Like a Virgin… HEY! #UtopYA2014 for the Very First Time

utopYA Program

I’ve been staring at a blank page for quite some time now, trying to sort out my feelings about this event. So many amazing things happened at UtopYA I don’t even know where to begin, so forgive me if my recap is less than eloquent. I’m not going to attempt to list the names of every person I met because I’m certain I’ll forget far too many, but I hope you all know how much you mean to me, and that my love and friendship are yours forever. I’ve learned so much, grown as a person, and feel more confident as a writer. There is no more magical experience than attending UtopYA.

No, I’m not crying again. Ok, maybe I am.

Let’s back up a bit, though, shall we? From the moment I knew I was going to UtopYA until the time I actually left for the airport, I considered backing out at least a dozen times. You can ask my husband. I drove him nuts with my wavering. Why? Because I was terrified of the unknown. I had no idea what to expect at UtopYA, even with all the testimonials about how wonderful it is. Well let me tell you something — wonderful doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. I could easily write a novella about everything that happened, but I’ll try to give you the short(ish) version here. 😉

All trips destined for greatness must start with Starbucks!

starbucks

Then a scary plane ride is in order; scary only because I hadn’t flown in eight years. Obviously I made it there just fine.

plane

When I walked into the Millennium Maxwell House Hotel I was completely blown away. Not only was the hotel beautiful, but the amount of awesome authors, bloggers, readers, photographers, cover designers, etc. was remarkable. This is just the first few minutes of early registration. Incredible, right?

registration

And here are just a few of my favorite peeps in the lobby the first day

mylovelies

That first night I had dinner with Sylvia Day, Janet Wallace and a small group of other awesome people. Yes, I am one lucky duck! And yes, that dessert was scrumdiliumcious. There’s chocolate mousse inside of that beautiful package!

vip dinner dessert

By the end of the first night (and the conference hadn’t even started yet!) I was buzzing with joy and I wasn’t even close to being tired. I sat around the pool chatting with folks until around one o’clock in the morning. The following morning something miraculous happened — my alarm went off at 6am and I didn’t even hit snooze! I was back in the lobby, ready to get the party started by 7am. Yes, I showered first. I spent part of the day walking around meeting all of the awesome folks I’d been chatting with online for so long. Everyone was filled with smiles, laughter and major tackle hugs! I didn’t feel like I had made the trip to Nashville alone. I was home.

utopya-collage

There were panels to attend both Friday and Saturday, which were full of invaluable information for everyone. The crowds were a perfect blend of authors, bloggers, readers and more. There were three panels for each time slot, but everyone seemed to take notes and we’ve all been sharing with each other. I love this community!

panels

There was never a dull moment at UtopYA. Friday night we had costume karaoke! I wish I had taken more pictures of this awesomeness, but it seems I had a cosmic cocktail in my hands most of the time. LOL

costume-karaoke
pinkladies

Saturday evening was the awards ceremony and after party. What a whirlwind! I didn’t even care that my plane was leaving early Sunday morning.. I managed on VERY LITTLE sleep. I was happy to be able to spend so much time with people I adore and respect. It was an honor. One that I will never forget. These memories are burned in my mind forever.

utopya-awardsandparty

The Keynote Speakers, Sylvia Day and Gennifer Albin, were so inspirational. I left that conference room each morning feeling confident, like I really have a shot at this whole writing gig. 😉 I wish I had pictures, but I was too mesmerized by their words to think about it.

The only regret I have is that I didn’t get more pictures with more people. Unfortunately the camera on my phone wasn’t working, and it was no easy task taking selfies with my tablet. It was a two person endeavor and I’m sorry, but ain’t nobody got time for that!

I have been crying off and on since my return from Nashville, and they are both happy and sad tears. Happy that I was fortunate enough to be at such an amazing event with all of these fabulous people, and sad because I seriously miss them all hardcore! They became family to me in only four days. I can’t wait until #utopYA2015!! If you don’t already know, the theme for next year is Time Travel! #WriteYourOwnFuture Woot! I certainly wish I could hop in a time machine and be there right now. If you want to get your early bird tickets, click on the image below. DO NOT MISS OUT on this event. Even if you’re nervous about going alone, like I was. I promise that you will not feel alone. You will have THE BEST time of your life! For more awesome stories and pictures, follow #utopYA2014 on Facebook and Twitter. That’ll keep you busy for at least a week. 😉

utopya2015 logo

~Giveaway~

I have loads of really awesome stuff to give away for all the folks that didn’t get to make it to UtopYA this year. The grand prize, which I will give away here on the blog, is my Official UtopYA 2014 t-shirt which I had signed by all the authors. No, I didn’t wear it. I saved it for one lucky My Book Addiction reader! I also have swag to give away, but I will be doing flash giveaways on My Book Addiction’s Facebook page. If you’re not already following me, you might want to get on that soon. Ha!

Pictured below is the signed t-shirt and the huge bag full o’ swag.

I want to thank you all so much for visiting this blog and being such huge participants and supporters. You are so unbelievably awesome. I can’t express in words how much you all mean to me.

utopya-giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Follower of Jesus, loving wife, homeschooling mom, blogger, author, gamer, and a lover of the culinary arts. Toni lives in Michigan with her husband and four children. If she's not writing or curled up with a book, you'll most likely find her playing with her kids, baking cupcakes, or killing zombies.
  • Linda Bloodworth

    Love your blog post! I actually wrote a survey about the conference. I’d love to know your thoughts. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1J5xdKZEzruLZ7gh8x4AZoMc85fmshXXwo-cZKIkwI54/viewform

    Thanks for doing this post. It gives people like me a chance to see what happens. 🙂

  • Lila Felix, Shelly Crane, and Samantha Young would be the top choices but really there are so many!

    • Ooh, ooh, ooh.. I met Lila and Shelly at UtopYA! See, you need to get those tickets, Mike!

      • We’ll have to drive 2 hours, but we’re going to see Shelly in November! Now to get Lila over to the west coast…

    • Lori Parker

      I met Samantha Young at UtopYA 13. It was awesome. She was so sweet and knew who most of us were. So yes Mike you need to come next year.

      • I so agree! She’s always super nice and one of our original indie authors

  • Mandy

    Great post Toni! I loved seeing the conference through your eyes. What a whirlwind weekend, wish I could go back and do it again…hmm, where is that time machine? Until next year then #utopya2015

  • K.C. Finn

    I am so jealous of this! I feel like I’m never going to be able to afford to get across the pond to attend one of these things… :'(

    • I am going to be crossing my fingers and praying like mad that you do! I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to meet you Kim!! <3

      • K.C. Finn

        Don’t you just know we’d get on really well ;P

  • Library Lady

    I would love to hang out with Karen Marie Moning, Molly Harper, and Darynda Jones. That would be all kinds of awesome!!! 🙂

  • Amanda

    You make men want to go and come what may, I’ll be there!

    • Yay! I can’t wait to see you there, Amanda!!

      • Amanda

        Haha! I said you make men want to go. I meant me.

        • I knew what you meant. It was super cute, though. I don’t see why men wouldn’t want to go with all of us super awesome chicks in the house! 😛

          • Amanda

            Right?!? What man doesn’t love super smart chicks that also happen to be gorgeous?

  • Erin Hayes

    I’d love to hang out with JK Rowling and Toni after she releases her book. 😉

    • Hahaha! It was so incredibly awesome meeting you, Erin! I can’t wait to chat with you again.. maybe convince you to do the costume karaoke next time? 🙂

      • Erin Hayes

        Absolutely. I was so bushwhacked Thursday night and still am – so I was a bit of a sissy when it got late all weekend. But I’ll drink some coffee next year. AND I won’t wear high heels with my bad knee – that was the reason why I didn’t dance for very long. I had to limp back to my room (Chris offered to carry me, but I was in a short dress). 🙁

        I had so much fun though. I wish it could have gone on forever.

  • Rainne Atkins

    I’d love to join you at one… first I need to win the lottery. 😉

    • I felt like that too, Rainne, but apparently I was determined to make it happen, even with the wavering, and I’m so glad I did.

  • Kelly Martin

    Love it 🙂 You looked so pretty awards night.

  • Laura Wilson-Farmer

    Wish I could’ve been there, maybe sometime. Looks like it was wonderful!!

  • Colleen Blackstone

    This is literally the first blog I’ve ever read and it brought back so many great memories of an awesome weekend! If you didn’t come home inspired then you did something wrong it was that fantastic! It was great to meet you Toni!

    • Thank you so much, Colleen! It was lovely meeting you. Will you be there for 2015? I would love to have more time to chat with you!!

  • Since I already met Lila Felix…a couple times…I can’t wait to get my hands on Rachel Higginson. Hopefully in November. Great post. Sounds like it was a fab time. Hopefully I will be there next year. Always seem to have something getting in my way of going. Boo!

    • I met Rachel Higginson! She’s absolutely fabulous! I really hope you go next year. I want to tackle hug you!!!

  • Lindsey

    It sounds like you had such an amazing time! I would love to go to one of these someday, but going alone would be so terrifying! You’re so brave! I’m a social dork, so I’m just not sure I could pull this kind of thing off. But I can sure dream about it! Thank you for the fantastic giveaway!

    • It was amazing. Indescribable, really. I would totally hang out with you at utopYA! No worries about going alone!

      • Lindsey

        🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Chrissi Jackson

    Toni, it was so wonderful to meet you in person at UtopYA! Kristie Cook and I talked about how beautiful and elegant you are on our drive home. Congratulations on your awards! Big Hugs from Florida. xo

    • Chrissi, it was AWESOME meeting you both. Thank you so much. I have to chuckle when you and Kristie say that I was beautiful and elegant. I almost didn’t wear a dress because I’m usually not a dress person. I’m happy to hear I pulled it off. LOL. HUGE HUGS! I look forward to working with you both in the future.

  • Desiree Putaski

    I am super super jealous!!! I hate going to signings and conventions alone…but I don’t ever have anyone to go with me. Glad you had a wonderful time…ones day I shall get to go!!

  • Carol Savoy-Fox

    Congrats, you LUCKY Lady 🙂 I just know you are having a blast and I wish I were there with you!
    To answer the raffle question….hmmmm that’s a hard one, so I’d really have to say Maya Banks or Gena Showalter, oh wait, then there’s Karen Marie Moning, Christine Feehan, and oh my, there are too many to list!

    • Thanks so much, Carol! I wish you could’ve been there. You should totally go next year so we can hang out!!

      • Carol Savoy-Fox

        I am seriously considering it. Lol, I’d have to take my Man cause I don’t go anywhere without him.

  • Sara

    Wow, congrats! I would love to meet any author, they are the coolest people ever! They create the stories I love and need to survive 🙂

  • I would love to hang out with so many!! Time with Sarah Ashley Jones and Michele G. Miller seems necessary!! Ooh maybe getting to spend some time with Shelly Crane or Stacey Marie Brown. Ooh and Chanda Hahn! Aah there’s so many and really because authors are my rock stars it would be an OMG experience with any of them!!!

    I am so super happy for you! Going was a fabulous thing but winning two UtopYA Awards that’s epic!!!

    • Thank you so much, Shayna! It was pretty darn epic! Oh, and you should totally go next year.. I got to hang with all of the authors you mentioned. Get your tickets! Let’s do this! 🙂

  • Christine Marquette

    Toni…you have summed up the whole experience so well. I am sharing this on my blog!!! mybookopolis.com

    • Thanks so much, Christine! It was really difficult trying to get it all in there. I still feel like I missed so many things.

  • Man it was so great meeting you there Toni =) I am already planning for next year <3

    • I adore you, Victoria! I can’t wait to see you again next year! Totally looking at dresses already. Hahahaha. Speaking of dresses, yours was STUNNING!

      • Hehe thank you! I loved how regal you looked in yours! perfect for accepting awards in – its as if you knew – lol – I got such a deal for mine, but I don’t know if I can save that much on one again

        • The funny thing about that is, I was just going to wear a maxi dress, but a week before I left I found an awesome deal on that dress from someone on Facebook. I got it for $25 and it had only been worn once! I took it to the dry cleaner and voila! I guess God must have known I needed something a bit dressier for the event. 🙂

  • Delphina Miyares

    It was so awesome to finally meet you in real life!

  • So stoked to meet you, and can’t wait to have you over for some fantabulous guest bloggin’ at Indie-visible.com! WHOOO! I just adore you!

  • I THOUGHT I was subscribed to your blog, but then I got this as a “Toni posted in the group, blah, blah, blah” and I almost pooped myself. Not okay! So, I fixed it 😀

  • GREAT recap!! So looking forward to next year! <3

  • ame1184

    So many authors I’d love to meet! And really, any and all would be fun to hang out with, I think : )

  • Danielle @ Consuming Worlds

    There are too many to choose from…. But if I had to pick I would go with M.R. Merrick, Steven Montano, Steven Luna, Ben Wallace, Devri Walls, Bailey Ardisone, Nikki Jefford and Helen Boswell. Just to name a few. 🙂

    It sounds like you had so much fun!

  • Jamie Rushly

    To many to choose from but I would say a new YA upcoming my friend Dee King 🙂

  • Zairah Divino

    There are so many authors I’d like to meet, but to name a few, my top ten list will be Nicholas Sparks, Colleen Hoover, Layla Hagen, Amanda Maxlyn, Marissa Meyer, Rick Riordan, John Green, C. J. Redwine, Jade C. Jamison, an Elizabeth Reyes! 🙂

    Oh, by the way. Does this giveaway happen to be international? I believe it is not included in the post and rafflecopter. ^_^

  • Allyn Ann

    I’d love to hang out with Kasie West. I’ve emailed her a couple of times and she sounds so nice and accommodating. 🙂

  • Samantha Wallace

    I would like to hang out with Jennifer Estep, Jennifer L Armentrout, and Wendy Higgins. Thanks for the giveaway!! 🙂

  • Laura Marsh

    Cann’t decide any would do.

  • Misty Provencher

    Dang, Toni…you are BRAVE! The scary plane ride would’ve stopped me in my tracks. 😀 I’m so happy it didn’t stop you!

  • UtopYA

    I have been missing you. Loved meeting you in person, and can’t wait to see what we all cook up next!