It’s been a little over a week since I was immersed in the Life, the Universe, & Everything 31 writing symposium at the Provo Marriot Hotel. I went last year and was expecting I’d hear a lot of the same things again about how plots work or how to make your own book covers, etc., things that I needed to know desperately a year ago but have perhaps outgrown since then. However, the mix of attending authors was different this year, and they brought with them new perspectives, interesting ideas, and their unique expertise to every lecture and panel I attended. This has, once again, been an incredible experience. I’ve learned so much, and I’m still going through my notes over and over trying to apply the fantastic things that I’ve gleaned to my own writing.
These are the lectures and panels I attended:
- Writing Short Stories with Angie Lofthouse. The purpose of creating short stories is not to make money (because there isn’t a lot of money in it), but to get your name out there, explore genres, practice story structure on a smaller scale, revel in the satisfaction of reaching that ending sooner, or to tighten your prose craft, to name a few good reasons. I’ve heard mixed advice about whether writing short stories is good practice for novel writing or not since they do require different approaches. This lecture reaffirmed the excuses I use for venturing off into short fiction writing when I’m stuck or need a break from my novel projects.
- First Time Novelists Panel with Renee Collins, Peggy Eddleman, Valerie Mechling, Craig Nybo, Heather Ostler, and Samuel Stubbs.
- What Do You Write? Panel on the journey of discovering your writing genre niche with David Farland, Scott R. Parkin, Eric Swedin, Brad R. Torgeson, Megan Whalen Turner, and Dan Willis (this one really hit the spot for me).
- LDS Horror: Can you be horrific without graphic violence or sex? Panel with Blake Casselman, Michael R. Collings, Michaelbrent Collings, Brett Peterson whom I know from Leading Edge and TM Publishing, J. Scott Savage, and Nathan Shumate.
- Accessing the Subconscious lecture with Dene Low.
- How to Write A Teaser with Howard Taylor–he was an absolute hoot. I will forever remember him evaluating another attendee’s elevator pitch for the conference with “I would totally tease the banshee.”
- Creating Page Turners with Elements of Suspense lecture with Rachelle Christensen.
- Space Eldritch where the all-male panel of authors discussed their inspiration for this “Lovecraftian space-opera” horror anthology they created together. I’m still trying to forget the tentacles…
- How to Outline a Novel with self-published author Craig Nybo.
- Writing Horror: the Fear you Don’t See panel with Al Carlisle, Michael R. Collings, Michaelbrent Collings, Andrea Pearson, Nathan Shumante, and Eric James Stone.
- How to Write a Book in Three Days intense motivational lecture by L. L. Muir.
- Writers of the Future panel about the contest with David Farland and WOTF winners.
- Xenobiology panel on creating effective science fictional flora and fauna in your worldbuilding with Kyle Bishop, Steven L. Peck, Eric Swedin, and Roger White.
- Publishers Panel with Christopher Loke (Jolly Fish Press), Aaron Patterson (Stone House Ink), Brett Peterson (TM Publishing), and Lisa Mangum (Shadow Mountain). I may have found a new small publishing house contact or two to query in the future.
- Keynote Address by Megan Whalen Turner.
- XDM Extreme Dungeon Mastery with Tracy Hickman and Howard Taylor. (I don’t play D&D so don’t ask me why I attended this…other than I hadn’t hit a lecture yet by Tracy Hickman and these two were hilarious).
- Antihero Evolution: Writing for Today’s Market with an Antihero Protagonist panel with David Butler, Al Carlisle, Platte F. Clark, Jennifer Nielsen, and Eric Swedin. (I’ve been writing antiheros lately, so this was an informative panel for me).
- Being LDS and Writing Horror panel with Blake Casselman, Michael R. Collings, Michaelbrent Collings, Steve Diamond, Zachary Hill, and Nathan Shumate (yes, that is at least the third panel I attended at this conference specifically on writing horror as and LDS author).
- Writing Romance Without Erotica panel with Amber Argyle, Bill Housley, L. L. Muir, Rachel Ann Nunes, and Tristi Pinkston. Apparently erotica is not always the same thing as literary pornography. Apparently.
- Alien Office Chair panel with Robert J. Defendi, Mark L. Forman, Angie Lofthouse, and Karren Evans. They were hysterical.
I also attended the mass-signing on Friday night and got to rub shoulders with a bunch of these horror authors and small house publishing editors I was practically stocking the whole conference. I picked up a couple of books (like, three: Space Eldritch, A Short Stay in Hell, and Airel), and picked up a couple more in ebook form after the conference (Darkbound, That Leviathan Whom Thou Hast Made, and Writers of the Future Volume 28). It was good to see a few young authors like me that I know from BYU’s Leading Edge Magazine slush room signing books for the first time. The conference also hosted pitch sessions for the first time this year with about five different editors from five different small publishing houses, though I didn’t participate. The location at the hotel was fantastic, and I ate better than I had all week at the closing Gala Banquet on Saturday night.
My favorite moments at LTUE this year definitely include the lectures on writing horror as an LDS author, the publishing panel, the mass signing where I got to talk to other authors (that’s a big step for me–usually my anxiety of feeling like I’m in a small room with too many people makes me dizzy and I end up not really talking to anybody), and any moments with great humor and deep thoughts. In the closing talk at Saturday’s Banquet, Tracy Hickman spoke to us about how science fiction may not be that great at predicting the future, but it has a great purpose in inspiring it. I’ll probably write a couple more posts going deeper into some of the topics that hit home with me the most, but for now, I’d just like to say thanks to all the wonderful authors, writers, and artists who came to LTUE and contributed their time and talent to make this conference such an incredible experience.