Friday, September 21, 2018

Salt Lake City Weekly INterview

This week's blog is simple. It's a link to a fun interview I did with Scott Renshaw at the Salt Lake City Weekly newspaper. Here it is.

Thursday, September 13, 2018


I’d like to announce the existence of 

This new short story anthology was written, editing, and created by my League of Utah Writers chapter, The Infinite Monkeys.

We debuted the book at this year's QUILLS conference and it sold out in a day!

I am honored and excited to be a part of it. Not only do I have a story in it—the shortest one by far at one hundred words—but I got to edit some of it and work with a great group of enthusiastic writers. We debuted many of them here.

Ostensibly the book was centered around the zodiac, astrological signs, but that was just twelve writing prompts that quickly led into other places. Each story is wonderful, diverse, dark or funny. It’s a celebration of writing, a foray into the publishing world, and a testament to the power of creativity.

I recommend you pick up a copy, maybe a dozen. Christmas is coming. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

My FanX Schedule

—September 6-8, 2018 

100 South West Temple
Salt Lake City, UT 84101

Thursday, September 6, 2018 


The Heart & Soul of Storytelling:
Writing to Theme

3:00 - 4:00 p.m. — Room 151 A
Raise your work to literary levels by consciously incorporating themes. Learn how to identify what you’re trying to say and actively nurture the subtler but greater questions you’re addressing. Enhance your writing with symbols as signposts, layers of grays and depths of meaning. Give the literary critics something to enjoy.

Friday, September 7, 2018 


Turning Ideas Into Novels

1:00 - 2:00 p.m. — Room 255B
Have you ever had a great idea, but didn't know the steps to take to make it into something more? Join authors and creators as they discuss the steps from brainstorming to outlining to all the different ways you can take your process and turn and idea into a novel.

With Cindy Grigg, C.B. Lee (Moderator), Tricia Levenseller, John M. Olsen, Rebecca Rode, J.P. Roth, Johnny Worthen

Thursday, August 30, 2018

My speech from Quills

League of Utah Writers, Quills Conference 2018
Incoming President's speech (by me - Johnny Worthen)
Published by request.

So… here we are.
We pushed it off for a year, but here we are. Again.
Yeah. Hi.
I’m Johnny Worthen and I am your leader. I am the new president. Throw me a parade!
Before I bask in the glory and reverence I so richly deserve, let me say that if I have seen farther it is because I stand atop the pile of my enemies mouldering corpses.
Really though. I take over this venerable and noble institution at a time when its course is set and right. My job is just not to sink it. My job is maintenance. For this gift I’d like to give thanks to our new past-president, my friend and inspiration, Jared Quan!
Give it up for Jared!
Also give it up for the fantastic people behind this our best conference ever. The planning committee, board and volunteers.
And of course our awesome guests.
This fantastic conference is a testament to everyone’s hard work and dedication. We are a non-profit organization. We are run by volunteers, talented, energetic, dedicated volunteers. Or as I like to call them my friends.
To me this is what the League of Utah Writers has always been about. 
It’s about friends. It’s about community. It’s about being a part of something bigger than ourselves and it’s about giving back. I have long believed that the only way to achieve one’s dreams is to help others achieve theirs. It is not a burden but a privilege to do so. There are prizes for participation. Tonight I stand before you as a glowing example of the truth of that statement.
Thanks to the League of Utah Writers, my dreams have been, are being, and will be fulfilled.
That’s what community does.
All around me are my friends—a community of artists who share the joys and depressions, the triumphs and the trophies, who understand  truth of a phrase that comes to you as fall asleep. The mighty power of the oxford comma.
We come together because, unlike the propaganda of division thrown daily in our faces, we recognize that there is more—much more—that unites us than divides us. That is community. That is the League of Utah Writers.

We are a varied group of poets, genre-ists, memoir-ists, essayists, novelists— masochists all. We unite because we can, because we must. We are the only ones who understand us.
We are magicians in the true sense of the word, spells of words translated across time and space. Thought, intent, knowledge and emotion, we play in the psyche, meld minds, speak beyond the grave. So let it be written. We move in that special kind of telepathy Stephen King talked about. Every letter, syllable, word and phrase, paragraph chapter, tome and catalog changes the universe. Changes the universe. I feel sorry for the people who don’t do what we do. So mote it be! So say we all!
Together we fight rejection and editors. Subjective fickleness and fad. It is crazy to do this. 
We are all insane, but what good company we keep!
Jared said something that has resonated with me for years. It’s not his quote, but we’re writers. We steal outright and conceal our sources. Anyway he said, “if you want to go fast, go alone. I you want to go far, go together.” Here we are!
Without this group, all of you, this institution, this energy, this support and love, I would have long since given up on this, my dream, my happiest endeavor, my writing.
I am honored to have earned the trust of the board and the league. I thank you for this chance.
I should warn you though that I will fuck up. I will make mistakes. I press the limits. I will. I’m good at that. Lots of practice. But if I fall, I know I shall not fall far. For I have the greatest net of friends in the world to catch me and steer me right. From neophytes newly initiated, to chapter presidents, board members, and executives, and the new president elect John Olsen, who if things get too bad will have me assassinated and take over.
Give it up!
This is Quills. This is by far the most ambitious conference the league has ever held. So far. We have five or six major event a year for all types and levels of writer. Quills is the crowning moment, the one made for advanced seekers. We are intimate and professional. Which is good because I often say that all writers are like prostitutes just looking for a better pimp, the analogy fits.
This year’s theme was Read Write and Repeat. It wasn’t used much because the names Quills was so new and cool we concentrated on it. But the idea was sound. Read Write Repeat. Stay hooked on books. We need more users out there. The first one’s free, after that… yeah, well there are libraries. I guess they’re all kind of free. Literacy is intelligence and after seeing what the opposite of intelligence can do, I big fan of smart. Read, write, repeat. Be artists. Be smart artists.
Anne Hillerman
Wrapping up and looking forward I’d like to announce the theme for the next year and next Quills. “Live in Letters.” This is a continuation of the theme of literacy and the life writing.
I’d like to announce also now our first special guest for Quills 2019. The wonderful, and talented, all-around cool, best-selling author of American Mystery Anne Hillerman. Anne shall hang out with us next time.
Anne Hillerman! I am living the dream!
That’s all I got— I’m humbled and excited. I’m happy. I’m among friends.
Live in Letters everyone, they are magick!
I thank you!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

One week until Quills!

I am so excited for Quills. It's going to be a complete blast. It is a dream conference for me. A chance to hang with the tribe and meet new members for the first time. I get to meet my hero, Tim Dorsey and teach and drink and eat and chill... so cool!

If you haven’t signed up, there’s still time. You can now buy single day passes and banquet tickets along with the Thursday Prequel Workshops and regular stuff.

This magnificent and intimated conference is the height of the writing scene in Utah. Come and create!

Here’s my schedule:

Thursday, August 23, 2018 

Prequel: Querying: The Art of Rejection 
9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. — Summit 

Welcome Mixer/Reception
7:00 – 10:00 p.m. — Garden

Friday, August 24, 2018 

New Attendees Orientation 
8:15 - 8:45 a.m. — Amphitheater

Panel: Tim Dorsey Interview
10:00 - 11:00 a.m. — Ballroom 2

Presentation: Deeper Reading for Deeper Writing: Introduction to Deconstruction
11:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. — Connor

5:45 - 6:45 p.m. — Atrium

Saturday, August 25, 2018 

Panel: Live Critique: Adult SFF/Horror
8:30 - 9:30 a.m. — Aspen
Presentation: Outlining: A map not a death sentence
11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. — Amphitheater

Panel: Live Critique: Mystery, Thrillers, Suspense, Crime
5:45 - 6:45 pm. — Willow

Awards Banquet - Incoming President Speech
7:30 - 10:00 p.m. — Ballroom

Thursday, August 9, 2018

CORONAM - A Crowning Personal Achievement

It is done.

I finished it. At least the first draft.

My epic social science fiction, CORONAM, is done.

I am in shock. I am on air. I am in awe.

Now you know I write a lot of books. Have written a lot of books. I have. It’s what I do. I love it. Every book I write, every project I begin is a wonderful new adventure. I think of myself as an artist and so with each one, I press myself harder, I challenge myself more, I take bigger risks and get more ambitious.

That was the genesis of CORONAM.

And boy, was it ambitious.

As with all projects it’s hard to pin down a moment of beginning. Prewriting is often subconscious and goes on for years. The way I do things though, I can put a definite date on the actual beginning of writing. The first “Once upon a time” so to speak. It was April 12, 2015. I finished it August 4, 2018.

That’s 1210 days of writing. 39 and 3/4 months. 3.31 years.

It is a trilogy. It is epic.

I have a rule to “Finish What I Start.” This one really tested that. In fact, it was so trying, that between books one and two I actually took time off to write a mystery. Much less complicated.

Book two took fourteen months (the muddled middle in action). It was only because of my great writers group, The Infinite Monkeys and our Fall Writing Retreat that I was able to kick start it again and blaze through it with extra momentum to carry on to three and now have it all done. Thanks guys!

It’s not that the books are boring or that they lagged. They didn’t. They’re great, I think. The pinnacle of my power (so far). It’s just, as many writers will attest, it’s hard to keep interest in long projects. I had distractions and lots of career fear, new responsibilities and a plethora (yes I said plethora) of day to day worry that only a left-leaning American can appreciate.

But I got book two done and then book three and the entire arc was done.

One central idea, planned and executed. Not random. Connected and united. Not a false note in it. From the first word to the last sigh, all driving forward to a promise fulfilled.

When I say epic, I mean it in every sense of the word. The series encompasses centuries of history, has a score of main characters, spans the stars and wrestles with ideas, social and philosophical, that have plagued mankind since the beginning. And it’s long.

127.688 words (three edits)

146,828 words (three edits)

161,204 words (first draft)

Total: 435,720 words.

I know this spits in the face of all the gatekeepers who say to write novellas and short books, but this isn’t that. This is my DUNE, my FOUNDATION TRILOGY, my EARTHSEED. This is the series I’ve always wanted to write.

And I did it.

My creative life has been orbiting this series for so long—for years. It was the center of my life. I feel a bit untethered now, a bit afraid, but also, truly, supremely proud.

This is a life’s achievement for me.

Will it get published? I don’t know. My agent is trying, but it’s hell out there, and epic literary social science fiction is not exactly the current craze. I hope it does sell though. It may not be for everyone, but I think it could find an audience.

But I wrote it for me and that is enough. My motto: “I write what I want to read, that guarantees me at least one fan.”

Editing awaits.

Finish what you start, push yourself, and don’t give up!

The payoff is worth the pain.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Quills 2018 - get excited!

Quills is less than a month away and I am excited! (Yes, I used an exclamation point, and italics, just now - that should tell you something.)

Quills is the new name for the League of Utah Writers fall conference and awards banquet. We renamed it because we’re changing it. We’re looking to make it an regional event not just local. To this end we’ve invited many guests the Utah crowd has never heard before. New voices and perspectives, opportunities galore. We have agents and editors and writers and scribblers, and the gang will all be there. 

It’s limited to 300 people, so it’ll be intimate and information packed. It’s the kind of event where you can sit with your future agent, chew the fat with with New York Times best seller and play games in the bar with an editor. It’s a conference. It’s networking. It’s a party.

The League of Utah Writers Quills awards banquet is Saturday and me, yours truly, will complete my many years coup of becoming president of the League. Big night.

There will even be a Thursday prequel full of half-day workshops that you can sign up for separately.

You can sign up to pitch your work to agents and editors.

If you are a writer or want to be and you are within traveling distance of this event you need to come.

This is the big one.

Friday and Saturday, October 24th and 25th, 2018
(Prequel Thursday 23rd)

480 Wakara Way
Salt Lake City, Utah 84108 
(801) 581-1000