LTUE 2017

jodimilnersocialmediaThe 2017 Utah writing conference season kicks off with the ever popular, and oh-so-affordable “Life, the Universe, and Everything” symposium on science fiction and fantasy. I’ve attended this particular conference a handful of times as a hopeful starry-eyed participant in the past.

However, this year for the first time ever, they let me play with the big kids. That’s right, yours truly got to be an expert panelist. If that wasn’t exciting enough,  I got to be a panel moderator as well, which is a huge first.

It’s hard not to read too deeply into the committee’s choice to include me, a mere short storyist. My qualifications as an author are still a bit thin. There are so many super talented and super published authors in Utah that you can’t throw a rock without hitting one. I’d love to say I was picked because they had seen some of my presentation work before and they were impressed.

The truth is, I apparently have in-depth knowledge of several obscure fields of study, knowledge that most gals in my position don’t have.  I also volunteered to be part of several obscure panels. My first panel discussed the realities of what happens at death. I haven’t personally died yet, so my experience is limited there. I’m holding off on trying it out until it goes on sale. Instead, I have worked in health care for both humans and animals and seen plenty of death that way. My fellow panelists included a firefighter, a seasoned RN and personal friend, a physicians assistant obsessed with cellular biology, and the moderator who I still haven’t figured out the background on. In fairness, he’s still puzzling out mine.

The other panel centered on the visual comedy of Rowan Atkinson. I know, I laughed too. death goes so well with visual comedy. On the panel was the founder of the LTUE conference itself, Dave Doering, and the TMA track head, Nick Mills, and another guy who apparently spent his childhood the precisely the same way I spent mine, watching late night PBS when all the British comedies came on. Yes, I didn’t have that many friends, why do you ask? Needless to say, having two fairly influential people on the panel stressed me out to no end.

To sum up – I had a great time and I believe that my panels went well. I wanted to attend a few other panels and perhaps glean a few nuggets of new writerly wisdom, but instead I hung around with writing friends instead, which honestly is the best part of the conference anyway.

A huge shout out to the following awesome people who let me play and were kind enough to let me hang out with them: Jared Quan, President of the League of Utah Writers; Candace Thomas, Eliza Crosby (who got a full manuscript request – you go girl!), Sarah Seeley, Chris Roche, DawnRay Ammon, Jenna Eatough, and all my other LTUE talented friends!

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Enter the Summer

bubble summerThis week marks the end of structured days of kids in school and the beginning of summer vacation.  For kids, this is a magical time of freedom, discovery, and lots of play.  For parents, this time comes with mixed emotions. There is no longer the pressure of the morning school rush and all its battles, but there are also whole long days of nothing on the calendar.

For me, I’m looking forward to the change.  There are so many fun things I want to do with my kids that were too complicated to manage during school.  Now is the time for swimming lessons, day camps, play dates, sleepovers, summer crafts, and lots of outside play.

At the same time I’m terrified.  I need structure.  The thought of having whole days with nothing on the calendar is very daunting.  My first instinct is to go a little crazy and create a mommy school where my kids can grow their minds and hone their skills.  There would be field trips where we would have in-depth discussions about science and art.  I would become super mom plus, and drive myself crazy planning and creating activities.

Then I realize, I also have a toddler who will make most of these plans really difficult.  Having one-on-one time with older children to focus on their needs is super important.  Doing it while wrestling a curious toddler is an exercise in patience.  Planning outings and activities is harder when nap schedules need to be considered.

This summer can’t all be about the kids either.  I have goals as well.  I would love to make some real headway on the current draft of my book.  To do so requires hours of work at the computer, undisturbed when possible.  There will be less of those with the kids home, yet I feel there should be more now that I don’t have to drive the taxi to school and back.  This might just be the summer that the kids learn that mommy needs time to work on her projects as well.

I wish I could say I have a brilliant plan about how this is all going to work.  With only a few days left I better start making one or the summer is going to slip away before we even get started!

To all those parents out there, good luck! May this summer vacation be the best one yet.