Last weekend I did something I've never done before, I went to a writing conference. And not just any writing conference, a fantasy fiction writing conference. Anybody who knows me and my preferred reading/writing genre knows this is not really my style or likeness at all. My friend Heather was going with a few friends and invited me as a way of getting me in contact with some local editors so hopefully one of them will take a chance on an unknown kid and give me a job as an editorial assistant (though Heather did tell me later she was really hoping to convert me to fantasy. Not going to happen!).
I'd been preparing myself for Life, The Universe, & Everything (or LTUE) and what I'd come across there. I was expecting a lot of nerds- obviously- and I wasn't disappointed. I was surprised to find a lot of Mormon moms there- some with their small children in tow, which I find annoying- and a few of whom were gushing over my new kate spade. There were a lot of famous writers I'd never heard of, a fully grown woman wearing a cookie monster hat, and plenty of self-aggrandising on the part of the attendees.
For the most part, the panels were useless to me as I don't write nor read fantasy/science fiction. By the end of Friday, after being at the conference in Utah County from 9 am to 7 pm, I found myself missing the comfort and non-judgemental familiarity of Salt Lake County. There were some good moments though, and one panel actually gave me a break through about my own inability to write my book in a pleasing manner.
We were in the "Writing Excuses" podcast panel, and one of the guests was a writer named Michael Brent Cummings. He spoke briefly about having lost a child, and how that experience has led him to be able to write about it in a believable manner now that he is out of the situation. That's when I realized why I can't write about my rejected kidney, finishing school on and living with dialysis- I'm still in the middle of the situation. I'm fairly certain I won't be able to write the book until after I've had a successful kidney transplant, and who knows when that's going to be. I guess I need another idea of what to write, and it's not going to be a fantasy novel.
Other good things: The keynote speaker as a guy named James Owens and he was fantastic. It was more of a motivational speech than "Look at how great and successful I've been in my career!" type of deal. What I really took from his address was this: Don't trade what you want most for what you want most at the moment. And I know this has been said a million times before, but he really drove it home with experiences and it seemed more poignant somehow this time around. (break) I went to a local publishers panel and learned the names of some people to contact about jobs in publishing. Just like for writers, local publishers can be a stepping stone to national ones for girls who just want to edit. (break) There was a panel called "Writers on Writing" with some cool guys (Dan Wells, Tracey Hickman, Dave Wolverton, Lee Modesitt, & Brandon Sanderson) who talked about the triumphs and struggles of being a writer. It was neat to hear a guy who's had a phenomenal writing career talk about how right now is the hardest point of his career. (break) Our hotel basically shared a parking lot with Krispy Kreme so we stopped and got a dozen on our way back from dinner. Chocolate glazed is the best.(break) I got the email address of an editor who might have something for me to do. All I have to do now is email her my resume.
It was an interesting weekend. I did not go to the panel about how to draw a dragon, or the one about creating languages, or the one about injecting romance into your ghost story, but I learned a few things and made a few friends and told a number of people that I did not go to school at UVU so no, I don't know where random building is, but since they all seem to be connected in one long hallway with classrooms on the side, just walk this way or that and you're bound to find what you're looking for. It's always interesting to see how the other half lives.