PTSD the utopYAcon Way

I know what you’re thinking. “Odd title.” “She’s gone off the deep end.” “Is she medicated?” The quick answer: perhaps I should be. *snortle*

PTSD generally has a negative connotation. Not ’round these parts. For me it’s Post Transcendent Squee Disorder, a condition that rears it’s ugly head the moment you realize the next utopYAcon is a WHOLE FREAKIN YEAR AWAY! An ailment afflicting con attendees who fell victim to the magic that IS utopYAcon.

Last year, the virgin voyage of utopYAcon, was my first wee con and you can read my uber mushy PTSD blog post here. And when I say I cried, I totally did. Almost the ugly kind. But that’s what happens after utopYAcon! After two and a half days of complete immersion into a world of squishy community awesomeness, you sort of get addicted. Then the weekend passes and you come down off the utopYA high. You’re back to the real world, back to the writing task, the endless books, the same computer screen that mocks you with its blinking cursor. That’s where the PTSD kicks in.

As an attendee last year, I felt all the magic. It saturated the air much like Tennessee humidity. The whole ‘help you rise as I climb’ mentality soaks into every pore, urging you to be a part of that enigmatic world of the writing community. The thing is, it only feels enigmatic at OTHER cons. Not at utopYA. The community is very tangible, welcoming even, and will quite frankly snatch you by the lanyard if you linger too long in the corner. I felt it. I was part of it. It was part of me.

Then a couple months later, something amazing happened.

After one of our KidLit critique meets, Janet Wallace (aka: mama of the amazeballs utopYA) asked if I wanted to stay for a utopYAcon meeting. Of course I stayed. Pah-leeeze! Suddenly, I was a part of this amazing con and had the privilege to see how it all came together. Only 2013 was on track to be GINORMOUS compared to 2012. Lots of planning splattered the menu and, after a few shorts months, I became part of an amazing team.

Then something even more amazing happened.

The weekend of June 28th, 2013, as part of the utopYAcon staff, I got to see the magic happen for 320-something other people. Facebook friends united, Twitter stalkers united, bloggers, readers, writers, and authors united. They all came together, again, to embrace each other and their individual journeys. New friendships formed, old ones grew stronger, and despite the stickiness that is Tennessee, hugs and squee-ing filled the air.

Not only that, but I got to experience the magic…again. Seeing some of the utopYAcon alumni rocked my socks in a HUGE way. Chelsea Fine and Carol and Adam Kunz remembered me and had hugs to spare. M.R. Polish came stocked with an exhibitor table filled with her now published books. CJ Redwine sat on several panels and wowed with her humor and knowledge (I bow to thee). Even Myra McEntire hugged me, HUGGED I say, before hopping onto the panel pony. Jennifer L. Armentrout came as keynote speaker and totally knew me from Twitter! I got to sit next to her at dinner and get some serious fangirl on. Not the psycho-crazed fangirl kind, but the I-heart-you-and-I-suddenly-don’t-know-how-to-speak-properly kind. Others thought it was cute. Me? Sort of mortified.

At the close of the weekend, during the final thoughts, when the floor is opened to all, it happened again. The magic that is utopYAcon. Those who got up and shared their experience brought tears to my eyes and goose-pimples to my flesh. They felt it too! The magic lives on!

UtopYAcon may not be a hard-core intensive powered crafty con, but it has something that the other cons don’t; Community. No invisible lines, no expectations, no drama. Just the equal love of books, the written word, and a deep love of encouragement.

So what do us little utopYAcon goers do during the months we’re without the magic? We write. We befriend. We encourage the next in line. We support those who encouraged us. We READ! We dare to dream and dare to see them come true. PTSD is not to be taken lightly. It’s a condition that lives within all who have experienced the magic of utopYAcon, the little con that could. It urges us to carry on, to “Expand our Clumps¹,” and to “Dream Out Loud².”  “UtopYA is what you make it³,” so make it yours.

UtopYAcon is a tangible unicorn. Touch it, and you too will carry the magic.



¹Quoted by Angeline Kace
²Quoted by Victoria Faye Alday
³Quoted by K.P. Simmon



There is room at the top for ALL of us!

Many, many apologies to everyone for sort of falling off the face of the earth. With managing some health issues, my 10 1/2 year old Lab’s health issues, and seemingly endless life crap, things just sort of…well, went to the crapper. That’s me being honest, and PG-13.

Anyway, that’s neither here nor there. As you may have seen from my multiple tweets on the subject, I was very excited about a wee event called UtopYA Con that took place right here in Nashville. A start-up convention for YA paranormal writers, authors, and all the freakin’ readers who obsessstalkLOVE to read! I knew it would be the cat’s meow, and I was right. Over the next several days, or weeks as time wills, I will try to recap some of the awesome I experienced over the last couple days.
For now, I just have to give my thanks. Many, many thanks.
Janet Wallace, Nashville’s Kid-Lit Meet-Up group organizer and owner of Social Deviants, birthed this idea for UtopYA and she did a phenomenal job. This was the second time I’ve gone to this sort of event, the first being the SCBWI Conference in NYC. SCBWI was big and awesome and crazy informative, but UtopYA had something in it I didn’t really find at SCBWI NYC. I thought I had, and I’m sure it IS there, but it was not as blazingly obvious as it was at UtopYA.
That thing, is HEART.
I’m not a hard core writer. I will be the first to admit this. There are so many freakin’ awesome writers and authors out there. Me? I’m the sort of misfit kid in the back of the room that never really…’fit.’ But I LOVE to write. It has freed me in so many ways over the last two years. Quite literally, I have finally found…me. It took thirty mumble-grumble years to do it, but hell if I found her finally.
UtopYA oozed with wonderful people that were just like you and me. Some were traditionally published, most were either indie published or self published, some just budding out on the page. Did they throw it around like a fluorescent pink boa with diamond crusting? Nope. Did they spout stats like a stock broker on crack and zero sleep? Nuh-uh. Were they welcoming? Were they excited to meet someone who has read, or is dying to read, one or all of their books? You bet your buttered biscuit baby!
When I say UtopYA has the heart I didn’t find at other, larger, meets, I mean it. We were all there for the same reason: we love YA paranormal. There was a common unity no matter where you are in your career. The writing community really IS a community. It is a family that I am so very proud to be a part of. I still feel sort of like a distant cousin tip-toeing around the edges at times, but I still felt it. I felt the heart of this Con. I felt the heart of UtopYA.
Will it be the same in 2013? I sure as hell hope so! But really, I think it will. Everyone there, I think, picked up on the same vibe. We are readers. We are writers. We are authors. We are a group of people who LOVE to help the next coming. “There is room for all of us!” “A success for one, is a success for all.” We all strive to the same goal: readers. And readers LOVE to read…a LOT.
The lovely Willow Cross said in a panel I attended, and I will paraphrase here: it might take her readers a week to read her novel, what are they going to do with the other 51 weeks of the year? ‘If you like my books, here, check out my friend’s book too!’
That is what we do as writers, as authors. Support. Community. Family. Friends. You CAN do it. We ALL can do it.
Willow Cross, Raine Thomas, Amanda Havard, Myra McEntire, Chelsea Fine, Tiffany King, L.M. Preston, Angeline Kace, Teal Haviland, Tammy Blackwell, M.R. Polish, Amy Bartol, Abbi Glines… oh my word there are just too many. All of these women were phenomenal to meet and share experiences with. We laughed, we cried, we joked, we teased. We were just like those crazy cousins that get together at family reunions and gossip over who is doing what.
And why?
Because we are a community. We are a community of writers. And there is room for ALL of us.
Will YOU be a part next time? UtopYA Con 2013 is on the books. Come be part of the HEART of this awesomesauce community. You will NOT be disappointed. Come play. Come laugh. Come learn. Come fan-girl. Come be a part of the family.

Footnote. Yes, I totally cried writing this whole thing. But I’m a crier. That’s how I roll y’all. =^)