Sunday, February 20, 2011

Life, the Universe and Everything (LTUE)

What a fun three days! I can definitely say that I enjoyed this conference (symposium) better than any I've attended for my work. Hmmm. How can learning about writing and getting to hear some of your favorite authors talking about their craft be more fun than, say, taking minutes ... or annexations ... or (heaven forbid) records management?

But seriously, I enjoy my work related conferences because they help me do my day job. And LTUE did that, too, though for a different job, my part-time job.

Robin Weeks drove down and stayed with me, and we worked as "Gophers" for the conference--the staging room for the Gophers was called ... yes, the Gopher Hole. The head Gopher was named Toad.


He's a great guy. Gophering wasn't an onerous job. We signed up for different sessions (so many more options than we provide for my work conferences--my education committee would literally die if they had to get speakers for that many breakout sessions). We were responsible for making sure there was water and cups for the presenters/panelists, taking roll, and giving the 5-minute warning. It gave us an opportunity to chat with the panelists, though Robin's a lot more confident than I am about approaching them. I'm certainly not shy, but I haven't got the chutzpah she has.

At the end of the three days, they have a Gopher Bash and awarded a prize to the most helpful Gopher. The young man who won the prize (a size 5X T-shirt donated by Howard Tayler [comedic webcomic known for Schlock Mercenery] or Dan Wells [best known for writing I Am Not a Serial Killer] and who both cohost Writing Excuses with Brandon Sanderson [not able to attend]--can't remember if Howard or Dan donated the shirt). Anyway, the winner was a very slender young man, and the young Gophers decided to see how many of them could fit in the shirt:

The Symposium
There were so many attendees! I heard they had 1,300 people. It's held on the BYU campus, and students can attend for free, so it's a wonderful opportunity. The cost is minimal at $20 if paid in advance or $25 at the door. (that's for all 3 days).

James Dashner of the Maze Runner trilogy fame was one of the two keynote speakers. Hilarous man. He was on many panels and brought a lot to the discussions as he talked about his journey to being published. What really struck me was how dreadful his first book signing went. It made me think of Natalie Palmer's experience, though she's already learned how to make those go better. It was funny, when James gave Brodi Ashton a shout out but then teased her about needing help deciding which agent to go with (yes, she had several wanting to represent her).

What would that be like?

There were so many great sessions. Following are some of the words of advice I wrote down:
  • Critique groups can be wonderful, but they can also be crippling. Put your work in the hands of people you trust. -- James Dashner
  • Let yourself be jealous because it makes you ambitious. -- James Dashner
  • Don't write just what's hot in the market. -- Tyler Whiteside
  • Attend writers conferences -- Tyler Whiteside and James Dashner (and others)
  • Critique groups should include people who like and read your genre. -- Mette Ivie Harrison
  • Write more than one book before trying to publish because once you start marketing you have so little time to write. -- Anna Del C Dye
  • The average number of books sold by self-publishing authors is 16.
  • For a killer opening you need a first sentence that makes the reader want to read the first paragraph which makes the reader want to read the first chapter.
  • When writing strong women, they don't have to 'kick butt' in a physical sense but can be strong as problem solvers, be proactive, stand up for what they believe, act with strength in spite of their weaknesses.
  • Pay it Forward -- be supportive of other fledgling writers. Don't say negatives things about other writers' works. If you don't like them, don't say anything.
  • If you write a childrens' book and schedule school visits, it's good to to plan a book signing in a location in the area of the school within a week of the visit.
  • Romance works when the reader buys into the characters and believes in them as a couple. In a sense, the reader needs to fall in love, too.
  • Don't sacrifice your story for reality.
  • Don't quit.
  • Don't think you've got it made when you start selling.
  • Don't let rejections get you down. Go out to dinner with every 10th rejection.
  • Finish that first manuscript.
  • The best way to get out of the Slush Pile is to get into it in the first place.
  • Network - be nice to everybody
  • There's no one right way to write a story.
  • The writer's job is to write the best story ever; let the editor fix the punctuation.
  • Favorite new word: "suckify" by Elana Johnson
  • A pitch to an agent is short, emotionally driven, interesting, full of conflict, about someone, your book in bullet points. It is NOT rambling, every plot point, bland, without conflict, about the 40,000 people who live in the world you've created.
And the best word of advice from James Dashner: The first thing you have to do to be published is be born.

A quote by author Dave Farland that I posted on Facebook got a response from a college professor friend of mine:

"You can learn a lot of bad habits in college writing classes." --Dave Farland

Bert commented (bolding is mine):
as a college writing instructor, I agree...

Academic writing is suitable for the academic world, just as legal or business or military writing is suitable for a particular audience. The beginning lesson for any writing class OUGHT to be understanding audience and purpose.
There's a time to express oneself and a time to realize "This isn't about me," but there is never a time to forget the audience.
I thought that was brilliant.


  1. It sounds fantastic. Thanks for the advice list this was my favorite: Let yourself be jealous because it makes you ambitious. -- James Dashner

    ...and crazy :)

  2. Sounds like you had a wonderful time making connections with other writers and authors. Can't beat gaining lots of good advice with a healthy dose of fun.

  3. Yay! Excellent recap. Toad is my hero. Suckify does NOT suckify.

    I think it was Howard that donated the shirt. It fits his works much better than it fits Dan's. (It said something like "A sergeant walking quickly outranks a lieutenant who has no idea what is going on." I butchered it, but that's the gist.

  4. Great summation of LTUE. And Toad did a great job. All the committee people did a great job. Having been on the committee for many years, it's a tough job and rarely gets any recognition.

    It was a great conference and I had a great time there, too. I hope to see you next year.

  5. You did an excellent job at the conference. I was never hunger or thirsty during the three days. I thank you and all the committee, for a job well done.
    Anna del C.
    Author of "The Silent Warrior Trilogy"

  6. Excellent wrap-up! I can't believe I didn't talk to you personally.

  7. I agree with Elana - excellent wrap-up. I also learned the goal is not only to be published, but to be read. I think I've got a lot to learn. At least I won't be bored over the next few years. ;)


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