Happy New Year!

This is New Years Day, for me. Seriously.

I actually demarcate my year in four bits. July 1 is my birthday, so that’s a logical. Christmas/New Years is a given, because that’s the break at the end of a hard (they’re all hard, aren’t they?) calendar year. BYU Education Week and the start of school used to be important-but-not-critical, but now that I’m teaching this is pretty much the biggest day of the year.

But there are two events that mark the first and middle of each year, for me as a writer. One is, not surprisingly, National Novel Writing Month, November of every year. For those not in the know, that’s a month where the entire writing world comes together to write 50,000 words in a single month. If this doesn’t sound like a lot, consider that this blog post is right now 140 words long. The average news article is 400 and change. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is 47,000. I’ve competed with myself three times on this, and am a three-time winner.

The biggest day of the year for me, though, is today, the first Friday in May. It’s LDStorymakers. It’s a wonderful writing conference in Provo, UT, one of the best you can imagine. But for me, it’s more than that. This conference changed my life. Twice.

Once was three years ago. I came to Storymakers looking for writing inspiration, and left having quit writing altogether. Not because of the conference itself, but because of a loan that threatened to blow itself to smithereens while I was there, which took me out of the conference more than I would have liked. I decided that I would have to quit writing, give up this hobby and become an adult.

The second was the following year’s conference, 2014. I didn’t go, because I had no money, because the year of not writing was the least successful of my life, in every area. EVERY area, professional, personal, spiritual, ecumenical, grammatical.

I’ll never miss it again. I’ll never come here not having written. These are my people. This is my tribe.

P.S. That first conference, that I thought was such a failure, did feature one class on writing dialogue that I remember quite well. I remember it, because as part of it we did an exercise wherein we had to write a page of dialogue entirely without tags (no “he said”, or “she warbled”, stuff like that), but keep it intelligible. I did it, it was hard, and I forgot about it.

A year or so ago I was leafing through the forgotten pages of my hard drive, and found the dialogue snippets, and thought, huh. There’s something interesting happening here. I wonder where this goes.

Where it went was a novelette called Cheating Death, which is now a full novel, my seventh. It’s also the most publishable thing I’ve yet written, and I’m convinced that relatively soon someone is going to pick it up and you’ll be able to buy it.

So even when Storymakers fails, it succeeds. Best. Thing. Ever.

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