Friday, May 13, 2011

LDStorymakers Conference

Hmm . . . Blogger ate all but one of the comments from my previous post. Dang! I hope it doesn't make a habit of that. Thank you for the comments and for the warm welcome to my new blog!

I had a wonderful time at the LDStorymakers Writers Conference last weekend. This event is a huge thrill for me, a chance to see my writer friends and to make new writer friends. Spending a weekend hanging out with a bunch of writers is just plain AWESOME.

Last year, the conference coincided with the week BYU winter semester ended, which was handy—I drove out, attended the conference, helped my daughter pack up, and then drove home (it’s a twelve-hour drive). This year, I was disappointed when they moved the conference into May, so the schedule didn’t mesh with when my daughter finished school. But then I discovered there are certain advantages to having the conference on a different week—namely, I didn’t have to help her move. She did all the packing and cleaning and then, when all the work was done, I picked her up at the airport. Win! I mean, um, Amy, I really wish I could have been there to help. Glad it all worked out for you.

This year for the conference I stayed with my sister, who recently moved to Utah. My sister is: 1-gorgeous, 2-thin, 3-a talented and witty writer, and 4-has a spotless house, even though she has a four-year-old son and one-year-old twins. But I’m not jealous. Okay, I’m jealous. She and her husband are also super nice and gracious hosts—they even left mints on my pillow, and they would bake chocolate chip cookies at night for us to eat while we chatted.

The conference began with my getting lost on the way to boot camp on Thursday. I’d written the address down wrong. Oops. Thank heavens for my phone and for the Utah street-numbering grid system. I’d just gone to 500 North instead of 500 South, and was able to quickly correct the problem. And can I just say that the freeways between my sister’s home and the Sheraton in Salt Lake were SO EMPTY! What do you people do with all your cars? Apparently you don’t store them on the freeways like people do here.

At boot camp, I had the honor of working with five awesome writers. The hours allotted for boot camp critiquing always sound like a huge amount of time (5 hours this year), but then once you get going, you find you could actually use even more time, were it not for the risk of collapsing with exhaustion or getting totally incoherent in your critiquing by the end: (Me: “I’m having trouble understanding what’s happening at this point in the scene. It’s all a jumble and it looks like you started writing in Hebrew.” Boot camper: “You’re holding the page upside down.”). This is the first year the conference organizers have scheduled boot camp on Thursday afternoon instead of early in the mornings before Friday and Saturday conference. I thought the Thursday schedule worked out well. For one thing, it was nice to not have to get up so early to be at the conference (and to spend the night before so paranoid about waking up on time that I keep waking up to check the time).

Thursday evening, I went to dinner with Heather and Bill Justesen, Eric Swedin, and Abel Keogh, which was awesomely fun, and not just because we went to Rodizio. That night was also the Storymaker meet and greet, and one of the highlights for me was finally meeting (and greeting) Traci Abramson. Traci is so much fun, and I had a great time chatting with her. She's amazing--she releases two bestsellers every year.

Friday morning, I taught a class on fiction-writing basics called “Timbers and Tools.” I was excited when they asked me to teach on that topic—basic fiction technique is a topic I enjoy (or rather a group of topics). The class went well, with the only glitch being that I couldn’t figure out how to get the PowerPoint to work at first, and the nice technical guy from the hotel came and fixed it for me. Technology is not my strong point, though for the record, I did turn off the TV all by myself tonight.

For the first hour on Friday afternoon, I was the timekeeper for agent Becca Stumpf. My job was to alert Becca when there was one minute left in the pitch session, and then alert her when the ten minutes were up. It turned out to be a lot of fun. I just sat in the hallway, kept an eye on the stopwatch on my phone, and chatted with writers waiting for their pitch sessions. Since I wasn’t pitching, I didn’t have to be nervous. For the record, the only reason I even knew that I had a stopwatch on my phone was because my son had showed me that handy little timer when I was trying to set an alarm to time something (see above about technology not being my strong point).

Saturday morning I was an instructor in an experimental new Publication Primer class that was like an advanced boot camp. For this class, we had critiqued each other’s pages beforehand, so we’d have more time to focus on feedback instead of on reading pages aloud. I worked with a great group of writers, and it went really well, except that I didn’t keep a firm hand on the time (you’d think I would have learned something by timing pitch sessions) so by the time we hit the last two writers, we were rushed. I’ve learned a lesson: next time I’ll make sure to stick to a schedule so everyone gets their allotted time.

Saturday night was the Whitney Awards gala. My sister accompanied me to the gala, and it was wonderful to have her there. Winning a Whitney for Cold as Ice was amazing, especially considering the powerhouse competition. A huge thank you to the Whitney committee and Academy and to the Storymakers conference committee. What a great weekend, and I can't wait for next year! Here are some photos:

Me with Ashley Lavering at the mass booksigning on Friday night. That was a great event--I hope they do it that way next year, with all the authors signing at the same time.

With Kimberley Griffiths Little. Kimberley's book, The Healing Spell, won a Whitney for Best General YA fiction.

With Donna Weaver.

And I am exhausted and the pictures are uploading very slowly, so I'll post some pics of the Whitney gala tomorrow.


  1. The conference was so awesome! I like a lot of the things they did this year too, like the mass book-signing--that was a blast. :)

  2. Thanks so much for the on-the-scene reporting and pics! I want to know/see everything! :)

    LOVE your blog!

  3. Wow, with a review like that, next time I'll put the whole box of Andes mints on your pillow! :) It was great to have you here! We really need to repent of our nightly cookie habit, though.

  4. You were absolutely radiant at The Whitneys - congratulations!

  5. Sounds like you had a lot of fun at the conference. =)

    I'll make the same statement I made last year: if I can finish a manuscript by the end of the year, I'll come to the next conference, at the very least, so I can see you win your 4th Whitney. =D

  6. Rachelle, I agree--I thought the mass booksigning was a great way to structure it! I hope they do that again next year.

    Bonnie, any cookies you don't want, you can send to me :)

    Kerry and Kimberly, thank you so much!

    Jon, good luck with your manuscript! It would be great to see you at the conference ( of course, you might find yourself a little busy in the coming year . . . :)

  7. Congrats on your Whitney!!! Cold As Ice was an awesome book. I so wanted to visit with you during the conference, but time melted away. Maybe next year, or if you find yourself in SL for a signing, let me know. Maybe we could do lunch. :)

  8. Its amazing how one little letter can send you to a different part of the city. I did the same thing you did, but I gave myself plenty of time to get lost and then get it right. GPSs are only as good as the data their given.

  9. Thank you, Kathi! That's the only problem with the conference--it's too short to allow time to chat with all the people I want to chat with! It would be so fun to get together.

    So true, Debra! Thank heavens I had some extra time too, so I didn't have to panic.

  10. I really liked the mass signing, too. It was fun. I really enjoyed talking with you Stephanie!