Writing for Charity 2010

Here’s the pictures I took on the trip. I was shy to get my picture taken after my sickness, since I am very unhappy with my weight gain, but I am very happy to have these pictures nevertheless. And now that my health is really beginning to come back, maybe these pictures will be a good way to track my return to normal health! =D

Writing for Charity has been one of my best experiences in a long time. Despite my horrible morning on the 20th when, to my dismay, my debit card stopped working when I stopped for gas in Sandy on the way to visit my grandparents’ the day before the event. This is one of those things that is kind of comedic to look back on, I’m sure, but the morning was really stressful. Turns out my debit card was shut off temporarily because I had made three online purchases the previous day, and the bank’s system automatically did so in order to prevent identity theft. So a system put into place to protect my money left me stranded without gas at 5am in Sandy, UT. Yeah, that’s never happened.

I ended up in a hotel, spending a mite more money then I had planned in order to do so, but the experience was good. I caught up on some well-needed rest, after that ordeal, and was able to attend Writing for Charity refreshed and excited.

I won’t give you a blow-by-blow, but I will try to give an impression of what the event was about, as well as some personal highlights of the day. Rock Canyon’s Writing for Charity is an event put on in association with the Children’s Literature Association of Utah. They raise money each year with the goal of getting a book for each child in several schools which are not as well-funded. They are also smart about it, meaning many things are donated or sponsored, and they are able to get a book for each child at around $2 each. This means that the $75 registration fee was not only totally worth it as an aspiring author, but that my fee alone got books for an entire classroom of kids.

The event is set up for aspiring authors. A panel of successful local authors donate their time in order to run workshops and Q&As, giving us a chance to really connect with the authors and get advice. Also, it was a great opportunity to just talk to other people who really want to take this seriously. There were so many people to meet and talk to, and I wish I’d been a little more outgoing, but I did get the opportunity to exchange email with quite a few talented writers.

For pre-registering online, I had the priviledge of selecting the author who would critique the first page of my manuscript. I chose Dan Wells, author of “I am Not a Serial Killer”, and “Mr. Monster”. Funny story about the latter, but Sara got it for me for my birthday, and after coming home from school, which I had attended after an all-nighter, I finally got it in the mail a week later. Despite my lack of sleep, I stayed up and read the entire thing in one sitting.

My piece was not ready for workshop. I don’t edit until after I’ve finished the draft, and I have not finished the draft. It’s also really hard for me to tell where to begin my story exactly until after it’s finished. The beginning, especially the first paragraph of a story, is where you make your promise to the reader – and I have a hard time knowing how to make that promise exactly until I’ve finished what I’ll be delivering.

That being said, this was a wonderful opportunity, and not only was Dan himself very helpful, but I had the opportunity to workshop with several bright, positive, talented writers. The best part was that we all had things that were so different, which is awesome because – if we’re all writing the same thing, what’s the point? It was great.

Dan Wells has a great blog, where I found out about this event to begin with, and we talked a bit about his book, Foo Fighters, and Heroscape. Dan, you’re a great guy, even if you come off a little standoffish at first. I don’t care what anyone says. Hahaha. =D

I met J. Scott Savage, who writes in several genres. This was nice for me, since I like such a variety of genres that I have a hard time choosing just one to write in. I know I like middle-grade fantasy more than any other, but that makes it no easier to just choose a single one. Savage had a lot of advice on the subject, and was just a great guy.  He must have talked to me for at least a half hour, or so it seemed to me, because I was just so excited that this guy could be so down to earth and genuinely NICE to me. He was oozing with desire to help people. So many of the authors there were like that, and it’s no wonder that at an event for children’s books, many of these authors have had some experience in education.

Many authors, even those who don’t write things I generally read, were just fun to talk to and had great advice. I particularly liked Sheila A. Nielson, who recently released “Forbidden Sea” (COVER ENVY!!!), and Bree Despain, whose books look really great – although a bit girly and steamy for my taste.

That night at the Evening Extravaganza, we had a Q&A with an “All-Star Writers Panel”, which included James Dashner, author of “The Maze Runner”, which I will be continuing right after I finish “The Hunger Games” (By Suzanne Collins – must read!), Brandon Sanderson, and Brandun Mull – author of Fablehaven. Dashner was fun and easy to talk to, and signed my book readily with the advice, “Write EVERY day!!!”. I also spoke with Brandon Mull, who personalized a book for Sara. Fablehaven has really helped Sara rediscover her love for reading, and has inspired her to begin writing herself.

As always, I bugged Brandon Sanderson, even though he’s signed all the books I own of his to date. He’s been something of a mentor to me, a fatherly figure in the business, since I met him with my writing friend Ian Mayes just two years ago. The event changed my life, and the encouragement and practical advice he gave me is what spurred me on to attend this event tonight. It’s just a wonderful experience to meet authors who write things you like and want to emulate and find that they are such REAL people. Real, and nice. Often they are happy to take a few minutes and talk to you, despite their very busy schedules. Many times they are just as excited about the idea of other writers’ success as their own, if not more, and with Brandon this is most definitely the case.

After sharing a drink with my Camry, I headed home, driving on a cloud. And listening to The Hunger Games.

If you are even considering writing, and want to do so seriously, I highly recommend you find an event like this and attend. There is a free convention called “Life, the Universe, and Everything” which happens each Spring at BYU, and it’s free admission. Get yourself to something like this, and summon up the courage to approach the authors you admire – or even authors you haven’t heard of until now that seem interesting to you. I promise you it will change your entire outlook for the better. Things will open up to you, a world of possibilities where you can keep your Day job and yet, seriously consider writing as a future career.


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