation of their service and longevity: silver pins for the Writer Contest judges and Illustrator Contest judges. And for those judges who have served for over 25 years, their pins included a beautiful sapphire.
The packed day of instruction and activities ended in the hotel’s posh theater with the showing of L. Ron Hubbard’s story, “They Killed Him Dead” as a short film. The gumshoe detective movie concluded with a thunder of applause. Volume 37 winner Eric Lynd said: “It was fun. It made me want to go read the story!” A good sign of any production—emotionally satisfying but leaving the audience longing for more. With over 200 stories written by L. Ron Hubbard, there will be much more to come. But no more this night. The action-packed day had ended.
Illustrator workshop, Day 4:
Guest Instructors, Tom Wood and Craig Elliott
Contributed by Kary English
Wednesday’s Illustrator workshop hit the ground running with a presentation on color depth given by Meliva Koch, Editorial Director at Author Services, Inc. She shared some of L. Ron Hubbard’s art direction notes for the cover of Battlefield Earth including the use of color and perspective techniques to direct the eye through the artwork, emphasizing certain elements over others, making key elements pop into the foreground or recede—all with the intent of creating a strong cover image that would sell the book.
Koch’s presentation was followed by illustrator Tom Wood, known for his fantasy and sports illustration, and his extensive work with Insane Clown Posse. Wood grew up in a tiny town in Arkansas, with little access to the internet, computers, or even other artists. Today, in addition to his art career, he manages a 300-acre family farm with 200 head of cattle.
Wood grew up reading Robert Howard’s Savage Sword of Conan, and once he discovered the artwork of Frank Frazetta, the die was cast. Wood wanted to be an artist, but he had to figure out how to make a living at it. When the local screen-printing shop offered him an Assistant Art Director job right out of high school, Wood took it. Over the next few years, he became an Art Director, and then Creative Director, staying largely within the realm of sportswear, mascots, and other sports-related images. Wood said sports clients often asked him to tone down his mascot work because sometimes the images looked “too sinister.” This would later provide the perfect opportunity when a friend and colleague introduced him to Psychopathic Records and Insane Clown Posse. Wood has since become the primary illustrator for ICP.
Though Wood advocates taking corporate work whenever it’s offered or needed, he still finds time for his first love, fantasy art. Wood talked to the illustrators about the world of licensing, discussing his experiences that have generated much income. One thing that helped Wood in his mid-career days was landing an agent. Wood recommends working with an agent because “none of us are really good at going out and saying how awesome we are—but they are.”
After a short lunch break, the illustrators returned for a Zoom meeting with Craig Elliot, illustrator, concept artist, production designer, and creative director at Disney. Elliot graduated from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA. He likes to think of himself as both a fine artist and an illustrator. He got his start in purely traditional media—oils and acrylics—and he still believes there’s magic in working with your hands, a special connection between the artist and physical media. “When you see a Degas, and he’s left a thumbprint on it, there’s just this je ne sais quoi about a real painting.” And Elliot should know. Elliot’s work includes sculptures, maquettes, blacksmithing, blade-making, and wax jewelry casting. “Expanding your knowledge is never a bad thing,” says Elliot, “It always comes back.”
Elliot got hired by Disney right out of college. He worked on a comic book for Dark Horse and also did work for Wizards of the Coast and Blizzard’s World of Warcraft. At Disney, Elliot has worked on an amazing list of animated and live-action films including Mulan, The Princess and the Frog, and Treasure Planet.
In particular, Elliot spoke to the illustrators about the role of the visual development artist or production designer. The task of the visual developer is to explore the mood and look of the film as a whole, and for specific scenes and locations. What do the rooftops look like in the Treasure Planet spaceport? What’s the layout of the village in The Lorax? Even though this kind of work doesn’t produce the sort of finished image we think of as “artwork,” it’s absolutely vital to the look, feel, and success of a film.
Wulf Moon wrote his first science fiction story when he was fifteen. It won the national Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and led to his first professional sale in Science World.
Since then, Moon has won more than forty awards in writing. These include: Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 2; Critters Readers’ Choice Awards for Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Story of 2018, Best SF&F Short Story of 2019, Best Nonfiction Article of 2019, Best Author of 2019, Best Writers’ Workshop of 2019; and the Writers of the Future Contest, Volume 35.
Kary English is a Writers of the Future winner whose work has been nominated for the Hugo and Campbell awards. She grew up in the snowy Midwest where she read book after book in a warm corner behind a recliner chair. Today, Kary still spends most of her time with her head in the clouds and her nose in a book. Her fiction has appeared in Galaxy’s Edge, The Grantville Gazette, Daily Science Fiction, Far Fetched Fables, the Hugo-winning podcast StarShipSofa, and L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 31.