I’ve got this weird quirk where I write my speeches after I give them. That doesn’t mean I get to a podium and give a speech completely from scratch – I’ll have put a ton of thought into it before I get there – but I don’t write anything down first. What I want to say, how I want to say it, maybe a couple clever phrases, all that I’ll work out first, but in my brain. The first two lines I generally know. From there, it’s all about how the audience is reacting. If they’re dead, I’ll shut up and get the hell off stage. If they’re enjoying it, I could keep going forever. What can I say? I’m a pantser.
Anyway, I had to give an acceptance speech at the Writers of the Future gala last Sunday. I think I did a good job. I may have accidentally set myself up as an inspiration to children? If so, woops. You probably don’t want me inspiring your kids, folks, but that doesn’t mean I won’t if you ask me to. It’s probably a good idea to read what somebody writes before asking them to share wisdom with your twelve-year-old, though.
So here’s my speech, as written by me, after I’ve given it. This isn’t a transcription. I’m writing it down from memory. If you want to know what I actually said, you can watch it as part of the stream of the whole ceremony here. It starts around the 2 hour, 1 minute mark.
I don’t think anybody at the contest knows this because I’m a bad person and never told them, but my very first story submission ever was to Writer’s of the Future. I was sixteen, I’d been at this writing thing for about twelve years, and I more or less had it all figured out. The plan was to enter the contest, be the youngest winner ever, and go from there.
I’m now twenty-eight.
That’s the beginning of my story for how I got here. I don’t know the end yet, and I’m not going to speculate on what it will be unless you’re paying at least $.05 per word. But I know what this chapter looks like.
This year is going to be a big year of transition for me. A lot of the things leading up to this contest has been what I needed to figure out my priorities and know what I needed to do to get what I need to be happy. I’m grateful for that.
In the time since the contest overlooked my teenaged brilliance, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned what this contest means to other writers who are starting out. There are people who write four stories a year, one for each quarter of the contest. This contest gives them their identity as writers, gives them the external deadlines they need in order to finish their stories and learn by doing that.
That’s what makes it so touching to see so many people who work very hard for this contest, making sure it lives up to the dreams of those new writers. To each of the people who spend their time and effort to make sure the writers and illustrators at this event get what they need, are supported and nurtured, thank you.
To my sister back in Virginia with the rest of my family, who went to bed before we started instead of watching…I could have said something nice about you now.
To Luc Reid and everybody at the Codex writer’s forum, without which I wouldn’t have written this particular story, thank you for being awesome.*
And last but not least, my best friend Karl, who’s been here with me this week, thank you. I would not have made it here this week if you hadn’t been keeping me sane during the insanity that led up to it. Seriously, thank you.**
Thank you all.
*I did not say this during the speech. I was supposed to. I’m really sorry I missed it, and putting it in this version as a small way of correcting a big error.
**I have some major espirit d’escalier on this point – there was a much cleverer way for me to have done this, but this particular point didn’t occur to me until I needed to end the speech, and then it was obvious. There’s a price to pantsing, and it’s asterisks when you write it later.