WotF: Looking Back

Sitting at the airport, getting ready to fly to LA for the 33rd annual Writers of the Future workshop, which I’m privileged enough to be attending as a past winner and a “Reporter on the ground,” whatever that is. [grin] My own trips to this event as a participant were for volumes 14 and 15, when I was first a published finalist, and second, a prize winner. It’s been an interesting run since then. It will be great fun to see it all happen again.

Almost twenty years down the road, now, I’m thinking about what the contest has meant to me.

At first I thought of the event itself—the opportunity to learn from AJ Budrys (sadly now passed), and Dave Wolverton and Tim Powers and Kevin Anderson and … it’s a heady experience for a new, wannabe writer. And, of course, spending a week with other people in your position, and then seeing the book with all their work in it. My signed volumes are still prized possessions. I can pick out a bunch of these kinds of things. There are literally hundreds of great things about the event, and all of them make a difference.

But, when I look back on it I think the biggest impact the contest had on me was to change my mindset from that of a wannbe/newbie for whom the world looks like a bunch of closed doors into a one whose mindset was one of opportunity, and a world where things can and do happen. It moved me from a wannabe to a “canbe,” if that makes sense. And this is a huge jump—really, it’s probably the biggest jump I had to make. The next jump (“Canbe” to “Doing it”) is more a matter of persistence and love of craft than anything else, and it has lots of dark nooks to fall into also. But that first jump is something that tangles a lot of writers up. Running with one foot in each traditional and indie publishing camps, I run into a lot of people who have been doing this for a while, and still haven’t made it through that jump.

Now, realize, I was already a fairly major optimist about things. Life, for me was always about making things work, so at some level I always assumed some kind of success. But, still, the entry ramp to this world is mysterious and covered with mist.

The contest helped clear that mist.

For that, and for all the other things I could check off, I’m most grateful.

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