1. Apply to Alpha. 2. Enter the Dell Awards.

3. ????

First and foremost, applications are now open for the 2012 Alpha workshop. The deadline is March 1, so start working on your application stories!

This post, however, is mostly about the Dell Awards. Or, more precisely, the Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing. The deadline is always in early January (this year, it’s January 3, to be precise), so for the past few years of my life, December hasn’t just been about gift-giving and family togetherness. It’s also been a frenzy of writing, critiquing, and last-minute edits. I wouldn’t have it any other way, of course. The process is insane, but it’s also insanely fun.

Why do I do it? The winner of the Dell Awards gets $500, and the winning story is published on the Asimov’s website. In addition, every finalist receives a free membership at the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts (ICFA). Held every year in March in Orlando, FL, ICFA is a literature-focused conference, which means great discussions, sightings of awesome authors, and free books. (Seriously! You go to lunch or dinner and free books are sitting at your table, waiting for you. It’s great.) Also, during the conference, every finalist has a one-on-one critique session with the editor of Asimov’s, Sheila Williams.

Last year, I received an honorable mention in the Dell Awards. Seven other Alpha alumni were also finalists. (You can see the list of 2011 finalists here, and all Alphans who have placed in the Dell Awards are listed on the Publications and Awards page.)

Because I graduated from college in May, this is the last year in which I’ll be eligible to enter the Dell Awards. The deadline is less than three weeks away, so now that I’ve hopefully convinced the undergraduates reading this post to enter the Dell Awards, I’d better get back to work.

Any questions about the Dells or ICFA? Ask away in the comments!