Thursday, February 14, 2013
I’m attending the Life, the Universe and Everything writers conference number 31 in Provo Utah. I missed the last 30 because well, those cartoons weren’t going to watch themselves were they?
Let me say right now that this thing is HUGE. Compared to the last conference I attended, the Tony Hillerman Writer’s Conference Wordharvest, which was very cozy and cool, this thing isn’t so much a conference as a convention. There are hundreds of people here. More than hundreds. Several of them. Maybe ten. That would be thousands wouldn’t it? Everyone here is a writer or want-to-be writer. There are so many. And they’re all here. And it’s a Thursday. Morning. Don’t these people have jobs?
I stood in line for an hour after an hour drive to slap down a rather reasonable forty-five dollars to come face to face with something that every writer who hopes to make a career in writing has to deliberately deny: There are lots and lots and lots of other writers.
Looking longingly at the registration line vanishing point, my fifty pound briefcase severing my arm at the clavicle, I told myself that I’m a special little snowflake. Just like everyone else here.
For thirty years I didn’t know this gathering existed, but apparently everyone in Provo with a word processor knows about it. So many writers… yeah, I’m stuck on that.
And it’s not like this is some general writing conference where writers of all kinds are drawn, be they writers of fiction, genre, memoir, text or technical. No, this thing is focused. Sci-Fi and Fantasy. Oh. And Mormonism.
From the program book: “There may be nowhere else in the world that has quite the unique blend of science fiction and fantasy, academics and Mormonism.”
I don’t know much about the academics, but since BYU is a mortar round away, I guess there has to be a few students and teachers here. I can however attest to the Mormons. Yeah. They’re here. Lots of them. Lots and lots of Mormon Sci-Fi and Fantasy Writers. Hundreds of them. Who knew there were so many Mormon Sci-Fi and Fantasy writers with free Thursdays in Provo? I didn’t.
Wait. It’s worse. Today isn’t just Thursday, it’s Valentine’s Day. Don’t these people have wives and husbands? This is Provo. Of course they do. Don’t they have jobs? This is Provo. Of course they do. But they’re all still here following in the footsteps of Orson Scott Card and Stephanie Meyers and being excessively polite to tie-dye wearing authors passing out newly minted business cards like they were breath mints at a Greek restaurant.
This is discouraging. If I were to make up a sub-genre of writing that I’d think would be small, a niche I could snuggle into and have few peers, I might come up with Zambian Techo-Thrillers with Paraplegic Sidekicks or Hindu Cooking Dramas that don’t mention curry. Or, before today, I might have thought of Mormon Sci-Fi and Fantasy written by people who can spend all of Valentine’s Day – a Thursday, jockeying for space on uncomfortable chairs in a wifi-less stone-age hotel in downtown Provo. I’d have been wrong. It’s crowded here. The market is crowded. There are hundreds of people here.
I’m not writing in this specific sub-genre. I can’t. I’m not Mormon. But this place is crowded. Considering that I'm looking at only a smattering of the potential attendees, the people who could make a Thursday Holiday seminar – it makes me think, unhappily, about how many writers there are in the genres I am writing in. Nothing too big, just “Horror,” “Young Adult” and “Mystery.”
If you need me, you can find me at the LTUE31 conference in the no free-wifi in the convention center Marriott hotel, downtown Provo, Utah, on a Thursday – Valentine’s day, huddled in a corner, crying.