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South Jordan Journal

Pros on prose: aspiring writers gather to learn tips and tricks of writing professionally

Jun 28, 2018 02:53PM ● By Keyra Kristoffersen

Authors and editors met to learn more about writing successfully at the SoJo Writer’s Conference. (Keyra Kristoffersen/City Journals)

By Keyra Kristoffersen | keyrak@mycityjournals.com  

Writers of all levels were invited to participate in the first annual SoJo Writer’s Conference hosted by the South Jordan Arts Council and held at the Marv Jenson Recreation Center (10300 South Redwood Road) in South Jordan on May 26. 

“The Arts Council was thrilled with the way this conference turned out,” said Heather Smith, chairman of the arts council. “For a first-time small conference, it was really great to have the numbers we had.” 

The conference, a first-time bid by the council to introduce more literary recognition into South Jordan, was attended by more than 50 participants, young and old, eager to learn from the 21 presenters of professional writers and publishers. 

“I loved the caliber of presenters,” said Smith. “I went out on a limb and approached people with really great presence in the writing community and felt so blessed that all of them readily agreed to participate.” 

Presenters included Lisa Mangum, best-selling author and managing editor at Shadow Mountain and has worked in publishing since 1997. Her keynote address spoke on following your dreams no matter how long they take to accomplish or how they might change. Mangum also presented a workshop on pacing and illustrated through one of her passions, the television show “Supernatural,” how to build suspense and control the rise and climax of each chapter of a book. 

Other workshops included classes on worldbuilding, marketing, fleshing out main characters and understanding the difference between heroes, villains and anti-heroes, which was taught by David Gaunt, a slush pile reader at Shadow Mountain since 2000. All of the presenters were local writers and editors who have been published and achieved success in the writing industry. One presenter was Charlie N. Holmberg, a Wall Street Journal and Amazon bestselling author and winner of the 2018 Whitney award for Speculative Fiction. He taught a class on the realities of writing convincing kissing scenes. 

“I don't like presenting on boring things,” he said. “I had a bunch of class ideas, and then this idea to try a class about kissing, Heather really liked the kissing one.” His debut series, “The Paper Magician,” has been optioned by the Walt Disney Company. 

Holmberg was impressed at the success of this first SoJo Writer’s Conference and the more intimate feel of the small setting. 

“They've done a really good job, got a little more of a casual atmosphere, and I like that that way,” said Holmberg. “We’ve got some new people and some veterans. Even though it's small, I think we have a good sprinkling of authors.” 

The Hooper family was one of the groups of attendees also happy with the lineup of professional authors. When Nikole Hooper’s husband read about the conference three days before, he immediately signed her up for her birthday present, and she brought her two daughters, Elizabeth and Abigail, along.

“I have been writing for years; it's what I love to do, and I wanted to learn more about it,” said Hooper. 

She has had a difficult time trying to write with five children at home but now that the youngest is off to kindergarten, she wants to devote more time to her passion of writing poetry, children’s stories and now a novel of historical fiction on the Mormon pioneers. Hooper hopes future conferences will also include a section just for kids who want to write because her daughters had such a great time learning and taking notes. 

“I just always loved reading and writing, and I wanted to know how to make people enjoy the stories more and improve,” said 12-year-old Elizabeth Hooper, who writes poetry and medieval fantasy. She calls herself Brandon Mull’s No. 1 fan because she loves the setting for his “Fablehaven” series and wants to learn more about creating plots and writing poetry.

Abigail Hooper, 9, found herself at the conference with a desire to learn more about writing stories because in school, she said, all they teach you to write are essay and informative writing. 

“I like to write fantasy and humor, and I also like to write realistic fiction,” said Abigail, who also enjoy writing a fake biography of herself. 

Smith said that with the success of this writing conference, plans are already in the works to hold an even bigger one in spring 2019 with many of these same authors as well as some who couldn’t be there this time.