Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Top 10 Highlights of LTUE

Happy Valentine's Day! Sorry, but this is not that kind of post.

February 9-11, 2012 was the 30th annual Life, The Universe, and Everything (LTUE) Writing Conference which was held at Utah Valley University. It is very instructional and useful to anybody established or working on becoming a writer.
In the spirit of David Letterman, I thought I would highlight the top ten things I loved about LTUE.

#10 - Making New Connections

LTUE is largely about making new connections, and there are many opportunities to meet new people with similar interests. Whether hanging out in the hall where somebody shared with me their tips on publishing, attending the banquet at the end where I sat at a table with people I've never seen before, or just turning to the person next to you in a class and asking them what they are working on.

One example was when I went into the seller's room and met David Power King. He was talking about a website to help people with their blogs (and I need help!) called inkPageant. David was nice enough to offer a quick glance at my blog and to offer advise.

When he got here he said, "Hey, this place looks familiar." He glanced to the right and, yep, there was his smiling face in the list of this blog's followers. So while I didn't know him from Adam on my blog, I'm glad I do now. It was nice bumping into him over the next couple of days and giving a quick, "Hey, Dave!" as we passed by.

#9 - Meeting People I've Only Known From Twitter/Online

It wasn't just about new connections. When I went to LDS Story Makers I hardly new anybody there. Like LTUE, I did make a few friends (I'll touch on that in #8) but, otherwise, I barely scratched the surface. Luckily, they have a writer's group from Story Maker attendees in various ways.

And now, I can put a face to a name! And, trust me, they all stand out in my mind because they are worth getting to know.

Elizabeth Mueller - Who gave an excellent reading of her book Darkspell.
Brenda Sills - One of the nicest people you'll ever meet in the Twitterverse.
Robin Weeks - Who moderated several of the panels.
Lani Woodland - I was so scatterbrains I had to meet her twice to have it set in (sorry, Lani).
Nichole Giles - An excellent person to follow on Twitter.
Shelly Brown - Funny and informative, everyone should follow her. Plus, the story behind her haircut makes her one of my heroes!
Jaime Theler - I only met her BRIEFLY at Story Makers.
Sarah Eden - Again, I met her briefly at Story Makers. I made sure the string of men winning her romances remained unbroken.
Carolyn Frank - We are in the same writing group through AI. I almost missed her on my rush between classes, but I"m glad I didn't convince myself to visit with her later. I would have missed out on a great opportunity.
Daron Fraley - Probably the only person I recognized from his Twitter profile picture before glancing at his name badge.

#8 - Seeing Old Friends

It was nice to catch up with those who I have met in person.

T.J. Bronley - I sat next to him during the AI Social. More on him in #4.
Tristi Pinkston - Editor Extraordinaire!! I had met her at one of her book signings at Costco, as well as her son. If you are looking for an editor to go over your work, I recommend Tristi. Without a doubt, it will be her I take my work to first when I finish. Just be aware that there is a long waiting list to get to her. She is in high demand! Another great note, she has recently lost 80+ pounds. Want to know more? Just visit her weight loss update and blog post.

#7 - The Panels

The panels were fantastic! The moderators asked good questions and the people they chose to answer them were experts in the field. Here is a list of the panels I attended. Go ahead, tell me you aren't jealous!

Tolkien and Lewis: Why they are still relevant after seventy years
Evil in Fiction: Creating Conflict (James Dashner was on this panel)
100 Story Ideas in 1 Hour (Dan Wells was on this panel)
How to Write a Good Short Story
The Principles of Suspense (James Dashner was here, too)
Book Bombs: How to Make an Amazon.com Best Seller
Why We Love Horror
Little Stories Everywhere: Using Blogging as Practice for Writing Fiction
Plots, Subplots, and Foreshadowing (Brandon Sanderson, the master of all three topics, and James Owen was on this excellent panel)

#6 - The Classes

Like the panels, the classes were fantastic! Again, a list of classes attended. There were more classes than panels, so I'm going to list a few of my favorites:

The Fractal Key to Narrative Complexity
Creating Effective Villains
From Idea to Story
Avoid Cliche Like the Plague
Writing Action
Story Structure
Self-editing and Revision (Tristi taught this, see #8 for more info)
The Good and the Bad of Speculative Fiction
Accomplishing Your Goals as a Writer (by Brandon Mull, who actually covered a lot of ground but not how to accomplish your goals as a writer)

#5 - The Instructors

Imagine spending three days learning at the feet of some great instructors, including Brandon Sanderson, Dave FarlandBrandon Mull, James Dashner, James Owen, Tristi Pinkston, Larry Correia, and Dan Wells -- as well as many others. The instructors were amazing. I think everybody -- no matter their skill level -- walked away from this conference learning something new to apply to their writing.

#4 - Lunch on Saturday

After standing in the Subway line for 40 minutes I joined a bunch of the online buddies I listed above (#9 and #8). It dawned on me later that the three I chat with the most over Twitter were the three I sat next to. Thank you for a wonderful lunch break, T.J., Jaime, and Shelly! If I haven't made it clear: All three are fun to connect with through Twitter.

#3 - The Book Signing

I was really excited for this. So excited, in fact, I forgot to bring all the books I meant to have signed. Luckily my copy of Way of Kings (spoiler: one of the best books ever) was in my car so I did get Brandon Sanderson to sign it. I didn't forget my camera, so I got a few pics with some great authors:

I'm going to get wordy here.

I got in line for Brandon Sanderson first, since the back of it stretched closest to the room's entrance. I've been wanting to meet him in person for a VERY long time. His assistant, Peter, was nice enough to take a picture of us.


Next, I headed over to see Tyler Whitesides. I missed it when he was handing out copies of his book, Janitors, at LDS Story Makers the year before, but I managed to beat a signed copy out of somebody. So I read it, reviewed it on my blog, and befriended him on Facebook. 

I did meet with him briefly at Story Makers (not sure if he remembers, I'd be surprised) and I thought he was a very nice guy. Everybody who knows him also says he is a very nice person. Meeting Tyler again sealed the deal for me. Tyler has got to be one of the nicest people in the biz!! Thanks for making my night, Tyler!

Oh, and I got his picture:


Next, I headed to James Dashner. I had just finished his Maze Runner series and I told him how much I enjoyed it. I got his picture, too. He made the funniest comment, too. He saw me toting (lugging?) around Way of Kings and commented that the book had more pages than his entire trilogy combined. I think when Dashner's prequel to the trilogy comes out, I think it will still be shorter than Way of Kings.


And, finally, I got to meet the man of the weekend, James Owen in person. Interesting story: James Owen and I were friends on Facebook even before he was announced as the keynote for LTUE. He has a FASCINATING story. A story I think every writer should read about it. He wrote a relatively short, but inspiring book, on the journey he had to undergo in order to become what he is today. No, scratch that. Not just writers, EVERYBODY will benefit reading his book. It is called Drawing out the Dragons. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED READING!

And, of course, I got my picture with him as well!




#2 - Meeting Brandon Sanderson

Everybody who knows me learns quickly that Brandon Sanderson is my favorite author. Ever since picking up my gateway drug into Sandersonism, Elantris, I've been a die-hard fan. In fact, I've been a missionary. I've converted many others into reading his works. Have you, Mr. or Ms. Blog Reader, embraced the greatness that is Brandon Sanderson?

I now have pictures with him, Orson Scott Card, and David Farland. I think I'll be able to get a picture with Kevin J. Anderson in May. So that will nab all my favorite authors except for Stephen King. I'm not holding out much hope for that one.


#1 - The Keynote Address by James Owen

Speaking of James Owen and his book, Drawing out the Dragons, he gave a retelling of what is in the book as his keynote address. He left some things out and added some other interesting details (because the audience was primarily his religion, he added some religious details that made the story THAT MUCH BETTER).

There were many eyes that were left undried. Yes, his story is that inspirational!

The Bottom Line

I really got a lot out of this conference. When they hold it next year I would highly recommend attending if you can fit it in your schedule. It is one of the cheapest you will find out there ($30 for all three days) and Utah County is a cheap place to visit when compared to other possible destinations.

I have two writing conferences that are on my "must attend" list every year. LTUE and Story Makers, which is coming up in May. I recommend both!