Writing Conferences

Writing conferences can be beneficial, but they can be huge distractions to one’s writing. It reminds me of my days in the Air Force, Military Intelligence, and that wonderful figure of speech: oxymoron. Do writing conferences help or hinder productivity? Are they nothing more than venues for successful writers to indulge in self-esteem building groupie-fests? Or, are they an outlet for the introverted and talent-less to find friends, influence people, and rub shoulders with real writers? I have experienced great surges in creativity and output after attending a good conference or convention, presenters have influenced me for the better, while some conferences have left me waking up in a dark pool of my own writers’ block-esque-saliva wondering if I could ever be a writer, or why I thought I was a writer. Over the last few weeks, I’ve attended two very wonderful and creativity-enhancing conferences and the World Horror Convention, and I can say…

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Of all the writing conferences in Utah, LDStorymakers has a strange magic that draws the introverts out of their lairs in packs – or tribes – Me and Nikki Trionfo, the Queen of Storymakers Tribe.

I have been lucky – very lucky – in attending two writing conferences and the World Horror Convention. Lucky because I can say they were wonderful and helped me get out of a writing rut. The two conferences, probably the most notable in the state of Utah, are the League of Utah Writers Spring Conference and the LDStorymakers Conference. The League of Utah Writers, or LUW Conference, is one of two conferences held by the league, one in the Spring, and a much grander event with more workshops, writing contests, and an awards banquet held in the Fall. LDStorymakers, or Storymakers, is held annually, usually in May around Mothers’ Day.

The LUW Spring Conference gathers experts, novices, and beginners in the fields of writing and publishing and delivers timely workshops on everything from writing basics to social media use and short story construction. The conference is held on a Saturday and provides a much needed boost for the veteran, beginning writer, and every-writer in-between. It offers great topics, as well as an opportunity for the traditional introvert to get out and socialize and receive some great instruction. The other plus is the cost: $20 for members, $30 for non-members. I have been a serious member of LUW for the last couple of years, and this was my first Spring Conference. The highlights for me were Paul Genesse‘s Short Story workshop and Michael Bacera‘s Social Media Extravaganza!!! One of the reasons you’re reading this blog is courtesy of Michael’s outstanding workshop. Check the links or visit LUW, Paul, and Michael on Facebook.

LDStorymakers is probably the largest writing conference in Utah, and despite focusing on the LDS or Mormon market, it delivers on all levels. One will detect immediately, however, the main emphasis is on cracking the novel market. Adding to the concentration on “novel” publication, middle grade and YA genres have dominated the workshops and presentations in past years. However, this year, Storymakers embraced a larger writing view, including more speculative fiction (science fiction in addition to just fantasy), horror, magical realism (my favorite), and work geared toward adults, as well as the latest genre, New Adult, not to mention Romance in all its flavors. I have attended this conference for the last six or seven years, and the volunteer staff has consistently delivered National-level writers and agents. The headliners for this year’s conference included New York Times bestsellers Jennifer A. Nielsen, James Dashner, and Brandon Sanderson, as well as local favorites too numerous to name (okay, maybe a few: J. Scott Savage, Heather B. Moore, Julie Wright, Robison Wells, Sarah M. Eden, Josi S. Kilpack, and, and, and…). One of the hallmarks of the conference is the inclusion of publishers and acclaimed literary agents, which this year included Marlene Stringer, Jenny Bent, Josh Adams, Marisa Corvisiero, Brianne Johnson, and Tracey Keevan. The cost is a bit steeper than LUW – about $200 for Friday and Saturday – but compared to other national conferences, and the writers and agents Storymakers attracts, it’s really reasonable. There is also programing on Thursday, for those interested: a beginning writers’ bootcamp of sorts and an evening kickoff party that is unrivaled in the state.

Brigham Young was right. Utah is the Write Place!

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Jennifer A. Nielsen is the best! One word to describe her workshop: Balm-o-Gilead. She is Hope : “do not give up!” And she delivered on how to get that last 1% to success!!
The 2016 World Horror Convention in Provo, Utah, featured Jack Ketchum, Joe McKinney, Kevin J. Anderson, Brian Keene, Darren Shan, and Keith Thompson. The reason I mention it in this “Writing Conferences” blog is that many “Cons” have started embracing or including the “Writing Conference” feel into their programming. One example is the annual Life, the Universe, and Everything Conference or LTUE Convention, which for the last several years has catered to writers and writing. Most of the Comicon events also set aside Writer-centric programing, and even the smaller SteamFest, Conduit, etc., have writing and author components. The World Horror Con has followed suite. A friend and I attended in 2012 in Salt Lake City, publishers were present accepting pitches, as well as programing geared toward writers (including a class taught by Mort Castle). This year, there were several panels dedicated to writing, publishers and pitches, as well as a writing class taught by David Farland. Other Cons, including this year’s inaugural StokerCon, have embraced the writing (although, StokerCon is connected to the Horror Writers Association (HWA), so that may be a no brainer). Bottom line: writers have an unlimited amount of venues to learn, practice, and perfect their craft!

2 responses to “Writing Conferences

  1. I love conferences! Obviously. They recharge my writing battery, even if they do distract from the actual writing. I remember why I’m doing this in the first place–to share my stories with others. 🙂

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