I can talk about my winning story now! It's called Dreameater, and is a contemporary fantasy about a girl, Alexis, whose mother craves and devours dreams. At its core, it's the story of a girl and her dysfunctional parent. You can watch me blab about it on Good Day Sacramento here:
On to the workshop! I kept a pretty good journal the first two days, and then it devolved into one-word notes, so you'll have to forgive the sparseness and non-specificity of the latter days.
I got up early to go meet John Goodwin at the TV station to film my first interview for WOTF...live. I was terrified, but it seemed to go okay in the end. After that, my awesome husband drove me to the airport, where I met up with Tina Gower (Smith)! I mean, just look at her website. It's all shiny and stuff. We chatted and gossiped about all of YOU on our way down to Los Angeles. We were met at the airport by someone from Galaxy Press, and given a ride to the beautiful Loews Hotel in Hollywood. In the van, I met my roommie-to-be, Alisa Alering.
Once at the hotel, I got to meet Joni Labaqui, the contest administrator, in person. She is so pleasant, and just a joy to talk to.
After lunch at the Mexican restaurant in the mall next door, we settled in the lobby to
stalk wait for our fellow winners.
That night, once we'd all arrived, we gathered in the hospitality suite to have all our questions answered. At least, that's what the agenda said. There, we met Tim Powers (and his ubiquitous Coke can). I think most of us were too in awe and shy to ask a ton of questions. But we also met three winners from prior years: Meghan Muriel, Brad (freaking) Torgersen, and Jordan Ellinger. Wonderful people, all there to ensure we got the most out of the week.
Tim Powers is one of the most fun and fascinating people you will ever meet. He regaled us with a story about Philip K. Dick, and assured us that out of all the judges, his advice was the most correct. After that, it was time for a little late-night chatting at the bar, and finally off to bed, where I would toss and turn, wondering whether or not it was morning yet because I was ready to get started!
We all met in the lobby at 9AM so we could all walk over to Author Services together. There, incognito on the left, is Marilyn Guttridge. I haven't found her website yet, but she is our youngest writer winner ever! She was 17 when she wrote her winning story.
We met the extremely kind and insightful Dave Wolverton (aka David Farland. Seriously, read his Daily Kicks), and began our workshop. Tim and Dave took turns lecturing us about setting, character, dialogue, and plot. Took copious notes and tried to absorb it all. We broke for lunch, went to a cheap, quick spot (Shelley's Cafe) that Tim recommended, and continued the workshop until 6PM.
SO MUCH INFORMATION crammed into our tiny brains!
We also received our objects for our 24-hr story. Mine was a CD with a crack running to the middle. I immediately began thinking of its rainbow hue, and how it was a broken conveyance of information.
Stephen Sottong scoped out what the illustrators were doing.
At 6PM us writers went to dinner at an Italian place in the mall (which was lovely). All this while we exchanged war stories about trying to get our work published, things that worked, didn't work, and letters we got from editors. I may be biased, but I thought our group was sort of amazing.
Chatted in the bar with prior winners and other writers until about 10 and then turned in.
This was the day we prepared for our 24-hour stories. We had our objects, and it was time to head to the library. We were gathering three elements to stimulate our imaginations--our object, library research, and a conversation with a stranger. Inside the library, we all split off into our separate corners. I ended up researching African tribes and storytelling.
We took a break for lunch, some of us at the Pig n Whistle, where we discussed and speculated on the Gold Award.
Alisa, Tina, Christopher Reynaga, and I were the first place winners for our respective quarters, and were under consideration for the Gold Award. The former winners (Laurie Tom was kind enough to drive in to join us) informed us that it was tradition for the Gold Award winner to take the other first place winners out for dinner. Sounded good to me! Any which way, we all won. Even though we'd already won.
After lunch, it was time to face our greatest fear--conversation with a random stranger. We walked back to the mall, and then split up. I wandered about aimlessly before spotting a middle-aged woman sitting alone at a table in the courtyard. I asked her if I could sit down, sat there silently (awkwardly) for a moment, and then asked if she lived in Hollywood.
It turned out she was visiting her daughter and before I knew it, she was telling me about her home country of Armenia, and about the Armenian Genocide. More material for my story!
At 4:00 p.m., we started our 24-hour stories. I set up in the lobby until some lady started playing the piano, and then I retreated to a spot near the meeting rooms. That night, some of us--Alex Wilson, Shannon Peavey, Alisa, and I (I think it was just the four of us...) went out for ramen. We discussed what we were writing, how far we'd gotten, and our worries.
More writing in the lobby. I like to work around people, with some background noise (yes, I write in coffee shops). I ended up scrapping what I'd written, since it was trending too long. I started the story later, and it began to pull together in the way I wanted. After a quick lunch at Shelley's, I finished my story at a trim 3900 words, and did some quick editing.
We handed in our stories at 4:00 p.m. We'd all finished them! Eric Cline's was even upwards of 7000 words. And I read it later and it was absolutely fantastic. A bit intimidating, no? Dave and Tim professed that they would choose two stories to group critique by throwing them all down a set of stairs--the two furthest down were the winners--while we wondered how aerodynamic our stories were.
And then it was time to see our illustrations. We got to walk into the room downstairs and guess which illustration matched our story. I found mine right away. There was no guesswork for me.
I need to stop a moment here. I'd meant to thank my illustrator, Lucas Durham, during my speech at the gala. I was so flustered that I completely forgot. He did an amazing job--not only was there no guesswork, but the painting so perfectly matched my story. It was both ominous and beautiful, with little bits of my story peppered in so that I wanted to keep looking at it. It was eye-catching at a single glance and invited the viewer to explore it further. Did I mention it was in watercolors? Just gorgeous! Thank you, Lucas! It was better than I could have ever imagined! I've been showing off my print of it to all my guests.
We had a bit more brain-cramming with Dave and Tim, and then we were given the two stories chosen to be critiqued. I wiped a little sweat off my forehead when I found neither was mine. One was Chrome Oxide's, and the other was Marina Lostetter's.
I read until I fell asleep.
THE PRINTING PRESS. It was a bright and early day on day five. We met in the lobby at 7:45 a.m. for our trip to Bang Printing.
What can I say about this that the pictures don't explain a thousand times over? Seeing our book come off the press was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Our book. In print. Shiny cover and all. I flipped to my story and got a little choked up. For me, it was step one in the fulfillment of a dream I've had since fourth grade, when I was flipping through the manual to WordPerfect (the old old one, with the blue background) in an attempt to learn how to indent paragraphs.
It was incredible. Yes, I smelled the pages.
After the printing press, we had lunch, critiqued the 24-hour stories, and were lectured by the luminaries in the field.
We had dinner at a wonderful buffet place, with all the judges and winners and Galaxy Press staff. I had the chance to sit with the wonderful Nina Kiriki Hoffman, and got to see her beautiful journal. She is about 10000x more organized than I will ever be.
It was heaven encapsulated in a single day.
More lectures! We were shown the secret handshake of professional writers, told how to conduct ourselves at conventions, and had stimulating discussion about the new world of self-publishing.
We had lunch at Shelley's, the greasy diner down the street. Tim Powers wanted to eat lunch there, and like hypnotized little ducklings, we followed. I was lucky enough to sit next to Robert J Sawyer. He is incredibly knowledgeable, approachable, and kind.
And then...MOAR lectures!
I took a ton of notes. It's gold. All of it.
We did our rehearsal at the Wilshire Ebell. Our first view of the stage was breathtaking. They really went all out with the decorations.
We did some rehearsing, with a water bottle as the stand-in for our trophies.
Herein lies a blank spot in my memory. I believe we had dinner at some point, and hung out in the bar, chatting with the judges. The bar was the late-night hangout spot to be, most days. I think I scribbled some speech notes down.
Gala day! Us ladies headed over to Author Services in the morning to have our hair and makeup done. It was pretty fun, I must admit. I'm a low-maintenance kind of gal (I did my own makeup for my wedding), so it was neat to have someone put some real effort into my appearance.
We had lunch, slipped into our dresses, did some last-minute prep, and then it was off to the theater!
Once at the theater, we got our programs, a little Writers of the Future pin, and did red carpet photos and interviews.
Kodiak Julian seems to have politely avoided being in my photos, but she's right behind Shannon in this photo!
After our little meet and greet, we had dinner. I was seated by Rebecca Moesta and Kevin J. Anderson. They've convinced me to try dictating stories. I've gotten as far as dictating some notes--I'm warming up to it!
The gala itself was incredible. It began with Kimberley Locke (of American Idol fame) stepping onto the stage and singing a beautiful song about imagination, while people dressed as our characters danced behind her. It passed in a blur for me--I was incredibly nervous and kept checking to make sure I had my speech notes.
Here's the video of the entire gala:
If you want to cut to the video of my speech and Lucas's, it's here:
I managed to make my speech without too many fumbles (except forgetting to thank Lucas, sorry!), and sprinted off the stage.
Then it was time for the Gold Award announcement. Tina's story, Twelve Seconds, took the prize! I wasn't surprised--in the informal pre-gala poll I'd voted for her story to win. It's lovely, and you really ought to read it.
After the gala, we signed books until our fingers fell off. It was lovely!
Once we finished, we retreated to the hospitality suite for more socializing. I ended up bowing out early to get some sleep, but I heard Brian Trent stayed until 3:00 a.m.
Our time in Los Angeles was coming to a close. We had a lecture from John Goodwin about how to conduct ourselves in interviews, while we were individually pulled aside for interviews. That's putting things into practice! Got me thinking about my answers to the most commonly-asked questions.
We watched a radio play of one of L. Ron Hubbard's short stories downstairs and did some pre-show socializing.
And then we had our last dinner together in our workshop room.
Afterwards, we hung out in the bar, where we got to hear Shannon sing opera!
Then, finally, to bed.
The end of the best week and two days of my life. We filtered out of the lobby and back to our lives.
But not before we got to hear Alex's stirring rendition of Writers of the Future: The Musical. It moved me to write a 42-page story about life and everything, but then I burned it because nothing could ever be so beautiful as that musical.
The End...or is it?
A couple days after returning to my quiet life in suburbia, I received more packages than I've ever received at once. It was like Christmas in April.
My print of Dreameater, my contributer's copies, my books on writing... This workshop is the gift that keeps on giving!
I would highly recommend that those starting out in the field of speculative fiction enter the contest. I feel incredibly lucky to have won.