Category Archives: conferences

Gems from Glen: Day 2

This is a paraphrase from chaplain Scott Cairns’s keynote address:

Either we are called to greatness or we are not called at all. Ambition is only bad if it is ambition for bad things. . . .

Christians often fall into the trap of thinking that art is mainly for the purpose of expression—a vehicle for delivering previously understood matter. However, expressing what one knows is the least interesting part of the process.

Writing poetry led me in fits and starts through productive bouts of faith and doubt, finally arriving at a giddy awareness of God’s nearness. Whatever ways my words may have served or helped others, my poetry served me first.

Art is a process by which artists come to apprehend what they do not know. The creation of art is a way to see, a gift God has given us to allow us to catch glimpses of Him.


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Gems from Glen: Day 1

Here’s what I heard today at Glen on drawing inspiration from tradition instead of always trying to create something that is exclusively new and fresh:

Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. And, I suppose, I should add, it is traditionalism that gives tradition such a bad name. – Jaroslav Jan Pelikan



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Post-Conference Top Fives

It’s interesting how you can feel withdrawal from something so exhausting. I spent all last week at the BYU writing conference and thought I was going to crash at the end of it, but this morning I wish I could start over and do it all again.

Here are five more favorite paraphrases from the last half of the conference:

1. “The first and most important thing to know is that writing is hard for everyone except fools. It never stops being hard.” And similarly: “Fear goes hand in hand with artistic creation. No amount of success will get rid of the fear.” – Martine Leavitt

2. “Fiction rises to the level of art if it’s written as an honest quest for personal answers. Writing artistic fiction can be difficult if you think you already have the answers. . . . Setting out to teach a moral is propaganda, not a story. Fiction writers write to find answers, not share them.” – Angela Morrison

3. “No book lives until it is read. . . . Literature is an art form where the final performance takes place while the original artist is not present. It is the reader who interprets symbols on a page and creates the meaning.” – Tracy Hickman

4. “Watch what you’re reading. You are what you read. You’ll absorb what you’re reading and it will be reflected in your own writing.” – Alane Ferguson

5. When you’re a published author and no one comes to your signing, “be gracious and friendly with the booksellers,” even if you feel embarrassed or wish more had been done to promote the signing. “If you thank them for what they’ve done, the booksellers will be happy to sell your books after you’re gone. If you pout and act like a diva, they’ll be happy to send your books back to the publisher.” – Ann Cannon

What I learned in the second half of the conference:

1. Freaks and Geeks should never have gone off the air. Thank you, Ann Dee!

2. There is no one right way to become a published novelist, even if conferences tend to make you feel like it’s practically immoral to avoid networking.

It’s okay if I feel like a total moron sipping a strawberry smoothie when, one table over, the NYC editors and agents are having cocktails and wondering why James Dashner brought his wannabe friends to dinner. I am more than happy to stay 20 yards away from the NYC professionals and wow them through the mail another day. Only after they buy my book for $750,000 will they care about my wit and charm—and then they’ll quickly dispatch a publicist to make sure this Utah hick girl doesn’t wear jeans under her dresses.

Thanks for the reassurance, Martine.

3. I was a fool to ever think I didn’t love chaste vampires. I do. With all my heart. Angela Morrison pointed out that we have to write what we know, and as Mormons, we know about unrequited desire because we sincerely live it. Stephenie made chastity sexy. Before Twilight, abstinence was unbelievable to vast numbers of readers and less appealing to editors. So while cheesy romance in general is unbelievable to me, chastity is a reality I can write about.

Thanks for setting the trend, Stephenie Meyer.

4. That competency test I took in elementary school—the one that supposedly revealed I’m below average on listening comprehension—SO true. I can think only through my fingers, not my ears. If I’m not reading something or taking notes, I CANNOT listen. Sorry, workshop class! I tried really hard to think of good feedback when you read your manuscripts, but when you finished, I was distressed to realize no matter how hard I tried to focus, I couldn’t remember one word you read. Does anyone else have this problem? Do I have ADD? Or brain damage?

Thank you, sleep deprivation, for making me feel like I’m losing my mind.

5. I’m right where I should be. With an arm-span longer than my height, and a propensity to bruise my elbows and knees and toes daily, I was voted most graceful out of my writers group. To attract five people who are clumsier than me, and four who are crazier (Sara was voted the most sane) seems impossible. It must have been divine intervention.

Thanks, writer peeps, for making me feel safe and shielded from the sophisticated NYC people.


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Mid-Conference Top Fives

I’ve been at the BYU writing conference this week. I LOVE it! Here’s the first half of the conference distilled down to my top five paraphrases.

1. “Writing makes me anxious. But here’s the trap—not writing makes me anxious.” – Louise Plummer

2. “The best part about publishing a book is writing the book.” – Martine Leavitt

3. Taking time each day to do what you love “distinguishes unhappy and unproductive people from happy and productive people.” – Louise Plummer

4. “You don’t need to ‘discover’ your voice. You need to uncover it. It’s already as much a part of you as your own personality. As soon as you stop imitating how others write and write what you deeply care about, your voice will emerge.” – Dandi Mackall

5. “I am a lazy bum.” – Louise Plummer

Now, the top five things I have learned from the conference so far.

1. Even celebrity authors feel like frauds.

2. Never leave your headlights on in the parking lot on the first day of the conference. Worse, do not leave your trunk open on the second day of the conference unless you want a public tribute to your troublesome car broadcast at every turn. (Not my car!)

3. Writing will not happen during the “writing free time” as long as there are writers and cookies around. And I’m okay with that.

4. It’s advisable to apply your conference notes to your manuscript. Funny I forgot about this one last year—and the year before that.

5. I am a lazy bum.

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