The below is a guest post by Alan Zaugg.
Networking, building relationships, and stepping out of your shell, all while receiving guidance and tools to help hone your craft. That’s what The League of Utah Writers’ Quills Conference is all about. The three day event was loaded with workshops, presentations, keynote speakers and opportunities to pitch to editors and publishers. These workshops and presentations, given by authors and writers, offered tools and advice for every stage of writing.
It’s an event put on by writers for writers.
In Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi, Jedi Master Yoda instructed Luke Skywaker to “pass on what you have learned.” Presenters did just that, passing on knowledge and experiences to other writers, from novice to advanced and everywhere in between, to help them improve and grow.
When you first enter the lobby, you’re met by volunteers who provide name badges, maps, schedules and everything else you need to make the even work for you.
Thursday was for the heavy duty workshops and Friday was the start of the main event. The Conference Kick-off introduced key members, speakers, and guests and attendees were taken on a tour of the mobile app and its interactive features. This was where the power of scheduling took center stage and where League leaders provided extra motivation and encouragement to get writers off and running.
One thing that was emphasized at the kick-off was the reason for the event – to network, connect, and help each other find success as writers. After all, that is the overarching mission of the League of Utah Writers. That theme, or mission, carried through the remainder of the weekend. It was emphasized again and again by conference leadership, mentors, and presenters.
Friday and Saturday were the two biggest days with a jam packed schedule of events and classes for every writer and every genre.
Another important feature offered by the event was ‘Pitches’. Writers could pay a fee for a few minutes of time with editors and publishers to pitch their stories and novels. They’re ushered out to tents to meet and sell themselves and their work. The end goal for writers is to be published. Opportunities like this are great tools to help achieve that goal.
In between a couple presentations, I found one of the writers and presenters in attendance.
Bryan Young is president of the Salt Lake Genre Writers, one of the League’s many chapters. I asked him how long he’s been attending this and other writing events. He indicated he’d been attending events for the better part of 15 years. He loves the opportunity to mentor other writers and share the knowledge and tools he’s gained along the way in his life. He’s been a member of the League for three years and relishes the chance to help others refine their craft and further their careers.
Bryan’s advice – take the opportunity to attend these writing events, as many as possible. They’re there to benefit and help writers hone their craft and network with like-minded individuals.
I didn’t have the opportunity to attend the entire event. Work and other responsibilities limited my availability. However, in the short time I spent there, I was introduced to a whole other world I hadn’t known. I didn’t attend the luncheons or the banquet and awards ceremony, but there’s always next time.
This was the 84th year of the event and there will be many more to come.
When I arrived I was lost and overwhelmed. I felt out of my element, very much a misfit with zero confidence. It took me until Saturday to settle in and find a level of purpose. That’s not the fault of the event, but rather my own insecurities and struggles as a writer.
In a brief conversation with Terra Luft, Conference Committee Chair, she said something that resonated with me. I talked about trying to fit in and find my comfort zone or place among the many authors and writers. She said “everyone’s faking it.”
Three simple words that speak volumes to what it is to be a writer. If you’re trying to fit in, just be you and realize that everyone else is in the same universe you are, doing the same things you are.
My advice, if you’re a writer looking to succeed, this is the place for you. If you lack the confidence or poise to forge ahead in your craft, make the time to attend these conventions. You’ll meet others who, like you, want to be better and achieve measured success. Start simple though. Join your local chapter and the League. Participate in the write-ins and critique sessions. Insert yourself into smaller scenarios where you can build a network and firm foundation to stand on. These can help grow your confidence and craft.
That’s what I’m doing. Quills taught me a lot about writing, about myself, and about the lifelong journey that lies before me. It can and will do the same for you, if you allow it.
During his presentation, an attendee asked Bryan about resources, specifically finding beta readers for their work. His response is worth noting and remembering for the struggling writer: “The league is the best resource for beta readers. Everyone is here to help one another advance their writing and their careers.” He continued with writers are “here for each other, to help each other.”
Don’t be afraid to reach out, ask questions, and lean on others for sound advice. Remember, everyone’s in the same place with similar goals and aspirations.
That’s the overarching theme and purpose of the League of Utah Writers and their events like Quills – helping the writer in all of us to succeed.