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#StepWriteUp and Join Me at #UTOPiA2017

#StepWriteUp and Join Me at #UTOPiA2017

UTOPiA is my absolute favorite book event. I don’t think I’d be where I am today without it.

What follows is a compilation of several blog posts I have published over my UTOPiA going years so that you’ll get an idea of how life changing it is. I hope it will give you the inspiration to join me at the conference this year.

I started blogging just days before utopYA 2013. I was having a hard time after the death of my dad in February, and I was unemployed, it wasn’t a good time. I hadn’t picked up a book in nearly a year until a week prior when I reread The Hunger Games after finally watching the first movie. I read all three books in less than 48 hours (I wasn’t sleeping much). My love of reading reignited, I had no idea what to pick up next. I had way too many options on my overloaded Kindle (because even though I wasn’t reading I was still adding books to my TBR). So I started with something that began with the letter A to reduce my options. The next book began with B. By the time I hit I a few days later, I decided that this could be fun to write about these books. So Reading the Alphabet was born. I loved having the outlet. I created more, starting a Facebook page and a Twitter account. It was on Twitter that I discovered utopYA. I vowed to go in 2014 no matter my situtation in life and I bought tickets as soon as I could.

My life started turning around after utopYA. I started to embrace my weird. It helped interacting daily with people who flew the same flags, even if it was just online. Starting a job with like-minded individuals certainly helped, too, but I know that UTOPiA cracked my shell and ripped it wide open. I continued blogging, making friends with authors, and soon decided that my previous blog, no longer fit was I was doing. I had fallen off the alphabet after P. My world had been opened up by so many new books. I decided it was time for a change. I was rebranding. I would do it at utopYA. I drew my logo and ordered business cards. I was ready and really excited.
Finally utopYA 2014 had arrived. I found my people and I was happy. I repeat, I found my people. After utopYA, I wanted to continue with the feeling that I had while I was there. When people started telling their resolutions for next year on Facebook, Ashley of Book Junkie: Not-So-Anonymous and I decided to team up and cohost a blog feature about these resolutions. Shortly after the creation of this feature, both Ashley and I were asked to be official bloggers.

At 30, I no longer care if people think I’m odd to like those YA books. I proudly sport some sort of book or UTOPiA related shirt almost daily (thankfully, I have a job where t-shirts are okay attire). I can geek out with the best of them over Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, or Outlander. I proudly do.

I’ve met some amazing people who accept me fully for what it is that I do and love. Until UTOPiA, only my best friends did that. Even my mom didn’t quite get me, now I think she’s used to me and the regular deliveries of subscription boxes that come to the house, lol. For a time, I don’t think she got the passion of book blogging or that editing was work. She’s mostly there now.
An amazing thing happened shortly before my first trip to UTOPiA (then utopYA) in 2014. I went on a blind date with this guy who I met online. He had binge-watched Doctor Who up to the Rise of the Cybermen episode so we could go watch it on the big screen after dinner. Major points there. I really liked this guy. Plus, he seemed totally into the fact that I liked books as much as I do and didn’t blink at my telling him that I was going to Nashville for a few days for a book conference just three days after we met. I had truthfully been worried about that, hoping he wouldn’t think it as my way of getting out of a second date, one of those I’ll contact you after my vacation sort of things but not really meaning it. We texted throughout the conference, and I saw him the day after I got home, then had our real second date that next weekend. We’ve been nearly inseparable since.

He put me on a plane to Nashville the day after our first anniversary. UtopYA2015 was the only time I’ve ever been homesick, pretty much because of him. We discussed things, neither of us liked being apart for that long, so I bought his ticket to come to UTOPiA2016 with me the week after the conference ended. Airline tickets for the both of us were a Christmas present from his parents. I definitely helped cut costs.

Finally, June arrived, and we hit our 2-year anniversary. It was quiet. I got my haircut that evening so I would have it short for the Nashville weather. It was my first cut in over a year and a half. I donated the foot that got chopped off. We had nearly a week this year between our anniversary and UTOPiA. Anniversary was Thursday; we flew out Wednesday morning.

After a great flight and a trip to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, we checked into the conference and the wonderfully epic madness of UTOPiA commenced. It was great to show my boyfriend what it is that UTOPiA is and a look into my book life. I was even more excited because I was there as an editor of books that had been nominated in multiple Utopia Awards categories, and that was super validating for me. I had no idea if I would win, but just that clients of mine, and even me, too, were nominated was enough for me. And although I didn’t personally win, some of my clients did, and that’s awesome!

UTOPiA really is a bookend on my shelf of life. The first bookend saw me at my lowest point and capped it, preventing it from continuing. Every year, my shelf expands and the UTOPia bookend at the close caps what has been the best year of my life to that point. Every year keeps getting better and better.

On opening night of UTOPiA2016, my boyfriend proposed to me on stage in a room full of authors.The moment was right. I’ll go so far as to say perfect. I had two minutes of advance warning, I saw him whispering to Ashely, the new event coordinator, asking for the mic. Now, this was definitely out of his comfort zone for things. He doesn’t get up in front of people, never mind in front of people he doesn’t know. But he did. He went big. Despite the short advance preparation, this was still an emotional shock, albeit an amazing one. It went by in a blur, and I am so glad that it was heavily photographed and recorded. I’ve seen a few of the videos, and my grin gets as big watching it as it was when it happened.

This year, Rob and I will be married come UTOPiA. We’re celebrating by having a Paisley Reception during the pre-awards cocktail hour. It will be a can’t-miss event during UTOPiA.

UTOPiA is a life-changer. I hope to see you there.

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