By Heather Justesen
Every year BYU hosts a sci-fi/fantasy writing conference called "Life, the Universe, and Everything." I've known about the conference for at least seven years, but my schedule has never permitted me to attend until this year. The conference runs Thursday, Friday, and Saturday the weekend of Valentines (every year, as far as I've been able to tell), and then there's the magic word--it's FREE, which puts it easily in my budget.
Unfortunately I got a late start on the day, so I didn't arrive until after noon, but it was an interesting day filled with varied classes I'm sure I wouldn't have experienced in any other way. You might note that I write contemporary romance, not sci-fi/fantasy, and I admit, there were a number of elements taught in the classes that don't apply to my writing, but there were still many that do.
I think the most fabulous part of being a writer is knowing that no matter what I learn, there's always a possibility that someday I might be able to work that into a story. I may never write a character with multiple personality disorder, but I might give someone a deceased parent who had it. I have no intention of writing horror, but I'll be able to use the portions from the class that apply to suspense.
And really, how do I know what I'll be writing in a few years--some of that might come in more handy than I expect.
After classes ended a bunch of us ended up at a restaurant together to talk and eat and laugh together. I met a lot of great women I never knew, and look forward to getting to know them better in the future. That's another great reason to attend conferences--networking can be the bomb!
Several times in the past year or so I've heard writers say that they didn't go to any conferences before they were published because they couldn't justify the expense. However, like many, many other authors out there, I can tell you that I probably still wouldn't be published if I hadn't attended conferences and learned more about my craft, received feedback, and formed friendships and support groups with other writers. If you're serious about writing and want to make it more than a fun little side hobby, conferences or writers groups (like the League of Utah Writers, which can be an awesome resource if your community has one) are extremely valuable, and there are lots out there that are low to no cost.
I have a full day of classes that I'm looking forward to tomorrow, and lots of new people to meet. If you're in the area, pop by BYU's Wilkinson Student Center to catch a class or two, and if you can't go this year, make a note in your calendar for next year!
Friday, February 12, 2010
By Heather Justesen