The last week and a half has been a bit of a whirlwind work wise, to be honest. Outside of releasing The Forgotten Mountain yesterday, I spend five days in Nashville, Tennessee at the 4th Annual UtopYA Con. UtopYA is one of those writer conferences that’s an experience, if that makes any sense. A really amazing one, if I’m to be honest–a useful one, a positive one. Each morning there was an inspiring keynote speaker to stir up emotions, creativity, and drive. There are tons of panel sessions that are meaningful and useful to writers aspiring, new, and veteran. I was asked to speak on the What A Difference A Year Makes panel, and outside of my knees knocking together beneath the table, it was wonderful to be able to talk about the journey we writers go on with others. And that’s the thing about UtopYA–it’s all about the journey and the connections one makes during it.
Writing is often a very solitary career. We wordsmiths sit in front of a computer and type away about people that inhabit our heads and hearts, often eschewing face time with family and friends all in the name of art. Long hours are tucked away with the only voices being those in our imaginations. Discussing these matters with non-writers is often . . . frustrating. Author friends, you know what I mean. I cannot tell you how many of my friends and acquaintances see what I do as a hobby rather than a career. “What do you mean, you have to write?” “You write too much.” “You need to take a break from writing today to hang out.” “Wouldn’t you rather be hanging out than writing?” “It’s just writing. You can do it later.” And my favorite: “Are you ever going to get a real job?”
Writing is my job. My career. This is how I pay bills, how I afford to put my kids through sports. Trying to explain this to non-writers is, even for a wordsmith, often a difficult task. So, it always is a soothing relief to come amongst a tribe who understands–and UtopYA is just that. A tribe. Getting around peers to discuss the intricacies of this career is something that really feeds a soul, and for five days this last week, I did just that. I talked in a panel about writing, talked at my table to both readers and authors alike about my books and the crafts, and hung out with friends and colleagues whose bonds are more often than not forged at unfortunate long distances, come together for events just as this. Networking–such a crucial component to a solitary career–is facilitated by genuine buzz at the con of camaraderie, of genuine inclusion.
It’s like coming for a visit to a warm, writerly home.
As if all this weren’t wonderful enough, I was blown away this year to find The Collectors’ Society nominated for five UtopYA awards: Best Fantasy Book of the Year, Best Supernatural Cover, Best Book Trailer, Best Supernatural Hero/Shero (for Alice), and for Best Couple (Alice & Finn). The craziest thing happened, guys. The Collectors’ Society won Best Supernatural Cover! I was stunned, to say the least. It’s a miracle I made it to the stage without tripping on the fantastic Alice in Wonderland teacup heels I’d brought for the event.
When I finally left and flew home (on just two hours of sleep), I’ll admit I immediately crashed. But the next day I got up and felt refreshed. Inspired. Ready to open up my WIP and dive in feet first and with both eyes open.
UtopYA now becomes Utopia. Borders are broadened. More are welcomed home. I’ll see you all in 2016, ready to recharge and nourish my writerly batteries.