My story, Refiner's Fire, was one of eight finalists in Writers of the Future's* fourth quarter 2009 contest. Alas, it did not place in the top three, which would have guaranteed that it would be published in their yearly collection of stories.
I am left slightly better off than I started. Finalist status confirms that I can write a really good story, as judged by someone who knows--the judges are successful writers. In my arrogance, I always knew that I write good stories, but it is good to have that confirmed. I think that there may be 10,000 people out there writing good stories. There is room for 4 new writers this year, as judged by observing agents who get 300 queries from authors per week and ask for a partial manuscript from 1 author, who already has some writing credentials.
A place in the WOTF volume would have been a credential. So I am about where I started with regard to having a writing income. I will submit another story this quarter, raising my lightning rod in case a storm blows up.
*WOTF is the world's foremost science fiction and fantasy writing contest, judged by professional authors. Their yearly collection of winning stories is published in mass markets. I can find it at the department store in my small town. The judges and staff are the best.