Saturday, 13 June 2015

UtopYA: Why this Writing Community Rocks.

I'm an English Introvert. To be precise, I am an INTF according to The Myers Briggs system and with a scale of 82% Introvert, it's a wonder I actually manage to leave my own little world at all. Thankfully, there's an almost as big dose of feeling in there, which means strangely for an introvert, I really like people, (putting me in the quirky little 2%  of  introverts)

Throw into this mix that I come from a culture notorious for its overly complicated social structures and etiquette, especially when it comes to the whole 'author' world, it's no wonder I haven't previously plucked up the courage to get involved in the writing world in a more physical (rather than online) way.

Well all that is about to change. Being one who has always chosen the near impossible path rather than the gentle sign-posted trail, I decided the best way to overcome my fear of actually meeting readers and fellow authors face to face was to do a con - and if you're going to do a con, then there was only one place I really wanted to be, UtopYA, Nashville, Tennessee.

The reasons are simple.
  1. I'd spent three years seeing the most amazing social media coming out of the con. Photographs, selfies, tweets, Facebook posts, which were all full of the most amazing positivity. If smiles ever measured an event, UtopYA was Cosmic.

  2. Several of the author friends I had made over the years on Twitter and Facebook met up there and it cemented their friendships and community belonging. I wanted to be part of that. I wanted to actually see my friends in the real; I wanted to hug them and laugh with them.

  3. The readers who attend UtopYA are incredible. They are so full of energy, enthusiasm, acceptance and dedication; what's not to love about that.

  4. There just aren't these kind of events over her in England (yet!)
So last year, I clicked onto a Twitter link and completely impulsively (although I had done nothing but talk to the hubby about how I longed to go) clicked the buy an table ticket. At this point I had no idea how or even if the rest of it was going to fall into place. Here were the barriers,
  • See introduction - I'm terrified of people!!!
  • I'm still fighting the deeply ingrained awkwardness, and English cultural yoke about declaring myself an 'author' (Over here that is immediately interpreted as you assuming you are the next Austen or Golding - or any other illustrious member of the English Canon)
  • I'm terrified of flying
  • I'd never done a signing or public event
  • I'd never been to the USA before
  • Having given up the day job to do the writing, I was pretty skint.
  • The logistics of getting books, swag and clothes to U.S.
The year that has passed has been extraordinary. I've always known that the writing community was an amazingly positive, friendly place to hang out. In the five years I have been on social media, I have been fortunate enough to never have experienced a moment of negativity, but the UtopYA community is like nothing I have ever come across. Each and every one of the authors and readers I have come in to contact with over UtopYA (and we're talking over a hundred) has extended the hand of friendship in the most open and giving way. There isn't a hint of competition or politics.

The actual exhibition is just the mere tip of the iceberg;
I've had to create a spreadsheet diary for the insane amount of social activities I've been invited along to; from Sushi evenings, to Yoga mornings, to Cosplay karaoke, to film premiers, to sightseeing trips, to bar-fly evenings.

And as for getting my books out there, as soon as I posted this 'problem' on the Facebook page, several generous offers of help came in. I want to say a public THANK YOU to the lovely Susan Burdorf who offered for me to have my books shipped to her house and then she'd drive them over to the con the night before. See what I mean - awesomeness.

So for any fellow authors out there who find the whole face to face writing community thing difficult, I say, take the unknown step. In my experience, there's a whole host of wonderful writers waiting to catch you should you fall.

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