LDStorymakers in May!

I’m going to the LDStorymakers Conference again this year and I’m super excited. I just entered two stories in their first chapter contest, so we’ll see how it goes… It is held in Provo, UT during May and registration is still open.

The keynote this year is international bestseller Anne Perry. You can attend just her keynote address if you’re not interested in the classes.

— You can register here: LDStorymakers Registration

— They’re having a Show Your Love contest with great prizes: Contest Information

If you go, let me know!

My First Retreat

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Back in November, I went to my first writers retreat. It was on the coast of Deception Pass and it was wonderful.

During the LDStorymakers Conference I went to last May, I met the president of a writing group for LDS women called American Night Writers Association (ANWA). In a class later that day, I sat next to a woman who happened to run the ANWA Retreat in my area and she told me all about it!

When I got home, I made a point of looking up ANWA and joining a few months later. (At first I thought I needed to join to attend the retreat, but found out later it wasn’t required.) When the retreat came in November, I was very excited. It was taking me a long time to write my novel (i.e., I kept re-writing the same first chapter over and over), so I decided to use a new method of writing I was testing out where I covered the screen and just kept writing without editing.

And that’s what I did.

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I found quiet spots at the retreat, covered my screen with folders, put on my headphones and let myself write almost non-stop for two days. And man alive, it was a blast!

Sadly, I decided afterward that that method of writing didn’t suit me and I’m not using any of the 18,805 words I wrote in that word document. But it was still fun and I learned some valuable lessons, so it’s okay.

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The biggest highlight of the retreat was meeting these women. They were genuine, kind and talented. And they all loved to write something. It was such a treat to be among them and hope that I belonged. And it was so fun just being with a bunch of girls (a rare commodity at my house!). I dearly wished we could somehow get together every month.

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Another highlight of the retreat was entering the Flash Fiction contest. The night before they announced the winners, I had a nightmare that they yelled at me and told me my story stunk. So I was incredibly relieved when I went to breakfast and found out I’d won second place!!!

When they handed out the awards, I jokingly told them about my nightmare and we all had a good laugh. But then they asked us to read our stories outloud. When it was my turn, my whole body shook and my heart tried to pound a hole through my ribs. I said in all seriousness, “If I’d known they were going to ask me to read it outloud, THIS would have been my nightmare!”

Never, in all my writing, had I had the desire to go in front of a group of people and read my work outloud. I’d purposefully avoided those classes and situations both at the conference and the retreat. But there I was. So I took a breath and made the best of it. And when I finished, the feeling in the room was one of total awe. The looks on their faces said it all and by the time I sat back down in my chair, I realized there was a special magic in what I’d just done. And it was pretty cool.

LDStorymakers Conference

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Three months ago, I read a post on Cami Checketts’ blog about the LDStorymakers Conference. I hadn’t ever heard of it before, but it sounded heavenly and I mentioned it to Charming. “Someday, I would really love to go to that.” A week-and-a-half later, Charming completely shocked me when he handed me a printed registration for the conference and smiled. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Heidi!” Can you believe that??

I was so excited, but when the day finally came, it was unbelievably hard to walk away from my family and go all by myself into the airport. But I did. And it was so good for me!

I flew to Salt Lake City and then drove to the Provo Marriott. The first morning I walked into the huge conference room packed with 400 other writers (who were almost all LDS), I knew it was a historic moment for me. I paused and looked slowly around the room. Memorizing the way my heart filled with satisfaction and smiling my head off. For the first time in my life, I was officially declaring myself a writer and meeting hundreds of other writers!

I literally felt like I had walked out of the writing closet and out into the sunshine. I was born with writing blood coursing through my veins and it was thrilling to meet a hotel full of other people who knew what it was like to need to write. Not just want to write, but need to write.

The classes were super. The people phenomenal. And the motivation intoxicating.

One of the many wonderfully kindred spirits I met there was named Autumn. She was also a stay-at-home mother of three children and she sweetly welcomed me into her group of friends from Utah who were also aspiring authors. On the last day, Autumn said exactly how I feel as both a mother and a writer: “Heidi, I just want to be with my babies and write. That’s it.”

I also got to meet Cami Checketts in person after being online friends for a long time and she was wonderful. She welcomed me into her group of friends from Utah who were all published authors and, man alive, were they funny! Cami has four sons and she also expressed my exact feelings about loving children and loving writing. It was incredible.

I missed my family dearly, but it was unexpectedly therapeutic for me to break away from my life and be “Heidi The Writer” for two days. I acted like my hips and pelvis didn’t hurt. I didn’t even talk about my children for a whole day. All we talked about was what we were writing and how far along we were.

I submitted my first chapter in the First Chapters Contest and it was so enlightening. It was the first time I’d shown one of my stories to anyone but my husband for probably 20 years and it was nerve-wracking, but oh so helpful. I was making so many mistakes! All those years I had sneaked into my brother’s bedroom to write furiously on his word processor, I didn’t realize I was making up my own rules for punctuating dialogue! And I had no idea there were rules about Point of View (in writer’s lingo: POV), and not using exclamation points or “-ly” words, etc.

I came home with a badge full of business cards, a list of books to read on how to write fiction and a free membership to Author’s Incognito (an online group of conference attendees). The picture above is when we were taking our group photo for Author’s Incognito and, on a whim, I asked a great new friend named Christie (another mother of four boys!)  to snap one of me. In case you can’t tell from the brilliant smile on my face, I am totally hooked and hoping to attend a writer’s retreat for LDS women up in my neck of the woods in November.

*sigh*

It’s like I was walking around my whole life as half a person. But now I feel whole. And, boy, does it feel good!