David Carani still cannot believe his good fortune.
In April, the Palatine resident was at the center of an Academy Awards-like ceremony in Hollywood for sci-fi and fantasy writers and illustrators, where he was named the grand prize winner.
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The event was the 28th annual L. Ron Hubbard Achievement Awards and it took place at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles before 1,000 people. Carani's short story, "The Paradise Aperture," earned him the "Golden Pen" award.
His story was published in Volume 28 of the "L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future" anthology series, which just won the short story fiction award at the 2012 International Book Awards.
Carani will be featured at a book signing event from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Saturday, June 16, at the Barnes and Noble in Schaumburg. He will share top billing with Rhiannon Taylor of Chicago, who won the top illustration award at the Hollywood ceremony.
"It was surreal," says Carani, who works as a manufacturer's rep for Walgreens. "Honestly, it still feels like it happened to someone else."
The L. Ron Hubbard Achievement Awards were created in 1983 as a way to give new and aspiring writers -- in the field of speculative fiction and fantasy -- the chance to be published.
Entries are judged quarterly and three co-winners from each quarter have the chance to compete nationally and be published in the annual anthology.
Carani already had been involved with fantasy and the sci-fi genre online. He reads submissions for the online magazine Lightspeed and he also writes articles for the website Fantasy Faction. But this is his first published work.
"I can't think of a better way to start out," he says.
As part of his week in Los Angeles, Carani and the other 11 finalists attended a series of workshops taught by contest judges, who were best-selling authors and illustrators. One of his favorite parts was seeing the anthology printed and assembled at the printing facility. Literally, he says, he got a copy straight off the conveyor belt.
"The quality of writing over the past 28 years has continued to improve now to the point that even being announced as a finalist in Writers of the Future adds considerable substance to an aspiring writer's resumé," said John Goodwin, president of Galaxy Press. "That David Carani took home top honors in such a vast field of applicants is quite a testament to his writing skill."
Carani grew up as the oldest of eight children in Park Ridge, where he loved reading fantasy books. When he attended Northridge Prep in Niles, he began to read sci-fi classics, including "1984" by George Orwell and "Fahrenheit 451," by Ray Bradbury, who passed away last week.
"I love the genre," Carani says. "It's so full of possibility. There's so much you can do with it as a writer, so many areas you can explore."
A photography class that he took with his wife wound up giving him an idea for his award winning story.
"The Paradise Aperture" follows a photographer whose pictures of doors turn into gateways to other worlds. The story becomes a journey to find his wife when she disappears behind a door that was destroyed.
Paul Pederson, one of the top 10 illustration winners, created the art for Carani's story.
"I was speechless when I saw it," Carani says. "There was something really special about seeing something that I wrote brought to life through his art."
Carani credits his parents, John and Laura, with fostering a "creative-encouraged environment" in which to grow up. Being a part of the Writers of the Future team only extended that environment, he says, and gave him a huge boost in confidence to get back on his computer and write some more.