The past few days have been quite exhausting, but in the best way possible. For the second year in a row (can a row consist of only two?) I attended UtopiaCon, a conference for writers, bloggers, and fans. Looking back on last year’s, I can honestly say I was a shadow at best. I went to as many sessions as possible during the day, but found myself anxious to leave as soon as they were over. I didn’t stay for the evening parts, nor did I feel comfortable conversing with strangers who had obviously achieved more success than I had. I was still in the process of agent/publisher querying so I didn’t have a book to show, or business cards to hand out, or even a website to speak of. Who would want to talk to me?
Over the course of the next year, my book was published, I designed my own website and business cards, and purchased a table spot for UtopiaCon 2016. I felt equipped to give it another go, thinking I would spend most of my time selling/signing books. I didn’t think much of the theme—Fight for Your Write. To me that was just gimmicky and…well, whatever. I guess the planning team had to come up with something.
I sat in the 10th floor meeting room waiting for the kick-off speaker on the first night. Several people surrounded me, some quiet, others not so much. Certain people had their team of other authors and bloggers and greeted each other, dancing to the background music and catching up on their years. The speaker had a great talk about her writing road, and the ups and downs it entailed. At one point the talk came back to the Fight for Your Write theme. And something clicked. I encourage you to look at UtopiaCon’s website for the full interpretation, but part of it stuck with me. We were pushed to “cultivate your confidence…unleash your courage…rebel.”
I thought, “Okay. That’s what I’m going to do.” Now, for the record, normally if someone tells me to do something, especially something I think sounds cheesy, I do the complete opposite. But how do you do the opposite of rebelling? Not rebel. Isn’t ‘not rebelling’ in itself a rebelling act against rebelling? Uhh, head hurts. But for whatever reason, I thought I’d go for it.
The next morning I practiced unleashing my courage. NY Times Bestselling Author Alessandra Torre gave the keynote speech, and I asked a question (Whoa!). But I didn’t stop there. Afterward, I approached her and introduced myself. I told her the theme was rebelling and growing confidence so I wanted to say hello to put me out of my comfort zone. She said she considered herself an introvert and was so nervous to give the talk. That took me aback. Here was this bestselling writer that had done numerous publicity events, yet she felt that way (and admitted to it). She put me at ease and my respect for her only grew.
Then there was my table mate, Deborah Roach. Her mother came along as well, and they had to be the two most personable people I have ever met. They made it super easy for me to feel relaxed and meet people. They helped get the conversation started numerous times with strangers. We talked about our writing experiences, promoting, families, everything. The importance of the writing community is continuously emphasized at the conference, but Deborah really opened my eyes. And if anyone needs a good salesperson, her mother can “sell a bag of poop.” Deborah’s words. Truth.
I’m considering not telling the Alex Flinn story, because I may have taken the conference’s theme a little overboard. Nothing terrible, but I went to her talk and signing, told her how big a fan I am of her writing, then tried to nonchalantly inform her I emailed her for a book blurb a few months back but no reply. Okay, so I ended up telling you. The only consolation is that I may have regretted not saying anything…? Moving on.
It dawned on me through the conference that every person there was unleashing their courage in some way. The Young Adult writing world is full of talented women writers, so it was especially awesome to meet Zachary Chopchinski. I don’t know if he realized how much of a rebel I took him for—it takes a lot of confidence to be in the room full of women authors and especially ones screaming when the male cover models show up. Or Jaci Wheeler, who defies the stale formula of dystopian stories by NOT including a love triangle. Imagine that!
I could go on with examples, but you get the point. The conference wasn’t all about selling selling selling. It was about becoming part of a community, getting out of my comfort zone and seeing that it was okay to do so, learning from others who were in the same boat, and drancing on the last night (drunk dancing; the term will catch on…).
I know. It’s unlike me to be so mushy mushy, feels feels. I guess that’s what rebelling does to a person. Next year’s UtopiaCon theme is “Step Write Up.” If only I could predict how I will interpret that.
Just a few of the many people I had the fortune to meet:
Zach and wife Layla