Futurescapes Workshop 2019

by | Mar 26, 2024 | Disability, The ART Of Living, The Craft Of Writing | 0 comments

I won a thing!

My whole life is dedicated to being a successful, published author. To that end I applied for a writing workshop in America. Here’s what happened.

I was awarded a place at Futurescapes, a prestigious writing workshop in Utah.


I was also awarded a scholarship to attend.


The Futurescapes workshop is highly competitive. Places are offered to people whose writing is on the cusp of professional standards or higher, and you must submit an example of your work as part of your application process.

Attending Futurescapes provided me with the rare opportunity to workshop my manuscript (as well as hobnob) with some amazing authors, editors, and agents, such as:

  • Ted Chiang
  • Ali Fisher
  • Matt Bialer
  • Matthew Kirby
  • Lucienne Diver
  • Thao Le
  • Dan Wells
  • Ben Grange
  • DongWon Song
  • Fran Wilde
  • Christian McKay Heidicker

to name a few.

Being based in Australia makes attending these types of events a bit of a challenge for me, but I felt the opportunity was too good to pass up. Unfortunately, my autoimmune condition has recently forced me to drop down from full-time work to part-time work even though I need a full-time wage in order to be able to feed the mortgage beast and keep the utility monsters at bay (the cat and dogs are also pretty keen on regular meals).

Nevertheless, I was committed to attending, and after a pep talk from my best friend, she convinced to me to start a GoFundMe campaign.

‘After all,’ she said, ‘You might as try to raise the money. You already can’t afford to go, so you have nothing to lose by trying.’ Made sense to me and so I launched my campaign. And of what a squirmy, uncomfortable process that was. The concept made me feel SQUIRRLEY with embarrassment. SQUIRRLEY I tell you (not to be confused with squirrely). I learnt a lot about myself in a short amount of time. I realised that I might, just might, have some issues around self-worth and self-esteem and asking for help.

 I’m the kind of person who, even if I have ten bags of groceries in my arthritic hands I will still try and open the front door by myself even though there’s someone else standing right there. That’s just how I am. Asking for help has always been anathema to me. But now here I was asking for the most embarrassing kind of help – money help. From strangers. I was cringing and dying inside.

And then the donations started coming through.

I was flattered and honoured. Each one made me say out loud to myself, “Oh no – you shouldn’t have” as I covered my mouth with excitement and embarrassment. I was also astounded when a few big-name authors (who shall remain anonymous) donated. They know I exist? I thought with amazement as I saw their donations come in.

The GoFundMe campaign was quite successful and, in the end, raised almost enough to pay for my flight to Utah. It was official. I was going!

Having had previous experience in just how heavily jet-lag can affect you on these trips I left three days early to allow myself enough time to adjust, and it was just as well because I hadn’t factored the altitude of the location. Now I live at literal sea level and walk to the beach most days. But Futurescapes took place in at The Chateaux in Deer Valley – a gorgeous hotel located at 8100 feet or 2400 meters.

Let me tell you, breathing was hard. If you’re asthmatic or have ever had a severe chest infection, it felt similar to that. My lungs were burning. It felt like someone was standing on my chest. Because I couldn’t get enough air I felt like I had anxiety (pounding heart, quick shallow breaths, anxiousness) but it was simply the lack of oxygen. Which, by the way, also made me feel quite loopy and surreal. I’m pretty sure the walls were breathing in and out at one stage.

I slowly adjusted to the altitude and by the time the conference officially started I was feeling almost human, though I did get quite faint every time I got to the top of a staircase.

My feedback to my patient critique group was also given in this manner:

“[deep breathe in] I feel that this [deep breath out] piece could benefit [deep breathe in] from changing the order [deep breath out] of information [deep breath in]”

It’s safe to say that, thanks to the altitude, I was neither the brainiest nor most eloquent during my time at Futurescapes.

The first day opened with our critique group meeting with Thao Le, from Dijkstra Literary Agency to assess our first three thousand words. Half an hour before the meeting I got very anxious, but my fears were allied as soon as I met my group and Thao. Everyone was lovely and supportive and offered fantastic insight into each other’s work. (Yes – that means even more revisions for The Truth About Dragons. But I gained some really valuable insight into deepening the POV in tight third person, so it will definitely be worth it).

Over the next few days, we continued to workshop our manuscript. I got to review my query letter with author Emily R King, who uses the three C’s when constructing a query letter. The format she uses is:

First paragraph – Character:      

What does the MC want and why do they want it?

Second paragraph – Conflict:     

What is stopping the MC getting what they want?

Third paragraph – Consequence:

What will happen if the MC doesn’t get what they want?

On query letter bio’s DongWon Song said: “No one cares how many kids or pets you have. Don’t put it in there. Put in something that will make you stand out.”

Sage advice 😊

It was great to see familiar Writing Excuses Cruise faces at Futurescapes including Bob Connick, Nick Bright (and of course DongWon Song). Since my arrival on the 9th The Chateaux had gone from empty to filled with writers talking about writing in every lounge chair, nook and cranny you could find. The sounds reminded me of a flock of chattering birds on a wire. And while it was great to indulge in such fervent excitement on the topic of writing, I also took frequent breaks from it, but retreating to my room to decompress for an hour at time.

Once it stopped snowing (and I could also breathe again) I even went for a walk and a swim. To say it was picturesque was an understatement. I mean, look at me doing tough here:

All too soon the Futurescapes workshop was over and it was time to head back to reality. I had gained some valuable insights on the craft, met up with old friends and made some fabulous new ones.

I’m look forward to my next overseas writing conference, and I have my eye set on attending the Nebula’s and New Zealand World Con in 2020.  Maybe I’ll see you there!

Happy trails,

Jesse xx

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