Morris Community High School graduate and science fiction writer Jacob Boyd was awarded the "L. Ron Hubbard Writers and Illustrators of the Future Contest" and his story has been published in "L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Volume XXVIII," which is available in stores now.
Boyd now lives in Oregon with his wife, Julie, who is also a Morris High alum. His mother, Marie Knudson, and in-laws, Cindy and Mark Fahey, are still Morris residents.
In April, they all attended the 28th Annual L. Ron Hubbard Achievement Awards in Los Angeles, where Boyd and the 11 other recipients received their award in front of more than 1,000 people at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre.
L. Ron Hubbard is the author of widely known science fiction works such as "Battlefield Earth" and the ten-volume "Mission Earth" series. He's also known as the founder of the Church of Scientology.
The Writers of the Future writing contest was started by Hubbard in 1983 to provide "a means for aspiring writers to get that much-needed break," according to a press release from the Writers of the Future.
The awards ceremony in April was comparable to the Academy Awards, complete with acceptance speeches.
"I'm going to say something I've been wanting to say for a long time, I'd like to thank my mom," said Boyd during the awards ceremony, which can be watched at writersofthefuture.com.
Boyd went on to thank his mother for never "dismissing me when I was weird," and also thanked his wife for believing in him long before he believed in himself.
"It was pretty wild. The (event) was three times bigger than previous years," said Boyd. "They had big screens at each end of the stage tracking you. There was a whole team of photographers that followed me around the entire week."
Boyd's short story, “Lost Pine," is a coming-of-age story that takes place at the end of the world, he said. It's six years after an epidemic takes over that encases everyone over the age of 15 in a cocoon. Everyone under 15 lost their bearings of how the world works and six years after are trying to find their place in the world.
This story was Boyd's fifth attempt at the contest in three years. He worked on the story over three months, he said, and with the help of critiques from writers' workshops he attends.
In addition to having their stories published in the collection, the winners were given a trophies by contest judges at the ceremony and combined cash prizes and royalties of over $30,000 for the writer and illustrator winners, according to a press release.
"To see him being recognized, you get that swelling in your heart that makes you feel good," said Boyd's mother, Marie Knudson.
Although she has known it for quite some time, Knudson said she was happy her son received the award for verification to him that he is a great writer.
Her son was always creative and always had an interest in reading, so she is not surprised by what he has become, although he originally was going to college for pre-med, not literature. But he had an instructor at Joliet Junior College that really encouraged him to write.
Boyd is a product of Morris High and JJC and this community molded him, she said.
"You're given all the tools here and you can go far if you have the passion for it," said Knudson.
Boyd's story was one of a few where a scene from the story was performed on stage as a dance at the awards ceremony.
"It was fantastic. It was really awesome to see work inspired by another piece of work," he said.
The winners also attended a week-long workshop taught by contest judges, including New York Times bestselling author Kevin J. Anderson ("Dune" series) and World Fantasy Award winner Tim Powers ("On Stranger Tides," adapted as the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film), among numerous other acclaimed authors and illustrators.
Boyd said he enjoyed meeting and working with the famous authors, as well as the recent contest winners.
"The names on my bookshelf I was able to put faces with them and they were all really personable," he said.
A gratifying experience was going to the publisher of the collection and seeing the first run of the book come off the print line, he said. He was given one of the first books and the "glue was still hot."
The book is now in stores and Boyd recently had his first book signing at a Barnes & Noble in Oregon.
"It was pretty great. One of the tips we were given is to not sign how you sign your checks, so you have to create a different signature for yourself," said Boyd.
Boyd said he is working on final edits for another story for which he has high hopes.