The World Needs Your Story: Join the League of Utah Writers
The world — this crazy world we’re living in– needs your story. Yes you. Stop looking over your shoulder for someone behind you I must be talking to. No matter who you are, you have a story to tell. Whether you are 16 with an idea for a side-splitting rom-com or 80 with a crime thriller you’ve been mulling over, go for it. Maybe you are a trans woman who wants to write about space aliens, or a Latino man interested in writing poetry. Whatever your background, circumstances or experience level, if you are interested in writing, pick up a pen (or word processor).The world is made up of things we make, so make your thing and let it shine. If you need know-how, structure, or simply friends to cheer you on, The League of Utah Writers (LUW) is here to help.
At the League’s 85th Annual professional writing conference Quills, held remotely this year, writers soaked in information and inspiration to fuel their writing for months to come. Nebula-award winning author Cat Rambo encouraged writers in her keynote address. Her enthusiasm for the written word came across the internet loud and clear. She spoke about her School for Wayward Writers, and how she draws inspiration from teaching others the craft. She looks forward to the new worlds writers will create and the stories yet to be told. Five-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award Linda Addison asked the audience to give the gift of listening to others and to self by observing and writing from the heart. New York Times best-selling author Jonathan Maberry, in his keynote, posed the question, “Why not you?” Why not?
The League of Utah Writers is a non-profit organization helping writers write, revise, publish and market their stories since 1935. Let’s take the most common roadblocks and talk about how the League can assist in overcoming each of them.
Roadblock #1: I don’t know how to write a book.
The classic and usually true hangup: I don’t know how. Maybe you are all revved up about your new memoir on your journey out of the closet or the epic fantasy you’ve always wanted to write. But you may be thinking, wow. I don’t know how to write a book. A staggering number of people get to that point and walk away, as if they’ve reached a brick wall with no doorways. Don’t let that be you, not this time. League chapters hold regular classes on writing craft and other aspects of a literary career, such as building author platforms. The Salt City Genre Writers, holds a class each month. Topics range from short story writing to getting organized to character development and world building. The Platform for Publishing Nonfiction chapter holds monthly classes specific to getting the word out about your work. Each chapter offers unique education opportunities. You could be partaking in this richness.
Another way to learn is to get feedback. Chapters offer chances to submit your work-in-progress for feedback from fellow writers. Get ideas for polishing up the work you’ve done and find out if your storytelling resonates or even makes sense. Even though feedback is difficult sometimes, it comes with resources to help you address the problem. For example, if a group member notices your plot is sagging, they may recommend a book or video that helped them with the same problem. Bonus learning: reading peers’ work to deciphering what is and isn’t working.
If small classes and groups aren’t enough for your hungry brain, LUW holds two conferences each year. Each spring LUW holds a one-day conference packed with presentations and Q&A’s where you can cram a semester’s worth of academia into an afternoon. This event also offers members a chance to submit their own presentations for consideration. So if you are further along in your career and have wisdom to share, join the League and add to your experience.
Each August, the League hosts a four-day professional writing conference called Quills. Members get a discount to this wonderland of inspiration, education and community.
Roadblock #2: I don’t have time to write.
If this is your excuse, consider the mind-altering power of peer pressure. Many of us flounder when left to our own devices, prioritizing dishes and social media scrolling over our passions. But if we know that on Saturday someone is going to ask how the novel is coming along, we are more likely to get our behinds in the chair and put words on the page. Accountability sounds like medicine but despite the bitter taste (at times) it gets the job done. If you are not one who benefits from the terror of letting others down, consider another benefit of joining a writing community: being around others who value writing. Simply spending time– whether in-person (it will happen again someday), on Zoom or online chatting– with people who also care about writing can bring the whole endeavor up several notches on your priority list. You may be a lover of literature but always put your family first. Getting to know other lit-lovers may open a door to balancing family and writing. Just think if William Carlos Williams or Toni Morrison had decided they were too exhausted at the ends of their days; where would we be?
Roadblock #3: I don’t deserve to write.
We are all (for some reason) saddled with some negative thinking. While LUW members are not your therapist, being part of a community can help you change those self-defeating thoughts around. Finding friends and acquaintances who are also working toward goals and struggling to do so is a crucial ingredient to the recipe for success.
If you are part of a marginalized group, it is likely that you have spent your life reading works by authors who don’t look like you, love like you or feel like you. This can lead to feeling that there is no place for your story in the literary world. The League is committed to changing that. Conversations on diversity in the industry happened throughout Quills conference, with a common thread being that we welcome and support Own Voices work. Utah may not be the most diverse of places, but Utah writers feel strongly that all voices are important. Whatever your ethnicity, sexual/gender orientation or ability, there is a place for you in the League. In fact, the League hopes to be enriched by new perspectives. Again, the world needs your story. We already have others’.
Roadblock #4: I write all the time but never share it.
Again, chapters offer opportunities to share, both for critique and for fun, in the safety of your own group. Another benefit of being part of a community is the encouragement as you build confidence. Hearing someone say “you should submit that” or “you can do it” is a powerful thing.
Another benefit of joining the League is their contests and anthologies. LUW holds an annual creative writing contest. This year categories ranged from Westerns to poetry to spiritual essays. The contest provides a close-to-home opportunity to submit your work, regardless of where you are in your career. Get an idea of what to expect by checking out 2020’s contest guidelines and categories here. In addition, there is an annual anthology featuring the best work. This offers a chance to experience the entire process of submission, editing, and publishing, as well as a fun way to enjoy the work of your writer friends.
Roadblock #5: I write and publish but I am not having fun.
While many writers tend to be introverts, shying away from large gatherings (thanks 2020) and feeling drained by social interaction, the fact remains that as humans we need support. And variety. If the sound of your keyboard clacking gets monotonous, logging on to chat with your group can break things up, add a little humor to your week and get you into a better head space. Writing is fun, and writing with others is more fun. LUW chapters hold write-ins where a bunch of people type away together in a cafe or library. Of course, the cafes and libraries are virtual these days but just as lively and welcoming. Community may be the spice you need to brighten up this strange year. Once again, the conferences the League holds are another portal to enjoyment. If the League can pull off a virtual bar like they did at Quills this year, I can’t wait to see what they can do in person.
How to Join
Joining is easy. Everyone is welcome. Click here, pay the annual dues ($30, or only $5 for under 18) and choose a chapter. The League, a statewide organization, is divided into chapters by region and by interest. You can choose from over 30 chapters, and you can (for an extra $15 per year) join more than one. Check out the different chapters here. There is something for everyone, from poetry to nonfiction to genre writers (like romance, sci-fi or horror). Each chapter holds regular get-togethers (of course, due to the current pandemic those are being held virtually), classes and critique groups.
Whose life hasn’t been enriched by literature? Many lives are saved by stories and poems, and many lives changed for the better. So if you’re sitting on a heartfelt poem about grief, share it with others who are grieving. If you have the next space-opera-thriller in your back pocket, please get it out here so we can enjoy it. Whether it adds a simple smile to your day or challenges your worldview, literature makes a difference. Give yourself the gift of community. Now is the time.