Monthly Archives: June 2011

Resources for Utah Writers by Rick Walton

I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that very few people who would like to get published will. The good news—almost everyone who sticks at it long enough and works at it hard enough, will.

The question, of course, is—is it worth the time and effort? If not, then it is perfectly reasonable to quit trying, to spend your time doing something else that provides a greater return on investment.

If your decision is based on financial return for time invested, then you will probably realize it isn’t worth it. But there are many reasons to write, to want to publish. And the more of these reasons that drive you, the more likely it is that you will stick at it long enough to make it work.

The following are, in no particular order, some resources that will help you become a better writer and, hopefully, will help you get published.

Listservs is a group of people in Utah, who have lived in Utah, who have passed through Utah, who know where Utah is, and who are interested in writing for children. There are about 700 people on the list, though most don’t comment often, if at all. This is a place to hear about upcoming events, to get suggestions for your writing, to meet people who can form a critique group with you, and more. If you have any questions about writing or publishing this is a good place to ask them. Somebody will probably know the answer. To subscribe to this list, send a blank email to is a monthly newsletter that lists what local authors and illustrators are doing–their new sales, new publications, awards, signings, conferences, events, etc. This is a good place to find out events that you can use to help you become a better writer. It is also a good place to find out about books that you might want to read. Pay particular attention to the signing events which authors list. Authors will be excited to see you, to have someone to talk to. To subscribe to this list, send a blank email to

If you look around, you will find other local and national listservs that will help you become a better writer and marketer.


A class is a great place to learn about the industry, about writing, to get great feedback, to meet people. Most colleges and universities have some types of writing courses, as do many community school programs. I teach a couple classes at BYU. They are evening courses and anyone can take them.

My children’s publishing industry class, ELANG 421R, is a great way to learn about the industry. Each week I invite a different specialist—author, illustrator, editor, publisher, agent, book buyer, bookseller, librarian, academic, awards judge, anybody interested in the industry who I think can enlighten us on what is happening. The class is for anyone who is interested in the children’s publishing industry, or in the publishing industry in general. This class is taught winter semesters at BYU on either Tuesday or Wednesday from 5:10 to 7:40 pm.

There are several other great writers at BYU who teach writing classes: Carol Lynch Williams, Chris Crowe, Ann Dee Ellis, Cheri Earl, Brandon Sanderson, Laura Card, and others. It is a great resource for writers.

Conferences and Workshops

Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers is the best of the workshops in the state–and in the west. It’s a great place to learn your craft, as you work every morning for a week with a professional in the field and several dedicated students. Afternoons you go into breakout sessions where you hear the wisdom and insights of the other faculty members, which include authors, editors, agents, and more. Several authors have published from this conference. To find out more go to

The Utah Valley University Conference is primarily for teachers and librarians, but is a good way to get to know other authors, as they usually bring in a big name or two. Usually held in March.

LTUE—Life the Universe and Everything— This nearly free conference has several main guests and an editor or two. And even if you don’t write science fiction or fantasy, there are workshops that would be just right for you. Usually held in February.

Timpanogos Storytelling Festival Midwinter Workshop– a great place to learn about story, about various ways of telling stories. There’s a track specifically for writers. Usually held in January or February.

LDS Storymakers puts on a conference where editors, agents, and authors teach about writing and publishing. Usually held in May.

Writers at Work is a long running conference geared mostly towards adult writing, and literary fiction. Usually held in June.

Brigham Young University Symposium on Books for Young Readers is a great event for meeting and listening to top-tier authors and illustrators talk about their work. Usually held in July.

Book Festivals/Libraries/Bookstores

There are several festivals in the state that involve books. There’s the BYU Festival of the Book. There are events at a wide range of libraries. The Provo Library in particular brings in a lot of big name authors. So does the Salt Lake City Library. Go and listen to them. You will absorb a lot of information.

The Timpanogos Storytelling Festival is one of the leading storytelling festivals in the country. While not technically about books, the storytellers do publish their stories sometimes, and it is a great way to learn about story structure, getting story ideas, etc.

Bookstores. It’s a little known fact that bookstore signings are not as glamorous as they’re cracked up to be. Most of the time when an author goes to a signing at a bookstore nobody comes. That leaves one lonely author. Desperately seeking to talk with anybody. And if you come up, show some interest, some knowledge about them, and can get them talking, they are frequently very grateful and will remember you and give you great advice. And then when you see them at another event they might remember you and you eventually might become friends. A great networking tool. And cheap. Especially if you don’t buy the book. But buy the book anyway. It will endear you to the author.


The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrations is a national organization for professional writers and illustrators. You don’t have to be published to join. There are a lot of resources for beginners. To find out more about this organization go to Many of the professional authors and illustrators in the country belong to this group.

Critique Groups

A critique group is a great way to get feedback on your manuscript. To find a critique group, join one of the listservs and ask, check at your library, meet somebody at a conference, or organize one yourself with friends that you know who write.


An internship can be a valuable educational experience. Even if they don’t pay. With a free internship, the supervisor feels obligated to give you a good experience, along with your work. They might arrange for you to meet authors, and will help with your career goals, give advice, and even more important is that you get to be on the inside looking at what life is really like for a writer. Sometimes you will help them with their mail, their research, help them with events, etc.

To get an internship, talk to me. Or ask one of your favorite authors if they want an intern. You might also consider some of the authors you don’t know.


Filed under Uncategorized

Three Things Wednesday–Titles, Taxes and an Exercise

$ So sometimes, a title pops into my head and then I write the book from there. Sitting Next to Jesus is an Example. And there’s a book I haven’t been able to sell but needs a big rewrite and I’m going to do that eventually. The book is called Stuck in My Sister’s Fat. I’d read at least the first page of that. Anyway, those two titles that just came to me, (plus lots more) were the inspiration to a book being written at all.

So–when I say go, write up as many titles as you can in ten minutes. These have to be original, they can’t be rip-offs on Ann Dee’s suggestions (like To Murder a Cardinal [unless this is a religious mystery], June Pyre, and Talk, and they have to be new to you.

On your marks, get sets, go!

# Did Ann Dee really eat those pancakes?

Why is there not enough time to do everything? Like write and cook and keep things clean and have fun. I love yummy pancakes. And what would happen if I used all whole wheat?

Plus, also, it looks like I ran the conference at no pay for myself because guess what? I owe so much in taxes. Blech. And blech again. Any ideas out there from anyone? That entire year’s work–I don’t even get to eat out on it. . . Here’s this article link (a link to more articles) that might get some of you thinking–or feeling sick like I do. And if any of you have any other tax ideas for me, please let me know. It’s the self-employment tax (see first article) that’s getting killing us.

@ Using these words, write a scene for your book–request, apologize, simple, beg, throw, need

! And finally, what if those who participated in the writing marathon all went to lunch somewhere? If we decide to do this, mileage to and from, plus lunch is tax deductible. I’m just saying.


Filed under Uncategorized

Titles are the worst.

Why are titles so hard?

I have not named either of my two books and I have a feeling this next book is going to be the same. The problem with titles is they have to stand out, they have to be catchy, they have to reflect the feeling of the book, they have to be perfect  . . . . but they rarely are.

As I lay here in the heat of the night (that’s a title), I’m trying to think of examples of awesome titles.




What do you think? Do you have a title to your WIP? How tied are you to the title? Do you try to come up with a title in the beginning? Near the end? Do you not even worry about it?

I used to fret and think and brainstorm about what my books would be called. Now I don’t even try.

Also, i rode a bike today and i am wondering if I’ll be able to walk tomorrow.

Plus we have pink eye around here.

And these are really delicious pancakes.


The end.

P.S. We never had our marathon party. We should all think about that. We should also think about sleeping. I like to sleep.


Filed under Uncategorized


So this week I found out that I have to change the name of my book from Sitting Next to Jesus to . . . well, something else. Gosh, I love that title. A lot.

But–would I read a book called Sitting Next to Buddha?
Sitting Next to Allah?
Sitting Next to Obama?

If I heard good things about the novel yes, then I would. If they caught my attention early on. Had great voice. An interesting plot. Strong language, fun word choice,original story. Does my Sitting book have those things?

But the truth is, people don’t read books for lots of reasons. Not just titles.

Remember my neighbor from many years ago? “I’m not going to let my children read your book, Carol, because the character do naughty things.” Plus there’s

“I don’t like the cover.” (I’ve had bad covers.)

“There are too many words.” (This is me. Book goes right back on the shelf. Especially really long picture books.)

Here’s what one 18 year old boy said to me day before yesterday “I haven’t read a book all the way through since grade school. Just don’t want to.” We’ve all heard this question–Which is worse–being illiterate or choosing not to ever read?

There’s this ‘new’ movie. Selena Gomez (is she Justin Bieber’s [how does one spell this last name? Do I really care?] girlfriend?) is in this one. And guess what? It looks exactly like I-don’t-know-how-many-other-movies–some Prince and the Pauper retelling, I-look-like-that-famous-girl-and-now-I-have-to-go-to-the-royal-dance (where I will probably sing and do some magic). Kinda dumb. Easy to figure out. Not such great acting. All good reasons not to see the movie, huh?

Is my book like all the rest?

“What this one about?”
“Oh, you know, sad. Like all my other books.”
Person nods, probably thinking, Kinda dumb. Easy to figure out. Not such great acting.

All this month and part of next, all I should be doing is rewriting. I’ve been wearing all the usual excuses. So I’m trying a mini-workshop day (because my week of rest is after my Happy New Year is over and now I have to start working because, please, I have to get things unpacked and moved and cleared out and situated). Gotta see how mini-workshops work for me. Starting in a few minutes.

But also, guess what? That’s right. I have to change the DD title, too.
Maybe I’ll fight for that one.

PS Laura found my ring. 🙂


Filed under Uncategorized