Sci-fi champ

Tina Smith (aka Tina Gower)

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Chicoan Tina Smith returned from Hollywood last week as an award-winning sci-fi writer. On April 14, Smith, 32, who writes under the pen name Tina Gower, won the $5,000 grand prize Golden Pen Award in the international 2013 L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest during the 29th Annual L. Ron Hubbard Achievement awards. Smith holds a master’s degree from Chico State in psychology and counseling, and says writing hasn’t come easy for her. Smith has a blog at

Was it a long road to winning?

Actually, yes. All of my life I had extreme trouble writing, because I was dyslexic but didn’t know it until grad school. Up through high school I was always in remedial classes because of it. I would take tests using a thesaurus, spell checker and grammar book, and take longer than everyone else, but still made tons of errors. Luckily a grad-school professor saw my struggles despite getting tutored and warned me I may be dyslexic. I got help and eventually worked as a school psychologist helping grade-school kids with their learning disabilities.

What piece won you the award?

It’s a science-fiction story called “Twelve Seconds” that’s kind of a murder mystery. A man with autism can archive the last 12 seconds of visual memories in homicide victims. A mystery develops when he discovers one victim’s memory that is incomplete. My story will be included in the upcoming annual anthology book L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, Vol. XXIX. The e-book will be out in early May and the paperback will be out in June.

How did it feel to win such a big award?

I was shocked. Thousands of writers competed. It was at the swank Wilshire Ebell Theatre in L.A. with everyone in formal dresses and tuxedos. Even the lady who is the voice of Bart Simpson, Nancy Cartwright, was there. This will be a huge boost to my writing career. Getting connected with well-known editors, agents, and the best-selling writers who helped with the contest raises you up from the sludge pile.

Hubbard is best known as the founder of Scientology. Was this contest related to that?

No, it has nothing to do with Scientology. During the week-long awards and workshops no one mentioned Scientology. I’m Catholic and a psychologist who, contrary to Scientology, believes that some mental disorders can be helped with medication. Hubbard was a major sci-fi writer before he invented Scientology, and he wanted to help up-and-coming writers. But after I won the award I got lots of hate mail telling me the awards were all a fake ploy for Scientology and that I should withdraw my name.