My recent posts have been gloomy, as I have been going through a discouraging stretch: some curt rejections, some nicer rejections, a contest failure or two, agents who don’t write back. The usual.
Today, an unexpected flicker of validation. This summer I applied to the Speculative Literature Foundation for the Gulliver Travel Grant. The foundation provides one award of $800 annually, to be used by an SF writer for travel expenses on a research trip. I proposed to use the money towards a visit to Mt. St. Helens to learn about volcanoes and lava tubes. The guidelines call for a writing sample to be included with the application, so I included an excerpt from Avians of Celadon comprising a series of chapters about a volcanic eruption. These are from near the end of the novel, but they seemed the most pertinent. In this part, Raven flies her glider close to an erupting volcano to search for survivors on the ground, and contrives a way for an airship to rescue them.
As there is only one winner, I realized my chances were slim, but it was still disappointing to see the announcement date come and go with no email. Today, though, a few weeks after I thought it was all decided, I did get an email. No, I didn’t get the money. But I did get an honorable mention, and what appears to be a sincere invitation to try again in 2015. That means complete strangers who read my stuff liked it. One of the jurors called it, “Intriguing. A lot of action, which is good. The narrative is, for the most part, easy to follow. A YA tale with action and emotion.“
I’m happy with that assessment. That juror had to dive in near the end of the book, so I knew some of the events would seem confusing without the preceding chapters. For me, it’s easy to write action, as it lends itself to showing. I am never as confident that the emotional content pushes through the way I want it to, because emotion dies if it sinks into telling.
Speaking of the whole Show, don’t Tell thing, I have applied to Odyssey to take one of their online courses on that very topic. The application deadline was a few days ago, so I hope to hear from them soon.