Writers of the Future: The Last Chapter

It feels surreal to type these words, but this will be my last post as an attendee at the Writers and Illustrators of the Future contest. I’ve learned so much about the world of publishing, about storytelling, and about myself. I’ve made friends who I hope to keep for life. I’ve gained a tribe of allies in my march towards a career in writing, met writers whose careers I mean to watch, and I’ve figured out some of the next steps I hope to take.

The workshops this afternoon were all about marketing and self-promotion. One thing I learned was the importance of mailing lists, which are far more effective than social media for building a following. If you’ve enjoyed my posts this week, and you’re interested in seeing more about my progress in the future, I’d love it if you’d follow this page and/or sign up for my mailing list. That way, you can also get news about special deals on Writers and Illustrators of the Future volumes 36 and 37. Over the coming months, all of us will be helping to sell the book–we’ll be doing promotional events together, digitally and at conventions. We’ll be doing everything we can to boost one another’s careers. When one succeeds, all succeed.

As a final hurrah for a whirlwind of a week, we attended a special showing of the new Dune movie here at the Roosevelt theater. Kevin J. Anderson and several of his writer/director friends were in attendance. Kevin has been working with Brian Herbert to get a Dune remake for over 25 years; if you watch the credits, you’ll see him listed pretty close to the beginning as a creative consultant. It was an honor that he chose to watch this movie with us.

After Dune, we all hung out at two of the hotel bars until the wee hours, reminiscing as well as looking to the future. And what does the future entail?

For me, the first steps will involve taking stock of where I’m at in my writing career and deciding what I want from it. I know with absolute certainty that I will continue writing stories–the main questions are what type of stories, and what I’m going to do with them. Will I write and submit more short fiction, or focus on my novels? If novels, what path do I want to take towards publication? Do I even want to get them published? How much am I willing to change about my life in order to succeed?

Was this week everything I hoped? In many ways, it was more than what I hoped for. I didn’t know what to expect–I thought it was possible that some people might be cutthroat. That wasn’t the case at all, however; everyone encouraged and looked out for one another. My biggest regret is not having more personal conversations with the judges. There was quite a bit of informal networking at the bars, but, due to covid, the bars closed early, and the masks also made it difficult to recognize people. My shyness is partially to blame–I don’t ever feel intimidated by most celebrities, but writer-celebrities are a different story. There were times when, standing around with some of the famous authors who came here to mentor us, I completely blanked on knowing what to say. But you live and learn, I guess, and the good news is that many of these people are willing to provide advice and wisdom in the future.

It’s been a wild week. I sleep deprived, and I have to wake up in just over five hours to leave for the airport. On the plane, I could try to be productive and review all my notes . . . or I could just sleep. Either way, I’m carrying all that I’ve learned away from the conference.

This whole contest was predicated on the idea that science fiction is an art akin to prophecy, all about predicting what comes next. I don’t think that’s true–sci-fi isn’t about the future any more than fantasy is about the past. Neither are they about the present. Instead, the focus should be on humans: on the timelessness of human problems, of lives lived, and of stories well told.

I can’t tell you what the future holds–not for myself or the world at large. I can say one thing with reasonable certainty, however:

Whatever the future holds, I will be writing in it.

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