Writers Unite at 85th Annual Quills Conference

The following is a guest post by Melissa L. Larsen.

Many writers dream of writing alone in a cabin in the woods, reveling in uninterrupted solitude, inhaling fresh mountain air. We are often introverts, preferring to spend more time on our own than with others. At some point, most writers are jolted out of this stupor. We wake up and realize, however introverted and/or socially awkward we may be (or feel), we need other humans. Writers need audiences to thrive, and humans need other humans to cheer us on, bounce ideas off of, and keep us from getting too far into alternate realities. 

Back in 1935, a group of Utah writers had this realization and formed The League of Utah Writers. Ever since, the League has provided a home to writers of all ages and skill levels. (As well as varying degrees of social enthusiasm/reluctance.) The League organizes chapters, holds get-togethers and contests, and produces a yearly anthology. Each year since it’s formation the League has hosted the Quills Conference, where authors, agents, and editors from around the country come together.

August 13-16, 2020 will be the 85th Quills Conference, featuring keynote speakers Linda Addison (horror writer and poet, four-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award), Cat Rambo (Nebula-nominated writer of science fiction and fantasy), and Jonathan Maberry (best-selling horror, science fiction and fantasy writer). 

For the past 85 years, Quills has been a place to rub elbows with other write-minded people, grab a drink with new friends and meet face-to-face with agents, editors and experts. When covid-19 reared its ugly head and sent gatherings into hiding, that didn’t stop the Quills organizers. They have transitioned to an online format, opening up availability to those who may not be able to travel or need more flexibility.  This year’s platform may be different, with virtual hang-outs and party rooms rather than in-person bars and ballrooms, but the spirit will be the same. 

Who should attend Quills? 

The conference is open to anyone, whatever their writing goals. If you woke up yesterday and thought for the first time, “Hey, I want to be a writer,” Quills can introduce you to a whole new world of opportunity. If you have been working on that novel for seven years, unable to figure out why your protagonist can’t seem to change, let the expertise of Quills guests help you move forward. Anyone from beginner to experienced can benefit from the over 100 hours of content this year’s conference has in store. Novelists, poets, essayists; there is something for you here. 

Why attend Quills? 

Information: Quills offers an array of presentations, this year available to early birds as soon as August 3 (a full ten days ahead of the usual schedule). Presentations range from guidance on publishing (ie “Publishing Romance to Make a Living” with Elena Johnson) to nitty-gritty craft classes such as “Punch Them in the Face: Writing Realistic Martial Arts” with Charlie N. Holmberg. Learn how to add some tension to your work by attending “Compelling Story Conflict” with Heidi Thornack. Examine your biases through “Authors Discussing Diversity in the Industry” with Jayrod Garrett. Get pointers on where to begin with presentations like “Plotters vs Pantsers” with C. Louis S. or “The Shapes of Stories” with Bryan Young. Oh, excuse me did I say or? I mean AND because this year you don’t have to choose between presentations. You can have them all. This list is a toe-dip at the edge of the pool of knowledge that awaits. Presenters will be offering live Q&A sessions on August 14 & 15. You can peruse the entire catalog here.

Practice: You may be thinking, okay but the information will just wash over me like a wave. I’ll be no closer to my writing goals. Well strap in my friends because Quills workshops are here to help. These 3-hour hands-on courses will be offered all four days of the conference. Since they are live, you do have to choose one over another, because no one can be two places at once, not even on Zoom. Top professionals in the industry will share tips and guide you through exercises to level up your writing. Get a lot of bang for your buck in ‘MFA in a Day” with Angie Hodapp or explore “Story Fundamentals of Speculative Fiction” with Cat Rambo. Check out the list of workshop offerings here.

Pitches: If the presentations and workshops aren’t enough to tantalize your writing heart to the conference, consider the fact that Quills attendees have the opportunity to purchase one-on-one pitch sessions with agents and editors. If you’ve got a manuscript you’ve been holding onto, waiting for the right moment, here it is. This link will take you to the list of guests and more information about the genres and niches they are looking for. Your manuscript’s match may be there.

Anthology: Each year the League of Utah Writers puts out a collection of poetry, prose and essays. This year’s theme is The Function of Freedom and features original work by Utah authors. A digital copy is included with every conference ticket. Hard copies are available for an extra $5 until August 7. 

NetworkingEven if you are a writer who has not yet sensed the importance of connecting with fellow writers, take a look around. Be honest. The whole isolation thing is wearing thin at this point in 2020. The pine-scented dreamscape of hiding away is becoming less appealing by the day as we lockdown amid this pandemic. This is the time to step out (even if only virtually) of your rustic cabin and into a world rich with ideas, comradery and support. 

Registration information and deadlines:

Early birds: If you register before July 31, you can begin enjoying your feast of ideas August 3. 

Late birds: If you miss the July 31 deadline, you can still register until August 10. Your access to the presentations will begin August 13. After August 10, however, you will miss this cool opportunity. Don’t wait. Click here to register.

Cost: Basic Conference (without workshops) is $110 for League members, $150 for the general public. Full conference (with workshops) is $175 for League members, $215 for the general public. Pitch meetings (available only with purchase of conference tickets) are $30 each. Discounts are available for teens, and scholarships are available for BIPOC and LGTBQ+ writers until 08/10. 

Don’t miss out! Register now and join your fellow wordsmiths, from the comfort of home.