It’s Spring time and virtual writer’s conferences are popping out of the ground like daisies. Spring, being a time of renewal, is a wonderful time to learn something new, or reinforce something you’ve learned in the past. On May 23, the League of Utah Writers is holding a day long virtual conference complete with live Q&A sessions.
This year, and every year, there is a great lineup of teachers sharing their experience on everything from character creation to story structure, from utilizing social media to romantic relationships. Chances are, if you have a writing related question, there will be a class tailored to fit your needs.
Because this is a virtual conference there are several perks that you can’t get in a standard conference. First and foremost, it reduces costs down to the bare minimum for attendees. There are no travel expenses and no trying to find a decent lunch or snacks. You can take a break whenever you like, pause the presentation video if you need to jot down more notes, and you’ll never have to worry if the person next to you might just start eating ranch-flavored corn nuts while you’re trying to pay attention.
If anything, you get a better educational experience and the chance to see all the presentations instead of picking and choosing between two favorites in any given time slot.
The only thing you miss out on is meeting friends and fellow writers in person, and that’s a little sad.
This year I’m teaching about getting over creative roadblocks using a few psychology hacks. There is a discussion of the role fear plays in our ability to make progress in our creative work as well as several practices that can help.
Summer is usually a dry spell for writing conferences in Utah, most tend to be in the spring or fall. There is one shining exception – Fyrecon, happening this weekend from June 20-22. Boldly proclaiming its independence from the norm, Fyrecon takes the standard writing conference plan and bumps it up a notch. Its motto “Burn Through Barriers” captures this feeling. There are classes for all flavors of creatives ranging from visual arts to fiber arts to table top RPG to gaming software design – all very cool.
Even better, they let me come play! This year I’m teaching three classes:
The Art of Active Setting: Bring your stories to life through the principles of active setting, including the importance of sensory integration, character viewpoints, and how to anchor a scene.
Inside-Out Worldbuilding: Learn how to build a unique and engaging fantasy world using your main character as a guide.
Magic Systems 101: From Tolkien to Sanderson, a review of what makes good magic a great read and even better, how to build your own
And best yet – I get to play with some pretty cool friends on two different round table discussions:
Blood Basics for Beginners with Candace J. Thomas and Maxwell Alexander Drake
Muddling Through the Middle: What to do When You’ve Lost Your Map, with Maria V. Snyder, Eric Flint, and David Mark Brown
If you’re a creative in Utah, there’s lots of good stuff for you to find here at Fyrecon.
Last weekend was the annual League of Utah Writers Spring Conference. While the point of attending the conference is to learn new ideas and techniques to better our writing and understanding of the industry, the real reason many of us attend is to reconnect with all our favorite writer friends. It’s like a huge family reunion.
I was super happy to spend a few minutes with Scott, and even happier when he agreed to be interviewed as this week’s guest.
Onto the interview!
First, let’s take a minute and get to know you know you better. I imagine as a horror writer you have to face your fears on a regular basis. Tell us, what is your biggest fear?
I don’t know if I
would consider myself a horror writer – yes, I write horror, but I also write
suspense, fantasy, poetry, and even some non-fiction. That said, back to your
real question: what is it that I fear? Well, there’s only one word for that,
and that word is Sasquatch. Yes, Bigfoot, the North American Yeti, even Cain if
you want to go in the direction of David W. Patten. I think it started when I
was a small child, back in ’72 or ’73. My friends and I used to go to the local
movie theater, the cinema, whatever it was called. Our haven was a little place
called the Queen Theater located in the sleepy bedroom community of Bountiful,
Utah. Saturdays would always have a double-feature, and usually it would be
Disney. I clearly remember watching the snakes in The Living Desert paired with prairie dogs in The Vanishing Prairie, or The
Scarecrow paired with Swiss Family
Robinson. This particular Saturday, the first feature was a
pseudo-docu-drama, I don’t even remember the title, but Bigfoot was the star. I
think what was the most troubling was actual, physical evidence, Bigfoot captured
in the infamous Patterson-Gimlin film, or PGF. From that moment on, I was
hooked, and terrified. I find it interesting that I’ve never written a story
about Sasquatch. Hmm???
Everyone has secrets. Tell us three things that most
people don’t know about you.
I love Jane
Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, the whole canon –
Northanger Abbey is my favorite. What else is there to tell? I really don’t
have a lot of secrets, but maybe there’s a lot that people just don’t know
about me. I’m a combat veteran, I’m a Mason and a card-carrying member of the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which pairs nicely with my
pseudo-Nome-de-plume: The Prince of Darkness. I find that once you sit down
with a person there are lots of things you may not know about him or her, but
they aren’t really secrets. Oh, here’s a big secret: I’m an aspiring writer.
What was your most interesting experience with writing
Lovecraft’s Pillow is just the title piece in a collection of previously
published short stories, I’m not sure if you want experiences putting the
collection together, experiences with each story, or just experiences with the
lead story? The project itself took me down the road of re-learning everything
about publishing? I had previous experience in grad-school with a few college
pals – we produced seven or ten volumes of flash fiction, a novel or two, and
were lucky to break even. I have a Press, per se, Fear Knocks Press, and this
was my first paperback and eBook publication. For the last twelve years, Fear
Knocks Press has been more of a dormant project waiting to sprout, grow and
blossom. It was the home of the eZine, Fear Knocks, but that kind of went the
way of the Dodo, so…
As far as the individual
story, Lovecraft’s Pillow, that takes me back to several experiences. First,
reading Michel Houellebecq’s book, H.P.
Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life, which included a Stephen King
challenge to write a story, the story. Then, I think traveling back to
Lovecraft’s hometown, Providence, Rhode Island, stopping by his grave, and
getting a feel for the region really inspired me to go through with it. It
didn’t hurt that my wife and I had just made a trip to Salem, Massachusetts,
during the month of October, and there were all kinds of things floating around
in the grey matter.
You’ve always been a wonderful support for local
authors, including myself. What is the most powerful lesson you can share with
a writer who is just starting the process of creating their stories?
Okay, this is a
great question – a wonderful question – and the answer is one I don’t think
most people are willing to take. Write a lot, write, write, write, and read a
lot, read, read, read, read even more than you write. And not just books on
craft, or books in the genre you plan to write in, books on everything; and get
out and experience life. It’s true that, as writers, we put pieces of ourselves
in the work we do. If you’ve only lived in a small town and only ventured
between your notebook, typewriter, or word processor, and the kitchen and
bathroom, you probably are going to have a very limited and unrealistic point
of view in your work. Add a few books, a few across several genres, a book or
two that you would never be caught dead reading, and you will start to open up
vistas that are ready to lend themselves to your work. Then, if you can,
travel, see the world, even the world around you. Most people would be
surprised at how many secrets wait to be discovered just outside their back
door within 5 or 10 miles of where they live. So, this begs the question, what
books would you suggest a person read? Well, how about I include a list of my
favorites at the end of this blog post?
I ask this question to everyone – What is the most
interesting thing you keep on your desk, or bring to your writing space, and
what is the story behind it.
I have a Día de
Los Muertos skull. It’s more of a planter, one of those little trinkets with a
succulent growing out of the top, the kind of plant that no one can kill. I
don’t know why, but I’ve always been attracted to the darker side of things.
When I was a kid, I loved the Old Testament and Edgar Allan Poe (and comic
books). I had the opportunity to learn a few foreign languages over the years,
one of them Spanish, and it got me hooked on some of the culture and traditions
of Latin America. After traveling to several Latin American destinations, I had
lots of information to ruminate on, to use as fodder for stories. What’s
interesting, at least for me, these kinds of experiences usually do more for my
settings, the feel of the story. For some reason, and I blame Anne Rice, most
of my experiences take me back to the flavor and feel of New Orleans. If you’ve
never been, you need to go. New Orleans is much more than Mardi Gras. There’s
the whole Cajun culture, Marie Laveau and Voodoo, and the feel being at the
mercy of the elements. I think these all merge with things closer to home,
Native American legends, the Four Corners area, and a little Magical Realism
courtesy of Gabriel García Márquez or Isabel Allende. They all manifest
themselves in this little, living skull that watches me write and may even
contain my muse (wow, I never considered that until now).
What’s next? Tell us about the next big thing you’re
How about this
blog post – yes, this is actually a big thing. I’ve been going through a period
of very little productivity. We all have these moments, I’m sure. I was getting
ready to pitch an urban fantasy at the upcoming Storymakers conference, Madison Blackwood and the Twelve Hours of
Night, something a little like Harry
Potter meets Angels and Demons, but
with a female protagonist and links to Dracula and Old Testament Egypt. Like so
many projects, by the time I get to the second draft, I hate the whole thing.
So, I started an epic Fantasy novel, got 100 pages in, and then something
changed in my life, an almost spiritual manifestation, and I started something
else. I’m on a journey now, at least through the pages of the LDS canon of
scripture, to meet, greet, and try to understand every female character. I’ve
started with Eve and the wives of Noah, Ham, Shem, Japheth – I don’t think
there’s a whole lot of information there, but there’s lots of hints and
indications that there’s more to each of their stories, something that might
become creative non-fiction. I love re-reading about these characters, women
most people have never heard of, characters like Jael, Rahab, Tamar, and Dinah,
or even those that have no names like the woman at the well, the woman caught
in adultery, the handful of widows, or the queens (Vashti, Esther, Sheba, Lamanites),
or even the Daughters of Onitah – there’s got to be a story there. I’m off to a
great start. I’ve got over a hundred names to work with, so far. All that being
said, how about I give you an exclusive, a cover reveal, the story I mentioned
at the beginning. Well, here it is, Madison Blackwood and the Twelve Hours of
Night, soon to be pitched at a writing conference near you.
Suggested Reading List I promised. I’ve only included one title per author, and
only the ones off the top of my head. I’m sure I’ve missed several of my
favorites, several that are much better written, but what the heck. One of
these books I absolutely hated, not because it was poorly written, but because
the author made me hate every character by the end of the book. That’s got to
say something about the writing, right? I’ve included some non-fiction, short
stories, and poems as well.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
The Blight Way by Patrick F. McManus
A Fine Dark Line by Joe R. Lansdale
Working for Bigfoot by Jim Butcher
Speaks the Nightbird by Robert R. McCammon
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft
Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Lion of Ireland by Morgan Llywelyn
The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham
The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
Eva Luna by Isabel Allende
Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
One Hundred Years of Solitude
by Gabriel García Márquez
The Misenchanted Sword by Lawrence Watt-Evans
The Walking Drum by Louis L’Amour
The Hunger by Alma Katsu
The Green Mile by Stephen King
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
A Short Stay in Hell by Steven L. Peck
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
The Dinner by Herman Koch
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson
Dracula by Bram Stoker
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War by Tony Horwitz
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Askaban by J.K. Rowling
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Something Wicked this Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
The Book of Job (get a good copy with commentary)
The Tyger by William Blake
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe
The Story of An Hour by Kate Chopin
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
The Wendigo by Algernon Blackwood
The Demon Lover by Elizabeth Bowen
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
About K. Scott Forman
K. Scott Forman is a writer and editor. He co-edited and contributed to the first three volumes of Fast Forward: A Collection of Flash Fiction along with working on three more volumes, a novel, and a flash novel for Fast Forward Press. With the Utah Chapter of the Horror Writers Association (HWA), he selected and edited the volume It Came from the Great Salt Lake: A Collection of Utah Horror. Scott graduated with a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University and was the recipient of the Robert Creeley Scholarship in 2007. He also received a Master of Arts and Education degree from the University of Phoenix, and a Bachelor of Arts in English and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Maryland. Scott teaches English Composition at Weber State University and was an adjunct faculty member at the National Cryptologic School. He has taught courses in Developmental English, Composition, Research, Writing for Math and Science, and Haiku. He is a member of the HWA and League of Utah Writers and enjoys long walks in inclement weather, sunsets with blood in them, and Metallica at volumes determined unsafe by the Surgeon General. He has had several short stories and poems published and is currently at work on the Great American Novel. He makes his home in the Rocky Mountains with his family and a collection of guitars. Find out what he’s up to at http://fearknocks.com
Lovecraft’s Pillow and other Weird Tales is K. Scott Forman’s first collection of stories that plumb the depths of imagination when the lights go out. In these 12 tales and 1 poem, we revisit Jack the Ripper (The House that Jack Built), suicide and the consequences (Mumford’s Ghost), sympathy for the devil (Neighbor of the Beast), redemption (The Rescue), PTSD (The Stranger Within), a Frankenstein short (Lost at Sea), a Lovecraftian-story inspired by Stephen King (Lovecraft’s Pillow), and more.
With Spring into Books (Utah’s Awesome-st Author signing and workshop) at the beginning of the month, paired with end of school craziness for my kiddos, June has been a wild ride – and it’s getting wilder.
Fyrecon, the conference that encourages writers and artists alike to “Burn Your Creative Path,” kicks off tomorrow – and they are kind enough to let me play!
Writing conferences are wonderfully gratifying because they give creatives a chance to spend quality time with like-minded people. They are my tribe and I love all of them. This year I decided to be super ambitious and offered three brand new classes to teach, with the hopes that perhaps one or two might be chosen.
And … they asked for all of them. Woohoo!
Needless to say, I’ve been working my little fanny off getting ready and I’m super excited to share the awesomeness that I’ve learned.
Here is my schedule – come find me!
Class – Overcoming Ego for Better Head Space (Thurs 11am, Building D2, Rm 318)
Panel – Portrayal of Death and Dying: Discussing the Philosophy of the Memento Mori (Friday 1pm, Building D2, Rm 111)
Panel – Medical Accuracy in Fiction: Common Pitfalls and What is a Better, More Believable Approach (Friday 3pm, D2 – 111)
Class – Gut Punch your Audience with Emotion (Saturday 9am, D2 – 117)
Class – Finding Balance in Storytelling: Not Everything can Explode all the Time (D3 – 341
For those of you trying to decide whether you want to go or not – come! If you register at the door for the whole conference it’s only $50 and daily rates range from $22-27. If you’re a student it’s cheaper than a hamburger, $10 dollars for the whole conference or $5 a day. Military gets a 10% discount. That’s a whole lot of amazing for an extremely reasonable rate.
If it doesn’t work out for you to come this year, be sure to like Fyrecon on Facebook to be the first to hear about future events.
I survived the writing conference. I know it was a good one because I didn’t want to leave and return to real life, which is my litmus test of choice when evaluating an event. While I can wish all I want for more, that would be selfish. There are little monsters angel babies at home that miss their momma.
Of all the conferences I’ve attended, this one comes close to being the best. Local writing celebrities and NYT Bestsellers came and taught some of their delicious trade secrets, including James Dashner, author of the Mazerunner series; J Scott Savage, author of the FarWorld series; Brandon Mull, author of the Fablehaven series; and several more.
By far the most influential class I attended was a two-hour intensive by the effervescent and talented Margie Lawson, a psychiatrist by trade, and a guru of teaching the art of making mundane prose sing. She made a personal study of the best books out there and boiled out the different literary devices that made the reader feel that much desired emotional punch. Then she shared those juicy tidbits with us!
The two keynotes were from celebrated authors Anne Perry and Martine Leavitt who both emphasized the importance of perseverance and also spoke about how writing is a gift to the writer. Both addresses fed and enriched the audience.
Perhaps the most important part of any conference is the feeling of being with your tribe. Fellow writers and geeks are my tribe and being able to spend a weekend with hundreds of them is the equivalent of gassing up the motivational tank. They share the same struggles and frustrations as I do as well as the joys. They know exactly what a big deal it is for a publisher to request a full, they know what a crushing defeat it is to receive a rejection. They understand how to talk about stories and characters in a deep meaningful way. They make it hard to come back to the real world where the people around you don’t.
With these new tools under my belt, and my tank full, I’m hoping to embark on a new level of writing and find even more joy and success in doing so. That is if my little angel baby (who is currently bashing his head against my leg) will permit me to do so.
This weekend is the annual LDStorymakers Writers Conference in Utah and writers from around the midwest and further have congregated in brute force. Over 600 of us are milling around the Utah Valley Convention Center attending lectures and intensive workshops to improve our craft.
Last night I attended a Publication Primer workshop, which is six hours of combing through the first 10 pages of the manuscripts of the members of your table finding ways to make prose stronger (and more likely to be picked up by an agent or publisher). My table was moderated by the talented Amy Winehouse of Eschler Editing.
I’ve already brushed shoulders with writing super star and NY Time Bestseller David Farland, we shared an elevator on the way out.
Should you happen to be at the conference come find me and say hi! I’ll be wearing a grey fedora.
Expect a full report on Monday!
I’m looking forward to the rest of the weekend and will give a full report on Monday.
I spent the last weekend enjoying the warm clear air in Arizona while attending the annual Time Out for Writers conference hosted by the American Night Writer’s Association (ANWA). I had hoped to be able to write another installment of Mike Finnegan while traveling for last Friday’s post but instead spent my time madly polishing up my query letter and sample chapter to be ready for the workshops.
I received some great feedback from my readers at the workshops and can’t wait to sit down and make a few edits to clean up and clarify my material.
Then, there were two full days of excellent classes covering everything from descriptive voice to how to write a thriller suspense novel. I swear my head is so full right now, it just might explode. There is so many good ideas and great information that I can use, now I have to decide what to apply first.
Most important of all, above the classes and workshops, are the new friends that I made. All are wonderful writers in all stages of the process of being published. Some have several books out, some are just getting started, all are fabulous people that I can’t wait to see what happens next in their careers.
After being immersed in the writing world for a few days I’m finding it hard to be home again and to readjust back to the life of being a mom first, writer second. As much as I’d love to dive right in and work on my manuscript for even an hour undisturbed, I simply can’t and it’s super frustrating.