Sunday, 28 June 2015

UtopYA 2015 Recap

My Book Family
Okay, I'm adding in this paragraph in because I've realised that there is no way I can include everything I want to say about the truly life-changing experience of UtopYA. So I'm going to break it down into several posts over the next week or so, each one with a different focus. Today's post is an introductory post designed to give you a flavour of the build up to and the first impressions of the UtopYA conference. A year ago, on a crazy, impulsive, devil-may-care-whim, I pressed the buy tickets button the UtopYA website. I'd simply had enough of seeing my timeline full of my wonderful author and blogger friends having such a good time. 

Facebook and Twitter has made the world of the author a hell of a lot less lonely and it has allowed me to foster some truly precious and special friendships - but Facebook and Twitter don't give physical hugs, and they don't allow for the sound of true shared laughter. 

Meeting Jo Michaels - The grins say it all
After five years of late night chats, shared tweets, cheerleading posts and 'liked' cat and baby photos, I needed to meet these friends in reality  - only a total (very serious) fear of flying, two beautiful Mud-Puddles needing to be looked after, and no idea how my books were going to get there, stood in my way. (BIG THANKS to my mum, 'granny' who looked after the girls and to Susan Burdorf who took in my books and fostered them for me.)

Having purchased the tickets for the hubby, the bro-in-law and the father-in-law (to become known as  'y'all boys' at the con) we set about operation UtopYA - and boy, was it an operation. Our house became littered with half-used glue-sticks, the hoover had to have a daily de-beading, the craft box turned into a craft crate - and amongst all of this creativity, I had a book to finish, edit, publish and print.

But for all these mountains to climb, UtopYA came around and before I knew it, I was on a huge jumbo jet rotating hyperventilation with sips of double strength Bloody Marys. The trip to Nashville was long - all in all it took 21 hours door to door. But when I walked into the lobby of The Millenium Maxwell Hotel and saw Carol and Adam Kunz, every single minute of fear, apprehension and anxiety was worth it. It was an amazing few moments - those very first hugs with Carol felt immediately like arriving home

Signing Day

This hug set the tone for the whole conference - I felt like I'd arrived home. A feeling that was confirmed the following morning when I met Jo Michael's for the first time. I had only connected with her on social media a couple of weeks before the con, but as soon as we hugged I knew I had stumbled across a very rare and precious friendship. It's an amazing thing when you just click with someone. There are so many people that wrapped me up in a blanket of love, respect, acceptance, guidance and fun that it would make a VERY VERY long post to go through each and every one; but what I can tell you is that EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON at UtopYA greeted me like family and I hold each of them dear to my heart too. There is a sisterhood at UtopYA; something incredibly unique and special - and the magician that has woven this spell is Janet Wallace - an incredibly inspiring woman to meet. (Quick shout out to my book-sisters, Patti Larsen  and Carlyle Labuschagne - I love you!)
The Premier of ARV-3  Glamtastic

The very first day of the exhibition room was a nerve-wracking experience and I learned so much in those first few hours walking around the stands of other authors; the quality and presentation of books and brand was phenomenal. It was clear that I wasn't the only one who had spent the last few months buried under a crafting mountain.

I spent quite a lot of time away from my stand because I wanted to attend the panels, which proved to be not only educational but inspiring. There were so many good discussions on elements of YA that had been circulating in my head for years. Not only that, but there were discussions on hard business plans and strategies. (Bella Roccaforte and Rachel Higginson, know you have created a monster LOL)

When we weren't attending panels or manning our stand, we used every opportunity to hang out with each other. On the Thursday night, the lovely K.D Wood gave Carlyle Labuschagne and I a lift to a very funky Sushi restaurant and found mine and Carlyle's somewhat startled response to the valet service very amusing. A great night was had and it was amazing to discover how many parallels there were in all of our lives.
Me and the lovely K.D Wood
Friday Night was Cameo Renae's AV3 premier night and a good excuse to get dressed up and play about on the red carpet. The short film was intense and exciting; it was lovely to see my dear friend's book come to life on film. If this wasn't exciting enough, the evening was topped off by Steam Punk Karaoke.

On Saturday it was the public signing. The room was absolutely buzzing and it was such a high to talk to readers and to sell my books to a brand new audience. Despite the signing being an all day event it felt like it was over in the blink of an eye. But far from disappointment, there was another roil of excitement as dressing and prep for the evening's award ceremony and party took over.

My Book Sister Patti Larsen
Everybody arrived downstairs looking fabulously glamtastic and there was a sprinkling of glitter over the whole evening. Watching my fellow authors and bloggers receive their awards was truly moving. I know the blood, sweat and tears that have been shed on their journeys.

Sunday morning saw the closing key note delivered by Janet Wallace. I can't properly express what a profound effect her words have had - or those of the people who took to the floor to give their personal testimonials about what UtopYA meant to them.

This is the mountain of swag I flew back with for the


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