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New Directions in Old Places – LTUE

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Life the Universe and EverythingLife, the Universe and Everything is a Science Fiction and Fantasy conference that takes place in Utah every year.  My good friend Heather Muir, a former guest-poster of this blog, was able to attend again this year.  I asked her to share her experiences with us as an aspiring writer and how attending the conference has helped her achieve those goals.

I’ve been going to LTUE (Life, the Universe and Everything) forever and this year I was not excited. Last year I vowed I would not attend again. I was critical and annoyed at the panels, many of which are repeated every year. I had heard it all before. Don’t write a love triangle. Write what you love, not what’s popular. Don’t stalk editors in the bathroom. What not to put in your query letter. Wait thirty days, ninety days, a year before you revise anything. Never give up.

I had heard it all three times over. I constantly read all the writer, agent and editor blogs I can keep up with. I attend every conference I can afford, local and worldwide. I’m in a writing group, online and off. And I felt like this conference was for the total newbie.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that whining drowns out sense. As soon as I stopped whining, I had an epiphany. I was miserable because I acting like a newbie. I’d heard all of this advice ten times over but I was not following it. I had written three first drafts of three different novels and was working on a fourth. But I had yet to take the next step to revise. Or the many steps after that towards publication. I was not approaching authors because who was I to talk to such amazing, talented people? I was feeling like a newbie because I was acting like a newbie.

So this year, I decided not to be the newbie. I still attended a few panels but I spent more of my time talking to authors at their table in the dealers room, in between panels and in small groups in the hallway when I was lucky enough to squeeze in. I talked for hours with an old friend, catching up, recommending books and sharing what we were working on, which recharged my batteries more than anything. I spoke with random people I had never met before, practicing my pitch for the novel I had just finished. I asked every author I could for advice about revision (gulp!). My knees shook every time I approached someone.

By the end of the conference, I had a new friend from the front row of a folklore panel. She gave me her email and invited me to join a writing group.Two of the biggest names there remembered me from previous workshops, one of them remembered my story “fondly.” I almost squealed! I talked about gardening with another author. I sent an email to another writer, a follow up to our conversation, and got an email back! I shook the hand of a favorite local artist and made him smile.

Will all of these people remember me next year? Not without prompting for sure. Not without me gathering my courage and walking up to them with a smile. Did I learn anything new? Yes and no. But I changed my expectations. I was here to network and recharge my passion for writing. I succeeded in both ventures and am happy to say I will be going back every year. Hopefully with a novel to truly pitch. Besides, how can you pass up a three day conference that has a crazy amount of talent and community for only $30?!


Hearts, Keys and Puppetry by Neil Gaiman and The Twitterverse

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As I mentioned when I started the blog, I want to use guest bloggers from time to time.  The following post was written by my friend Heather, who can be found at or on Twitter: @heathermmuir.  Heather graduated from the University of Utah in 2010 with a BA in English, Creative Writing Emphasis.  An aspiring writer, Heather was invited to attend Orson Scott Card’s Literary Bootcamp and finished her first novel during a session of NaNoWriMo.  (Consequently, if you’re interested on guest posting yourself, contact me on Twitter or email me at breathingfiction at

There are few writers I admire more than Neil Gaiman. The wonderful thing about Neil is that he has tried his hand at nearly every creative form that involves words. Here is a brief list to give you an idea of what I mean:

Sandman: Graphic Novel

Don’t Panic: Non-Fiction celebration of Douglas Adam’s and The Hitchiker’s Guide To The Galaxy

Princess Mononoke: Script Adaptor for the English translation

Neverwhere: Series Deviser and Writer (later adapted to a novel)

Coraline: Book, Movie and Video Game (yes, he wrote the story for all three)

The Doctor’s Wife: New fan favorite episode of Doctor Who

M is for Magic: One of his numerous collections of short stories

American Gods: Hugo award winning novel for adults

The Dangerous Alphabet: ABC picture book

The Wolves in the Walls: Regular(ish) picture book

8in8: A project where Neil Gaiman, his wife Amanda Palmer and some musically inclined friends wrote and recorded 8 songs in 8 hours (Neil even sings one!)

The Graveyard Book: Newberry award winning novel and audiobook, read by Neil himself

See what I mean? Novels, short stories, screenplays, videogame scripts, tv episodes, comic books, songs, EVERYTHING! Except a stage play. But he’s working on that so we’ll give him some time. And as you already know if you read his blog, a writer is not your bitch.

As an aspiring writer, I find him and his career fascinating. I want to have such a strong grasp of story that I can transcend any boundaries of form that dare to face me. But that’s not the point of this post.

What I really want to talk about Neil Gaiman’s short story “Hearts, Keys and Puppetry.”  You might note the author stamp says by Neil Gaiman and the Twitterverse.

Neil Gaiman was commissioned by the BBC to write a short story with the help of contributors on Twitter. The story started with Neil posting “Sam was brushing her hair when the girl in the mirror put down the hairbrush, smiled & said, ‘We don’t love you anymore.'” on his Twitter channel @neilhimself . The complete story is about 1,000 tweets long and was finished on October 22, 2009. You can find a list of the contributors from the Twitterverse here.

If that first line doesn’t get you, I don’t know what will. The story is very much a fairy tale in the vein of Alice in Wonderland, so it feels familiar and brand new at the same time. Of course, it is written by Neil Gaiman so expect it to tend more to the Grimm side of fairy tales. Which is just the way I like mine. 🙂

The short story was recorded and released in podcast format by the BBC. The narrator they chose, Katherine Kellgren (Austenland, Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, Bloody Jack Series), is a favorite of mine for her variety of voices and accents. She does a fantastic job. And it’s less than two hours long.

The podcast is still available for free on iTunes so give it a listen. You won’t regret it.

X Heather Marie Muir