Friday, May 17, 2013

Epic Recap of Storymakers 2013 - Agent Secrets, MG Characters, Show vs. Tell, & Spooning With Authors!

Hope you've got a snack and a favorite beverage. This will be epic!

For those who missed Storymakers 2013, welcome to the recap! The schedule was jam-packed with awesomeness this year, so I picked the classes and workshops that would help me where I am in my writing journey - and there's plenty to go over. On with the show! 

May 9th - 12:30 to 6:00 PM - Boot Camp / Primer / Dinner!

"Boot Camp" is an popular feature of the Storymaker's conference where unpublished authors gather at a table with a mentor (usually an editor or published author), where everyone takes a turn to read their work and provide instant feedback. It's a great introduction to the critique group setting, and getting your feet wet to criticism.

"Publication Primer" is fairly new with the same deal: gather at a table with a mentor and provide feedback on your work. What sets Primer apart is the work is read ahead of time, giving each author a deeper ... depth to their work, and lots and lots of notes! It's geared toward more seasoned writers who have manuscripts ready for submission.

I did Primer this year, with Platte F. Clark as our mentor. Everyone's work was impressive, I must say. My fearless critique group was there as well, each at different tables (we set it up that way on purpose). To my surprise, my submission was a success! It's pretty cool when your mentor goes (essentially), "I don't have a critique for you - I honestly couldn't find anything for improvement." *Fist Pump!*

Thankfully, our group ended early. Good thing, too. I was hungry, and J. A. Bennett was in need of a hand to get the food for ...

May 9th - 6:30 PM - "Write or Dine" Storymakers Dinner. 

Oh, they're quite a merry gathering, eh?

Last year, I had this idea: organize a writerly get together, to eat and socialize, after a long afternoon of Boot Camp and Primer. Well, we overflowed the restaurant. This year, life happened, and I wasn't able to set up another, or find a place that could accommodate so many. That's when Lady Bennett stepped in. Before I asked for help, she volunteered, and had a great idea: combine the goodness of Costco with the wholesome literariness of the local library. Pure brilliance!

We had 60+ show. They ate all our food. Some took a box of pizza for the hot tub later, too. It was here that the amazing Ilima Todd announced her two book deal with Shadow Mountain. Whaaat!

A successful second round, I say, and the name 'Write or Dine' is going to stick. Since Storymakers 2014 will be in Layton Utah next year (oops, spoiler alert), we may have to appoint another host.

So until next time, come hungry!

May 10th - 9:00 AM -11:30 PM - Let The Conference Begin!

Now, if only I can find a seat ...

This was, by far, the most packed Storymakers I've been to yet, with 400+ peeps. Tristy Pickston, the MC, started us off with a hilarious Men of Storymakers calender. Ooo-la-laa! Then, off to the first break, to which I checked out From Concept to Plot - Turning Your Idea into a Full Story, with Jeff Savage and Tyler Whitesides. What I liked about their approach was they did mock pitch sessions with well- known books, and pitched with no plot, just ideas. Stark difference.

 These guys know their plot-points!

Then, I checked out John Brown's class, Clear and Vivid, which had one of the boldest comments about writing that I'm going to have to agree with - "In writing, there is no such thing as 'showing.'"

(You can check out his slideshow here).

What?! No such thing as showing? Where's my torch and pitchfork!? Nah. His presentation made sense. In truth, I can't show anything to a reader. I'm telling them information. It's a matter of effective telling or not. Description and detail is telling, but because the words plant an image in our head, we interpret that as being shown something.

I love thinking outside the box! Not a fan of hard-fast rules ...

Next, we had Lunch. I met up and caught up with a lot of excellent people, coached a couple pitches (to which one of them got a full request - score!), and then had a chicken dinner. Hmm. Chicken!

Even before that happened, I had to get a few books signed ...

This massive book signing was ... massive!

After all that jazz, I had the honor of being a guest on Author's Think Tank, a podcast for writers, which should go live in a few weeks (you can catch an early preview of what we talked about here.) By this time on the second day, I was beat, so I carried myself to the hotel lobby and found a whole host of awesome, including the amazing Jessie Humphries, who, as some of you know, continually asks, "when are we going to spoon, DPK?" Still not sure how to answer that one ...

... but it's good to know I still have that charm, right? ... right ...

Note: No actual spooning took place - even though Katie tried to sneak a potentially incriminating picture with her smartphone ...

May 11th - 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM - The Final Day *Sniff*

I came a bit late to the last day. Don't ask why. Because I'll tell you. I forgot to bring Chad Morris's book and ARC to sign! Got it, he signed it. Good times! So, what did I first do? I checked out a class taught by a former critique partner, Peggy Eddleman (who gave me an ARC of Sky Jumpers to read - it's okay, you can be jealous). Her theme?

Getting Inside the Head of a Middle Grade Character!

Loved her thoughts on the subject, stuff like giving a character strengths and weakness, success and failures, fears and passions, and smarts and mistakes. It explains why her book is so good!

I have no pictures for these next ones (low battery - had to charge), but one of them was Making the Jump from Small Publishers to the Big Six (Five) with Jeff Savage and James Dashner, a pair of my fav authors. I enjoyed their personal story. My book will be out from a small publisher too, so their insight was ... insightful, and may very well help me with my own writing journey, when I get there.

During lunch, there was the first chapter contest, to which I have to give a Shout-Out to Kate Coursey and Anthony Dutson for their wins! It's a tough contest - for realz - so congratulations!

After lunch, I heard from James's agent, Michael Bourret, who shared his top secrets about agents, editors, and publishing, which are:

Agents are people, too.
Publishing is smaller than you think.
Agents and editors don't like to say "no."
There is not one measure of success in publishing.
There is never a "there" in your career - always another goal.
Revising is more important than writing.
You are your own advocate.
There are no secrets. Be proactive and you'll find them.

Good stuff.

Then, sad as it was, we had to end the conference and make our goodbyes. Of course, I couldn't go without freaking Shallee McArthur out with my "famous" zombie strut, or freaking everyone else ...

Yes - that is a "power" shirt, and I need a shave ...

It's not that bad! The guys approve the zombie strut, right guys?

 Rock on, guys ... now, where's the brains at?

This year, I had a big reason to celebrate this year: this was the first conference, ever, when everyone in my critique group came!

Lindzee Armstrong, "Power Shirt" Guy, LaChelle Hansen and Darren Hansen (yes, they are a couple). Am I really that tall?

A few other awesome things happened. Alas, I am sworn to secrecy, but your mind is going to be blown when you find out what's about to happen. I know, I tease, but trust me. It will be worth it!

So long Storymakers 2013, the 10th anniversary of the conference, I might add. This is without a doubt my favorite writing conference in Utah. Watch out. With a book coming out soon, I plan to branch out and see the conference scene in Nevada and Colorado, or wherever the winds take me. Keep writing. Do your best. Don't sweat the small stuff. We are writers because we love it first. Write on, partner!

What did you think? Epic enough? False advertising? Take away anything that I covered? Anyone seeing Star Trek today?

I'm David, and if you happen to spot Jessie, tell me to hide ...


  1. No such thing as showing?
    Looks like an awesome time. They don't have many conferences in this area, which is a bummer.

    1. Throws you back, huh? He explained it better. :)

  2. It was a great conference. My first Storymakers, but definitely not my last. Great meeting you!

  3. I'm so jealous of the good time and networking you received. Looks like a great conference.
    Seeing Trek tomorrow, I think.

  4. I wish I could have come. Next year! And that zombie strut picture IS freaky. ;)

  5. Write or Dine and the conference was full of epicness. You helped me with my pitch last year and I ended up with a full request, so I am not surprised you did it again. Thanks for the shout-out, and I can't wait to hear about the secret awesome things. :)

  6. I totally didn't get any pictures. Brain overload with info. Something I'll have to do better next time :)

  7. It was so great! I'm super sad I missed out on that couch/spooning action. ;)

  8. Can't wait to hear about the super secret news. Also, I spotted Natalie Whipple there in the very top picture. Woo Hoo Natalie!

  9. Looked like you had an awesome time and you met up with Jessie, lucky! Glad your mentor pretty much gave you an A+, way to go David. And Arcs too! Ahhh! I need to come next year and get a passport.

  10. How the heck was I there all weekend and didn't get a picture with you???

    1. Wait, you were there!? Shoot. I was wondering where you were. I said the place was jammed packed! :)

  11. Thanks for the play by play but now I'm totally jealous. If you ever get out to a conference on the east coast let me know....

  12. That's one mighty good-looking critique group you've got there! ;) Storymakers was a blast! It's fun to see a recap.

  13. I always wish there were more things like that in my area. I'll just have to make the long trip more often.

  14. Great recap. Such a fun event and so many great classes. Thanks for doing all that work with Jennie to host that Thursday event.

  15. Wow so many people, it looks really fun, maybe it will get closer to where I am at some point.

  16. It looks like a wonderful experience. Unfortunately, they have nothing like that, where I live. It definitely looks like you had a lot of fun.

  17. The conference was awesome and I'm so glad I was able to meet you! And thanks again for the dinner on Thursday night, you and Jennie are the best.

  18. Yo Spooner:)

    Dude, thanks again for a great recap - I remember the one from last year and I'm officially putting Storymakers on my bucket list for Writers' Conferences:)

  19. That was a great time. It always is. Thanks for putting on the dinner.

  20. That looks like so much fun! Love the power shirt!

  21. So jealous! I MUST visit Utah sometime and experience all that epicness! I'm seeing Star Trek on Sunday!

  22. Sounds so awesome. I'd love to come and meet all of you.

  23. That sounds like a wonderful conference, and I'm glad that you had such rewarding feedback.

  24. Your zombie strut was so scary, I had to close my eyes. ;) The conference was amazing, and it was fun as always to see you there!

  25. It is sad I was only able to attend one day of this conference; however, the short time I was there sparked a light back into my writing mojo that has been lacking for a while. So many ideas were captured there. And it was especially great to talk to you at the conference. You are *kick*in' awesome, DPK!

  26. Love your recap of the conference! I loved every minute this year and it was so great to see and meet so many people at the Write or Dine dinner. Thank you and Jennie for arranging that!