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VICTORY IN INTERNATIONAL CONTEST LETS `JUVENILE’ WRITER FOCUS ON HER LONGTIME LITERARY LOVE: SCIENCE FICTION

SHARE VICTORY IN INTERNATIONAL CONTEST LETS `JUVENILE’ WRITER FOCUS ON HER LONGTIME LITERARY LOVE: SCIENCE FICTION

Julia West has wanted to be a science fiction writer since high school, but in 1994 it seemed the only thing she could publish was children's stories.

After receiving files full of rejection slips but acceptance for children's stories, West, 43, resigned herself to a life of writing juvenile fiction. Then she won an international science fiction contest.West won first place and $1,000 for the quarterly Writers of the Future competition and then captured grand prize and another $4,000 as the international contest's writer of the year. West's story,"The Sea of Chaos," was published in an anthology of science fiction stories,"Writers of the Future Vol. XI."

West, who says her favorite part of writing is making things up, has always had a lively imagination and always wanted to be a writer. As long as she can remember, she made up stories as she went to sleep. In grade school she played a make-believe game with imaginary horses during recess. This game, called the Black and Blue, lasted three years until West and her friends began to play the Beatles. West was George Harrison.

During her senior year at Orem High School and her first year at college, West, who grew up reading her dad's science fiction books, wrote two novels in pencil. Now, she won't even show them to her husband.

West began to write even more after having kids. "I'd put them down for a nap and sit at the computer immediately," she said.

Still, West's writing career was on and off until she won the Writers of the Future competition. "I decided," she said, ` "Hey, if I'm going to do this, I'm really going to do this.' "

Since then West tries to write four pages a day. At the end of her workday in the finance department at the University of Utah, she puts up a sign reading "I'm not here anymore" and starts typing away.

She also writes during her two-hour bus ride from her home in West Jordan to the U. "You get the weirdos on the bus," West said. "You get great characters on the bus."

She started a story about a bus that drives into another dimension but put it aside for the two novels she's working on now, one fantasy, one science fiction.

"There's so many good ideas, just not enough time," she said.

In the science fiction novel, West draws from her experience in the Air Force Reserve. She signed up for the Reserve hoping it would provide great writing material. "Sea of Chaos" also borrows from her military ex-per-i-ence repairing F4's and F16's.

West, along with her entire family, loves to read. They love reading so much that they have a Dewey Decimal library in their basement. Her daughters Rowan, 8, and Danica, 6, both write stories.

And West's husband, Brook, also writes science fiction. He was a finalist in Writers of the Future and was published in the competition's anthology.

Julia and Brook West have also written some stories together - "Weeds," which appears in the "Enchanted Forests," and "The Peachwood Flute," which will appear in "The Shimmering Door."

The couple's different strengths as writers complement each other. Julia received a degree from the University of Utah in anthropology while Brook earned his degree at Brigham Young University in physical geography. The joke between them is, Brook designs worlds while Julia peoples them.