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Local author on why Utah is a good place for aspiring writers

Dustin Steinacker had more than a year to prepare for the biggest success of his life.

But even that didn’t seem like enough time, he said.

Steinacker, an aspiring novelist from Orem, won a competition last June that earned him a spot in the book “L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 33.”

The compilation of short stories also includes authors Robert J. Sawyer, Anne McCaffrey, Todd McCaffrey and others. Established in 1983, the "Writers of the Future" contest allows writers to enter their stories into competition. Winners are featured in the next year's compilation volume.

Steinacker, 31, still can't believe he won, even nearly a year later. He said he was left speechless when he attended the 33rd Annual L. Ron Hubbard Achievement Awards this April, which had more than 1,100 guests in attendance to celebrate the book’s release.

“Just being able to be in the room with people who were interested in this stuff and writing as I was, being able to be in contact with some of these amazing writers and amazing people, it’s been fantastic opportunity, really,” he told the Deseret News in a phone interview.

“It was kind of an amazing, star-studded event,” he said.

Steinacker, who received his undergraduate and graduate degrees at BYU, also spent a week at a workshop that included such authors as Anderson and Sawyer.

Steinacker, along with all the other authors, signed copies of the new book, which recently reached No. 6 on the Wall Street Journal and Publishers Weekly best-sellers list and No. 46 on the USA Today best-seller list.

Steinacker said he couldn’t believe he won the opportunity to sign books.

“Just being there with everybody in the afterglow of that, it was a really positive experience. It wasn’t really too overwhelming or anything like that,” he said.

Steinacker said he’s currently in the middle of writing “several” stories that he’s shopping around and working on the third draft of his first novel.

He hopes to finish a colonial fantasy novel in the near future.

His latest draft includes a group of people who flee their homeland and build a new world on another continent.

“I don’t think the whole colonial period has been mined yet in fantasy,” he said.

Steinacker, who was born in Provo and grew up in Elkridge, said that the conference taught him the importance of sitting down and writing.

Staying true to a daily schedule can improve your output, he said, and create opportunities you wouldn’t otherwise have.

Steinacker said he tries his best to keep to a strict schedule when writing, forcing himself to treat it like a full-time job. He said he’ll spend about an hour and 30 minutes writing after he gets off work. On his days off, he’ll increase that amount to three hours.

He said getting a writing group helped him early on because it forced him to have content to turn in every week. A community of peers makes you “accountable” for more writing.

“There’s always so much more to learn, but it’s amazing how something like this conference really teaches you that it is 90 percent work ethic and so much of it is sitting down and putting in that work ethic every day,” he said.

He also said Utah proved to be a wonderful place to develop his writing skills, too. The state is packed with authors, he said, like Orson Scott Card and Brandon Sanderson.

To learn more about writing, he almost never has to leave home.

“I don’t have to get on a plane to meet a bunch of writers, to go to a conference to see people who I’m excited to meet. They’re here. They’re right in this area,” he said. He added later, “You really can’t help but be pulled into the writing community if you’re interested in reading and happen to live in Utah.”