At some point in your life, you may be given an impossible gift, some immeasurable token of goodwill that can never be paid back no matter how hard you try. The only way to balance the scales in this situation is to pay that goodwill forward instead—do something for someone else that you know they will, likewise, never be able to repay, and do it without the expectation that they will even try.
The idea of paying it forward is something we’ve all heard throughout our lives. It’s an idea most of us have seen, felt, or participated in many times, but I’ve never experienced it so perpetually or pervasively as I have since becoming a part of the broader speculative fiction community. Paying it forward is also a concept that fundamentally defines Writers of the Future, so I suppose it’s no surprise that it has come to define Calendar of Fools as well.
Calendar of Fools is a small press started by myself and a group of other contest winners from Volumes 36 and 37. We were the plague year, you see, so while some of us had twice the wait, it meant all of us got to meet twice as many winners, formed twice as many friendships, and connected ourselves with twice as many of our peers at similar points in our careers. Soon, we had Facebook groups and discord channels. We read for each other, talked shop, shared submission calls, and so much more. All of us have grown a great deal in only a few years, and we did a lot of it together.
We soon realized how much we were all learning from each other and what a gift this was. Within months, the benefits of our shared Writers of the Future experience were visibly changing our writing and careers, and there was no way we’d ever be able to pay back all the people at Galaxy Press, Author Services, or our many esteemed workshop instructors whose efforts had made this all possible for us.
Above all, attending the Writers of the Future workshop taught us what you’re supposed to do when you have something to teach: when you know something that might help someone else, you share it. You pay it forward. So, now we’re doing just that; we’re paying it forward, and that’s what Calendar of Fools, as an organization, wants to do with every project it puts out.
Our enterprise is beginning with the Inner Workings anthology. Given that this collection will act as the launch of Calendar of Fools itself, we wanted it to fully encapsulate our intentions moving forward. The anthology includes 16 short stories, all from award-winning authors. What makes this project special, though, is that each of these stories also comes with a linked craft essay that takes one of the techniques featured in that story and dissects it for readers and aspiring writers who want to improve in their own craft. Readers will be able to enjoy high-quality science fiction and fantasy stories before seeing them instantly reframed as in-depth learning tools by the authors themselves. So, the aim here is not only to entertain, but to educate.
The core of the anthology consists of 12 original stories and craft essays by Calendar of Fools member authors. The other 4 stories are reprints from our feature authors Wulf Moon, Kary English, Martin L. Shoemaker, and Eric James Stone, all of whom are also past winners of the Contest. These authors have generously given us their stories and original craft essays because, like us, they are committed to paying it forward. In this book, their gifts get to flow from them to us and from us to the next wave of aspiring writers.
The goal of helping aspiring writers doesn’t end with the anthology itself, though. In addition to various forms of the book (e-book or paperback), our Kickstarter campaign also has a host of unique rewards our backers can purchase. For example, backers can get a copy of Inner Workings for themselves and choose to donate one to their local library, thereby paying it forward themselves. They can also purchase critiques from random or selected Calendar of Fools authors, Rebecca Treasure (the flash fiction editor at Apex Magazine), or featured author Martin L. Shoemaker. Finally, there are special classes being offered by Calendar of Fools authors Storm Humbert, Zack Be, and Andy Dibble, and Wulf Moon has generously donated seats in his popular webinar “Stick Your Landings,” which focuses on bringing stories to satisfying, powerful endings.
There is a common theme in all of these rewards: we want to provide instruction, help, support, or simply encouragement to as many aspiring writers as possible in whatever way they feel will be most helpful to them. Writing is a difficult business, but we want our backers—and all aspiring writers—to know that there are people here who want nothing more than to help you. It’s important to note, though, that while anyone will be able to buy Inner Workings even after the Kickstarter is over, the unique rewards mentioned above are only available during the campaign (and some are limited in number) so better to act sooner rather than later.
Inner Workings has already met its basic funding goal, but there are multiple stretch goals and a lot of unlockable content (things like free e-books and additional craft essays from very well-known authors), so the more people who back, the more we can reach and the more value we can add to all backers’ packages. Also, the better this project does, the greater our resources will be for the next project, and the one after that, and the one after that, because we aren’t going to stop. Inner Workings is only the first of many unique projects we have planned, and all of them will be geared toward helping aspiring writers and giving back, in whatever small way we can, to the speculative fiction community as a whole.
We don’t want Calendar of Fools to just be a small press, though. We want it to grow. We want it to become a resource, a waypoint, a nexus, a thriving assembly of aspiring writers and interested readers. We found a special little community amongst ourselves at our Writers of the Future workshop and gala, and now is the time to expand its borders and grow its citizenship.
So, if you’re an aspiring writer, we hope you’ll join us. Get the book. Take some classes if you want. Get a critique from a writer that has won the contest you’re likely trying to win. Follow our social media. Subscribe to our newsletter and interact on our website (both newsletter and website coming soon, we promise ☺).
Whether you do all, some, or none of these things, though, don’t stop writing. Don’t stop growing in your craft. Never forget that there’s a community full of people paying it forward who are willing to help you, and we at Calendar of Fools are very proud to be among them.
A special episode of the Writers & Illustrators of the Future Podcast further describing our project can be heard here:
Storm Humbert is a science fiction and fantasy author living in Michigan. He has published work in Andromeda Spaceways, Interzone, Apex, and others.
He is a winner of the Writers of the Future Contest, and his work was featured in the 36th volume of that anthology.
Learn more at stormhumbertwrites.com.