Writers of the Future Volume 36 & 37 Workshop Week – Day 2
Contributed by Wulf Moon
Day Two of the Writers of the Future Workshop began with brilliant California sunshine lighting up the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Contest coordinator Joni Labaqui led the winners on a brief walk down the Hollywood Walk of Fame for a group photo in front of the pillars of the Author Services building. Headquarters for the Contest is on the fourth floor, where winners were greeted with “bonjour” in a lovely French accent by receptionist Sophie Bartczak. Even wearing a mask, you could see by the sparkle in her eyes that she was smiling. “I’m so happy to see everybody,” she said. At long last, the workshop with its writers had returned.
Joni Labaqui led the winners into the L. Ron Hubbard Library, and Executive Director Gunhild Jacobs gave a warm welcoming speech. Joni followed with a tour of posters, displays, and awards won through the prolific writing history of the Contest’s founder.
The tour continued into the paneled Writers of the Future library itself, bookcases brimming with the published works of Contest winners and judges. Joni encouraged winners to send her any future publications for display in the library.
A wall displaying the images of past and present Contest judges was presented by Joni including photos of writer icons like Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, Anne McCaffrey, Patrick Rothfuss, Kevin J. Anderson, and Brandon Sanderson.
Another wall displayed moments from the Contest’s thirty-seven-year history, including a photo of the first awardee to walk across the Contest’s stage: Dean Wesley Smith, now a bestselling author and Contest judge himself! Joni pointed to another photo of a shuttle launch and related that she attended the event along with Contest judges and that year’s winners. After the rocket liftoff, Jack Williamson leaned over and said: “Joni, I’ve been writing about this all my life, but I’ve never imagined it like this.” After discussing photos from various Contest events featuring writers like Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury, Joni pointed to one with Mark Hamill and said: “Even Luke Skywalker himself has been to this event!”
The morning concluded with a video presentation in the L. Ron Hubbard Theater. The production featured recordings of Mr. Hubbard’s lectures on writing with period reenactments and photos from his travels. He said in his day, many professional writers were shunned by the literary world because they didn’t just talk about writing, they actually wrote. “It never occurred to professors that writers write,” Hubbard said. He stated that if you sold your stories, you were considered a pariah. He never let that atmosphere stop him, writing a phenomenal 100,000 words per month. The message of the presentation? Professional writers write.
As the bright-eyed writers returned to the Roosevelt, Author Services PR representative Claude Sandoz stated: “It’s always very inspiring. It’s beautiful to see the next crop of writers discovered by this Contest. They all come here with the desire to learn what’s next, and we want to help them. These are the writers that will create the future. They don’t know it yet, but their works will influence our society and its development.”
The afternoon workshop began in the hotel’s Academy Room with instructors David Farland (Runelords) and Tim Powers (On Stranger Tides) on a discussion of storytelling prompts for the upcoming 24-hour story exercise. David Farland stated that for a professional writer, writing on demand is part of the job. He related that most hobby writers wait for the muse to strike before they go to work on a story. In contrast, working writers go to work, knowing inspiration will come. He cited his own example where Dean Wesley Smith (Poker Boy series) called needing a story written overnight for one of his publications. David agreed. Dean said it’s an anthology about unicorns, so he needed a unicorn story. David said okay. It had to be SF. David said okay. Maybe cyberpunk. David said okay. With the theme of immortality. David said okay, and with no further stipulations (whew!), he went to work, turning in the story the next day as promised. Dean said, “Wow, this is amazing. You did this overnight?” Even Dean Wesley Smith was surprised, but as David said, writing on demand is part of the job.
Tim Powers gave three conditions to creating the 24-hour stories:
• Discuss the idea with your assigned writing buddy during the workshop.
• Research the idea on Google, farming ideas far from the original premise by exploring extended article links.
• They must use a physical object he would provide as their story prompt.
At that point, he drew items from a bag for each writer, including a matchbook, a token awarded for a period of sobriety, another item he said could have belonged to Phillip K. Dick (they were good friends), and other small items handed to each that might seem inconsequential, but were to be woven into the story.
Writers were told not to view this as a throw-away exercise—many winners from past workshops had sold their 24-hour stories.
The rest of the afternoon focused on a variety of writing advice, such as plotting stories, and basic story elements writers should be cognizant of as they write, including knowledge of “the hero’s journey.” Tim Powers advised writing a biography page for each character in a story. He said to ask them any trivial question one could think of, such as why the character is a vegetarian. Write down the answer, but he said the first answer is never the true answer. He said go back and ask, “No, why really?” Oftentimes, the pay dirt is there.
David Farland followed with one of the most important questions a writer needs to answer about their hero. “What does the hero care about so deeply that they would give their life for it?”
David ended the afternoon session with a quote by Algis Budrys (Rogue Moon), the Contest’s first Coordinating Judge. Algis recommended writing about characters confronted with problems, but that writers shouldn’t set out to feature a theme. David said it’s not a rule, but a prejudice of his, that writers shouldn’t blatantly create a story because “they have something to say.” Tim Powers agreed, adding: “If I see it developing on its own, great, it means it’s happening on its own organically.”
Stay tuned for writing lessons learned tomorrow before writers are launched to write their 24-hour stories!
Houston, we have lift-off!
Illustrators of the Future Art Workshop: Day 1, Arrival
Contributed by Kary English
Aspiring illustrators from around the world arrived in Hollywood today for the annual L. Ron Hubbard Illustrators of the Future workshop. Each illustrator is a quarterly winner in the world’s largest contest for aspiring artists. They’ve already won a cash prize, a week-long workshop, and a spot in an awards ceremony that rivals the Oscars, but they’re not finished yet. There’s one prize left to win, and that’s the Golden Brush Award, which comes with a cash prize of $5,000.
Every illustrator has created a final piece for the competition, an illustration for one of the winning stories from the companion contest for writers. The judges for the Golden Brush Award are a Who’s Who of award-winning illustrators, including Echo Chernik, Lazarus Chernik, Ciruelo, Vincent Di Fate, Diane Dillon, Bob Eggleton, Craig Elliott, Larry Elmore, Laura Freas Beraha, Val Lakey Lindahn, Stephan Martiniere, Gary Meyer, Mike Perkins, Sergey Poyarkov, Rob Prior, Dan dos Santos, Shaun Tan, Stephen Youll, and Bea Jackson.
Now in its 32nd year, Illustrators of the Future workshop offers a combination of craft, business, and marketing skills aimed at taking the illustrators’ careers to the next level. Sample topics include color harmony, composition, professionalism, social media marketing, interview techniques, and how to think like an illustrator.
We’ll catch up with the illustrator workshop tomorrow for Day 2.
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.
Moon is podcast director at Future Science Fiction Digest. Discover his work at: amazon.com/author/wulfmoon. Find him on Facebook or visit his website and join the Wulf Pack at driftweave.com.
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.
Great updates, Wulf and Kary! Looking forward to tomorrow’s installment.