Reddit AMA with Jeremy A. TeGrotenhuis and Vida Cruz

This past weekend was Worldcon 76, and Jeremy A. TeGrotenhuis was in attendance. Not sure how it happened, but he got tapped to do a brief AMA about Writers of the Future. By the magic of the internet and in a very last minute sort of way, Vida Cruz and I (both winners from Vol. 34 along with Jeremy) joined him on the AMA.

If you’re at all interested, check it out.

We each discuss our writing style, process, influences, short stories vs novels and novellas, the post-WotF experience, and even touch on some of the recent discussion surrounding the contest that has cropped up of late.

Off to the Workshop

Tomorrow, I’m hopping on a plane to L.A., and will go through what all accounts suggest is a whirlwind week.

This is what I know is coming:

  • A workshop taught by incredible writers and editors
  • A write-a-story-in-24-hours challenge
  • An awards gala (my first gala!)

After that the details are a bit murky. I’m going to take copious notes and hope to put together some posts on the experience.

In any case, expect radio silence for a bit. Back after the whirlwind spins itself out.

Edits

For a lot of people submitting to WotF, it’s the first exposure to “professional” publishing. It was my second “pro” sale ($.06/word or more). I had sold a story to Tales of Ruma, but the editor had simply accepted it. There were no edits.

I know that people can be apprehensive about sharing their writing. That’s one of the best parts about WotF: It’s an anonymous place to submit your work and break into a habit of being okay with sharing that work and accepting the feedback of rejection. I know I was unsure what the edits I’d get back would be. Would they be bad? Would this thing I had created get changed at the hands of an unfeeling editor?

Not for me.

My edits were pretty minor. Dave Farland is the editor, and his notes were productive, warranted, and made the story better. Apparently I have to work on dialogue tags and attributions. He also asked that I elaborate with more detail in one section.

From other people I’ve heard that the edits have ranged from, none to add a big section here. I don’t have data or any specifics to share. Sorry.

For what it’s worth, I think the editing process was a valuable experience and it made my writing better. It’s just one more lesson that going through this has taught me.

Logistics… There Will Be Logistics

Joni told me that people from the contest would be emailing me quickly, and she wasn’t kidding.

  • One person contacted me with a contract to read and sign.
  • One person contacted me to get a bio.
  • One person contacted me wanting photos of me (at least 5″ x 5″ and 300 dpi).
  • And David Farland contacted me with edits to my story.

Taking each in order:

The contract was pretty simple. Near as I could tell there weren’t any weird clauses. Maybe contracts generally need their own post for more depth of discussion, but for now I’ll say that nothing stood out to my (untrained) eye. All that needed fixing was updating my address. Otherwise it was print two copies, sign both, and mail ’em off to the address they specified.

The bio was a little harder. It’s not like I’d practiced this kind of thing. So, in any case, I gave it a shot. After a quick back and forth with the contest rep, that was finalized.

The picture was harder because I don’t have a lot of pictures of myself. I have even fewer that are the quality they wanted. Basically, it would have been wedding pictures or bust. So, I contacted our wedding photographer (if you’re in/around southeastern Wisconsin, I cannot recommend them enough), and snap-snap, click-click, that problem was solved.

I can only speak for myself, but the edits were an interesting experience. I’d never had a trained professional look at my prose and say: “Do this. Do that. It will be better if you do.” And every suggestion that David Farland made was a great one. Turns out I don’t do dialogue tags super great. He didn’t cut big chunks, or ask me to add much more than a little detail in one place.

I know some people are apprehensive about editor input. Speaking only from this one experience, it was a positive for both my craft and the story.

 

Receiving the Call

Having survived a week waiting to hear if I won, I relaxed my guard. Surely I wouldn’t find out on a weekend.

Well there I was, on a Sunday afternoon, watching the Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers beating the Bears, wife seated on the couch by my side, when my phone rings.

Caller ID Blocked.

It was Joni, her voice somewhat subdued as she introduced herself. “You took Third Place,” she said, letting the excitement back into her voice. “Did I do a good job of not letting my tone of voice let you know whether you won?”

“Maybe too good a job,” I managed.

We talked a few details, keep the first week of April open for a trip to LA. People are going to start emailing you about edits, bio, etc., and because we need to get the book to the printer this will start happening quickly. That sort of thing.

She wasn’t kidding when she said things would start happening quickly.

 

You know what else is super cool? The person from the Forum bunker? She won the quarter.

Hope You Weren’t Planning on Being Productive…

Being a Finalist didn’t sink in right away. The phone call was exciting. Talking about what it meant with my wife was exciting, but I fell asleep that night and went to work the next day without too much trouble.

I mentioned on the Forum that I was a Finalist and the first really cool thing happened. One of the other Finalists from the quarter was on the Forum too, and she sent me a message saying something like “I know we’re technically competitors, but want to hang out in a bunker together until we’re through this thing?” I totally got on board. “Besides,” I said, “there’s three winners each quarter, and I’ll consider 3rd every bit as good as 1st, so as far as I’m concerned we’re not even competitors.”

Then about Wednesday physiological anxiety manifested. I was not a fan. Concentrating on stuff was… not super easy. But I bounced messages back and forth in the bunker, and did the only thing I could do: wait.

Also, I reread my story. I probably should not have done that. I found a typo (mis-conjugated verb!)

This was November, of course, so I had grand designs on working on a NaNoWriMo project. I was doing pretty good too. And then the call came on November 6… and my focus was… shall we say… disrupted. So I didn’t even manage to distract myself with that.

The week passed and when I didn’t get the call on Friday night, I figured that I was through the work week and was safe until Monday.

I was incorrect.

So Now You’re a Finalist…

In the evening of November 6, I received a phone call that said “Caller ID Blocked.” Under normal circumstances, I would not have answered, but since everyone on the Forum (which I may have mentioned was helpful) was in the midst of twitching about expecting results soon, so I answered.

It was Joni Labaqui from the contest to tell me that I was a Finalist.

I remember strange details from this conversation. I was watching the Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers get smoked by the Detroit Lions. My wife was sitting on the couch with me. When I answered the phone and received the news, she pantomimed a person writing with a pencil. I gave her a thumbs up, and she physically reacted with excitement while I tried really hard to stay professional on the phone.

Joni gave me a quick rundown of what being a Finalist meant. My story would be going to a few other judges along with the other seven Finalists, and then 1st-2nd-3rd would be decided, and either way, she would be calling to let me know the results. She said something along the lines of: “Is there any reason you wouldn’t be able to come to L.A. in April? Because we have this super-awesome conference and the artists make art for the stories and its really sad when an author can’t be there. Oh, and since we need to get the book to the printer soon, we’re going to try to get the winners picked in record time.”

And then the call was over.

That left me to mull over the implications of being a finalist. This was something that really wouldn’t sink in right away.