The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Writing Symposium you’ve never heard of.
I recently had the opportunity to attend LTUE, an annual writing symposium that takes place in Provo, UT. The focus of the symposium is science fiction and fantasy writing, with a little horror and romance thrown in for good measure. It’s small in scope, with hundreds of attendees rather than thousands. After attending only a handful of panels, faces became familiar with smiles and waves of recognition warming the atmosphere to friendly. Most attendees were Utah natives, though a few, like myself, had traveled in from out of state. Everyone proved as interested in sharing their projects, as they were in hearing about the work others were doing.
The panelists, all professionals, were knowledgeable and approachable. Between panels, it was possible, even encouraged, to strike up a polite conversation, and get your questions answered. I occasionally did this, and was rewarded with additional insight on topics such as voice, plotting and theme. Pros such Kelly Barnhill, Brian McClellan, Janci Patterson, and…really just too many to list out here, shared their best tips and tricks on the craft of writing, the business of writing, and encouraged attendees to press on in the pursuit of their writing career. While I learned a lot, mostly, I learned what I still have to learn about the art and craft of writing a novel.
The dealer’s room for this convention felt intimate, with perhaps, the smallest dealers room of any con I’ve attended. Everything that was to be seen could be seen in a twenty minute stroll. Offerings were primarily the books of the pro-authors also attending as panelists, but not exclusively. Authors and a few cover artists were available for signings on the spot. An art show allowed cover and graphic artists to display larger images throughout the symposium, while Artist’s Alley provided attendees the opportunity to meet with many of those artists.
While I came away from LTUE with a generally positive feeling about the amazing teaching offered at the symposium, I did discover a few treasures I’m especially excited about. The first is a bit of software known as Plottr.
Plottr is a no frills story plotting app (available for Windows & Mac, as an iPhone app with apps for iPad & Andoid in the works ) that streamlines the process of structuring a story. The program is intuitive with almost no learning curve. Once the plot has been structured, it can be exported to other programs like Scrivner or Word for the actual writing of the story. Incredibly affordable with exciting updates planned, I immediately put the program to use as soon as I got home.
In addition to Plottr, I discovered a source of additional teaching. Maxwell Alexander Drake presented a panel entitled “Dynamic Story Creation” which absolutely blew my mind. This author and creative writing teacher condensed a six-hour class into a two hour panel, which detailed the heart of storytelling and absolutely sold me on his ability to teach creative writing. He makes additional teaching available via his website, Drake U.com. Be warned, though: Drake’s blunt, “tell-it-like-it-is” brutal teaching style may not be for everyone.
Finally, I had an opportunity to connect with a few members of my tribe. That is to say, I attended a meet and greet with other Young Adult fiction writers and editors. The twenty of us or so congregated, presented a bit about our history as writers, the projects we are working on. Many of us were looking for writing groups to be a part of, even if that group met online via skype. As the years pass, it is going to be a treasure to watch how each of these writer’s careers develop.
As it is, I do not know if I will ever be able to attend LTUE again. I would like to, as it proved both instructive and invigorating. Anyone looking to grow as a writer, particularly a genre fiction writer, should definitely put LTUE on their “Must-Do” list.