WHAT IT’S LIKE ATTENDING A WRITING CONFERENCE

Guest post by Christine Eller.

Christine Eller received her diploma in Creative Writing from Long Ridge Writers Group in 2013. She has self-published two short stories under the pen name L.C. Eller. She enjoys dancing with her kids, reading YA fiction, devouring chocolate, and writing. Always Christinewriting. She has adopted Utah as her home and plans to explore with her husband and four kids as much as possible.


For those interested in joining LDStorymakers Conference next year, I’ve broken down my experience into the three days I attended.

Thursday: Workshops

At first, I was completely horrified at the thought of opening my mouth. Three ladies sat down beside me and simultaneously pulled out their individual laptops. The one device I didn’t bring.

Reluctantly, I placed my rainbow notebook on the table and kept my head down. Relieved the lady to my left needed a piece of paper while her laptop charged, I handed it to her and turned my gaze to the four instructors talking about key points in Setting, Description, and World Building. Assigned to write a short story and read it to those at my table, I introduced myself as a newcomer in both writing and the conference. Everyone continued to give me constructive advice and by the end of my first workshop, I was a little less nervous.

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My next workshop focused on Plotting and Story Development. Two out of the four instructors reminded us that “Your writing is better than you think. —James Dashner” and “Be proud of your genre. —Jenny Proctor”. Then the hard part came. I had to brainstorm an idea within three minutes. Afterward, we broke off into groups so the instructors could provide feedback on our latest projects. I stumbled over my words and proceeded to die of embarrassment. I learned from the instructor exactly what genre I was writing and where to go next in my story. But, despite the upbeat energy, I still felt cruddy.

Friday: Storymakers Conference

I can firmly say I’ve never attended a place so loaded with imagination before. All 700+ attendees met up in the Grand Ballroom and listened to each instructor introduce themselves followed by their favorite word. Told that a way to start a conversation was to ask someone what their book was about and in return I’d have the chance to explain mine, I sat up front and tried not to make eye contact with anyone. There were giveaways, funny videos of authors reading feedback on their books, and the first chapter contests. Not sure the total number of submissions, but a lot of people won.

We separated and I went to the first of my two intensive classes.

Jennifer A. Neilson talked about getting past that last 1% and on to publication. It was in her class that I realized I could accomplish my goals as a successful author if I marketed in the age group that purchased my book.

In Sarah M. Eden’s intensive,  she had everyone stand up during each hour block and dance for thirty seconds to recharge our brains. I also figured out answers to problems I was having with my main character just by following up my questions with, ‘Why?’ The pieces fell into place and I understood exactly what I needed to do next.

In between my intensive classes I went to the LDS Market panel by Melanie Jacobson, Jenny Proctor, and Traci Abramson that touched on the clean writing specifications for publication, and a class focused on how to write a query by Marlene Stringer.

Everyone met back up for dinner and listened to keynote speaker, Dr. Chris Crowe. Not only did his speech have humor it was also painfully beautiful and full of emotion. Truly unforgettable.

The day was pretty jam-packed with thought-provoking remedies for writing and marketing. All though I did not come face to face with a writing friend, I did buy a few books. Because… BOOKS!

books

Saturday: Storymakers Conference—Take Two

The feelings from Thursday were fading into a thing of the past. Though I still didn’t want to be in the spotlight, I did learn that a lot of beginner writers were introverts like me. It didn’t appear this way throughout the conference as we met up that morning—everyone chatted like BFF’s. I did, however, feel right at home with the loud cheering and laughter.

I took the escalators down to Dr. Chris Crowe’s intensive class—Micro Revision on Book-Length Projects, where he started off with a little humor and a lot of editing. Then that hard part came. He had us make word-ku’s in three minutes. I did pretty well until he said create syllables for a Haiku. Suddenly, my brain began to laugh at me. Panic set in when he walked around the room calling on people to read aloud. Instantly, I prayed for the power of invisibility. Though his class was a few steps over my head, I did learn a lot about tightening up my sentences and letting those extra words go.

 Brandon Sanderson addressed us during lunch. My favorite part was when he read his eight-year-old son’s book about three worms that defeated the bad guy by becoming ninja’s, but not until the end. Also, the dessert provided was heavenly. Another great brain recharge.

Before my last intensive, I decided to go to Mrs. Janette Rallison’s class—Psychology of Romance. I learned how to build your female character into someone the reader would root for and how to turn your male character into a heartthrob your reader wouldn’t think cliché. Learning about Villains in Jacob Gowans’s class created a few maniacal laughs (in my head) and more fresh ideas to get your villain just right.

With so much under my belt I was ready to sit in the most anticipated class of the weekend: Brandon Sanderson’s—The Plot Thickens. As he went over several ways to write an outline—the three acts, the nine-point system, etc.—I thought how crazy jotting down everything into beginning, middle, and end categories sounded. Then he caught my attention by saying, “If you’re a pantser…”—someone that lets the story take them where it wants. I learned that I am a discovery writer aka a pantser. The problem, and why listening to Mr. Sanderson was so important, is to be able to make my stories come to life I had to have a guideline. This way I could DIG DEEPER and reveal more.

During dinner, they announced the new emcee’s, the new chair and vice chair, and when LDStorymakers would be in full swing again. And I quote, “Storymakers17, May 12-13.”

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After the conference, I realized that instead of being discouraged, I still had a lot to learn. Every day is a new day to grow as a person, shine as a writer, and/or, just love what you do. If you want to learn how to write, the LDStorymakers Conference is a step in the right direction. The food is good, the people are inspirational, and the knowledge obtained is priceless.

I’m glad that I chose writing as my profession. Authors truly are the best people to know. They’ll befriend you and invite you to be a member of their crazy, goofy, tribe.

Create. Believe. Write.

 

 

Jennifer Bennett

About Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer J. Bennett was born in Southern California as the youngest of six children. Her imagination began to develop as a child creating worlds in her backyard. Books have always played a big role in her life; favorites growing up were “The Country Bunny” by Dubose Heyward, “The Light in the Attic”by Shel Silverstein, and “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’ Dell among many, many others. She also enjoys music, theater, travel, and cooking.

Jennifer moved from Southern California in 1989 and finished high school in Southern Utah where she met her husband Matthew Bennett who currently works in educational administration. They reside in St. George, Utah with four amazing kids: Haylee, Chase, Conner, and Libby. After her father was diagnosed with cancer, she began writing her first novel, “The Path”. Her father encouraged her to move forward with her writing and she has continued since. He passed away in 2009.

Jen, as her friends call her; can be found buzzing around California from time to time in search of magical elements from the past. She tries to balance fun, being a mom, and trying to be a grownup (which she really isn’t sure she ever wants to be).

Visit Jen’s blog at: http://www.jjbennett.com/

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