Tuesday, July 2, 2013

UtopYA: How One Conference Changed Everything

Where do I even begin? I've been home since Sunday, and my mind is still reeling. Was UtopYAcon informative? Absolutely! Did I learn more about the craft of writing, marketing, editing, and such? Without a doubt! But even among the things I took away from an author's perspective, the thing I learned the most about was ME.

I spent an entire weekend with a group of people who, although each person was different, we were all the same. And coming from someone who's never related to other humans, that's seriously saying something!

I think we all have preconceived notions of what to expect out of successful people. It'd be a lie if I
said I didn't walk into this conference (my 1st ever!) without my own ideas. I mean, did you see the list of celebrities there?! There were too many to even name. Like, author goddesses and blogging queens! I figured everyone would stick to their own little niches.

Bloggers, go to one corner. 
Future writers, go the next.
Readers, you're over here.
Authors, you're up front.

Then something amazing happened ... everyone got thrown in together like a big, creative melting pot of awesomesauce!!! It was phenomenal! And I can honestly say, not one person was looking past another, trying to find someone more important to talk to. No one stared down their nose like they were just tolerating your presence. It was the first time in my life I'd been around more than one female in a room and there weren't any underhanded attempts at sabotage. You  know what I'm talking about, ladies. That invisible current that sparks when women enter a room. You can feel it. I imagine that's what it's like right before you get struck by lightning. That ominous sense of your impending demise...

Yeah, none of that crap was there! It was more than a little disconcerting. I was prepared to wade through a herd of smiling velociraptors. Imagine my delight before the conference when NYT bestseller, Addison Moore and Wonder-blogger, SupaGurl sat down at our table and actually talked to us like they were interested in what we had to say.

Enter: The Stumbler.

Then they insisted we go outside to the patio where the massive group of Who's Who had assembled. Seriously? Any of you who know me understand I'm not exactly endearingly awkward--I'm just awkward. But in spite of that, I pushed beyond my comfort zone and followed suit. Again, imagine my relief when all the awesome ladies out there smiled and waved and actually welcomed our little group.

I figured there was a good chance we'd actually fallen
 For real.

Long story relatively short, the entire conference and all the authors, readers, and bloggers there were so excited to be a part of each other's lives and success. They were incredibly supportive and enthusiastic. It wasn't one person using another to get ahead. There was no, "I've made it big, so now I'm too big for you," mentality. It was a common theme of: We all love books. Plain and simple. And when you share something as straightforward but powerful as that, there's no competition. There's no need to one-up or compare. There's just inclusion. 

At the end of the conference, the incredible Janet Wallace (hilarious creator and all-around BA woman) opened the mic to everyone there so we could talk about our experiences. What every person had to say was astounding. It wasn't about schmoozing. It wasn't about bragging. Each individual who stepped up to that podium had something genuinely life-changing to say. It was beautifully heartfelt and courageous! Believe me when I say tears abounded! Chi (aka Beth Isaacs) leaned over,
glossy-eyed, and whispered, "This is like a therapy session!"

It was one of the most moving things I've ever experienced.

I'll never forget Amanda Havard stepping up there and completely changing my outlook on life and writing. She talked about her friends in the room, making note that friends wasn't something she was good at. After years of tactics to avoid people, now she felt like she was home. She said she imagined that feeling must've been what high school and college was for everyone else. That this (this time in  her life) was her youth! And guys, that just totally struck a chord with me. The feeling that Amanda described ... it was me! Who knew anyone else felt that way? It'd only taken me 30 years to find that kind of acceptance, but it was totally worth it.

All that I learned and experienced at UtopYA is way too much to cover in one post, but I'm genuine in saying that it was life changing. If you haven't gone before, 2014 is YOUR YEAR! UtopYA 2013: What You Need to Know and Why You Need to Go in 2014. Every person there said UtopYA is their favorite conference because of the tight-knit community. I couldn't agree more. They're my family. And not even the ones you don't claim ;)

Seriously, consider going! If you want to know what's up, who's there, and what to expect, this is an awesome resource:

So, if I had to sum up my experience at UtopYA in one word, it would be INSPIRED.

Happy (and feeling included) Writing.

1 comment:

  1. So true!
    I've been to tons of conferences where everyone's looking to just stay in their little group and cut everyone else down. The inclusive mentality is one reason I love YA/NA writers!