Episode 179 – Emily Goodwin on Writers of the Future

In this episode Mark interviews Emily Goodwin. Emily is the Vice President Public Affairs for Author Services, Inc. based in Los Angeles, California. She has been involved with book publishing since 2007, including the international Writers & Illustrators of the Future Contests. She is the producer for the Writers of the Future annual Achievement Awards as well as the online writing workshop.

Prior to the interview, Mark shares a personal update that include some mistakes he made in the recent release of his novel Fear and Longing in Los Angeles as well as a word from this episode’s sponsor.

You can learn more about how you can get your work distributed to retailers and library systems around the world at

In their conversation, Emily and Mark talk about:

  • The blind-judged free to enter contest that Writers of the Future operations for beginning writers
  • How stories can be read by NYT Bestselling science-fiction and fantasy writers like David Farland, Brandon Sanderson, Orson Scott Card, and a dozen others
  • The four quarters of the contest, and the fact that authors can enter each quarter
  • Winners for each quarterly contest who get flown in to spend a week long boot-camp in a hotel just off Hollywood Boulevard with the esteemed bestselling sci-fi and fantasy judges
  • The way that Illustrators and Writers collaborate and the amazing “art reveal” experience that happens when the artists, who have been working on pieces to match each story, reveal their work for the first time
  • Some of the details of the workshops and lectures they participate in during the weekly boot-camp, including the “24 hour story” challenge
  • Getting to learn from authors like Larry Niven, Robert J. Sawyer, Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta
  • The gala book launch event for the Writers and Illustrators of the Future anthology that usually involves signing upwards of 500 to 600 copies of the book
  • The follow-up media support offered to authors once they return to their respective homes
  • The incredible networking that happens at the annual event, between the writers and illustrators and the attending judges and presenters and workshop leaders
  • How the annual event was affected in 2020 because of the global pandemic
  • The purpose of the contest to help new writers and illustrators with a bit of a boost and kick-start to their career based on their talent
  • The free online WOTF workshops that are available for anyone to participate in which are led by Dave Farland, Tim Powers, and Orson Scott Card
  • And more…

Links of Interest

Emily Goodwin is the Vice President Public Affairs for Author Services, Inc. based in Los Angeles, California. She has been involved with book publishing since 2007, including the international Writers & Illustrators of the Future Contests. She is the producer for the Writers of the Future annual Achievement Awards as well as the online writing workshop. She has been active with the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards as a judge. She is involved in community activities in the greater Los Angeles area and has been Vice President Community Outreach for the Hollywood Christmas Parade since 2014. Emily has also been an Honorary Commander for the US Air Force since 2018 and as of 2020, the US Space Force.

The introductory, end, and bumper music for this podcast (“Laser Groove”) was composed and produced by Kevin MacLeod of and is Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

This transcription of the interview portion was computer generated and has not been verified by a human.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Hey, Emily. Thank you so much for hanging out with me today.

Emily Goodwin: Hey, thank you so much. It’s great to see you again, Mark.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Yeah, it’s been way too long since we’ve seen each other.

Emily Goodwin: Yeah. Many years actually. Last, when you were out at the writers of the future event.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Yeah. Wow. It’s, uh, I hate to count the years, but I want to get into writers of the future.

Can you talk a little bit to, what is the, what is the contest and how does this work?

Emily Goodwin: So writers of the future, it’s an international writing contest. That’s been going for 37 years. It was started by L Ron Hubbard back in the eighties. And it just, it’s a free contest. Anybody can enter. Uh, there are no restrictions on age, gender, race, religion, you know, anywhere in the world, anybody can enter.

It’s free to enter. It’s a blind judge contest. It’s short story, writing science fiction fantasy. So we get stories in from all over the world. And we have this amazing, uh, blue ribbon panel of judges that review the stories that come in. But as I mentioned, it’s a blind judge contest. So when the stories come in, the name gets removed and it’s strictly on merit alone.

So, you know, and, and your story gets seen by people like Brandon Sanderson, Dave Farland Orson Scott card. Larry Nivon Tim powers. I mean, there’s about 30 judges. I mean, that’s only a handful of, you know, the amazing authors that, uh, contributed to our time. And it’s, it’s all there as like a pay it forward, a helping hand for new aspiring authors.

And, uh, it’s something that. You know, it’s still funded by L Ron Hubbard to this day as a way to give back because he himself was a science fiction, fantasy writer. And well, he actually wrote in all genres, and all kinds of stuff. He wrote mysteries as well, Western, he wrote detective new R and M a lot in the 1930s and forties.

And, um, in the eighties he did the Battlefield Earth and Mission Earth. And then that was around the time when he started the contest. So the contest season science fiction fantasy, and it’s been going, it just grows every year. We don’t give out the numbers of entries, but it’s a lot.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Wow. And it’s a free contest and it’s quarterly, right?

There’s like four times a year.

Emily Goodwin: You can, you can enter that’s right. So, um, it’s, it’s divided by four quarters each year. Anybody can enter, you can enter all four quarters if you want, but each quarter there’s a first, second, third place winner. And then at the end of the year, all of those winners, so there’s 12 of them for the year.

They all get published in the annual anthology. I have one here. Is this the latest one? Oh,

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: I don’t, I don’t think I’ve seen that yet.

Emily Goodwin: I’ll have to send you one. Wow. That’s gorgeous. And so the, the winners get published in here. So there’s 12 short stories and then there’s also a companion art contest, illustrators of the future where.

Like the winning art for the

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Of my God.

Emily Goodwin: Yeah. It’s published in there. This is really just amazing stuff. Um, and kind of see. Wow. And it’s all, it’s all in science fiction fantasy, but, um, just some serious talent. I’ll just show you a few.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: It’s amazing, Wow.

Emily Goodwin: Yeah. So, so the 12 winners, both writers straight or get published in the anthology every year.

And we also fly them out to Hollywood for a week long workshop with those judges that I mentioned earlier, they also fly into Hollywood and it’s like a week long bootcamp. And that culminates at the end of the week in a big awards event where, you know, we have, it’s a big red carpet event. It’s kind of like the Oscars for the writers.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: It was such an amazing experience to be there. I mean, just off the strip on the Hollywood strip and then the black tie event. But so one of the things I loved and I want to get into some of the things that you guys do with the authors, because I think it was like, it’s like a world renowned experience that most authors will never, uh, get to experience, which I think is amazing, but, uh, you’ve got the 12 writers and the 12 illustrators.

And then what happens is there’s the art reveal. I remember being there for the art reveal and it was such a beautiful experience. Can you talk?

Emily Goodwin: Yeah, for sure. That’s like one of the most emotional parts. Uh, I always have to bring my tissue for that particular event. So what happens is, is there’s. You know, there’s a writer winner and an illustrator we’ll, we’ll get paired up with, with one of the stories.

So they will illustrate one of the stories out of the book. And so the artist, you know, he reads the story. He, you know, creates his illustration. That’s actually what gets published in the book, but the authors haven’t met the illustrators and vice versa. So they come here to do their workshops. And then at some point in the middle of the week, there’s a big art review.

We call it. And, um, they have like all the. There’s like a easels with art all around the room and the, and the art is placed on easels. And the illustrators are kind of like in the back, along the back wall, kind of waiting in the art and the writers come in and they have to find their piece that goes with their story and they usually find it.

Immediately. And then the illustrator comes over and, and it’s just the sweetest thing. Like you see these they’re hugging and crying and, and, you know, wow. Somebody made that for my story and the kneeler stares like, well, you like it. And, and it’s just such a, an emotional moment. And then, you know, it’s, it’s nice when we’re able to capture that and photos and stuff, but, um, and then they’ll just be talking and then they’re like, Becomes best buds for life after that.

And, you know, it’s just a really special moment when they get to like see that something they wrote, they created in their mind and put it on paper. And then this illustrator comes in, creates. You know, their interpretation of it. And it’s just been a huge, like emotional event every year. And it’s something definitely we look forward to that happened like a couple of days before the big gala event.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Yeah. I remember watching it too. And it was, yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s kinda like it’s tear provoking to see it’s beautiful to see these, these two creative forces come together and kind of, uh, yeah, it’s just this wonderful moment of harmony, uh, that happens, but yeah. There’s other things that happened during the week as well.

And it, and you mentioned some of the names of some of the people that actually, um, get to teach them and do workshops with them. What’s what’s the experience like.

Emily Goodwin: So when they come here, let’s say, take the writer workshop. They arrive here. They, you know, they go into, it’s literally like a boot camp week long workshop that, you know, if they’ve come and they’ve won the contest, then they have talent already.

And they know how to put a story together. They know how to structure a sentence. So the workshop more is on like the. The business of writing and how to make it in the industry. And, um, you know, they they’ll Polish them up also on their story writing. And, but the there’s like a week where you have like David Farland, uh, Tim powers and Orson Scott card that will lead the main, you know, structured workshop where they really also get their product, but activity at, because you know, some like if you’re writing short stories and you know, magazines come and they, they come and they go and there’s deadlines.

So. They’ll they’ll get them in that frame of mind of completing things as well. And they actually have a 24 hour short story that they have to write as part of the workshop. And some of them are like, that’s terrifying, but their results are amazing. Cause they’ve just been through a whole workshop on how to do this and what to do.

So when they actually finally do it, it, the results are spectacular. And some people take in those short stories and they have been published, no editing, nothing. They’ve submitted those stories and had them published. So it’s been a real success and they really work with them on research and they go to the library and they go learn, you know, to get inspiration.

And they’ll go out on the street and talk to strangers and. And then once they’re through that part, then we have the guest speakers coming in and the other judges. So then one day they’ll spend a day, you know, an afternoon with Ellery NIBIN, and then another afternoon with Robert J. Sawyer and Brandon Sanderson and Neto Cora four.

And so they’ll get different aspects of the industry and different aspects of, of the, you know, the editing cycle or different, you know, or being at conventions. The different perspectives from the different authors. So by the time they leave here, they’re, they’re completely packed with information. They go home, they take three weeks to digest it all and then start putting it to use.


Mark Leslie Lefebvre: I think, uh, the, the year that I was there, I remember there was a day. I think Tim must’ve taken them. Was it to the, uh, the printing facility where they were actually seeing the book be made. Yes. And I was like,

Emily Goodwin: Oh my gosh, I have done that numerous times where they actually went to the printing house and watch the books come off.

The, the printer right there alive. We’ve done different activities with them. Some of them, you know, Have gone, like one year we took them all to JPL and another, you know, NASA one year. So there’s different activities that happen. But, uh, yeah, I remember that when you were here, they did, they went to the print shop and they were smelling the books, finding their story right away.

There was like, so like, you know, it wasn’t even count yet. Yeah.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: And I remember, I mean, the gala event was, was something else. Um, uh, that was the first time as a keynote speaker. I had ever had the luxury and privilege of using a teleprompter, which makes you look so smart. So cool.

Emily Goodwin: Yeah.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: I mean, I also, I mean, I I’m, I’m honored.

I got to be, uh, I got to be the first person to congratulate Orson Scott card when he got the lifetime achievement award, because I was on stage right after him. So as he was coming off stage congratulations as I was nervously heading out. Um, but, uh, That that event is, uh, pretty amazing. Like I think a Wolf moon, uh, I, I saw recently he shared some pictures was he was sitting beside, I think it was Dean Wesley Smith on one side of him and Robert J sorry, on the other end there.

And they’re all signing copies of, of, of volumes and everyone’s dressed and it looks so beautiful and it was just this amazing event. And I remember cheekily saying to some of the authors, like. Um, take lots of pictures because your next book launch probably won’t be quite so eloquent.

Emily Goodwin: That’s the truth.

I mean, it’s, it’s definitely the full Hollywood experience when they come here for the event and, um, you know, they it’s true. They didn’t their next signing. Won’t exactly be like that. But, you know, once they get like that, it’s like a huge amount of pressure. There’s a L there’s they sign like at least five, 600 books.

And that night of the event with the people that have attended the event, and then there’s a ton of networking and a lot of, you know, everybody’s there from the industry. So. Then, you know, once they go out, we send them back home. After they’re done with all of this, then we send them out on book, signing tours and media tours, and we booked them on radio shows and TV shows and, um, send them around, you know, doing book signings.

And once they have that age, Experience here. Anything else we send them out to do is like, Oh, I got this. You know, so it doesn’t compare. They put me on stage in front of a thousand people when I was in Hollywood on a red carpet with microphones in my face. So the great thing

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: is, is if you’ve connected them to local media to do something like in their state or province or wherever they are in the world, That that can help them for their next release because now they have a contact at the radio station or wherever or whatever.

Right. So it, it really, um, I think one of the, one of the hidden elements that’s not necessarily obvious is the, you get, you, you have a relationship with some of the judges because you get to spend time learning from them. One-on-one you get relationships in the industry. There may be media contexts that you, you got, like, I think it’s, uh, an amazing relationship building experience too.

Emily Goodwin: Yeah. I mean, one of the things that happens every year, that is just a big deal for these guys. Like I said, the networking, but they do the workshops all day long. And then at night, if I’m looking for any judge or any winner, I’m going to find them all at the bar with the judges, just picking their brains till two in the morning.

Um, I don’t know if people ever sleep when they’re here. Uh, we give them time to sleep, but they’re, they want to get as much as they can while they can. And they make lifelong friends and. Yeah. And the writers, they, you know, now in these days we have social media and internet and stuff, so it’s much easier for them to get to know each other.

And, you know, we still also stay connected with them. Like when we go to like conventions and stuff, we will bring, you know, we’ll have a place at the. At the writers of the future in galaxy press booth, where, you know, past winners of the contest can come in and we’ll give them a space. If they have new books out, they can autograph books.

If they don’t happen to have a new book out, they can sign writers, a future books. But, um, so that’s always nice. And you know, like last year we were in salt Lake city and we had people from volume 17 volume nine and you know, hour and 37. So once you’re kind of, part of the family, we’ll take care of you as long as.

As long as you name, as long as we have your email address and phone number and reach you.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: And I know, I remember I I’ve seen you guys at BookExpo America, uh, Frankfurt book fair in Germany, uh, uh, London book fair. And I think it might’ve been London book fair, where I bumped into one of your authors who was actually there signing copies of the recently released.

And I’m like, Oh my God, this is awesome.

Emily Goodwin: Yeah.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Um, so it’s 2020. It was an odd year. Um, was there a giant gala in-person event? How did, how did, how did you have to deal with the pandemic

Emily Goodwin: and everything? Well, so that obviously changed everything because, you know, normally we bring everybody into Hollywood. We fly them from all over the world.

We had winners from volume 36 from Australia and England and Iran and all these different places that, um, we were not able to fly them in just because of the pandemic. So we originally had postponed it to the fall cause our event is normally in April, but again, in the fall it was still not safe to bring people in.

So we asked the winners themselves, you know, if they would like to have a virtual event or if they would rather hold off and do a combined event, like a double whammy in, in 2021 with the volume 37 winners. And I think almost a hundred, I think out of the 24. You know, cause there’s 12 writers, 12 illustrators, only one person won.

It was okay with doing it virtual. So they were definitely wanting to come here and have the full experience. So we decided to postpone the event. We did, however, do a virtual art reveal because we were going to re we did release the book. The one that I showed you, the volume 36, we did release that one.

So, um, so we did the art reveal before releasing it, so that. You know, they got to have that experience and it was still, you know, super emotional. And you can still find that on the writers, in the future YouTube channel, if anybody wanted to see that art reveal. Oh,


Mark Leslie Lefebvre: know what? I haven’t seen that. I’m going to have

Emily Goodwin: to check.

You have to go. You have to check it out. It’s not quite the same as being there live, but. You know, there was definitely some emotion going on in there. I can

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: imagine just, uh, I know the photographers that I’ve seen, they’re just amazing, amazingly talented people. So I can imagine the videographers are probably just as you know, zooming in on, on the right moments.

Emily Goodwin: We literally did it as a zoom event. Oh, that’s right. It was zoom. It was, I keep thinking, Oh, I wish it was in person. Um, but yeah, we did it in zoom. So you’ll see all the heads all across the screen, you know, but we showed the art. So you’ll, it flips through each of the art pieces. And then the, the art, the artist and the writer will connect up and talk about it for a little bit before we go onto the next one.

So you get to see actually more of it than you would if you were in the room. Cause you can not hear only like. Two people at a time. So he gets to see all of it there. So that was nice. We did that. And then, like I said, we decided to postpone the event and, um, we’re looking at doing it later this year in 2021.

And one cool thing is, um, echo Chernik she’s our coordinating judge for the illustrator contest. She did the cover art for this one. Okay. And how we decided to do it is, um, she’s doing a, a follow-up to this one. So it has a similar look like the same character, right. So there’ll be like a back-to-back, you know, so, cause we always do like the, the stage is like the theme of the book cover.

So we’re not going to shaft one versus the other. So we kind of have the same artists doing the same thing. So they all get, it’s like one big happy family and it’s going to be a rowdy bunch of 48. It’s going to be big, but it’s going to be great. I can’t wait, wait. We’re, we’re definitely excited having everybody back again.


Mark Leslie Lefebvre: this amazing opportunity that any writer, so, uh, one of the caveats is, uh, if you have had a professional sale, you’re not eligible to enter

Emily Goodwin: it basically, right? Yeah. You can go. Anybody can go to writers of the And right there on the site, the rules are listed. Um, it’s not that it’s up to a certain amount of sales and if you’re self published, it’s up to a certain amount, like 5,000 pits.

Right, right. So, um, so anybody can just go there and see the And if they have any question about whether they’re qualified or not, because it is a contest for amateurs you’re right, right. But, um, but there’s a qual what it States on there on the website, what qualifies amateur.


Mark Leslie Lefebvre: some people. Yeah. So the story, but not for professional rates or

Emily Goodwin: whatever then. Yeah. Yeah. It’s like three stories and like a certain amount of sales. So yeah. Yeah. So some people will think that they’re not qualified, but they actually are. So it’s definitely worth checking


Mark Leslie Lefebvre: and, and I think, um, It’s a free contest and it’s really designed to help kickstart and help beginning writers recognize, you know, work through the, obviously the, the craft.

Um, yeah. Cause that’s how they get there. Yeah.

Emily Goodwin: That’s the purpose of it. That’s the whole purpose of the contest when L Ron Hubbard started, it is because you, you have somebody who’s out there and they don’t have a voice. They don’t have the connection. It shouldn’t, but they have the talent and it just gives them a voice and it gives them, you know, puts them in view of, you know, people who, uh, who themselves are extremely successful, who say, this person has talent and it’s not based on who they are, anything other than their talent alone.

And that’s the way that Owen Hubbard designed it so that it just made a level playing field for anybody to be able to have an even chance of winning. Wow.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: And then on top of that, uh, and I think it was just, just in 2020 that you launched an additional resource again, completely free for writers. Can you talk about your, uh, the writers, the future online workshops?

Emily Goodwin: Yeah, for sure. So one of the things that a lot of people look forward to, uh, wanting to win the contest there is, I did not mention earlier, but there is cash prizes. You can win anything from 500 to a thousand dollars for winning the contest. Oh yeah. It’s not

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: just a trip to.

Emily Goodwin: Yes, the new Hollywood trip.

Yeah. We also get cash pies. You also get paid prorates for your short story. And then there’s a grand prize winner and it gets announced at the big event and they get an additional check for 5,001 writer, one illustrator. So in addition to that, um, one of the big things, um, That people want, you know, when they, when they win, why they want to win this contest is because they get to come and be a part of that workshop, like people so want to be in that room with Orson Scott card and Tim powers and Dave Harlan and Brandon Sanderson and Larry NIBIN and Rob Sawyer and all these guys.

And because it’s such a wealth of information and they just are learning from these greats. And so. We keep getting emails, like, look, I had, I had two honorable mentions this year and I’m like so close, but if I could just get in that workshop, then I might, you know, so people will want to get in on this workshop.

So what we did at the beginning of the year, we actually put it out at the beginning of the lockdown, like shortly after the pandemic started and people couldn’t go out, we took all like the. Some of the basics. It’s not the full workshop, but it’s the basics that you learn in the workshop. And it’s, it’s led by, um, David Farlan, Orson Scott card and Tim powers.

And it’s a free online writing workshop. It’s at writers, the and we w we put it up there for anybody to come and participate. There’s uh, 12 sections. There’s. Um, I think there’s over 10 videos in there from these wow, these guys and, uh, it’s about five hours worth of five or six hours worth of videos on there.

And there’s essays by Alan Hubbard and I’ll just buttress and anybody goes through and it takes you step-by-step, you know, from the beginning from research, um, you know, writing dialogue, writing, narration, how to start. Again, complete a story, how to add suspense, how to, you know, emotion, um, art and then productivity.

So you get that kind of stuff on the, on the online workshop. And then you get a little certificate at the end that says, you know, I completed the writers of the future were online workshop. And, um, so, and there’s also transcripts with all the videos and it’s set up for people to go at their own pace. So we put it up there.

So. You know, some people will do it on weekends and there is no strict class to follow. You just go through your own pace. You can go back as many times as you want reread something, you watch something. And we put that up and, you know, we were, we were hoping, you know, that we would be able to help a few hundred people.

And within 48 hours we had 2000 people sign up and we were like, Whoa. And, um, now I think there’s over. I think it’s up 5,000 now from 108 countries. So it’s been extremely popular. Yeah.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Oh. And, and people from anywhere in the world can, can, can take advantage of this for free, which is amazing. Yes.

Emily Goodwin: And I just checked it out today.

It looks like about 160 Canadians have gone on and done the course. So I’m not partial or anything.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: So, uh, sort of, as we, as we wrap up a couple of final questions, I’m dying to ask you and I’ve never asked you, this is, um, uh, Have you ever taken advantage of the learning about writing or illustrating? And are you a writer or illustrator yourself or is there some other creative pursuit singing?

Like what is it, what’s your forte?

Emily Goodwin: Well, I mean, I, I obviously run public relations for author services and, and. The contest. And so, you know, my writing is very different. It’s the, the blogs and the, you know, the bios and to helping people with different aspects of that. But like, I, like I said, the videos and the essays, I’ve probably watched all those videos, at least five or 10 times over as I put the course together.

So, um, Yeah, but it’s yeah, I mean, of course I, I, every time I listened to these guys or watch them, I always learn something. It’s, they’re amazing.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Awesome. Awesome. Well, thank you for spending time with me today. Can you please let my listeners know it just, uh, I guess is it writers of the is that’s pretty much the place where you can find all the information.


Emily Goodwin: And the writers of the is kind of like the one-stop shop for everything. That’s where you can find like the anthology. You can also get that a galaxy presser, Amazon, um, and then, or anywhere books are sold to the right. This is the latest one. Yup. It’s engine number 36, that’s number 36.

That’s the one that’s out right now. 37 will be coming out later this year. But, um, yeah, that’s it. You can find that at writers, the galaxy or Amazon or anywhere books are sold, the contest is that writers of the And so is the online workshop and all the information, the history of the contest.

Anything you want to know about it is also there. So, and then we have a. Social media channels. Um, well WOTF or writers, the contest, um, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, you can go there and, um, keep, keep tabs on what’s happening with the contest and, um, who’s winning and all the excitement. Awesome.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: And there will be all those links that, uh, Emily mentioned will be in the show notes at Emily on behalf of writers, especially speculative fiction science fiction, fantasy writers, thank you so much for doing all this for them.

Emily Goodwin: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me on and, thanks for representing Canada for us over there. Yay Canada.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Thanks, Em.

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