Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Feel Like Makin' Stories

by Robison Wells

As you’ve already heard, the LDStorymakers Writers Conference was held over the weekend. Jeff, Julie and I all gave presentations, as did a couple dozen other LDS authors. It was truly a fantastic event—better, perhaps, than last years’, which was pretty dang good itself.

If you’re not familiar with the Storymakers, here’s a brief recap, some of which I’m making up: several years ago, a smallish group of LDS authors formed a yahoo group in which they could discuss writing and the market and how much they liked to eat chocolate. This Yahoo group continued for some time until it exploded, an event of which I’ve heard only brief snippets, but one that sounds like it would have been fun to witness.

After the explosion, the group reformed—stronger, faster, and better. It was not unlike when the evil Terminator gets covered in liquid nitrogen and then shatters, and then all his little pieces come back together and you’re like “Holy crap! How do you kill this thing!” It was like that.

Nowadays, Storymakers is much bigger. Having grown from just a handful of authors, we now have somewhere close to fifty. We have the whole spectrum, too. There are several authors from the smaller presses. There are about half a dozen of us from Covenant. There are a handful published with Deseret Book. A few are published nationally.

And while were talking about it, let me just say that there are some awesome writers in the bunch. Janette Rallison publishes nationally and has been fantastically successful. James Dashner, the golden boy, has a deal with Shadow Mountain (Deseret Book’s national imprint, which led Leven Thumps and Fablehaven to some rather tremendous sales numbers). Several of the Storymakers have national agents. Many have had articles published in the Ensign and Friend, and a ton of other magazines. Between the lot of us, we have hundreds of works published: romance, suspense, adventure, fantasy, thrillers, humor, inspirational, doctrine, poetry, plays, cookbooks, self-help, and probably many more genres I can’t think remember.

So anyway, the conference was this weekend, and here are some of my observations. This list is undoubtedly going to be different from many of the attendees, since I skipped a couple of classes.

*In the opening presentation, Rachel Ann Nunes declared “I have done drugs”. Of course, this quote is grossly taken out of context. Or is it?

*Whilst fumbling for a definition of literary fiction, she said “well, they usually end bad”.

*During Nunes’s presentation, another Storymaker (non-fiction writer) leaned over to Jeff Savage and said “fiction with a message is boring”. Take that, Jeff! You and your lousy Into the Fire!

*On a more serious note, I’ve decided that I’m sick and tired of defending LDS genre fiction to people who never read it. If you want to criticize, read a stack of what’s currently available, and then we’ll talk.

*One of my favorite parts of the entire weekend was skipping classes and chatting with other authors. More than once, James Dashner, Bill Gardner, Jeff Savage and myself wound up sitting in the empty ballroom chatting while we should have been doing other things. Once, Josi Kilpack came in and started straightening chairs and not one of us got up to help. Ha ha! Chivalry’s finally dead. Took long enough.

*Speaking of Josi Kilpack, I attended her Romance class (how to write it, not, like, how to participate in romance). I came to the sad realization that I write romances. This was reinforced in Jeff’s structure class when he said that if your book ends with the romantic commitment, then ultimately your book is a romance. (Or, he said something to that effect. That’s how I interpreted it, at least.) So, I feel kinda icky.

*I sold out of all my books. Granted, I only brought five copies of each, but then I was able to say “Sorry, my books are all gone!” and create and artificial demand.

*Here’s something really neat. At the conference there was a panel of publishers and editors, including people from Deseret Book, Covenant, Spring Creek, Millenial Press, and Cedar Fort. Lisa Mangum, an editor at Deseret Book, had this to say about the conference:
“I have been to many writer's conferences during my ten years as Acquisitions Editor for Deseret Book Company and I can say without hesitation that the LDS Storymaker's Conference is one of the best I've ever attended. I was impressed by so many things about the Conference: the classes were exceptional, the presenters were stellar, the speakers were inspirational, the attendees were enthusiastic. I left the Conference thinking to myself, ‘Here are the writers who are devoted to their craft, who are willing to work hard and be persistent, who understand the business of writing and of publishing. Here are the writers who are going to revolutionize the LDS writing world.’ I was so happy to have met so many great people who are involved in such a thriving, active writer's community. I look forward to reading the work that will come as a direct result of the Conference. It truly was a privilege to attend the 2007 LDS Storymaker's Conference.”

Anyway, the conference was terrific. I must admit that when I was invited to join the Storymakers (at last year’s conference) I was a little hesitant because of various misconceptions I had about the group. But I can honestly say that I’ve never regretted the decision to join. Many of the members have become my very close friends, and the conference is a sheer delight. I encourage you all to come next year.


At 3/27/2007 1:16 PM, Blogger James Dashner said...

Thanks for the nice words, Rob. I'm really glad that the world will finally realize how awesome Storymakers is (are?). I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I attribute, completely, any success I have had or will have to that group of nutcases.

I love them like family. (In Savage's case, it's more like that long lost cousin who smells like feet and has three teeth, but family nonetheless.)

The conference was an absolute blast, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Especially the whole let-Josi-do-all-the-work-while-we-men-sit-and-talk-about-nothing bit.

A major congrats to Josi and Julie and everyone else on the committee. It was an enormous success.

At 3/27/2007 1:43 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

One of those missing genres on your list might be *historical fiction.*

Great blog, Rob. You've described the weekend perfectly.

At 3/27/2007 5:01 PM, Blogger Josi said...

It was great, and I'm neurotic enough to be sad it's over--even with the sit-on-their-butt-men part. But they likely wouldn't have thrown the garbage out and brushed crumbs off the table the way I like it anyway, so it's probably for the best. Great blog, Rob, and I'm glad you joined up! We're better for it.

At 3/27/2007 9:53 PM, Blogger Katie Parker said...

I thought the weekend was marvelous as well. Everyone involved did a great job!

At 3/27/2007 11:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm just a nobody, but I thought the conference was fantastic. It was so well put together and well planned. I had a great time getting to meet so many people. Everyone was so friendly, too. I especially enjoyed James' (or is it James's) red face when Tristi sang to him with her red feather boa. It was fun, informative, and full of people willing to help. Josi and Julie and everyone did such a fabulous job. A truly great experience.

Rebecca Talley

At 3/28/2007 12:36 AM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

I had to use a red boa so it would match James' (or James's) red face. I'm very in to color coordinating.

At 3/28/2007 7:01 PM, Blogger Carole Thayne said...

I like my friends to be funny, first and foremost and second to never make me feel like an idiot. You fit the bill, at least with the first. I haven't been around you enough to be sure of the second. Thanks for making me smile again.

At 3/29/2007 3:27 PM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

The conference was great, and you were a great part of it even if you didn't help Josi with the table cloths. People really missed out if they didn't go. Especially if they didn't see you put up the Hooters logo during class where you discussed some potential deep symbolism. That was a priceless moment.

At 3/30/2007 11:44 AM, Blogger Josi said...

I'm offended by Hooters (can I get some chocolate-covered cinnamon bears yet?)

At 3/31/2007 3:48 PM, Blogger Janette Rallison said...

What misconceptions kept you from joining before? That Rachel really does do drugs? Or you just thought that a romance type of guy wouldn't fit in with the Dashners of the world?


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