Every year I watch, no stalk actually, the Writers of the Future Workshop attendees. I like to visit their blogs, read their stories. I imagine what it must be like to win the largest international science fiction and fantasy contest. This last April, I watched the live steaming of the awards show, giggling over references to how people answered the famous “Phone Call” from Joni Labaqui (the contest director).
One person joked they couldn’t stop saying “WOW” over and over. This stuck with me. I thought, “I’ll have to remember in a few years, if I ever get a shot, to not say ‘wow’. I’ll actually talk to poor Joni.”
Instead I said “Oh my God.” Over and over when she called to tell me I was chosen as one of eight finalists. Luckily, I shared that phone call with fellow Finalist Holly Heisey and she only heard me say it once before Joni cut off the speakerphone. I think I murmured “Oh my God” a few more times and every once in a while realized my sub vocalizations were actually being uttered out loud.
I vowed to be prepared when she called again.
Another reoccurring joke mentioned at the awards ceremony was that Joni would say: “Are you sitting down?” — and then that meant you’d just won. For those who’d gotten Finalist previously, and not won, they said the phone calls would go different. She would mention that ** enter famous SF/F author here ** really liked your story and then would wave her motivational mojo, thus leaving you ecstatic at the news you thought would disappoint you.
So I knew when Joni called me back a few weeks after judging I’d either hear: “Are you sitting down?” Or “Jerry Pournelle loved your story.”
Well, she had to leave a message, because for some reason my phone didn’t ring. I got a text alerting me to the fact she had called. And then a phone call from my husband when I was trying to read the text. The phone call from my husband went something like this: “Answer the darn phone!! Joni just called you back. Call me as soon as you call her.” He also added he felt it sounded like good news from her message. I knew from reports of past finalists that Joni sounds happy all the time, so I couldn’t put too much into that.
When she said, “Are you sitting down…?” Then I knew.
I think it’s taken me so long to update my blog, because I went into a state of shock and denial. I kept thinking she’d call me back and apologize. They’d maybe tallied the results wrong. After all, I’m a long time struggler with the English language. I never learned the secret handshake to get into the special club. All the famous writers would out me as soon as they saw me. They’d see I misplaced my oxford comma, slipped on a colon, and know I was a fake.
The contest can’t take it back now. They sent out a fancy PR announcement the same day I got the call. It got me thinking about all the people who helped me along the way. I didn’t get here on my own.
My family was huge motivators to my success and fellow writers on the Writers of the Future board. We have built a nice supportive community and I’ve benefited from the feedback from others, as well as the general posts where people who are publishing more than me give away insights into the profession and craft.
There are two writers who I feel have given a lot to the fellow writers and they “pro’ed out” of the contest. It means they sold too many stories to be eligible for entering the contest. The contest is meant to be for aspiring authors and if you’re selling regularly to professional markets then your not considered “aspiring” but a professional.
Annie Bellet is one author who recently became too awesome and professional for the contest. You can read one of her stories here:
And then you can check out the rest of her work here:
She has an amazing literary style and she’s been to some of the top notch writing workshops like Clarion and Dean W. Smith/Kristine K. Rusch. Anyone who is looking for an excellent story should definitely give Annie a read. Then take a look at her impressive publication list over on Amazon.
Gwendolyn Clare is another author who I’d admired when I first started participating in the Writers of the Future. Her stories have appeared in a number of the most sought after publications. Many professional writers dream of publishing in Asimov’s or Clarkesworld and Gwen has published in both.
I remember being floored by her story “Iron Oxide Red” in Daily Science Fiction a few years ago. Warning, it’s not a story for everybody, but it is extremely powerful in the theme it explores.
Martin Shoemaker is not a pro’ed out writer. He is still eligible for the contest and has received two Finalists, but no wins. Yet.
He is pretty much the only reason I have a win to brag about. When the online system closed prematurely on New Years Eve, the day of the Quarter One deadline, I had assumed the universe was trying to tell me it would be another reject. Why try? He googled the nearest all night postal service and cheered me on while my husband and I reformatted the story for a paper submission and rushed it off to the post office with minutes to spare.
He also happens to be one of my favorite short story authors with stories in Digital Science Fiction Magazine and other stories he’s made available on Amazon. The Mother Anthony is by far one of the best short stories I’ve read. Months after I’ve read it, maybe it’s been a year, either way the story still sticks with me. It’s about a teacher who is sent off on an exploration mission in space. She teaches the children on the ship. For 99 cents you can see what I mean:
There are two more authors. I haven’t read their work yet, but they are on my “to read” mountain… er pile. I completely admire their work ethic and professionalism. Amanda McCarter and Thomas K. Carpenter.
Thank you everyone who’s inspired me. The real list is much longer. You’re made of awesome.
I love comments! Every time you leave a comment you’ll boost a hard worker who should be famous into the limelight.