2019 Storymakers Report

Oh my goodness. Life is a whirlwind right now, especially when it comes to writing. I have some really good news to share later this week, but first things first, I have to catch you up on how my absolute favorite writing conference went this year! Storymakers in Provo, Utah!

At other conferences, I’ve felt like people didn’t want to get to know me, they just wanted to be able to hand me a business card. Writing conferences can feel like competitive, every-man-for-himself kinda shindigs. Not Storymakers. At Storymakers, you can find people who aren’t just looking to network, but to make friends. They remember who you are, year after year. They offer to read your work, ask if you’ll read theirs. I’ve exchanged work with people literally competing in my same category in the first chapter contest, because, as one of them said, “If I can’t beat you at your best, I don’t deserve to beat you.”

To illustrate this point even further, I met my friend Charity through the Storymakers facebook page. We’ve been corresponding since last fall, and this year she invited me to stay at her house during the conference so I didn’t have to pay for a hotel.

This conference really is exemplary. And, so is Charity.

Charity and I right before our first class begins! Her son (seen here in a milk-coma) came with us to all the classes, and was a complete angel the entire time.

This year was quite different from the last one. Kris just had a baby about a month ago, and planned to fly in and fly out on Saturday so she wouldn’t miss her pitch session and the first chapter contest. Christina is currently living in Japan, and there was definitely a Christina-shaped hole in my heart the entire conference. I have Christina to thank for the majority of what I consider to be “conference traditions,” like getting kolaches from Hruska’s.

But I was determined to let this year shine in its own way. I didn’t want to stay hyper-focused on how things used to be and miss out on the new adventures this year could bring.

So on Thursday, Charity came and picked me up from the airport. We’d been corresponding on Marco Polo, and were both amazed at how easily our digital friendship translated into a real-life one. We met up with Amber, Trish, and Julie, some members of her writing group, at a marvelous Mexican-fusion restaurant called Black Sheep. I had the best refried beans of my life there. I never knew that would feel like a notable thing, but it definitely did.

There was a Meet and Greet at the Marriot that evening, and I got to reconnect with my buddy Kelly Moore, Shelly Brown, and longtime friend Jeigh Meredith. Attending the Meet and Greet was a bit of a stretch for me, as I was pretty tired and I don’t love party-style socialization, but the coordinators did a great job sectioning off the rooms and providing really geeky games for introverts and easily overwhelmed extroverts like me.

On Friday I woke up with Jenny of Oldstones stuck in my head.

Charity and I attended some fantastic classes, my favorites of which were taught by Sarah Eden and Jen Nielson.

That evening we went to the Whitney Awards, because Charity is a professional editor, and her client and friend, Amber Argyle, had been nominated for an award! Even though Amber didn’t end up winning in her category, we all had a wonderful time wearing fancy dresses and supporting all the amazing LDS authors.

Charity and I spent an entire day on the phone and Marco Polo planning our outfits before the event. I found my dress for $8 at a thrift store, and then Charity helped me pick out the shawl online!
The design on the back of the shawl was my favorite thing about the whole outfit!

On Saturday we attended more amazing classes, and Kris flew in to Provo! Kris and I both had pitches/query critiques with an agent, and neither of us got a request. This was my first time not getting a request for additional materials at a live pitch session. It sounded like the agent and I had very different visions for the story though, so I didn’t take it too hard.

Kris was a little bummed after flying all the way out to the conference so she wouldn’t miss her pitch + the contest, and then having the pitch kinda fizzle. There was a lot riding on that contest, but she had enough faith in herself to come, and I really hoped that faith would be rewarded.

And she won.

I lost my mind when her name and story title came up. I don’t think I could have been more excited if it had been my own story. She deserved it, and she’s a genius, and I can’t wait until her book gets published so I can hype the heck out of it and everyone can fall in love with it as hard as I have.

The rest of Saturday was spent going to more great classes taught by Sarah Eden and Jeff Savage. I also got to chat with Ruth Nickel for a bit. She’s kind of like a soul-mate buddy I keep running into. I said hi to her last year when she was wearing a shirt that said, “I move the stars for no one,” and I knew we had to be friends. Someday we’re gonna be super close, you just watch.

I went to church with Charity and her fam on Sunday, and had fun walking there with her kids all parading down the street with her toddler on a bike and her daughter wearing a rainbow unicorn bike helmet for no reason other than it looking awesome.

Sunday evening I met up with Turmandakh, one of my former mission companions. She made dinner while we chatted, and she was delighted when I recognized the dish as “tsuivan,” something she’d made for me when we were proselyting in Enoch, Utah together. It was wonderful meeting her husband and kids, just wonderful.

Turmandakh drove me to the airport, and we talked the whole way about Mongolia, Chinggis Khan, and the actual history vs stereotypes of her home country. It was wonderful, and I hope to be able to make visiting with her an annual event.

In the airport on the way home, there was a guy next to me watching the fifth episode of Game of Thrones. I hadn’t watched it yet, because I was waiting to get home to watch it with my husband. At that point I was still holding out hope that things were going to make some kind of sense in the end… but regardless of how I feel about Season Eight, it was kind of a beautiful moment, sharing my enthusiasm for this TV show with a complete stranger, laughing about the temptation to peek at his computer screen, and feeling connected through a story.

All in all, Storymakers 2019 was a complete success.

Thanks for coming on this journey with me.