The League of Utah Writers held their annual spring conference Saturday at Taylorsville Redwood Campus. Here is a recap of some notable presentations from the event.
“Why Write Short Stories?” by John M. Olsen
John M. Olsen is a self-professed renaissance man who enjoys experimenting with all types of writing. He currently lives in Utah, and has done various jobs from illustrating fiction to writing chapters of computer graphics and game design.
Olsen, like many of the speakers, meant to show the realities of writing. Writers, he warned, are often never full time. They have side jobs to sustain themselves and work constantly to support their dreams.
As a means of bringing in money, he said, short stories aren’t very effective. They do, however, mean different things to different people.
Olsen asked the audience, “What makes someone who has never written before want to write short stories?” Answers varied from a sense of accomplishment to enjoyment. One elderly woman said it helped her solidify her memories.
Probably the most practical reason to want to write short stories, Olsen says, is get introduced to publishing. Once you have published several short stories, publishing a full length novel is easier.
Olsen also says short stories are a great way to learn the genres, since readers can finish multiple short stories in the same amount of time it takes to read a novel.
“Unique Marketing” by Britney Johnson
Britney Johnson, a marketing CEO in Logan, offered pointers and shared new ways to market a person’s writing.
Johnson encouraged writers to find their niche market, and never market to the masses. She recommends tracking websites and posts with free analytics platforms such as Google, Bitly and Clicky. This data lets writers know where to invest their marketing resources in a more focused and productive manner.
Johnson said social media sites are helpful self-marketing tools, but writers should avoid relying exclusively on them. She urged attendees to use every tool possible.
For example, attending conventions and events can increase visibility and recognition. To add a personal touch, Johnson suggested offering baskets or sales that include published works.
“Pacing for Plot, Character and Theme” by Lisa Mangum
Lisa Mangum is the author of “After Hello” and “The Hourglass Door” trilogy. Lisa discussed the importance of pacing for plot, using the show “Supernatural” as an example.
Mangum walked the audience through a particular episode, and described how it developed the plot and character without giving too much away at the beginning. She also showed everyone the importance of tying specific elements to a character, including clothing, gestures or past events, to support the story. These traits will help develop a character as the story progresses.
In addition to character building, Mangum also used visuals and graphs to explain how plots can be paced for writing a book, screenplay, or short story.
“Polishing your Public Speaking Voice” by Joseph Batzel
Joseph Batzel, adjunct professor at Utah State University and voice actor, advised attendees of his seminar to understand the need to identify with whatever or whoever they’re reading for.
Batzel explained that each character in a story needs to be distinct, especially between male and females.
“You don’t need to be macho and you don’t need to be at the other end of the spectrum where it’s offensive to people, but you need to make sure it is distinct,” he said.
During his seminar, Batzel used pieces submitted by the audience to share notes and explain his ideas, which provided a personalized touch. One such demonstration included a public reading of a playscript by audience member Steve Odenthal.
Batzel gave a one-word description above each character. Megan, who seemed to emphasize her words, was described as “bossy,” while another character, Tilly, was described as “nervous.”
Batzel then asked Odenthal to reread the piece and advised him to interpret these words rather than act them. After the second reading, most audience members agreed that the performance was greatly improved.
Contact the LUW to learn more about the league and how to join a local chapter.