Challenge,  On Writing

Never Give Up

A Very True Story…

Some of you have heard me give the scary warning about Topanga Canyon, a writer who was so, so, so close to breaking in during the late 1980s and early 1990s. His real name is Preston Dennett.

Well, I got to meet this wonderful writer and great person finally, after all these years, when he won in Writers of the Future. In fact, he and I share a table of contents, since we both have stories in Volume #35 of Writers of the Future.

So John Goodwin, the publisher of Galaxy Press, thought it would be a good idea to have the two of us tell the complete story of Topanga Canyon on the Writers of the Future podcast. Maybe it would help a few other writers.

So we did. It is a story about never, ever giving up your dream no matter how bad things seem to be. Trust me, folks, this is worth a listen. And watch for Preston Dennett’s stories in all sorts of places in the future. He’s good, really good. And a really nice guy.



  • J.M. Ney-Grimm

    Great podcast!

    I have a question about editor responses. I’d heard that a personal rejection letter from an editor was a good sign. But I’m a little uncertain what that means in the current age of digital submissions.

    A story I submitted some while back was rejected everywhere I sent it. As I recall I was checking websites to see the responses, and there were no actual letters or emails sent. But amongst the many website form pages, one of them had a one liner from the editor. He said that my story was very vivid and that he liked that about it.

    Was that one liner the equivalent of a personal letter from the editor? Or not? I was never sure what to make of it.

      • J.M. Ney-Grimm

        Ah ha! Good to know. Thanks. I’ve been writing novels lately, but I snuck in a short story last month. I had so much fun writing it, that I’ve been hankering to write another short. I think I’m going to go for it.

  • Meliva Koch

    A great podcast, Dean! I had heard bits of the Topanga Canyon story from Preston, but having the two of you together giving both viewpoints is great storytelling.

  • Renate Sandoz

    What a story! That could be a story in itself. I really like the fact that Mr. Dean Wesley Smith got together with the writer (and winner now!) and both of you on the podcast telling both sides of the story. That is a story with a human touch and unbelievable persistence of life! What a nice message 🙂 to all writers.

  • Céline Malgen

    Thanks you so much for this podcast! It’s very inspiring to hear both sides of this story, and figure out how you never know what’s going on on this other side of your submissions. That’s a great message for those moments of doubt when we ask ourselves whether it’s really worth it.

    And even though it’s a true story, it’s also a great meta example of how storytelling works: lots of try/fail cycles, ending up in the main character giving up on his dream while the reader/listener knows he should just continue because he’s so close to success. BTW, a great example of the reader having access to information the main character doesn’t have, in service of the story.

    That’s heart-wrenching, but at the same time it makes the happy ending feel so much more satisfactory. Which is of course is too bad for the real person who had to go through all that, but shows once again how much you have to make your characters suffer for the story to feel satisfactory (something I tend to struggle with, because I feel too sorry for the character, so that’s always a great reminder).