Thursday, April 17, 2014

Writers of the Future

I just got back from five days in Los Angeles at the annual Writers of the Future celebration.

Being a writer of speculative fiction, I have long known about the awards and have even entered a couple of stories there (before I had made enough pro sales to disqualify me from entering again) - and that's one of the great things about WOTF. It is designed to provide a platform (and launching pad) for beginning writers.

WOTF Vol 30 - Kobo Link

Created in 1983 by L. Ron Hubbard as a way of discovering and nurturing new talent in science fiction, fantasy and horror, the competition has no entry fee and winners who are published received pro rates and a chance to win the grand prize of $5000. Past winners of the contest have gone on to win every major science fiction award (the Hugo, the Nebula, the John W. Campbell, the Bram Stoker, and the Locus Award) some have also gone on to win mainstream literary awards such as the National Book Award, the Newbery and the Pushcart Prize.

The stories are read blind by a panel of distinguished judges who are a veritable who's-who of the biggest most influential people in speculative fiction.

But beyond winning, what I learned more about this past week was the intensive five day master-class workshops lead by several of the biggest names in sci-fi. These workshops teach them so many of the skills that are important to a writer's success and were held in the Author Services office which is located on Hollywood Boulevard just down the street from where all the big glamour Hollywood action happens.

Me getting out of the limo-van at the red carpet

I was most impressed at the afternoon where Galaxy Press publisher John Goodwin spent four hours working with the students on their PR and self-promotion skills, helping them refine their "story pitch" when speaking with media and providing them all with professional, high quality media kits (which included pictures and video of them on the red carpet and on stage receiving their prestigious awards - similar packages were sent out to each author and illustrator's respective local media).

The buzz and business of the red carpet

I mean, my non-fiction publisher, Dundurn, is great and has a fantastic author-relations program, newsletter and digital eduction program and wonderful publicists - but wow, I've never seen a publisher do so much for beginning writers, and doubt I will ever see an anthology give such an amazing promotional platform for its contributors.

But let's get back to the red carpet, shall we.

A long-shot of when I first walked onto the stage for my talk

Yes, the awards ceremony, which were held on Sunday April 13, were held at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre, had all the glamour and ritz of a major Hollywood movie premiere. (The book nerd in me was, admittedly, overwhelmed with excitement and a special thrill - THIS is the type of buzz that should exist more for books)

There was a fantastic dinner followed by a red carpet entrance with buzz and media and a 3 hour gala event with musical and dance performances and black tie celebrations.

I was delighted to be invited to be a guest speaker at the event and was asked to talk about the future of publishing. I surprised the winners (13 writers and 12 illustrators) with Kobo Aura HD's preloaded with their newly published anthology.

Cool to see my name spelled correctly - and my tie is even straight!

(I have to pause to say that, though I have done speaking engagements in four different countries and on all types of stages, this was the first time I had the pleasure of being able to read my speech from a teleprompter - pretty darned cool!)

I was delighted to speak alongside people like Nancy Kress (who presented the Writer's Digest Award), Keynote Speaker Leland Melvin (Aerospace Engineer and NASA Astronaut) as well as so many amazing NYT Bestselling authors: Kevin J. Anderson, Doug Beason, Eric Flint, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Todd McCaffrey, Rebecca Moesta, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, Tim Powers, Mike Resnick, Robert J. Sawyer and Dave Wolverton.  WOW! (Yes, I geeked out just a little, several times that evening and throughout the week when I got to hang out with many of these wonderful folks)

Here is the full video of the WOTF 2014 Awards - (I appear a little after 42:00 minutes and speak for about 5 minutes) - [EDIT: The video of just my speech - a little over 5 minutes, is here]

Below is just my talk about the Future of Publishing

Because I was set to go on stage right after Orson Scott Card received his Lifetime Achievement Award (which starts at 36 minutes), I got to watch his acceptance speech from the side of the stage.

Oh yeah, and right after the awards, I met Nancy Cartwright, the actor who does the voice for Bart Simpson. Ay Carumba! That was pretty darned cool.

Though she did the voice, which was cool, Nancy didn't have a cow when I asked for a picture

The Wilshire Ebell Theatre, which apparently was standing-room only, holds about 1200 people. And afterwards, most of the folks from the theatre gathered in the ballrooms, art galleries and courtyard of the Ebell. At this gala reception, all the writers and illustrators signed copies of the book. It was amazing to see such a gigantic lineup of people waiting to get autographs. It took me a full hour to made the circuit and get everyone's signatures. What an amazing experience for these author (for several this was their very first book signing experience - pretty awesome!)

The whole Writers of the Future was an amazing experience and the good folks from Author Services (the agency representing the literary, theatrical and musical works of L. Ron Hubbard) and Galaxy Press (publisher of Hubbard's fiction) were exceptional hosts and were so incredibly gracious and supportive of not just the winning authors and illustrators, but of all their guests.  (I was quite impressed with the amazing collection in their library of all of the books from past winners and esteemed judges).  The judges and past winners themselves were, in that same spirit, particularly generous of their time, wisdom and knowledge -- I have to say the "pay it forward" sentiment that was continually at the forefront was quite spectacular.

These folks certainly know how to promote and encourage great writing and creative achievement and it was an honour and a pleasure getting to spend time helping celebrate the amazing new talent that will help continue to shape the field of speculative fiction.


lecram said...

I've been following your adventure via FB and it certainly looked like a bang-up exciting time. Cheers!

Mark Leslie said...

The last time I was in California and had so much fun it was when we met, Marcel, and you gave me a cool tour of downtown San Francisco and we had dinner and drinks with the ghost of Dashiell Hammett at John's Grill then enjoyed some amazing live jazz and great conversation! Good times! :)

Unknown said...

Dear Mr. Leslie, As a newly published author, I was invited to attend that wonderful ceremony where you spoke. What a fabulous evening! The Kobo you discussed looks like an outstanding item. Your presentation was so interesting (you delivered like a seasoned professional speaker.)
Warm regards,

Mark Leslie said...

Thanks, Pat. Glad you liked it. It was a fantastic evening, wasn't it?

Best of luck with your writing - and here's hoping you plan on making your books available on Kobo ( and many other retailers in order to continue to expand your ability to sell to customers around the world. :)