Whether it's penning prose or concocting combinations for her homemade aromatic soaps, Megan O'Keefe is ever eager to try something new.
This Sunday, the Concord resident will be honored at the 30th annual L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Achievement Awards in Hollywood, after her first professionally published work took first place in the fourth quarter of 2013.
She will then participate in a weeklong writers' workshop, with two published authors of the Catholic and Mormon faiths.
"This is a little stunning," says O'Keefe. "It's validation that, 'wow I can do this.'"
O'Keefe, 28, describes her creative approach.
"It's very ephemeral. It's that subconscious processing, until (the idea) has enough weight to get my attention," she says.
She draws parallels between her two pursuits, with a plot's beginning, middle and end likened to a perfume's trio of top, middle and base notes to achieve that desired lingering scent.
"A story with just a first act wouldn't hold someone's attention and a perfume with just a (floral, citrusy) top note would evaporate in an instant," she says.
O'Keefe's clever narrative, which morphs the implausible into something a reader suddenly finds worth considering, comes after she's done exhaustive research.
Her winning short story, "Another Range of Mountains," explores the realm of mirror painting and intrigue.
The idea was prompted by a Ray Bradbury essay, which encourages writers to explore things that scared them as a child.
For O'Keefe, that fear was mirrors.
O'Keefe, who studied archaeology at Diablo Valley College, is familiar with the rich results of mining those early life experiences.
"Creative people hold on to those in their subconscious and when we make connections, that makes a story," she says. "Then I Google it to death, until I feel that I have a fundamental understanding of the concept and then I can extrapolate ... and take it to the fantastic."
Her fantasy is set in a make believe, though Eastern Bloc-inspired locale. This methodology naturally melds with the curiosity that O'Keefe has had since childhood, when she experimented with robotics, dabbled in art, chronicled the antics of her cat Chou Chou, first formulated story lines for her fellow enthusiasts of the fanciful world of Dungeons and Dragons, and discovered her love of science fiction.
"I'm well-accustomed to creating things outside the norm," says the Seattle native. "(Writing) is a natural extension of having an empty sandbox in which to play."
O'Keefe's girlhood also included going along as a cub reporter on her mom's journalism assignments.
"(Megan) is the writer I wanted to be," says Casey O'Keefe, a retired high school English teacher. "She came out speaking in full sentences ... She's always been articulate. It's her biggest asset."
O'Keefe, who graduated from Freedom High School in Oakley, also derives inspiration from members of her twice-monthly writers' group.
"She devours books and she brings that passionate approach to her craft," says fellow member and Oakland resident Arley Sorg, describing O'Keefe's writing style as clean, poignant and "not overly weighted by excessiveness."
"Megan likes to see how her story is reflected, to (identify) those points of resonance," adds Oakland resident and fellow group member Trish Henry. "She's really a rising star ... She's motivated to make the whole field (of writing) better."
For more information, visit www.writersofthefuture.com.