Wednesday, February 20, 2013

LTUE report

Life The Universe & Everything 31 is a writing conference in Provo, Utah. Very affordable for a three-day conference. No, seriously. $30 for a three-day conference is a FARGAIN BARGAIN, people!! Writers such as David Farland/Wolverton, L.E. Modesitt, Howard Taylor, Larry Correia, Megan Whalen Turner, and Rachel Ann Nunes were there on the writing panels.

From 9 a.m. to 7pm for three days I filled my brain to capacity listening to panels and taking notes. My notes look something like this:

My sketchbook filled up on Thursday, so Friday I resorted to an actual notebook.  With lines. (blech.) Then I visited Carter Reid's booth. Not only does he do the funnest zombie web-comic ever, but he sells sketchbooks! Total lifesaver. He autographed and sketched in my brand-spanking-new zombie sketchbook as well as drawing me a little zombie-bust when he autographed "Space Eldritch." Can I geek out about this too much? I think not. (Yup, total fan-girl...)
So after I got a new sketchbook, my notes looked like THIS: (no lines!)

I stayed at the hotel which was very nice on the gas budget, and I was sharing the room with a good friend as well! How awesome is that? My biggest commute consisted of walking a block to find dinner one night :) Yummy little pizza spot in one direction, a Chinese restaurant in the other direction - who fed us so much we had two meals of leftovers - and a little hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop called Sammy's that is to-die-for. Sooooo good.

So I geeked-out first at Carter Reid. And then I geeked out at Howard Tayler - can't be helped, he's awesome - over the calendar. He sketched a mini-Schlock-in-a-mug for me. And oh my goodness, the squeals of joy when my 12 yr old saw it. :) And a surprise gift from a friend? A Tagon's Tough's t-shirt. Can you say comfy? I can. Yep. Good stuff right there. If you don't listen to Writing Excuses and you want to be a writer, get over there and download those podcasts. Right now.

I met a lot of great people, picked an editor's brain, and probably played fan-girl too much to some of the people I twitter-stalk and admire.

I went to Sandra Tayler's panel on Thursday, which I loved. She has typed up her notes from her presentation. Go read them! This presentation really hit home for me, because I struggle with finding the time - or feeling guilty for taking the time - to be creative. Actually, just read her blog, period. She is inspiring and full of all kinds of wisdom. It was an absolute honor to meet her in person. Her book "Cobble Stones" from her blog is wonderful.

Megan Whalen Turner's keynote address is still reverberating through my mind, because it touches on something I feel very strongly about. Choices. "The right to not read a book is just as important as the right to read it."

Parents who wish to ban books from school libraries or label books for content are not doing their children any favors by taking the choices away from them. Even two-year olds know what stories they love and which ones they hate. At some point that child is going to have to decide something on their own. What better way to learn what they like for themselves than to choose books for themselves? And yes, they will make wrong choices sometimes. That's part of life. But how can you learn to make good choices if you've never made bad ones?

The great part of reading is that if you discover it scares you, or you don't like it, you can put it down, chuck it across a room, or delete it. There's no one saying, "You MUST read this." Well, ok. Maybe sometimes in life there is. But you can always choose to say nope, I'll take the F or let me read something else. Sometimes good English teachers will bargain.

Another favorite quote is from a panel that I didn't attend. It was the panel on "Space Eldritch." Someone was asking how there could be heroes in a world where the god was evil and bad. Howard Taylor said this, "Which is more heroic? Choosing the right because your god is watching? Or choosing something because you know it's the right thing to do?"

That's a writing prompt right there if ever there was one. And food for thought.

My brain is still full, and trying to decompress. I was so tired, I could hardly move on Sunday, let alone think. I spent most of yesterday and today trying to get the house caught up on everything that was ignored while I was gone, but my internal batteries are still recharging.

The last day of the conference was a hard one. A great many things went wrong that day, both at the conference and at home. I struggled with feeling torn between doing things that help me grow personally, and feeling like maybe my kids aren't old enough for me to take personal time, or that I'm not 'allowed' to do things like this because I'm a mom and am just being selfish. Which is ridiculous, yet true in a way. Mostly, I felt extremely insignificant surrounded by such talented people, all with stories bursting forth determined to be heard.

Saturday was a strange day, because in exact proportion to the things that went wrong, so many things went right. I spent some time with an editor who shared tips and tricks to refine my query letter and submit my story. I had a great conversation with a humorist I follow on twitter. I managed to get both a sketchbook and an anthology at a discount price. I even found all of the authors of the anthology "Space Eldritch" to autograph it. (If you're not into horror, don't read it. If you are into horror, it's great.) I got to 'sit at the feet of greatness' and soak in wisdom.

As I let the emotions and events sift through my consciousness, I'm extremely glad I went. I came home with some fun swag. I learned a great deal, and I made new friends and strengthened existing friendships. I have ideas spilling out of my brain - both for new stories and for fixing my existing work in progress. As much inner turmoil as I've struggled with,  I'm not giving up. I can't. I have not yet made my mark on the world, and I have stories to tell.

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