20 April 2015

The Writer's Dilemma: Risk vs. Reward

I’m at a writing crossroads.
I’m a finalist for the Roswell Award for Short Science Fiction. I know, it’s a different genre, but bear with me. What to do next is a mystery that you could help me solve.

Dear Ms. Yuan-Innes [my real name; I use Melissa Yi for my mysteries],
On behalf of SCI-FEST LA, I'm excited to announce that your story, "Cardiopulmonary Arrest," is a finalist for The Roswell Award for Short Science Fiction. 

Oh, good. One editor told me that story was “too weird.” Which is true. I am weird. And occasionally disturbing.

Your story is one of just six finalists chosen from over 300 submissions received from around the world. Your story will be presented in an Awards & Staged Reading event featuring our celebrity guest readers on Saturday, May 23 at 7:00pm at the Acme Theatre in Hollywood.


At the reading, each of our finalists will be officially recognized and the award for the best short science fiction story will be presented.

Our judges who will determine the competition winner include:

* Jack Kenny (Executive Producer, WAREHOUSE 13 & FALLING SKIES)
* Jordan Roberts (Screenwriter, BIG HERO SIX)
* Mike Werb (Screenwriter, FACEOFF & Writer on EXTANT)
And others soon to be announced!

We hope that you will join us! However, you do not need to be present to win the competition. If you plan to join us, please let me know as soon as possible. Unfortunately, we are not able to pay for travel expenses to Los Angeles.

Aye. There’s the rub.
My first instinct is to say, my odds of winning are one in six. I live on the other side of the continent. Even if I did win, it might cost me more than $1000 to get there. I’ve got emergency shifts to fill. I’ve got two kids. I’m not flying to L.A.
I could just go to CanCon in Ottawa, see?

But my second instinct? Hang on.
I checked my schedule. I’m working the day before, but not the day of. I have four days where yes, it is indeed possible for me to travel to and from Hollywood.
My husband Matt is away on a motorcycle course on May 23rd, so I would either have to get a babysitter or bring my children with me to an awards event that starts on the opposite coast at 10 p.m. EDT. Not a good mix. My eight-year-old could tough it out, but my four-year-old could not.
Still. Not impossible. I’d have to get a babysitter.
The money-conserving, risk averse part of me—the part that has dominated my life up until now, as I detailed on my blog—orders me to stay home. If I win, I’m $1000 richer. And if I lose, I’ve lost nothing.
Except an opportunity. And you know how opportunities can build. In an interview with the Seeker, I explained how winning the Cornwall writing contests led me to my Terminally Ill book launch, which earned an article in the Standard Freeholder, which got me an interview on CBC’s Ontario morning, which hauled me on to the Kobo Top 50 bestseller list, which probably tipped Mark Leslie Lefebvre toward choosing me for their international Going Going Gone contest promotion last fall.
Me resuscitating 'Elvis' (Kobo's Mark Leslie Lefebvre)
while his skeleton, Barnaby, keeps a watchful eye.

In March, David Farland told us, “Take these opportunities thrown in your face.” He once met a woman who could’ve gotten him a ride into space, but Dave was newly married and couldn’t easily afford to get to the launch site, so he let it go by. Now, he says, “I could have been the only science fiction writer who’s gone into space!”
This isn’t space, but it’s an opportunity to geek out with people who love science fiction. It’s a chance to meet Hollywood actors, executive producers, and screenwriters. It’s an excuse to take my kids to Hollywood.
I’d like to see my stories made into movies. It’s not my main dream, but hey, like I pointed out in my last post, film is a different and dominant medium for storytelling and therefore useful in my quest for world domination.

What say you, SleuthSayers? Should I go to L.A.?


  1. Melissa, you use a number of business terms– risk adverse, risk v award, opportunity, etc, and a couple more are goodwill (amply illustrated) and intangibles. Usually intangibles refers to something special about the company that gives them an ‘in’ within the marketplace. Your ‘intangibles’ help get you nominated.

    From a small business standpoint– you are a small company of course– you carry with you the chance to touch the lives of others. You are one of our hardest working SleuthSayer, and I’m a believer in taking down time to free the mind and soul.

    We’ll even advance your SleuthSayers salary for the month. Who could resist? Wouldn’t your 8-year-old enjoy the trip, especially if cosplay is involved? And who knows… perhaps that next novel will gel while napping on the plane.

    My vote: GO!

  2. Remember it will be a legitimate business expense.
    If this is early in your career, I'd say go.

  3. I think you should go. How often does something like this come along?

    Keep us posted.

  4. Melissa, I passed up an opportunity to write pilots for HBO twenty years ago. I didn't start regretting it until five years ago, when I was much older and wiser, and realized those opportunities don't come often. Congrats on this honour! Knowing what I know now, I'd go if I were you :)

  5. You should go!

    That skeleton "Barnaby" in the picture looks exactly like Geoff Peterson who until this past December was the sidekick on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. ?

  6. @Leigh, I thought you were going to say business terms meant I shouldn't go! Good lead-in. Of course Max would love to go. The question is if I can handle him and his sister. ;) Thanks!

  7. @Janice, I guess I feel like I'm pretty early on in my career. Do you think it's better to take chances as a beginner? Thanks!

  8. @John, yes, I'm definitely leaning that way. Thank you.

  9. @Melodie, you and HBO would have been a great combination! But you wouldn't want to have missed out on your award-winning novels, either. Thanks for voting. :)

  10. @Elizabeth, thanks for making it 100%!
    As far as I know, Barnaby's never made it on the Late Late Show. But I'll have to tag Mark and see.

  11. Melissa, think of this as the opportunity to have an adventure and further your career too. If that's what you want then GO!

  12. Melissa, I'll add my voice to the chorus saying Go! This is an opportunity, and every opportunity carries with it some amount of risk, but I say life is too damn short not to take a few risks. Go, and send us a postcard!

  13. All considerations of career and advancement aside, it sounds both memorable and fun. If you can do it, then do it.

  14. I am late, but I say, if you have a good caregiver for the kids leave them and go. You will regret not going mch more than you will regret the money spent. Plus the contacts.v ad congrTs!

  15. I am late, but I say, if you have a good caregiver for the kids leave them and go. You will regret not going mch more than you will regret the money spent. Plus the contacts.v ad congrTs!

  16. I'm late, too, but I say go if you can! You never know what will come of it.

  17. Melissa:
    Like you I am one of the six finalists.
    Unlike you I don't have a choice and will not be able to go.
    My vote: GO. And good luck!

    J.E. McCollum

  18. @J.E., I just saw your comment. Belated thanks. I did go, and enjoyed your story, which had the honour of closing the show. Good luck to you in your medical and writing careers!

  19. @Jeff, I'm back! Too late for a postcard. Maybe my June 15th column could be a virtual postcard?

  20. @Dean, @Robert & @Eve, I'm so pleased you voted yes. I WENT!


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