Making Dreams Come True #UtopYA2014

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Hello, my fellow book addicts! I hope you are all doing well today. I was thinking… I’m always sharing my own thoughts here about the books I read and such, but today I want to share the thoughts of a few other people with you instead.

Do you recall the UtopYA Con 2014 Superstar Package Giveaway I hosted here on the blog last month? Well, guess what? People actually win these things!

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Say hello to Erin Hayes, self-published author of Death is but a Dream. Let’s find out how she feels about winning this awesome prize package and about going to UtopYA Con 2014…

Hello and welcome, Erin! **waves**

To start this off, I just want to say thank you to Toni at My Book Addiction and UtopYA Con for giving out such a great prize. As a new self-published author, getting to go to UtopYA gives me the best possible opportunity to get hooked into the book community and meet some people that I’ve only talked to on Facebook and in email.

It’s a dream come true.

I’ve been writing part time for the last two and a half years. I’m hoping 2014 will be the year where I finally get this whole self-published author thing down more pat. That means being a better social media butterfly and publishing at a faster rate than one book a year. That’s the dream, anyway. How hard can it be?

The answer: Very.

Some authors are so great at being able to post to social media. I enjoy reading their posts, their statuses, and their personal anecdotes. Me, I can’t ever seem to find the time. And when I do, I can’t find anything that seems like it would be interesting.

So, goal number one: Gain a voice in the social media world, actively work to make things interesting for readers, and build a bigger and better network.

I also dream of releasing three books this year. Some authors write quickly and release quite a few books. I’m currently not one of them. But I’m working on getting faster and telling the stories that I want to tell in well-written books. I want to be able to tell the next chapter in the life of Callie from Death is but a Dream. Jacob Smith isn’t quite done being Incredibly Average yet. And I have more characters and stories that haven’t been told. It’s a matter of my sanity to write these books faster, because all of my characters are getting very insistent.

I’m committed to being a better friend online and a more steady writer. UtopYA Con is in June, making it such a great halfway point for me to see how I’m doing. If I’ve gotten one book completely written and another one on the way, I’m doing great. If I’m more chatty and making more friends in the book community, then I’m doing fantastic.

Because I want to make some friends before seeing you guys at UtopYA Con. I want to rub elbows with the bloggers who spread the word about my next favorite book. I want to talk to my favorite authors to see what makes them tick. I want to talk with the readers to find out what they want to read next.

We’re going to have so. much. FUN!! **Squee!!**

I’ll be seeing you later.

Erin Hayes

For sure, Erin! I’m in the same boat… a total UtopYA Con virgin. I must admit that I’m a bundle of anxiety already, but I’m also extremely hopeful for an awesome new experience. I am super excited to meet some of the fabulous people I’ve had the pleasure to speak to and interact with online over the past year.

I think we should probably meet some of the folks that have been to UtopYA Con in previous years and find out about their experience. Sound like a good plan? Yeah, I think so too. Maybe it will help calm my nerves!

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First up we have the incredibly talented Chanda Hahn, author of The Unfortunate Fairy Tale, The Iron Butterfly series and more…

UtopYA- No Dream Left Behind.

I had the privilege last year to attend UtopYA 2013 as a panelist and I was both blown away by the conference, and the attending authors, bloggers and readers.
This was my first time attending a conference. It’s different to sit behind your desk and interact with fictional characters all day, or spend your time chatting with your friends and community online *cough Facebook.* This was getting out of the house, from the safety and anonymity of my computer and meeting people face to face. AAAHHHH!

It was exhilarating, it was terrifying.

I’m, for the most part, am an extroverted introvert. I flew from Portland, OR by myself. My luggage was caught on the tarmac during a thunderstorm and I arrived with all of my clothes and luggage soaking wet. I met my roomie: Shelli Johannes, for the first time at the event and had to go down to a meet n greet. And since I wasn’t a facebook stalker, I didn’t recognize anyone. Faces really didn’t start to click for me until the next day, when I could connect the cover to the author. YESSS! Progress. It was such a blur, I didn’t realize I had pictures taken with some famous-to-me authors until much later.

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Heather Self, Georgia Cates & me (Chanda Hahn)
I don’t even remembering taking this shot. At the Author Meet and Greet.

For some reason, when I first attended, and I don’t know why, but I assumed that everyone attending would know all of my dirty little secrets. That everyone there, would know my sales numbers, and had read every single one of my negative reviews. Or worse yet…that no one would recognize me or know who I was. Even though I’ve sold hundreds of thousands of books and had thousands of 5 star reviews. I still felt that I wasn’t an author. I felt like a nobody.

And I was waiting for the ball to drop. Waiting for the meanies and negative reviewers that attacked me online to show up and boo me out of the conference. For fingers to point and go, “There’s the poser.”

It never happened…Why?

At UtopYA, everyone was a VIP. Janet Wallace does her best to make this a close knit community of writers, supporters and fans. So everyone was treated like an the same no matter what part of their writing journey they were on. Even if they’ve never written a book, or only had a small inkling of an idea for a book. And this wasn’t a conference just for Authors and fans. It was a launching point for many in the self published business. Cover designers, bloggers, editors, photographers. If I had to give UtopYA a motto it would be this: No Dream Left Behind. Big or small. Everyone was on equal ground, equal footing and were cheering each other on. Authors, bloggers and fans, were sitting with each at restaurants, going dancing, rooming together at the hotels, photobombing each other’s pics. I even had a few fangirl moments myself.

I remember sitting by myself during the opening announcements and author Raine Thomas, looked over her shoulder at me and said, “Don’t sit by yourself, get up here.” She made me part of her group, even though I doubt she knew who I was. This is what really sealed the deal for me, that I loved the Indie community and that UtopYA allowed us to get together and show each other support.

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NYT Bestseller Addison Moore, Me, Chelsea Fine
(I’m still not sure how she squeezed her lanyard down to her hips?)

Jennifer Armentrout and Jen Sincero were Keynote speakers. I took Jen’s idea of doing something that scared you and doing it in one week. I went home and finished the book I had been dragging my feet to write and finished it. Phew!

UtopYA was a perfect combination of a quirky family reunion and business. I was able to meet long lost fans, friends and the unofficial UtopYA Mother to to all- Carol Kunz. P.S. if you are planning on attending next year and are nervous. Seek out Carol, she will love on you, take you under her wing and totally make you feel apart of the family. I also met my twitter twin, Quinn Loftis. My sister at heart RaShelle Workman and Jennifer Martinez, we both rawked our hand bags.

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Me and RaShelle Workman (Queens of Twisted Fairy Tales)

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Me and Jennifer Rockin’ our matching hand bags.

I realized that all of my insecurities were just that insecurities. I learned that I was branding myself negatively, when others didn’t. And I feel that there are many other Indie authors that are unintentionally doing that to themselves too. It doesn’t have to be that way. Here there was tons of support, connections built, and dreams realized. My book, Fairest, won an award! Yay!

I even sat by some fabulous UtopYA Peeps on the plane home. Editor Hollie Westring and her sister Sadie Jo , who ended up being one of my future Beta Readers. Hollie went home from the conference and wrote a book called Whisper and Wishes.

This conference really jump started my confidence as an author, helped me connect with other authors to team up for future projects and I learned some great marketing tools. What would I do next year differently? Socialize more. Get out of my comfort zone and out from behind the table and talk more. Bring a better camera. Become a Facebook author stalker and come with a bigger Dream.

Chanda Hahn

Thank you so much, Chanda! That makes me feel better about getting on a plane and heading to Nashville this summer. Just to be sure, though, I think we should hear from someone else who has also braved these UtopYA Con waters…

Please welcome to the blog the brilliant Michele G. Miller, author of The Prophecy of Tyalbrook series and Last Call!

In July 2013, my husband and I left Charlotte North Carolina, swung by Atlanta to pick up Blogger Tess Watson and Author Mercy Amare, and headed to Nashville Tennessee for a weekend adventure called UtopYA. Best. Decision. Ever! Why? Because UtopYA fills SO many needs in one educational, fun filled weekend.

If you’re a reader:

Let me tell you – I AM a reader. I am a fangirl, obsessor of book boyfriends, stay up all night, yell at the characters like so many readers out there. UtopYA gave me the opportunity to meet and chat with some of my favorite writers in the world. MEET and CHAT! This isn’t just a stand in line, robotic signing, this is an event. You have access to stand (or sit, or even drink) with the authors you love. You get to walk around a room full of tables with some of the most talented authors today and get items signed, pick up swag and fangirl with them. Another plus? There are over 100 authors to check out, so do it. Check them out, talk to them, find new books to try – there is no shortage of talent at UtopYA.

UtopYA also provides you with the unique opportunity to go into panel discussions and hear from authors on their writing process, habits, or maybe the new trends in writing they are discovering. You come away feeling enlightened about the publishing/writing process in a way that makes you enjoy reading differently. It’s like a little VIP access for fans.

If you’re a book industry person (blogger, designer, editor etc…) :

Everything I said above applies to you. In addition, you get to connect with the authors you so tireless promote. There is nothing so strong as face to face contact and communication and this is a great place to do that. You will enjoy many of the panels provided as well. There’s something on every aspect of publishing so there is bound to be one that speaks to you and gives you new information.

If you’re an author:

Again, everything above applies to authors but there is even more. (I feel like an infomercial now! “But wait! There’s more!!) Spending a weekend with over 100 other creative, crazy, authors affirms every question you might have had about your sanity.

I went to UtopYA 2013 just short of my three month anniversary of publishing my first book. I met people that had published 10 or more books and people who were still writing their first. It doesn’t matter where you are in the process as an author, there are so many helpful nuggets of information to be soaked up at UtopYA. Marketing tips, how to deal with reviews, YA versus NA, blog tours, trailer making, cover thoughts…and so much more.

For me personally there are two things that UtopYA did for me that I am grateful for.

1) I reveled in the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people. Since July I have made so many friends in the Indie community. We have Facebook groups, open chats, tweets to do writing sprints, and open calls to each other for help with reveals, releases and giveaways. I have this big second family of book lovers to share my dreams with.

2) UtopYA was an eye opening event for my husband. He was able to get a better picture for what I go through on a daily basis. The ups and downs, the good and bad. He went to the business type panels (he’s the smarty pants in the house) and took pages of notes. UtopYA helped him see how he can help me with my writing goals and he left UtopYA saying it was the event we will go back to year after year.
Organized, well attended, educational, financially reasonable, and full of good times. UtopYA 2014 is an event that should NOT be missed.

Michele G. Miller

Squee! Okay, I’m starting to feel more excited than nervous now. I still wanted to find out how a fellow blogger/reader feels about UtopYA Con so I asked Lori Parker from one of my favorite blogs Contagious Reads to share a bit about her first experience with us.

When I bought my ticket to go to UtopYA last year I was excited to get out there and meet new people and make new connections. There is absolutely no doubt that UtopYA Con is a great place to network if you are a blogger. Except if you freeze up. The trip to Nashville last year was a lot of firsts for me. It was my first time traveling alone, my first time traveling on an airplane, and it was my first book convention. So I was pretty much excited that I survived those things. Walking into the conference and seeing all these authors and bloggers that I look up to, well I froze. I don’t think I introduced myself as a blogger to a single person. LOL. Yet, I still had fun, and it was even more insane when people recognized me and my blog. (Considering my lack of social skills and all).

This year I am looking forward to meeting my friends, some again, and some for the first time. Meeting new authors, and coming out of my shell more. Who knows, maybe actually doing some of that networking? But mostly, I’m excited to go because I am passionate about reading, and this community.

Now for the aspirations I have for 2014! I am currently a book blogger, but I am also a writer so my dream for this new year is to finally complete and publish my first novel. Who knows, maybe I’ll be attending #UtopYA2015 Con as an Indie Author? That’s a realistic dream, I think. And from what I’ve learned here today.. I know my dreams really can come true!

I would like to take a moment to thank Erin, Chanda, Michele and Lori for sharing their past experiences and their dreams for the new year with us. I can’t wait to meet everyone in June! I have to warn you.. I may be nervous about going to UtopYA Con for the first time, but I will get over it… and then comes the talking. I like to talk. A LOT. Ha!

I sure do hope to see many of you readers there, too. How much fun would it be for all of us to hang out?! Oh, and I want to let you know that ticket prices go up in February so you might want to grab your tickets this month. I hope to see you there!!

takeme2014

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Wife, mother, 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.
  • Congrats to Erin! I hope she reaches her goals (which are basically mine, too). Good luck on your own writing goals, Toni! You can DO IT!!!! 🙂

  • Awesome post, Toni! I’m a UtopYA Con newbie as well and I’m a little nervous about going to the con. I’m hoping everything goes smoothly *bites nails* and I get to meet you all 🙂 Thanks for giving us this little nugget of gold to hold onto as we brave this new thing. You rock! WRITE ON!

    • Thank you, Jo! Can’t wait to finally meet you in June. Yeah, I’m still a bit nervous, but I’m sure we’re going to have a blast!!!

  • Carlyle

    I am getting soo excited – soon this will be me! Thank you for the awesome post <3

  • Erin Hayes

    I am sososo excited to be going to UtopYA. Awesome post, Toni. Can’t wait to see you there!! 😉

  • Awesome post Toni! Congratulations to Erin and to you! I am going to start planning now so that I can make it to the 2015 one! I’m really proud of you and looking forward to reading your first book! You can do it!!!!

  • Michelle

    Sounds like it’s going to be a lot of fun!! I’ll have to see if I can attend, since I know BEA is off the table.

  • UtopYA

    I have something in my eye *sniff*. Toni, this one gave me the feels. Thanks to everyone who contributed to this article. I hope that we deliver on our promise to keep utopYA the best it can be for all of you. xoxo

    • You’ve already helped mine come true.. I get to go to utopYA this year! And that has also helped me set a new goal for myself as well – this year I will attend as a blogger, next year as an author! So thank you, Janet. xoxo