I got the call while sleep deprived and on the road. Actually checked my call log the next day to make sure it was real, and it’s official–my short story “Möbius” won third place in Writers of the Future!
The prize money is significant, but that’s far from the most valuable thing the contest offers: they fly all winners to Hollywood (on my birthday) for an awards ceremony and week-long writing workshop with some big-name authors, including Orson Scott Card, author of Ender’s Game, one of my favorites. And to ice the cake, they purchase the winning stories for inclusion in their bestselling anthology. The contest is an incredible opportunity for budding writers: the judges only consider authors who’ve professionally published fewer than four short stories or one novel, allowing those of us early in our careers to break into the field without having to compete against the titans of the genre.
“Möbius” has a special place in my heart: it was the first short story I ever wrote. I set it aside for a long time, thinking it didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of ever selling (the original draft didn’t), but the story’s core ethical question kept haunting me. I dug up the piece, sent it to my amazing writing partners, and with their feedback sculpted that dirty little snowball into something worth throwing out there.
Sometimes, if I’m in a strange mood, I’ll answer unknown phone numbers with my best Arnold Schwarzenegger voice and have a little fun with the (usually telemarketer) on the other end. My call from the contest director went something like this:
Me: Hallo this is Ahnuld. Who are yoo and what do yoo waant?
Joni: Um, hi, this is Joni from Writers of the Future. I’m looking for Christoph?
Me: (awkward silence while I thought, Oh shit oh shit oh shit!) Uhh, yeah. Let me go get him.
That call from the contest director (she was a great sport about me being an idiot) was to inform me I was a finalist in quarter two. The story didn’t win, but now that “Möbius” has won in the very next quarter, I just wish I’d said, “I’ll be back!”