Wednesday, February 17, 2010

WotF Contest Winner

This is not a WoW-related post. WotF in this case ≠ Will of the Forsaken. But I have a bit of news I'm excited about so I want to share.

I am an amateur fiction writer. If you've been reading for a while you might remember that I was an Honorable Mention in Blizzard's Global Creative Writing contest last year.

In the world of science fiction/fantasy fiction writing, there are contests from time to time, but there's one contest that's kind of the big daddy of all sf/f contests, and that's the Writers of the Future contest. It's held four times a year and is available only to amateurs. The top 3 winners of each quarter are collected in an annual book anthology you should be able to pick up at your local B&N or Borders (not to mention online stores) once it's published.

In addition to the cash prizes from actually winning, the winners are paid again for publication rights to their stories.

In short, it's a very, very good deal for the newbie author who has talent, but hasn't broken in. There's no entry fee besides the postage to send a printed copy of the story to the contest administration's office and the judging is done blind so there can be no favoritism.

And because it's so easy to enter, the competition is understandably fierce. The Q4 2009 judging quarter there were a crazy 116 Honorable Mentions (compared to 80-something the last). The coordinating judge said that it was much more difficult than usual to whittle down the number of stories to the 8 finalists which would go on to the judging panel, who will then choose the top 3.

The WotF panel judges include authors you might have heard of if you read any sci-fi/fantasy; people like Anne McCaffrey (Dragonriders of Pern series) and Orson Scott Card (Ender series). They don't all review at once, but four at a time so each quarter has a different suite of judges. This is a well-regarded contest.

Last month I received notification that my story had made the cut. I was a WotF finalist and my story had moved on to the judging panel. The thought that one of my favorite authors could be reading one of my stories was pretty scary and exciting all at the same time. What would they think? Would they find it entertaining and original? Or would they decide it's decent enough but too flawed to be a winner?

I found myself thinking about the rough points I had during in the writing process, when I wasn't entirely happy with a scene and patched it over in a new draft. I was scared to go back and reread the story. What if it sucked?

This was the farthest I'd ever gotten in the contest (I've had two HMs before and a half dozen flat out rejections), but even if I did not place in the top 3 for my quarter there was still the possibility of being published. If there's room leftover in the book after the 12 winning stories for the year are selected, then finalists who did not place in the top 3 for their quarter may be paid to fill out the rest of the anthology. It's just a question of space.

And then this morning...

I woke up and realized that I hadn't checked my cell phone for messages all weekend. (I'm not very tied to my cell phone.) It turns out that I'd gotten four calls within a short span of each other during last night's raid. I nervously listened to the voice mail, and it was the WotF contest director. She'd been trying to get in contact with me, and each message urgently said to call her back right away.

I was honestly kind of panicky after listening to her. Did something happen? Was I going to be disqualified if I didn't get back to her right away?

It was 7:47 am on my computer clock. I knew we were both Pacific coast. So I called the cell phone number she left me.

And it turns out that it was all good news.

Not only did I make the top 3, I am actually the first place winner for Q4. I'm now in the running for the grand prize against the other first place winners from the prior three quarters, and I am definitely going to be published in the anthology towards year's end.

It's all pretty overwhelming for someone who's been paid pocket change for stories up until now. The prize money I'm getting now is in the ballpark of seven or eight times the amount of money my previous stories have earned combined. And then there will be the anthology payment. I wrote a novelette, longer than a short story, so that should be a decent amount. I'm not talking thousands of dollars, but still large enough that you wouldn't turn your nose up at it if it was offered to you.

I won't know if I won the grand prize until the award ceremony in August.

For now, the contest is making copies of my story to be passed out to the grand prize judging panel, a different group of judges, and to one of the top 3 illustrators from the companion contest Illustrators of the Future, who will then be required to make an illustration of my story in a competition for their own grand prize.

In my meantime I've notified everyone I can safely do so and I let my boss know that I'm going to need time off in August to attend the award ceremony and the writing workshop that all winners get to attend. Tim Powers is going to be the instructor. He's not as big a name as McCaffrey or Card, but well regarded. The workshop isn't supposed to be just about the craft, but also the business end of writing. I assume that will be about agents, publishers, and possibly more mundane things such as filing taxes.

The most nerve-wracking thing, I think, is that I now feel pressure to follow this up with another story, and soon, so that I can get another story in the publication pipeline while my win's still fresh.

Note: This post was written on Tuesday, but the contest director asked that I refrain from posting the news on the interwebs until she had a chance to contact all the other finalists. Not that I think the other finalists were likely to find out that the winners had been selected from my blog, but just in case...


Keeva said...

Wow, congratulations! :D

Klepsacovic said...

That's amazing! Congratulations! I may have to check out this contest myself.

Hana said...

Thanks so much guys. :D I'm still floating on a cloud and I'm incredibly anxious to see what happens next.

The grand prize and the award ceremony aren't until August, but I imagine there will probably practical matters to look into, contracts for the book anthology at the very least.

Klep, I'd definitely recommend the contest if you have any interest in getting your sf/f fiction published. And don't be discouraged if your first story isn't a winner. I think mine was probably #8 or something... Hehe... too many to remember exactly.