Now that it’s been almost a week since the Life, the Universe, and Everything symposium, I’ve had time to recover and actually process the experience. I’ve already posted my raw notes, but I wanted to talk about all the stuff that didn’t happen on the panels.
I was on the LTUE committee for the 2010 and 2011 events, and it was nice to go back just as a participant. The new venue, while not perfect, was really good. I rather hope that the symposium stays there for 2013
as I understand there were fewer red tape issues re: panelists. I still got to hear some behind-the-scenes tidbits from currently serving committee members, so it was a nice slice of both worlds (huzzah for access to gossip but no responsibility!).
Dark and early Thursday morning, Gwynne and I drove down to Orem for the symposium. We attended a bunch of panels (separately and together), and there was a brief break where we ran off to check into the hotel room we had booked.
(Note: Getting a hotel room was possibly the best idea we had ever had. With how late we were done and how early we had to get up, there is no way we could have added an hour commute each way and still stayed sane and pleasant.)
Stacy Whitman had mentioned before the symposium that she would be open to doing group lunches/meetups with LTUE-goers, so I made it a priority to track her down on Thursday to ask about it. Luckily for me she had a panel that morning (What Exactly Does an Editor Do, Anyway?). She said Saturday for lunch was good and I was briefly introduced to Karen Sandler, author of the very awesome Tankborn.
The brief introduction meant I was slightly less deer-in-the-headlight-ish when Stacy pounced on me and Gwynne that night as we were headed out to dinner. Karen needed to grab food, too, and that’s how Gwynne and I ended up taking a real, honest-to-goodness writer out for dinner. I was initially terrified that I wouldn’t have the brain to come up with anything to say and that it would be awkward, but Karen was a great conversationalist and really kept things going while Gwynne and I found our footing.
We stopped back at the symposium briefly to catch the end of Stacy’s last panel, and then we picked up Brittany (a mutual friend of mine and Gwynne’s and a current LTUE committee member) and went out for ice cream. Gwynne rode with Brittany to catch up since they hadn’t seen each other for a while, which meant I had my first chance at a conversation with Karen all by myself. Despite the discussion of both religion and politics, I managed not to come across like a complete idiot. (Or if I did, she was polite enough not to say so.) I think the discussion over ice cream was my favorite part—we talked favorite books and our current WIPs and generally enjoyed Coldstone ice cream. Afterwards Gwynne and I drove Karen back to the hotel. (Yes, the same hotel, and no, that wasn’t an accident. No, I am not a stalker. Promise.)
My socializing experience with Karen on Thursday meant that I was brave enough on Friday to approach Donna Milakovich, President and Area Director of the Lehi Chamber of Commerce (whose website I cannot find. Help?), while she was in line to get her book signed by James A. Owen .
Donna gave an amazing presentation on Thursday night—It’s All About Who You Know: A Guide to Building Professional Relationships in the Publishing World; AKA, Stalking Your Dream Agent Without Getting Arrested—so I used the skills she’d taught me. We spoke briefly, and I gave her some feedback on the presentation. She, in turn, sat through me stumbling over an explanation of Uncanny Valley. Gwynne briefly hopped in on the conversation before she ran off to be with her family.
By that point we were at the front of the line, and Donna was kind enough to let me jump ahead of her so I could tell James how much I loved his main address. He was very friendly, but he had a ton of people waiting in line to get things signed, so I let him get back to his work.
Afterwards I wandered into the dealers’ room because I hadn’t been there yet. It was during a panel, so the room was mostly empty. Before I knew it I ended up having a conversation with Sandra Tayler, a writer and the publication/distribution half of the Schlock Mercenary business. She was charming and I thanked her for her participation on the Feeling Fake panel—there were things on there I definitely needed to hear. Sandra was the second person to ask me about Uncanny Valley, and while I did better than I had with Donna, I still wanted to go headdesk myself into oblivion again afterwards.
Friday night I was able to give Karen a ride to the hotel again, and she, Brittany, and I had a great conversation on our way back to the parking lot. (Parking = one of the downsides to the venue, but it was just fine once I decided high heels were stupid Thursday afternoon.) It was only then that I was able to give a coherent summary of Uncanny Valley–third time is the charm, apparently. Or at least grants you a little dignity.
I had two social goals on Saturday, but I only managed to accomplish one of them. I tracked down Stacy and Karen and the three of us, plus Brittany and Gwynne had a (very brief) lunch together between panels. We talked about the Wheel of Time series, the panels we’d gone to, the limited Saturday food options (another downside), and other random things. My second goal—to find Dan Wells and tell him how excited I was that his new book Partials included Mexican characters (and an Indian main character)—was a bust. I’m hoping I can get to his book launch in Salt Lake City.
…now that I think about it, I’m not sure I actually went to any panels that had any of the four Writing Excuses people on it. Huh.
So! I actually stepped outside my comfort zone last weekend and actively tried to socialize with people. And I even learned a couple things about this whole networking/socializing thing, the most important being that sometimes it’s just easier to strike up a conversation by sincerely thanking people what they’ve done/created/been awesome at/etc.
The second most important thing I learned was that next year I need to actually write and practice a one-sentence pitch so I don’t verbally vomit all over the place when someone asks me what I’m working on.
Stay tuned for a breakdown of my top five LTUE panels!