Author Topic: Going Clearwater: Inside the Writers of the Future contest  (Read 1360 times)  

Offline David VanDyke

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Going Clearwater: Inside the Writers of the Future contest
« on: August 11, 2018, 10:46:23 am »
Here's a fascinating blog post by JW Alden, a sci-fi writer of (apparently, primarily) short fiction, and his experience winning Scientology's 2016 Writers of the Future sci-fi contest.

https://www.authoralden.com/2018/08/goingclearwater.html

SFWA is right now debating delisting the contest. There have always been problems, but they seem to be growing.

The defense of the contest seems to be "the good outweighs the bad."

I'm not so sure.

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    Offline AliceS

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    Re: Going Clearwater: Inside the Writers of the Future contest
    « Reply #1 on: August 11, 2018, 11:42:20 am »
    Wow. I submitted to the competition regularly for awhile about 10 years ago. I stopped because I realized short stories are not my forte. If I had known how much the church was involved I would never have considered it.

    That trip sounds so surreal and spooky. I'm so glad I never got past quarter finalist.

    Offline My_Txxxx_a$$_Left_Too

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    Re: Going Clearwater: Inside the Writers of the Future contest
    « Reply #2 on: August 11, 2018, 02:33:00 pm »
    Content removed due to TOS Change of 2018. I do not agree to the terms.
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    I've been told that my signature is too long, so here is the BLUF. Don't click anything if you got here via Google. Your data is now theirs.

    No, I do not agree to the TOS. I didn't sign up under it and don't agree. Further, you don't own any of my stuff. Period. I'm overwriting and deleting it all, and I highly recommend you who are reading this do the same. Focus on that which gives good Google-Fu.

    Online Jena H

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    Re: Going Clearwater: Inside the Writers of the Future contest
    « Reply #3 on: August 11, 2018, 03:06:28 pm »
    Yikes.  I bet that was a real Matrix moment at the airport:  get on the plane, or not get on the plane?  Once landing in Clearwater, I think i'd have gone out for "a walk" and headed to the Holiday Inn.

    And BTW, the Leah Remini series is eye-opening.   :o    :o
    Jena

    Offline CoraBuhlert

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    Re: Going Clearwater: Inside the Writers of the Future contest
    « Reply #4 on: August 11, 2018, 03:43:57 pm »
    Content removed. I don't consent to the new TOS of 2018.
    « Last Edit: September 23, 2018, 04:50:35 pm by CoraBuhlert »

    Offline Patty Jansen

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    Re: Going Clearwater: Inside the Writers of the Future contest
    « Reply #5 on: August 11, 2018, 03:55:20 pm »
    OK, former winner here.

    Let me be clear. I'm NOT here to defend the contest. I think the move to invite an author for a signing under false pretences was a move that's going to backfire for them, like, badly.

    But this incident did NOT take place while he was at the contest workshop. That event is a highly stage-managed event that, from all I've experienced both through myself and talking with many other winners, is seperate enough from whatever else goes on.

    Does that mean the contest is "problematic"?

    Insofar as you think that a religious institution organises an event with the purpose of furthering their message, yes. In this vein, delisting from SFWA seems the way to go, since the contest is not particularly friendly to "divergent" people, especially people who don't conform to gender norms. Gay and transsexual people really should not go. I was there when Keffi Kerhli won and watched the organisers (not the tutors) struggle for a week with what pronouns to use on him. It was very sad. It's kinder on racial diversity.

    It's not like people don't know this going in. There is plenty of material available. When I won, in 2010, there was also some stuff, but most of it was old. Still I knew it. I spoke to Aliette de Bodard and a few other ex winners behind the scenes and they suggested it was mostly safe. To be honest, since I'm quite able to hold my own opinions on religion (I'm a strong non-believer) I'm not very vulnerable to this kind of stuff and found it fascinating. So! Hey! Free trip to the US, where I'd never been before. I got to meet some really great writers. The week really was a blast.

    But I did feel like I imagine one feels when visiting North Korea: it was all stage-managed for our benefit, and the people who were the hamsters behind the scenes (those people were Scientologists, but none of the teachers were) were visibly put under enormous pressure. It was kinda a sickly sweet feeling that still comes back to me when I think of it.

    In January this year, I went to the US. I had an invitation to see them, but as with all other invitations, I had heard that the church aspects were much stronger with the follow-up invitations. I had an invitation a few years earlier to meet some people in Sydney, and when I saw the address, I went nope nope nopity nope. That seems to be the recurring theme: if you take part in the workshop, do NOT respond to any further invitations.

    Anyway, on our way back through LA with the rented car, I said to my daughter we'd do a quick Hollywood. I am not a fan of LA, so we just drove down Hollywood Boulevard. At one point, we came past the building where the workshop is held and my daughter goes: look, there is a scientology building, and I went: "so here is, too." *waggles eyebrows. Yup. Been there, done that, not going back.

    As I said, I'm not here to defend the contest. The workshop gave me some nice contacts I wouldn't have had otherwise. But it's organised by a religious institution.

    Tread with care. Take part or don't take part. It's not my task to tell you one way or another.



    Edited. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca

    Offline unkownwriter

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    Re: Going Clearwater: Inside the Writers of the Future contest
    « Reply #6 on: August 12, 2018, 04:27:46 am »
    Back when I was a kid, I wanted to send stuff to that contest so much, but didn't have the confidence to do it. I wasn't expecting to win, but even mailing the story off made me want to die. Now I wouldn't do it.



    Edited. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca
    « Last Edit: August 12, 2018, 08:30:31 pm by Becca Mills »

    Offline BillSmithBooksDotCom

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    Re: Going Clearwater: Inside the Writers of the Future contest
    « Reply #7 on: August 12, 2018, 05:01:05 am »
    It was an eye-opening article.

    I always doubted the "firewall" theory.

    And yet the anthologies are normally quite good.

    It is a shame that there aren't more prestigious contests in scifi/fantasy for new writers that could build to this level of recognition without the baggage. (Of course, the article regarding apparent *cough, cough* sales manipulation by the Church and using the contest as a promo effort for the church most likely means that the contest itself is a big loss leader and thus not self-sustaining.)



    Edited. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca
    « Last Edit: August 12, 2018, 08:31:57 pm by Becca Mills »
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    Offline John Twipnook

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    Re: Going Clearwater: Inside the Writers of the Future contest
    « Reply #8 on: August 12, 2018, 07:36:12 am »
    Quote
    We enter the room, which appears, at first glance, like what you'd expect from a normal luxury hotel. There's a large bed, a desk, a flat-screen television. It's quite comfy, really. Then Buddy points to the nightstand. Next to the TV remote control sits a small plastic cup filled with clear liquid.

    "First thing," Buddy says. "That's not water."

    "..."  I say.

    "That's a drink people in the church take before bed. It calms the mind and relaxes the muscles. Just so you know."

    "..."  I say.
    "My girlfriend moved in with another guy, so I dumped her, because that's where I draw the line." Garry Shandling

    Offline EllieDee

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    Re: Going Clearwater: Inside the Writers of the Future contest
    « Reply #9 on: August 12, 2018, 08:28:41 am »
    Thanks for sharing your experiences, Patty.  Interesting where it was similar and where it diverged from Alden's. 

    A couple of years ago, I actually considered submitting a story to Writers of the Future.  Finally decided against it because I had my doubts about how separate the church/contest actually was.



    Edited. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca 
    « Last Edit: August 12, 2018, 08:33:59 pm by Becca Mills »

    Offline C. Gold

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    Re: Going Clearwater: Inside the Writers of the Future contest
    « Reply #10 on: August 12, 2018, 08:56:15 am »
    That's definitely chilling. Thanks for sharing.

    Offline Patty Jansen

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    Re: Going Clearwater: Inside the Writers of the Future contest
    « Reply #11 on: August 12, 2018, 04:20:49 pm »
    Thanks for sharing your experiences, Patty.  Interesting where it was similar and where it diverged from Alden's. 


    Edited. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca

    What I actually wanted to point out was that my experience was not so different up to the point where he stepped across the line and accepted the invitation. It was THEIR fault to label it as a book signing in B&N. That was a very bad mistake. I, too, was invited to an event here in Sydney (not living in the US is at times an advantage), and I saw the address and knew it would not be as authorly as the cheery invitation said. But he couldn't have guessed that from the first invitation.

    But this is also why I said: the workshop is pretty safe. You'll meet very few scientologists there and will not be taught by anyone who is a scientologist. They've got that separation down pat. The organisation Author Services has seperate staff who are well aware of all of this. It is when others come into the picture that things may go awry.

    On the other hand, can I just say that no one was harmed in JW Alden's experience? I may just be a naturally curious person but I would have *loved* that experience of going into that building. I would have drank it all in and used it somewhere in my fiction. The only thing I saw inherently *wrong* in that experience as described in the blog was that he was misled about the signing. Yet, he was told about where it was and could have pulled out. He didn't.

    One of the things I am a bit sad about that workshop week was that I met a few of the behind-the-scenes people who shared a lot of the same interests in space travel and science. One was a guy who was our driver to the NASA-JPL excursion. I honestly had a blast hanging out with him. Yeah, he was a scientologist, but er I went to a catholic school, had a Jehovah's Witness friend, so *shrug* you know. People can believe what they want to. Anyway, I worry a bit that he's been told not to keep in contact with me, because I never heard from him again.

    Quote
    Finally decided against it because I had my doubts about how separate the church/contest actually was.


    Edited. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca

    Make no mistake, the contest is a HUGE loss leader. We were put up in the Roosevelt Hotel for a week, I had my airline tickets paid for. All the author-teachers were paid. The judges are paid. There are no expenses spared for the event.

    All the time I was there I could only think about how this had to be costing them so much money and they were trying so desperately not to involve any of the scientology stuff in anything. Someone straight-out asked about it, but any questions were completely stonewalled. So get this: they were spending huge amounts of money on furthering new writing careers because LHR's will said that they had to, but couldn't even use it to sell their beliefs because they needed to keep a strict handle on PR.

    Nope, this does not make any money at all.

    Few other points in the blog post I should address:

    That the "course material" includes sections from Dianetics. Sure. It's pretty obvious. The "course material" has been set by the founder and *has* to be taught as decreed by his will. To be honest, it's pretty tame stuff. It's about discipline in your life as a writer, a lot of stuff we talk about on these very boards. There is absolutely nothing offensive in it.

    That women were "forced" to wear make-up. Er. When you go to an even like that, you should realise you're there under THEIR narrative. So roll with the punches. I never wear dresses, let alone make-up, either. Just for once step out of your comfort zone and let them do their thing. You might learn something. It's their event and they want a certain look and don't want ripped jeans and sideboob. That's their right. If you have a problem with that, then don't apply. May I also carefully suggest that if you have such a huge problem with that, you're probably not easy to get on with in the rest of your life and toning down special-snowflake-ness will hugely boost your social connections (and job opportunities).



    Edited. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca

    Online Jena H

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    Re: Going Clearwater: Inside the Writers of the Future contest
    « Reply #12 on: August 12, 2018, 04:32:52 pm »

    On the other hand, can I just say that no one was harmed in JW Alden's experience? I may just be a naturally curious person but I would have *loved* that experience of going into that building. I would have drank it all in and used it somewhere in my fiction. The only thing I saw inherently *wrong* in that experience as described in the blog was that he was misled about the signing. Yet, he was told about where it was and could have pulled out. He didn't.


    The supposed book-signing was to be in Clearwater.  To 99% of people that wouldn't be any sort of red flag that would cause him to "pull out."  It wasn't until he was practically on the jetway to the plane that he learned about the Scientology connection.  I honestly think that most people would have done what he did, and gotten on the plane. (Innate sense of politeness, and not wanting to be rude by cancelling at the last minute, etc.)

    I think Scientology is entirely to blame for misleading him (and anyone else who might have been involved) about the event being a B&N book-signing.  (One has to wonder if maybe it originally was going to be held at a B&N, but plans fell through... for some reason.)
    Jena

    Offline boba1823

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    Re: Going Clearwater: Inside the Writers of the Future contest
    « Reply #13 on: August 12, 2018, 05:03:48 pm »
    I may just be a naturally curious person but I would have *loved* that experience of going into that building. I would have drank it all in and used it somewhere in my fiction.

    Ha, I'm glad I wasn't the only one thinking this! Reading the article almost made me want to give up writing under a pseudonym (and take up writing SciFi), because I would love to apply to that contest - and preferably also win (duh) so they'd invite me to their 'hotel' and signing events.

    It's good to have some adventure in life. I'd even drink their vinegar thingy. Probably.

    Offline Gina Black

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    Re: Going Clearwater: Inside the Writers of the Future contest
    « Reply #14 on: August 12, 2018, 05:40:21 pm »
    Make no mistake, the contest is a HUGE loss leader. We were put up in the Roosevelt Hotel for a week, I had my airline tickets paid for. All the author-teachers were paid. The judges are paid. There are no expenses spared for the event.

    All the time I was there I could only think about how this had to be costing them so much money and they were trying so desperately not to involve any of the "evil" scientology stuff in anything. Someone straight-out asked about it, but any questions were completely stonewalled. So get this: they were spending huge amounts of money on furthering new writing careers because LHR's will said that they had to, but couldn't even use it to sell their beliefs because they needed to keep a strict handle on PR.

    This is all very interesting to someone who was once a Scientologist and left because I wanted to have a life and be a writer... I'm heartened--and not surprised--to find out they do this because it was in LRH's will. He was--at his core--a writer and a storyteller. That was the reason Dianetics was so popular. It was easy to read and intriguing. It was also one of the reasons he was denigrated.

    As for the vinegar drink mentioned in one of these comments, I'm sure it was cal-mag which was a gag-worthy concoction of calcium and magnesium mixed in apple cider vinegar and water that was supposed to calm you. (BTW back when I was involved LRH was alive and almost ALL of the Scientologists I knew were chain smokers and hard core coffee drinkers, but no one was supposed to be using any sort of drugs. Not even aspirin or ibuprofen.)

    Unfortunately, I've never been able to use my association with them as fodder for fiction.

    P.S. I've heard that Scientology owns a HUGE amount of West Hollywood. They can easily afford to do this.



    Edited. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca
    « Last Edit: August 12, 2018, 08:58:10 pm by Becca Mills »

    Offline Patty Jansen

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    Re: Going Clearwater: Inside the Writers of the Future contest
    « Reply #15 on: August 12, 2018, 06:01:16 pm »
    This is all very interesting to someone who was once a Scientologist and left because I wanted to have a life and be a writer... I'm heartened--and not surprised--to find out they do this because it was in LRH's will. He was--at his core--a writer and a storyteller. That was the reason Dianetics was so popular. It was easy to read and intriguing. It was also one of the reasons he was denigrated.

    As for the vinegar drink mentioned in one of these comments, I'm sure it was cal-mag which was a gag-worthy concoction of calcium and magnesium mixed in apple cider vinegar and water that was supposed to calm you. (BTW back when I was involved LRH was alive and almost ALL of the Scientologists I knew were chain smokers and hard core coffee drinkers, but no one was supposed to be using any sort of drugs. Not even aspirin or ibuprofen.)

    Unfortunately, I've never been able to use my association with them as fodder for fiction.

    P.S. I've heard that Scientology owns a HUGE amount of West Hollywood. They can easily afford to do this.


    Edited. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca

    I want to say thank you so much for your comment here.

    The fact that LHR was a writer first and foremost is often forgotten in all the other shenanigans, and that, for all I understand at this point in time, the contest was created out of a genuine willingness to help writers.

    LOL at no point did I have the feeling that the contest was financially hurting the organisation, but I was perversely pleased to get some benefit out of James Packer's money. Seriously LOL.

    I feel much fuss is being made out of this and I'm not greatly convinced it's hugely warranted.



    Edited. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca

    Offline Greg Dragon

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    Re: Going Clearwater: Inside the Writers of the Future contest
    « Reply #16 on: August 12, 2018, 06:02:35 pm »
    Clever title, David, I see what you did there.

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    Offline David VanDyke

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    Re: Going Clearwater: Inside the Writers of the Future contest
    « Reply #17 on: August 12, 2018, 07:41:01 pm »
    Clever title, David, I see what you did there.

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    Thanks--but it's actually Alden's blog post title, not mine.

    Online Becca Mills

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    Re: Going Clearwater: Inside the Writers of the Future contest
    « Reply #18 on: August 12, 2018, 08:27:02 pm »
    Folks, you *know* this is not the place to be discussing the pros or cons of Scientology. Locking in order to make edits.

    Edit: Reopening. To keep this useful thread going, we'll need to restrict its focus to the contest and Alden's post. Moving into any sort of discussion of or debate about religious matters will get the thread locked, as religion is one of the no-go zones here at KB. Hopefully I have removed all material that might prompt newcomers to the thread to wade into that subject. Thanks.
    « Last Edit: August 12, 2018, 09:13:15 pm by Becca Mills »

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    Offline unkownwriter

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    Re: Going Clearwater: Inside the Writers of the Future contest
    « Reply #19 on: August 13, 2018, 04:23:42 am »
    Quote
    LHR was a writer first and foremost

    Well, I'm not so sure about that, and wondering about the possibility of being sucked into a group that is not healthy (in my opinion, based on stuff I've seen) is relevant. I don't care what others think, but people should know what they could be getting into. There are a lot of naive people out there that will jump at any chance they will be helped in their writing careers. We see that almost daily here in the threads discussing sites and services that make claims of all sorts.

    Mod if you must. Hopefully enough will see this to be warned.

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