I’ve been trying to put into words what UtopiaCon means to me. It’s so much more than just a place to go, or a con to attend. There are people there who have shaped my existence in the writing community. There are people there who take a vested interest in my success. There are those who want to lift me when I feel like I’ve failed.

I have learned how to support new authors, bloggers, and BookTubers. I have learned how we can all work together to achieve a common goal: Our Dreams. Our dreams aren’t all the same dreams, we just work together to achieve what the other wants from life. I honestly feel like some of the life lessons I’ve learned from other Utopians has guided me in the way that I parent two teenage children who have identified their own dreams. What I mean is not that Utopia taught me to parent, but helped me translate all those good, positive guiding principles into how I help my children see and work for their dreams.

I attended Utopia for the first time in 2014 when it was UtopYA. I went with a singular purpose that was two-fold: Meet Sylvia Day, and Amy A. Bartol. Mission Accomplished! However, what I came home with was so much more than I could have ever imagined. You see, I had written a novel for NaNoWriMo 2013. I never edited it or thought I would publish it. My main reason: Who cares what I have to say? They certainly won’t pay money for it. You see, that’s the negative voice that we have to learn to suppress. Not suppress, murder. You need to stab that internal demon to death! If you don’t, it will continue to rear its ugly head. It sounds violent, and maybe a bit dramatic. Fact is, I suppressed instead of murdered that heifer, and she reared her ugly head at me again! Let’s continue down the happy path, though.

A month after UtopYA I published that book. I got that thing edited, designed a cover, set up my LLC, and clicked PUBLISH! (That’s not what the button says, but you get the point.). To date, that books has over 4 stars on GoodReads and Amazon. I have sold over 5,000 copies. A small number, but to a newbie that seems HUMONGOUS!

I returned to UtopYA in 2015, still as an attendee, but also as a published author learning about my craft, and marketing. Marketing and promoting is an ever-evolving monster. It grows, shrinks, expands, and contracts. You have to constantly try new things, participate in takeovers, do giveaways, and post on all social media sites. All. The. Time. You can’t let up. Your best promoter is yourself. Indie life is hard! However, panelists and friends at UtopYA have amazing insight and advice to keep you moving.

A step outside of my comfort zone, I attended Great Lakes Book Bash in October of 2015. I attended as an exhibiting author! I had one book under my belt and a strong start on my second. When I look back, as I do now, it’s a wonder I made it to the conference at all. You see, in April 2015 my husband was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. It was in incidental finding from another issue he had. When they tell you God works in mysterious ways, and in His time, it’s true. But I digress…

Great Lakes Book Bash is hosted by some UtopYAns, and they are just amazing ladies. Casey Bond and Rachael Brownell welcomed a nobody author and made her feel like she was important too. (Now, I’m talking about myself in the third person. *sigh*) I set up my table, met authors, and sold books. Yes, SOLD BOOKS! It was an invaluable experience. I have to thank my PA Mindy Sue, as well. She tagged along to help me branch out of my introversion to stand up and talk to people. She is a rock, and I love her forever!

Utopia 2016 was my third visit to mecca. I attended this year as an exhibiting author. Now I have two published works, and I’m working on two more. I met new friends and hugged the necks of existing friends. I was asked to participate in shenanigans, and never felt more like a part of the tribe. I didn’t sell out of the books I brought, but I made a decent showing. It was exciting! I even made a new sister. She’s more than a friend; she’s my lost twin I never knew I had. Again, I had my amazing PA Mindy, who I brought not just for my needs, but for hers as well.

Mindy is an author — Not aspiring, not future, now. She IS an author. She is working on her first book, and I knew what Utopia could do for a new author. By all accounts and evidence presented, the Utopia tribe worked its magic on her. I’m eternally grateful for what the community of Utopia has done for me, and for other authors testing the water. Just shove us in, and teach us to swim!

Thank you to Janet Wallace and her team. Thank you for your vision, dream, love, support, and openness. Thank you for your transparency, and bold presence. Much love to you all for all the work you do to continue developing this community and movement.

Because let’s face it, Utopia is a movement. One that could take over the world.