Three years ago, I attended UtopYA Con 2012, and shortly after, my life changed. I’d already published a few books, but it wasn’t until I applied what I learned at UtopYA (now Utopia) that my sales took off. More importantly, I made new friends, and, this year, I got to see most of them again. I also got to make new ones.
This year, things started off with a bang for me when I walked into the hotel lobby dragging my heavy suitcases only to be greeted by fifty people in a very long line. This was actually a GREAT thing, because all the people standing in line were friends. This meant catch up time.
I roomed with Alison Pensy and shared tables with Chris Cannon and Misty Provencher, and I couldn’t have asked for better company.
Our awesome speakers each brought something different to touch and inspire us toward greatness. Denise Grover Swank had me laughing and crying–sometimes at the same time–as she talked about insecurities and how all writers have them (even her!). Lauren Miller’s advice to embrace the detours and listen to the voices was a reminder to all of us that the journey can be as important as the destination. And Kim Holden told us how to make our mark on the universe in epic proportions.
I was also fortunate to be on the Expand Your Universe panel with Mindy Ruiz, Rachel Harris, and Misty Provencher, where we had a blast talking about how boobs can help you make friends (right, Rachel Harris?). That’s kind of an inside joke, lol. Trust me. You want it to stay that way.
And thank goodness for Susan Burdorf, Alison Pensy, and Kim Holden at the tax and money panel. I was just there to smile and give comfort to those like me who hate to think about accounting!
I was pleased as punch for the opportunity to have lunch with my fellow Texas Writers of Teen Fiction, Rose Garcia and Venessa Kimball, and about twelve other lovers of the young adult genre, including Shantella Huddleston-Benson. I was especially grateful to see my street team Divas, Lisa Graziano and Doris Orman.
Thursday night I was kidnapped by the Indie-visible team for a business meeting and bonding over Cards Against Humanity. This was a special time hosted by Kristen Day, Christina Mercer, Chelsea Starling, Crystal Bryant, Victoria Faye, and Beth Isaacs, who were joined by Ashley Bodette, Ginny Gallagher, Delphina Miyars, and Maghee Cain. I’m sure I will never ever forget this night, and I see a great future for Indie-visible and Literary Justice for All.
Friday, I lured more attendees to my table with my Medusa cards and their ability to offer a message from the universe (just for fun). These cards weren’t meant to be taken seriously, but sometimes their message was amazingly spot on!
The big excitement Friday night was Cameo Renae’s premier of After Light. What an interesting and well-done film! I had chills and now can’t wait to read the book!
Friday night became even more spectacular when a whole bunch of fellow attendees–including B.L. Marsh, Allie Burton, Shawn McGuire, Brenda Hiatt, Alison Pensy, Casey Bond, and Sharon Rose Mayes– joined me on stage for cosplay karaoke, where we sang Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” Here’s a video. You can see the theme of female empowerment in our bouncy moves.
The night hit its peak of spectacularity when Victoria Faye surprised us all with a magical rendition of “Crazy” and then later played piano on demand in the lobby–most songs she’d never played before, but figured out on the spot. A group of rabid fans–me included–gathered around the piano to sing Disney princess songs and titles from other musicals, each time more amazed by how easily Victoria captured the chords and melody on the piano. Then Jaci Chaney and I stayed up till 3 a.m. talking in the lobby!
By Saturday, I was feeling a little like a wet noodle. The signing went well, but I was too exhausted to make to to the awards and dance party. I wanted to show my support to those who won, but I could barely walk. The night ended up being a great one anyway, because I lounged around with fellow authors Brenda Hiatt, Allie Burton, and Alison Pensy and had a wonderful time sharing ideas and talking shop without having to put on a dress.
Sunday morning I was blown away by next year’s theme. Way to go Janet and team! I just love it!
I had to rush away from the open mic keynote to gather my flock for the Parthenon tour. I so enjoyed seeing the majesty of this replica of the Parthenon in Athens. The statue of Athena is amazing at over 41 feet tall. And the goddess Nike in her hand is 6 foot tall! And did you know that the Percy Jackson movie was filmed there?
I was even more excited about spending a bit of time with friends. I was joined by Jo Michaels and her niece Allie McMullen, Tia Bach and her daughter Jaqueline, Inger Iverson, Angelica Jackson, Eve Langelle, Heidi LaFavor Lea, Laura Howard, Sharon Rose Mayes and her sister, Carlyle Labuschagne and her mother Bridget, Kristen Billingsly, Chris Cannon, and Karen McCoy.
At my exhibitor’s table, I collected names for a drawing for the Athena Locket, and I now have a winner! (Drum roll please…)
April Robbins! Congratulations! I will get this out to you this week. And thanks to all who came by my table and visited with me! I had so much fun meeting up with everyone!