My #Utopiacon2017 Experience

In June, I went to Utopiacon in Nashville, which is a conference for authors, writers, bloggers and readers. I had a blast geeking out over books with my best friend, meeting my favorite authors, and of course, getting my books signed.

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Here’s some of the highlights.

Utopiacon 2017_keynoteAmy Harmon, author of Making Faces and The Bird and the Sword, was the keynote speaker. She encouraged aspiring writers to “be a finisher,” and when it comes to writing, “what you don’t know you’ll figure out.” She also did a reading out of The Bird and the Sword, which was amazing because she has this awesome husky voice. I could have listened to her all day.

I got to meet Jennifer L. Armentrout. (Yes, that JLA, the woman who brought us Katy/Daemon from the Lux series, and my personal favorite Layla/Roth from The Dark Elements trilogy.) She’s one of my favorite authors and I did nothing but fangirl in her presence. (I tried to keep it together guys. I really did.)

Utopiacon 2017_Armentrout

I also saw her speak on a panel regarding hybrid authors. JLA talked about how her best career move was taking a risk and publishing with a small press, and discouraged aspiring writers from saying yes to everything. She commented on how that’s why she’s been working non-stop and putting out so many books. (I’m happy she said yes. #sorrynotsorry). Other authors on the panel had great insight. Shannon Mayer, author of Priceless, encouraged writers to invest in their cover and brand, and Elise Kova, author of The Alchemists of the Loom, talked about changing marketing tactics for each series.

Utopiacon 2017 panel

I saw a lot of other great panels and sat through some readings, which are now my favorite thing. Even if you don’t know anything about an author or their books, sit through a reading. I found some great new books this way.

I got to meet C.J. Redwine, author of The Wish Granter. She was so sweet. During a panel on the pressures in publishing, she said, “If I wouldn’t cry at your funeral, I don’t have to care what you think about me.” I’m pretty sure that’s my new life motto.

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Over the weekend, I bought 12 books, which was quite the book haul!

Utopiacon 2017_book haul

I got to meet a lot of authors.

Ginger Scott was so nice. I fangirled about The Hard Count and A Boy Like Me. We talked about the sports romance genre and how we both think that genre should include scenes where the sport is actually played.

Elise Kova seemed so business savvy. I went to her reading of The Alchemists of the Loom and I immediately wanted to read it.

Abbi Glines was quiet, but she signed my book and gave me Rush underwear so I was a happy camper!

Casey Bond was an author I’d never read before, but she spoke so eloquently during a panel, I had to see what she was about.

Amy Harmon was an absolute doll. So nice. I want to give her books a second chance. I think I’ll read The Bird and The Sword since it has some pretty cool magic.

Beth Flynn was such a surprise. I don’t know who was more surprised — me or her. She was shocked that I’d read her books, and I was shocked that this sweet older lady wrote a novel that tore my heart from my body. I joked about needing to join a support group after Nine Minutes, and she jokingly warned me that Out of Time might do me in. She’s pretty much a badass.

Shannon Mayer was another author I hadn’t read before, but I attended her reading and her new series has talking guns…and I was sold from the very first snarky remark. She was also very encouraging when I told her I was an aspiring writer. I kind of want to be her best friend and her Urban Fantasy Rylee Adamson series is next on my TBR.

I didn’t get a picture with Cambria Hebert, but she was fun to talk to, and I got to meet Jasinda Wilder.

The weekend ended with an awards ceremony and a Circus-themed Freakshow Ball. My best friend and I had a great time.

Utopiacon 2017_Freakshow Ball

Overall, Utopiacon 2017 was a success. Unfortunately, this is the final year of the conference, but they did mention a reunion Utopiacon in a few years.

 

 

 

 

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My #UtopYA2014 Experience

Last weekend, I attended the UtopYA Conference in Nashville, Tenn. for the first time. It was the most amazing experience! I don’t even know where to start!

Me at UtopYA2014!

Me at UtopYA2014!

UtopYA is a conference for authors, writers, bloggers and readers for the Young Adult/New Adult genre. But whatever you are, you will come out inspired. I made a goal to attend some kind of book event this year; UtopYA was it and I’m so glad I picked it!

I was so nervous and intimidated the first day. Everywhere I turned, there were aspiring writers and published authors. I couldn’t help but be timid when I explained I was just a humble blogger. Everyone was so nice, though. By the end of the weekend, I felt like, I too, could write a novel if I just tried!

At the book signing with Sylvia Day!

At the book signing with Sylvia Day!

This year’s speakers were Sylvia Day, author of the steamy crossfire series (one of my all-time favs!), and Gennifer Albin, author of Crewel. Can I just say that Sylvia Day is a badass!? I loved her. Her speech was filled with good advice, encouraging words for writers but also business savvy for females in the workforce. I wanted to jump up and yell “Preach, sister!” She was so amazing! Gennifer Albin had a very touching story about how she got published and won major points with me when she mentioned the 18th century work, “Pamela.” (I totally know what you meant! Thanks to my 18th Century Studies grad class, I have a soft spot for 18th century novels.)

Author Gennifer Albin during her speech at #utopya2014.

Author Gennifer Albin during her speech at #utopya2014.

The best part of the whole event was the books. I was in book heaven!! I brought a lot of books to get signed but I brought even more home with me. (I went a bit over my budget, but Shh! don’t tell my hubby. It was a book emergency!) All of them signed by the authors who wrote them. The next best thing? The authors! It was crazy to see the people behind some of my favorite characters. They are unbelievably talented!

I pretty much embarrassed myself when I met Quinn Loftis, author of the Grey Wolves series (Read it, people! It’s awesome!). I was totally fangirling. She was the sweetest thing and I bought the most awesome Tshirt that says, “Keep calm and listen to your inner Jen.” Love it!

Author Quinn Loftis and me holding my new tshirt!

Author Quinn Loftis and me holding my new tshirt!

I also got to meet Chelsea Fine, author of the Archers of

Me and Author Chelsea Fine!

Me and Author Chelsea Fine!

Avalon series. She is beautiful, inside and out! I met so many authors — too many to mention here. I also met a lot of wonderful aspiring writers, and I will most definitely buy their work once it gets published. (And it will get published! Don’t be afraid to pursue your dreams!)

While at UtopYA, I went to a lot of awesome panels, where I got to see the authors I love talk about interesting topics surrounding the publishing industry and writing. My main takeaway from the experience, from a blogger point of view, is my approach to bad reviews. As readers, it’s easy to say how much you just “hated” something. But when someone poured their heart and soul into it, we, as reviewers, need to be critical but sensitive, honest but analytical. Don’t just say you hated it, tell us why. I’ve always felt this way about reviewing. I don’t know if it’s my journalism background, but it’s important to give criticism not spread hatred. It was great to see that feeling affirmed by other writers. Now I’ll just be a lot more conscious of how I share my thoughts. I’m also a lot more informed on the Indie v. Traditional publishing. We, as readers, have the power to boost these authors’ careers (especially indie authors!). We need to buy their books and spread the word! Blogging has always been about sharing my thoughts with other readers, but my eyes have been opened to the marketing aspect of the publishing industry. My day job is working in Public Relations, so I can’t believe I haven’t seen it before, but it reaffirms the purpose and importance of the blogging community. Plus, we all do this because we love it, and if you love a book/author, spread that love!

The weekend was so much fun and I’m absolutely exhausted. (It’s been a week and I’m still recovering!) I’d like to thank my friend Courtney for coming with me. (I totally begged her to come!) I have a huge stack of books to read and another stack of signed books that will be carefully displayed. As Sylvia Day says, “These books aren’t for reading.” I can’t wait until next year’s conference. I’m on such a book high, I may just give this writing a novel thing a shot, but for now I’m going to curl up with a good book and escape — it’s what I do best.