This past weekend, Sam and I had the opportunity to attend and speak at Life, the Universe & Everything, a science fiction and fantasy symposium held annually in Provo, Utah. We went last year and loved it, and we were excited to be able to attend again. LTUE is a three-day event with panels and presentations on all things SF/F, with a definite focus on writing. There are also readings, signings, gaming and dealers rooms, as well as a banquet.
Of the writing conferences that I personally have attended, LTUE is one of my favorites, for several reasons, the foremost being the atmosphere. LTUE is very personal, in a good way. New York Times bestselling authors rub shoulders with aspiring writers, and the focus of the symposium is a shared love of the genres.
I thought I would share a few things that I learned, observed, and pondered while at LTUE, just for funsies.
Brandon Sanderson should not sit on panels.
I attended a couple of panels on which Brandon Sanderson participated on Friday. Here’s the problem. Brandon Sanderson is a NYT bestselling author. He is famous. He is particularly well-loved in this area, because he’s from this area. He’s also verbose and well-spoken on these topics. So when he speaks on a panel, I don’t care who else is on the panel, they are going to be outshone.
Case and point: the first panel that Brandon spoke on (“Prologues and Epilogues”) he was 10 minutes late. And for the first ten minutes of the panel, every time the door opened, at least half of the eyes in the audience swiveled toward the door. The anticipation was obvious–was Brandon Sanderson going to show up? I’m convinced a fair number of that audience didn’t care in the least about prologues and epilogues, they were there to see their favorite author. And at least three-quarters of the audience were there at least partially because of him. So, needless to say, when he finally walked in, there was a palpable sense of relief followed by an immediate charge of excitement.
Also, no offense to Brandon…he likes to talk. I’m sure he’d admit that to you without hesitation. Pitting his love of talking with the audience’s desire to hear from him (certainly more than they wanted to hear from the other authors on the panel), and his fellow panelists are at a severe disadvantage.
Couple that with the fact that on this particular panel there were no other authors of anywhere close to the experience level/publishing record that Brandon has…
Summary: Brandon Sanderson (and other authors with similar levels of popularity) should give solo presentations. Or sit on panels with authors of similar rank.
90 minute writing sessions
I attended a panel entitled “Recharging your creative battery” from which I hoped to glean some useful tips. Unfortunately, there was a fair bit of “fluff.”
Pause. Let me clarify something.
I’ve attended quite a few writing conferences, and after you’ve been to a couple of them, you start to hear a lot of repeat information. While much of the information is helpful (at least, the first time around) there is still a certain amount of trite, overused writing advice that gets passed on at every writing conference ever. It would be these platitudes which I refer to as “fluff.”
The one helpful suggestion that I gleaned from “Recharging…” was based off some research from Europe which indicated that people work best in 90 minute cycles. The idea is, work for a solid 90 minutes, then take a break–go for a run, watch a TV episode, etc–then go back to work. The break in between cycles actually increases productivity, so you are able to accomplish more than you would have if you had worked straight for the entire period.
I really liked this suggestion, and intend to try it and see if it increases my writing productivity.
Meeting cool people
One of my most favorite parts of LTUE is meeting cool people. I love it when people come up after a panel to continue asking questions, or pursue further conversation about the topic that we’ve presented on. It also was fun to talk to readers (and future readers!) at the book signing on Friday night. I love talking with people–fellow authors, aspiring writers, and readers–about our books, about martial arts, about writing, or really about whatever comes up. It’s awesome.
Constructing Languages “When Apostrophes Just Don’t Cut It”
That was the title of a panel that I attended, which, to be honest, turned into something of a disappointment for me. First of all, Orson Scott Card was supposed to be the panel, but didn’t show. Alas. But the panel itself was not what I had hoped. The panelists focused mostly on how to adapt languages such as Spanish or Russian for use in writing, and focused very little on actually constructing a fictional language, which is what I had expected from this panel, especially at LTUE, a science fiction and fantasy symposium.
I’m hoping that I can talk Sam into writing a post on constructing languages, as it’s something that he has experience with and a passion for! (I couldn’t help but think, during the panel, that Sam should have been on it!)
Most of the people who I interacted with at LTUE were normal, wonderful people. However, there were definitely some…interesting folks there as well. (As is to be expected!) Costumes, hats, and…unique outfits were seen here and there. There was also a certain number of individuals that seemed to lack in the personal hygiene department. Maybe I was just oversensitive because I’m pregnant, but it seemed that the more popular sessions (aka the full sessions, where it got rather warm) were rather fragrant.
That said, I cannot deny the fun that comes from gathering with fellow fans of science fiction and fantasy. Geekdom unite!
More to come
Sam and I sat on three panels this year, and those in addition to several panels that we attended have sparked thoughts for several future blog posts, where we can address the topics in more depth. We look forward to sharing them with you!