Tag Archives: finalist

Book Signing 7/13/13!

Writers of the Future Vol. 29 is out!  And I will be signing copies from 2:00-4:00pm this Saturday (the 13th) at the Barnes & Noble on N. College Ave. in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  

If you are in the area I hope to see you there. You can ask me about the contest, about writing, about science fiction–about basically anything you’d like. Or you can just get a crisp new book and a neat-o signature if you’re not up for chatting. Either way, I’ll appreciate you stopping by!



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Writers of the Future Workshop Week and Gala, Part 2

Here’s the link to Part 1 if you missed it.

And jumping right into part 2:

Once we turned in our twenty-four hour stories, we got to have some fun (not that whipping out a story, isn’t fun).  We formally met our illustrators and saw their work for the first time.

Down stairs in the ASI building, prints of the story illustrations had been nicely framed and set up on easels in a semi-circle.  The illustrators stood off to the side so that we writers wouldn’t have any indication of who had done what.  Then we had to guess which illustration belonged to our story.  This was nerve wracking for the lot of us– the writers were worried that we wouldn’t be able to recognize which illustration was ours (and that we would thus insult the illustrator), while the illustrators were worried their work might be too different from the writers vision (and that we in turn would be insulted).

I was immediately drawn to the illustration done by Tiffany England.  I made a beeline for it as we came in through the doors.  I thought, This is mine.  I’m pretty sure it’s minePlease, can it be mine?  But I hadn’t even looked at any of the other illustrations yet, so I had to pry myself away and make the rounds.  All of the illustrations were beautiful (Among the notable included the piece done for Marilyn Guttrige’s story, The Ghost Wife of Arlington), but yep, the first one I had been drawn to was the illustration for my story.

After, we writers returned to our seats for some lectures by judges and past winners alike.  It was great to learn about different people’s processes (I think Kevin J. Anderson’s method of writing-by-tape-recorder is the most unique) and publishing experiences.

The next day (day five) we took a field trip to Bang Printing’s facilities to learn about how books get made, to see Writers of the Future Vol. 29 being printed, and to get our first copies.  Christopher Reynaga (author of The Grande Complication) came home with a special find: an un-cut copy with the pages still long and uneven.   The tour was an amazing experience, not just because we got to see the book in all its many stages, but because we did it as a group–authors and illustrators together.  My favorite workshop-week picture was taken here, as a group of us marveled at an un-cut copy of the book (It can be seen here).

After our tour at the printers, we writers went back to do our critique session (while the artists got to play it cool at Disney studios, I might add).  The crits were followed by more guest speakers, including the editor-in-chief of Locus mag (Eric Cline, author of Gonna Reach Out and Grab Ya, had a spirited discussion with her about the pros and cons of self publishing).

That night we had a big group dinner with all of the attending judges and winners, writers and illustrators alike.

Saturday (day six) then consisted of even more wisdom from the pros.  The professional interactions at the workshop, I’d venture to guess, are something newer writers would be hard pressed to get anywhere else.  Sure, you might run into many of the judges at conventions and hear from them on panels, but at WotF they’re there for you, not you and the thousands of other con-goers, just you and your fellow winners.  You could get in-depth education by taking a workshop (many of the judges provide workshops), but that wouldn’t give you such a wide range of people to hear from.

On Saturday we also went to the Ebel theater to do a dry run of the awards ceremony (we all took turns getting on stage and saying whatever came to mind so that the sound crew could make the adjustments needed).  After that we had a brief session with John Goodwin in which he discussed speeches and showed us some examples from previous years, just so that we’d all be comfortable and prepared.  Then we jotted down our thank-you speeches and spent some time practicing (of course, very few of the real speeches ended up much like the practice ones–except for Brian Trent’s (author of War Hero), which included a list of at least 20 names spewed forth in one breath).

The gala really deserves its own post, so I guess I’ll reserve that tale for next week.

Again, if you’ve got any questions, I’m here to answer them!


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Writers of the Future Workshop Week and Gala, Part 1

Ok, I’m nearly back on schedule.

The Writers of the Future workshop week was wonderfully educational.  We had two amazing primary teachers, Dave Wolverton and Tim Powers, and a plethora of secondary speakers who all gave their take on different aspects of writing fiction professionally.

When I arrived I was picked up at the airport at the same time as Stephen Sottong (Author of Planetary Scouts), who along with Tina Gower (Author of Twelve Seconds and our Gold Award winner!), was my quarter-mate.  Tina ended up being my roommate for the week, which was fantastic.  After long evenings in the hotel lobby talking to night-owl judges, we’d often go back to the room and stay up a few hours more talking.

The group stayed at the Loews hotel, and walked a few blocks down Hollywood Boulevard every day to the Author Services building.  The writing workshop was taught on the fourth floor, while the illustrator’s was taught on the first in front of the stage for the L. Ron Hubbard Golden Age Theater (where live radio plays of Hubbard’s works are preformed.  We got to see one on the Monday before we left, and it was very well done).

The ASI fourth floor is beautiful, and the area we were taught in is basically one big library (the majority of which is devoted to Hubbard’s works, but there is one wing devoted to the works of WotF winners).  There, Tim, Dave and company instructed us on the ways of the professional.  We received both lessons in craft and in business.

The most amusing thing about the workshop was the constant intrusion of the photographers (who were very nice).  Those pretty pictures you see on the WotF website and newsletter?  They didn’t get that well composed by accident (most of them, anyway).  We were constantly having our table tops rearranged, papers hidden, and drinks removed.  This constituted a bonus lesson in photography.

The most stressful thing about the workshop was by far the twenty-four hour story.  We were given an object, a trip to the library, and a stranger (ok, we had to find the stranger, none were given to us) to inspire a story, then we were expected to produce a completed story(as in, written to the end, not necessarily submission-ready) in twenty-four hours (that’s twenty-four hours writing time.  The inspiration points happened over the previous forty-eight hours or so, so we did have time to think and digest before having to produce words).

On our first workshop day we received our objects.  I was given a box of who-knows-how-old raisins out of Tim’s grab bag.  A few of the other objects included a floppy disk, a magnifying glass, and a hotel room key.

For me, the stressful part came not when we were given the go-ahead to start typing, but when we had to go talk to a stranger.  As a confirmed introvert, striking up a conversation with a random person is not my thing.  But I did it.  Thankfully my stranger was a very nice sunglasses salesman from Turkey (Alisa Alering [Author of Everything You Have Seen] also spoke to a sunglasses salesmen from Turkey–oddly enough, they were not the same person).  A few other people (ahem, Tina) had much more awkward encounters.

The actual writing part went smoothly for me.  I think this is because I’ve had some practice writing stories in a day.  We started writing at 4:00pm and were expected to have our story printed and turned in by 4:00pm the following day.  I was able to write ‘the end’ on a 4,000ish-word draft at around 12:30 or 1:00am, while others were up most of the night.  The next day I edited at my leisure, making sure to strengthen themes and descriptions– other people did not have the same opportunity to rework.

Again, I don’t think writing the story went well for me because of any extra craft skills I possess.  I think it had 100% to do with having written that way multiple times before.   I was able to plan and pace myself accordingly.  If there is one piece of advice I’d give to future workshop attendees, it’s to practice this method ahead of time.

After we turned in our stories, Dave and Tim chose three for us to critique as a group.  For some people, I think this might have been the most stressful part of the twenty-four hour challenge.  A few seemed to dread the thought of their story being pulled from the pile.  Tim and Dave could of course chose whichever stories they wanted by whatever method they wanted, and they joked about throwing the manuscripts down some stairs and picking the ones that flew the farthest.  Apparently mine was quite aerodynamic (a fine quality in a story), as it was picked along with Tina’s and Chrome Oxide’s (Author of Cop for a Day).

I got some very insightful feedback, and have since reworked the story a bit more.  I submitted it for the first time on Tuesday.  If you get a chance to participate in this workshop, do your best to make sure the story you write isn’t a throw away.  Don’t complete the challenge just because you have to–aim to get at least the beginnings of something submitable out of it.  Every story you write is practice and the Big Game all at the same time.  So, it’s ok if you try something and it doesn’t work for you (like writing a story in one sitting), but always do your damndest.

I will return next week with Part 2 of my recap.  There might end up being a Part 3, we’ll just have to see.

If you’ve got any questions about the workshop or twenty-four hour story in particular, feel free to ask!


P.S.  I’ve sold another story!  Details soon.

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Congrats and Commiserations

I hear results for the fourth quarter of the Writers of the Future contest are going out.  Though I’m no longer in the running, these results are still exciting to me, because they define who I’ll be attending the workshop with.  I want to know who else is in my graduating class, so to speak.

So, congrats to the finalists!  And for those of you who’ve received rejections, HMs, semis or silvers, keep plugging away.  The only way to guarantee you don’t win is if you don’t enter!

Speaking of finalists, as of this posting we still don’t know who the winners of Q3 are.  Inquiring minds want to know.  Hopefully I’ll be able to post an addendum in the next few days with a list.



1st Place – Andrea Stewart of California

2nd Place – Marilyn Guttridge of Oregon

3rd Place – Alex Wilson of North Carolina



ETA: If you’d like to enter either the Writers of the Future contest, or the Illustrators of the future contest, please visit: http://www.writersofthefuture.com/

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Story Sold!

Good news, everyone! No, I haven’t transformed into a frail cartoon-scientist, but I have made a sale!

I received my first acceptance to a pro-rate, SFWA qualifying market today.  I’m very excited and will give out more information when the formalities are taken care of.

The story I sold was also my Q4 WotF finalist, entitled: Sojourn For Ephah.


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WotF: Anonymity and the Number Eight

Note: Even if you’ve been entering a long time, I highly suggest you read this post.  You might be damaging your anonymity without realizing it.

For those of you who don’t know, the Writers of the Future contest is open to amateurs looking to become professionals.  It’s designed to give them a leg-up in the industry.  And, it’s judged blind.

The blind judging is important.  It lets the contestants know that, sink or swim, your story was judged on its merits alone.  It wasn’t chosen because you took a judge’s workshop and they remembered your name.  It wasn’t chosen because you’ve done well in the contest before.  The story was either what the contest was looking for, or it wasn’t.

The rules are both very specific and very vague when it comes to keeping your entry anon.  They tell you to remove all identifying information from your story to facilitate fair judging.  But, what they don’t tell you is how to treat your entry in public–especially online.

Science fiction and fantasy authors tend to be tech savvy–at least to the point where they’re plugged in to the web, have blogs, pursue social networking of some sort, and digitally interact with their fan base.

And that fan base often includes amateur authors.

Meaning that a judge visiting a writing forum, or website, or group–or, even, doing an innocent web search–could potentially stumble across clues to your entry, were you to post them.

And, technically, if a story can be tied to its author by a judge, that story is supposed to get disqualified.

I’ve seen a lot of people skirt the line lately when it comes their anonymity in the Writers of the Future contest.   They’re excited about a story they’ve selected for entry and want to talk about it, or think it makes a great illustrative example of a pro’s style suggestions, or want specific help on a part of the story they’re concerned about.

Now, for people brand new to the contest, it’s easy to see why they might let a tell-tale attribute slip.  They’re probably thinking of the contest as a faceless entity–not as a conglomerate of people who have access to google.

New entrants can sometimes be found posting the title of their story or character names, which are of course massive no-nos.  I try to point this out whenever I find it.  If I, in my totally casual flight through the interwebs, can find entrants linking themselves very specifically to their stories, there’s no reason a judge can’t as well.  New contestants sometimes slip up, but they’ve got an excuse: they’re not familiar with the way the contest functions.

However, people who’ve been entering for a long time (sometimes years) have no excuse, but I still see people blatantly typing out story information into blog and forum posts.  Recently, I even noted a whole slew of people posting specific setting details and summaries of their stories.

Ok, at this point, you’re probably thinking, Marina, you’re just being paranoid.  How on earth is stating that my story is set on a space-tanker going to get me disqualified?  Surly in an entry pool of 1000+ there are multiple stories set on space-tankers.

And if this is your line of thinking, I spot a fatal flaw.  Because it’s not the pool of 1000+ you should be worried about.  It’s the pool of eight.  The only pool that matters in terms of actually winning.

There are eight finalists.  And out of those, three get published.

Out of eight stories, how many do you think are going to be set on space-tankers?  How many are going to match that “vague” summary you posted on a forum?

How many are going to be specifically urban fantasy?  Or cyber-punk?

What you might think is an indistinct, general detail becomes awfully specific when you can count the competing stories on two hands.

So, with that in mind, how do you publically talk about a story without getting it tied to you and thrown out?

Well, if you’re like me, you don’t say anything until you’ve gotten the final yay or nay.

But, here are a few tips for those of you who have good reason not to stay quiet:

1. Post in password-protected places.  Do you know why most venues consider stories posted on password-protected critique sties unpublished, while those you put up on your blog lose their first world rights?  Because things that are password protected cannot be accessed by search engines.  Or the “public.”  So, if you post about your WotF entry on a password protected site (that the judges do not frequent), you should be alright.

2. Don’t specify what quarter your story is in.  If you’re talking about a story you intend to enter next quarter, or the quarter after that, or one that’s in the current quarter, just don’t say when you submitted it.  Maybe you’ve got a space-tanker story, a moon-base story, and a volcano story all out there at once.  You’ve mentioned them all (but in no great detail), and didn’t link them to a quarter.  And now you’re a finalist!  No one’s quite sure if one of those is your finalist, or if you sent in an entirely different story, because you didn’t tag your entry.  NOTE: I don’t think this’ll save you if you’ve posted a summary.

3. Avoid mentioning plot points or theme.  These are more specific than setting or genre, usually.  If a brother is trying to reconcile with his sister, don’t say that.  How do you know there’s another story about siblings?  How do you know there’s another story about reconciliation?

4. Make PMs and e-mail your allies.  If you really need specific advice about a very specific thing, make friends and directly contact them.  I find a lot of people are very willing to help (especially on the WotF forums).  If you need specific advice, you should have no problem finding someone to turn to.

5. This is the obvious one, but I thought I’d throw it in anyway: Don’t mention any proper nouns from the story.  EVER.  No titles, no place names, etc.   I don’t care if you think telling people that your story contains a character named Bill is no big deal.  It’s a big deal when out of eight stories only one has a character named Bill, no matter how minor he-or-she is.

6. This is where it gets hyper-paranoid, but if you are selected as a finalist I suggest deleting (if only temporarily) any posts you might have made referring to your story.  This gives you a clean slate, and you don’t have to worry if you were too specific at some point.

But, like I said, I find the best course of action is to either go with number 4 (because it’s not public in any way, shape , or form), or just not saying anything at all.

And yes, I might be going over-the-top here.  But, better safe than sorry, no?


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Writers of the Future Q4: Finalists and Semis Announced

I’m so glad I can finally beak my silence.

Of course, I’ve been dropping not-so-subtle hints here and there, but now I can say it outright:

I’m a finalist again in the Writers of the Future contest!

And though I’m trying not to get my hopes up too much, I’d really like to win.  And not just because of all the great rewards that come with winning, but because there are so many new writers and illustrators who have already won (and potentially could win–fellow finalists) that I’d like to meet.

Writing can be an awfully solitary profession at times (and don’t get me wrong, that’s one of the things I love about it), so there are rare opportunities, barring online communities, to make real connections with people who are going through the same things you are.  Online communities are wonderful–and the WotF forum is one of the best around–but sometimes they are poor substitutes for real life.

WotF provides a great professional environment in which to get to know people.  So I’m hoping I can go to the workshop and forge some solid connections.  

And those are strong words coming from and introvert like me.

And then, of course, I’d like to be published, and get paid, and get one-on-one lessons from the pros, and all that other good stuff.  Ah, wouldn’t it be nice?

Hey, I need to do a workshop this year, it’s one of my goals.  Why not the WotF workshop?

But, we’ll see.  My chickens haven’t hatched just yet. 

Congrats to all of the other finalists, and all of you who made semi, silver, and HM!  Keep writing, keep submitting–keep going!


P.S.  Because this is a big announcement for me, this post counts as my Wednesday post.

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