Marquette Heights man wins International Writers of the Future competition

Desmond Astaire of Marquette Heights has submitted his latest speculative fiction story for the international Writers of the Future competition.

The contest is exclusively for unpublished writers, Astaire explained. His entry – a quarterly first-place finisher for the fourth quarter of 2021 – will be published in the international speculative fiction anthology “L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 38,” which will disqualify him from future competitions.

“It’s a completely surreal and ridiculous dream come true,” Astaire said. “It’s been, I think, two months since I got the phone call and every day I feel like I’m like, ‘Is this real life? past ?’ It’s a professional dream come true, and it’s hopefully the first of many.

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Astaire will be honored as the winner of the contest at an April awards show in Hollywood, Calif. In addition to winning a cash prize and being published in the anthology, Astaire will be eligible for the annual Golden Pen grand prize, which includes a cash prize of $5,000. However, perhaps the most sought-after item in Astaire’s prize package is the chance to attend a week-long writing workshop with top industry professionals.

“The first goal (when I started writing for) the competition was to get to this workshop and soak up all this knowledge,” Astaire said. “I’m going to walk into the same room as (the contest judges) and learn everything they can teach.”

It all started with “The Lord of the Rings” and a library card

Astaire’s interest in speculative fiction began in 2001 when he saw “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”, the first film in the trilogy based on writer JRR’s series of novels. Tolkien.

“It was (director) Peter Jackson’s portrayal of the story,” Astaire explained. “I really liked the visuals and how he finally turned this giant story into an effective two or three hour movie.”

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Participating in reading programs at area libraries since he was in elementary school, Astaire discovered an affinity for the science fiction and fantasy genres. Reading a “Star Trek” anthology that featured stories from aspiring writers led him to realize he could launch a writing career through contests such as the Writers of the Future Contest. He started writing for the contest in 2017, and several of his previous contributions have received silver honorable mentions.

“Of the tens of thousands of entries in a year, some of mine were in the top 10%,” Astaire said. “So they were good, but not quite good enough.”

Astaire believes he succeeded in the end because he persisted in his efforts and because he applied feedback from previous entries to improve his future submissions. He also honed his skills through online writing workshops.

“I jumped on it and started working on some of the skill sets,” Astaire said. “I think that made the difference between my nominations going from silver honorable mention to (Golden Pen runner-up)…just being able to hone in on some of those skills.”

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With the goal of becoming a speculative fiction writer achieved and awarded in a prestigious winning competition, Astaire hopes to add to his writing resume with a Golden Pen award in April. He also plans to edit some of his previous contest entries for market in sci-fi and fantasy magazines before moving on to novel-length projects. His advice to other future writers is to take advantage of every learning opportunity.

“Never stop learning,” he said. “No matter what I do, I’m always learning to be better in all aspects of life. I think it really pays off.

Internationally acclaimed science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard established the Writers of the Future Contest in 1983 to provide aspiring speculative fiction writers with a chance to break into the field. The success of the contest led to the creation of a companion Illustrators of the Future Contest in 1988. Writers of the Future contest judges include authors such as Orson Scott Card, Brian Herbert, Katherine Kurtz, and Tim Powers. The 452 former winners of the writing competition have published 1,150 novels and nearly 4,500 short stories. They have produced 32 New York Times bestsellers and their works have sold over 60 million copies.