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.

 

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