June 3, 2014

LDStorymakers 2014

LDStorymakers is one of my favorite conferences. It's always well organized, has tons of really fun, nice people, and it is attended and taught by a lot of authors that I admire. This year’s conference was no exception. But rather than give you a travelogue, here are a few of the highlights for me, in no particular order:

1. Publication Primer Group
The day before each conference, they offer the option to workshop a completed novel with a critique group and a published author. I’ve always had a good experience with this, but this year was awesome. All of the participants in our group were really good writers, and more importantly (to me), excellent critique givers. Our group leader was Jennifer Shaw Wolf, who writes great contemporary YA. She was genuine and down-to-earth, and she gave really solid advice about writing mechanics and querying.

Sarah Hunter Hyatt was a bonus. She came with Jennifer on a book tour, and we were lucky enough to have her sit in and offer some excellent advice from the perspective of someone who works in publishing.  

The other three participants were all fantastic writers whose work I can’t wait to see published. I have no doubt that all of them will make it someday.

2. Tweets of the Keynote 
I thrive on awkward moments, so I was sad to learn that I’d missed one of the best ones of the century by skipping out on the keynote. Although I had to leave for family reasons, I checked in at the conference hashtag to read updates. The Twitter feed was going crazy with the bizarre and offensive things being said in the keynote address, so I spent the evening riveted to my phone. I was intrigued by the tweets themselves, but even more so wondering how things were going to go the next day when the speaker taught a session to a room full of people who had been saying horrible things about him online. I was torn between laughing at the tweets and praying that the keynote speaker wasn’t into Twitter.

3. Brandon Sanderson
I’ve taken a class from Sanderson before, and even though his genre of writing isn’t my favorite, I think he’s one of the best teachers out there. He’s analytical enough to know what works and why. He’s smart and talented. He’s humble and gracious. He’s funny and engaging. I could listen to him talk about writing all day long. Every time I hear him speak, I feel like anything is possible in my own writing.

I have this secret plan to someday become so successful that he’ll want to be my best friend. He is seriously a good person.

4. Jordan McCollum
I’d never heard of McCollum. I took her class because there wasn’t anything I particularly wanted to take at that time slot, and she blew me away. Like Sanderson, she’s analytical—this woman had spreadsheets to track every part of her writing process—she was a good teacher, and her ideas and methods were just plain smart. I ran out of the class so I could get to the bookstore and buy all of her books on writing before I had to be somewhere, and then I took another class of hers the next day. It was equally impressive. To be honest, I’m probably not organized enough to use all of her methods, but there are many that I will try, and her books on character arcs and character sympathy are pure gold.

She was my favorite new discovery of the conference.

5. Agent Workshop
This year they had a fun new feature where you could sign up for a critique workshop with an agent instead of pitching to them. It was a couple of hours, and you got the query and first ten pages of each participant. This was great because you had a lot more time to spend with agents than is typical, and the query samples provided concrete examples of what will make them stop reading or keep them going. It was pretty enlightening.

The one problem that I ran into was a personal one.

My query basically said:
My novel is a mash-up of X (popular film) + Y (classic novel). Well, apparently the film was involved in a lawsuit for plagiarizing a novel I hadn't heard of—a novel that just so happens to be represented by the agent running the workshop. So, completely by accident and against all odds, I hit an agent rage button with the very first line of my query. Awesome.

It didn't get too much better after that, but my CP (who was also in the class) did say, "I think he hated yours less than some of the others." So there is that.

Still, it was a really good experience. The agent was intelligent, kind, and asked a lot of great questions about all of the manuscripts. It was a priceless experience in learning about agent/query expectations.

6. J. Scott Savage
I always love classes on horror writing. If I had one complaint about the conference, it’s that they don’t really seem to do a lot of panels on horror, and when they do, they’re fairly tame and about LDS horror, which is its own strange genre.

This year, Savage did a great class on horror. He went into so much detail on creating scenes and moods and tension. It was stuff that was great for horror, but it was also applicable to a lot of different genres. It was one of my favorite classes of the conference.

7. How I impressed a NYC agent
There’s an agent I was excited to meet because I stalk her on Twitter, and she seems smart and nice and interesting. Well, I did get to brush shoulders with her, but not in the way I’d imagined.

To attend the conference, I ditched my baby for three days. I'm still breastfeeding, so every few hours I would sneak into the restroom, hide in a stall, and pump and dump. I tried to be discreet as I went to the sink to rinse out the breast pump. Of course, the second I turned on the water, someone came up beside me to wash their hands. I looked over and it was THE agent. She looked down at the pump in my hands and froze. She looked at my face, said, “Oh,” and curled up her lip like it was something disgusting before spinning and leaving.

And that, my friends, is how you impress the NYC crowd.

She was nice in the panels though, and I’m still a big fan.

What about you? What are your favorite conferences? Any smart, funny, or embarrassing conference moments that stand out?


  1. The only con I've been to is WorldCon. It was awesome. One of my favorite memories though is when my friend and I went to Trivia For Chocolate. We've always considered ourselves sci-fi/fantasy geeks, so we thought we'd do pretty good... uhm, no. The trivia questions were on books that I had not only never read, I hadn't even heard of them! And not only that, the other people in there were getting the answers before the moderator even finished asking the question! Needless to say, I was put to shame.

    However, I am quite proud of the fact that I was the only person who knew that the actress who played The Machine was Brigitte Helm. I even got a few gasps of awe when I knew it! But really, I just attribute that more to being a film-buff than an uber sci-fi nerd.

    1. Haha! I love that no matter how geeky you are, there's always someone geekier! It's interesting how many different fandoms there are, and how many people are so hardcore about their favorites! I'll have to look up The Machine. I haven't seen that one.