by Stephanie Black
The LDS Storymakers Writers Conference, held at the Provo Marriott last weekend, was awesome, awesome, AWESOME! Conference chairs Jaime Theler, Crystal Liechty, and Tristi Pinkston did an incredible job, as did all the conference committee. This was my second year attending the conference, and I’m looking forward to next year.
I left Wednesday morning to drive to Utah. I was driving (as opposed to flying) so I could load up my daughter’s stuff and take her home from BYU. At the last minute, we decided to store her stuff in Provo, and I thought wow, I could have flown and saved myself twenty-four hours on the road. But as it turned out, even with storing the things she wouldn’t need over the summer, she still had about eight bazillion pounds of stuff, so the minivan was plenty full. Next fall, I’m going to make her sign an Affidavit of True Need for each item she wants to take with her. Think it’ll work?
I picked up author Melissa Aylstock
along the way and we kept each other company through the long drive. Everything went smoothly. My husband had taught me how to put chains on the tires, but we didn’t end up needing them—it was snowing in the Sierras, but the snow wasn’t sticking to the roads. We made good time and arrived in Provo late Wednesday night. I spent Thursday helping my daughter pack up, which reminded me of what a pain in the neck moving is. On the plus side, I bought Krispy Kreme donuts and it was a happy moment indeed when they asked if I wanted a hot, fresh, free, bonus donut.
The only hitch in the weekend for me was sleep deprivation. I needed to be up very early, since I was a boot camp instructor (boot camp starts at 7:00 AM). Don’t you hate it when you’re worried about waking up on time so you keep waking up all night and checking the time? Urgh. On Thursday night, I was also worried about my presentation the next day, which didn’t help with the sleep thing. I woke up at 3:10 and couldn't get back to sleep. I finally gave up, got out my computer and went through my presentation again. Good thing everyone else in the house was asleep, or they might have thought it freaky to come upon me sitting in the dark, whispering to myself about mystery and suspense—almost as freaky as the sight of me sitting in my car in a parking lot the previous evening, talking to myself as I went through the presentation. At least no one called the cops, though if they had, maybe I could have asked the responding officer for advice on writing police procedurals.
My class—“Weaving Chills and Thrills: Techniques for Mystery/Suspense Writers” went well, so I’m very happy about that. My very first PowerPoint! I feel so technologically advanced! Okay, it was a very plain PowerPoint, without any pictures or animation or anything, but it WAS a PowerPoint and even had a sort of mystery-looking background my daughter had found for me. John Ferguson, bless him, showed me how to work everything. And I did hit the wrong arrow key and went backward once, but it all worked out. Boot camp also went well—we had a great group of writers at our table, and everyone was very helpful and insightful in giving feedback to each other. Two of our boot campers, Jordan McCollum and Kathleen Perrin, won prizes in the First Chapter contest. Hooray!
Saturday morning I was on a Writing Processes panel. I was on a panel last year and found out it wasn’t that scary, so I wouldn’t have been particularly nervous except that I was feeling rather out of my league. The other people on the panel were all big-name authors: Aprilynne Pike, Dan Wells, David Wolverton/Farland and Anita Stansfield. I’m not worthy! But once the moderator, Heather Moore, started asking the questions the audience had submitted, I realized I did have things to contribute, and it turned out to be fun.
Saturday night was the Whitney Awards gala, and Rob Wells and the Whitney committee did a fantastic job. The competition in Mystery/Suspense was extremely fierce (heck, competition in all categories was brutal). I’d told myself many times that [book that wasn’t mine by an awesome author I admire greatly] was going to win, wanting to prepare myself and not let my hopes get high. That moment when the lovely ladies of the LDS Women’s Book Review called out the name of my book—wow! Deseret News reporter Michael DeGroote was sitting at the same table as I was and snapped a picture of me when they announced the winner; you can see it in the Mormon Times article here
. I’d claim I was all calm and dignified and articulate when I gave my acceptance speech, but if you were at the gala, you’ll know I’m lying, and even if you weren’t at the gala, that picture probably gives it away. I feel deeply honored and deeply grateful for this award, especially considering the AMAZING competition.
Here are some pictures from the conference and Whitney gala. I'll have additional pictures posted on my website
From left to right: me, Stephanie Fowers, Janette Rallison (Janette was a Whitney finalist for Best Young Adult fiction), Candace Salima.
With Rachel Nunes and KC Grant.
Hillary Parkin, Shanda Cottam, Angela Eschler, and Sheila Staley.
Proof that Rob Wells called me Saturday morning to ask, "What are YOU wearing today?" He wanted to be twins.
With Heather Moore (Best Historical finalist) and Josi Kilpack (Best Mystery/Suspense finalist).
With Gale Sears (Best General Fiction finalist) and James Dashner (Best Speculative Fiction finalist).
With my daughter, Amy. Amy was my date for the evening. And no we didn't plan to match--it was pure coincidence.
With Dan Wells (Best Novel by a New Author winner--first ever tie in the Whitney voting; he won with Riley Noehren).
In other news, I've finally joined Twitter. My, um, Twitter name--is that what you call it?--is StephanieMBlack (pause now for Rob to tell me I got the terminology wrong and I sound like his grandmother).