The Whitney Awards (and Storymakers!)

(This is an update better late than never, guys. After a BIG family move from North Carolina to Charleston, SC I’m finally making it through my endlessly long to-do list.)

Back in May, I attended the Storymakers Conference (my favorite writing conference OF ALL TIME) in Provo, Utah. The past two years I’ve been in charge of the conference so my experience mostly involved problem solving, fire dousing, and drinking large quantities of Cherry Pepsi. But this year? I wasn’t in charge of anything, and oh how lovely it was. I went to classes! I learned! I spent time with my writer friends! I have some really amazing writer friends, so this was absolutely the very best part. How about some photo evidence?


(This is a teeny tiny sampling. I’m terrible at taking pictures.)

I’ve said this oh, so many times, but if you’ve ever had any interest in writing and publishing and you could make it to Provo in the Spring? COME TO STORYMAKERS. It’s a great conference for writers across all different genres, skill levels, and career paths. Start planning now though, because registration (Which I’m in charge of for 2018, so trust me on this one!) WILL sell out, and probably within just a couple of weeks. Check out the website, sign up for updates, follow the conference on Facebook, whatever you need to do to stay in the loop.

After the conference, I attended the 2016 Whitney Awards Gala, where Love at First Note was a finalist in the Contemporary Romance category. And guess what? I won!



It was an honor to be nominated and a joy to win. My acceptance speech was all about my sister, Emily, who, in general, is both my biggest cheerleader and toughest critic (in the best possible way). But for this book? She went above and beyond as my musical consultant and inside source. As a professional musician, she knew just how to teach me the ways of the symphony and pick the best music to reflect Emma and Elliott’s journey. This book was for her, and I’m so glad she was there with me the night it was honored in such a lovely way.


Why the Storymakers Conference is the BEST Writing Conference Ever. Forever and Ever Amen.

So, every year I go to this conference in Utah. I love this conference. In a way that I don’t think I can even adequately describe. I love it because it’s a wonderful opportunity to learn and grow and become a better writer. I love attending classes by incredible authors. I love meeting agents and industry professionals that have wisdom and experience they are anxious to share. And also, this happened last year.

Jenny and Ka

Oh yes this IS me sitting at the book signing, signing books next to the incredible Ka Hancock, who just happened to write one of my most favorite books ever. (Dancing on Broken Glass. You should read it. Tell her I sent you.) I read her book, I loved her book, I came to Storymakers in 2013 and I met her, then I came in 2014 and we signed books together. See? Magic happens at these conferences, guys. Magic!!

But also I love it because it’s a weekend spent with my People. (The capitol P is totally on purpose.)

Everyone needs people–people that understand us and relate to how we feel and make us feel accepted and validated. But I think writers need people even more. Because honestly? We’re kind of a weird bunch. We spend hours and hours alone, inside our brains, creating something that in many ways feels incredibly personal that we are then going to share with EVERYONE. Which, you know, can be a little stressful. There’s also all the weird stuff that happens inside our heads. Invented characters that feel like friends. Story lines that make us cry for how sad they are even though we’re the ones making them up.

The list goes on and on. Writing after hours when children are asleep. Squeezing in writing time when there ISN’T time. Getting bad critiques. Getting good reviews. Querying agents. Submitting to publishers. Recognizing the moment when your plot finally comes together.

Having people that GET all of that? It’s pretty awesome.

I knew all of this. I knew that meeting with my People once a year was awesome and amazing and my most favorite weekend of the entire year.

But THEN? Then December 8th happened and I realized JUST how amazing the Storymakers Conference community really truly is. So, here’s where it began.


At last year’s conference, my lovely friend Melanie Jacobson named me her Co-Chair for the 2015 Conference. Which basically means together, with the help of our amazing committee, we’re planning the entire shindig. (The fur and glasses were to prepare me for my new found stardom. Or maybe they were to help me hide. Or maybe both.)

Now, Melanie and I are pretty close. I have incredible respect for her talent and her smarts, but also she’s real enough to listen to my most obnoxious whiny “I’m a terrible writer and no one likes my words and I should just quit this whole stupid thing” moments and not make me feel like an idiot for having them. (Because we all have them, right? RIGHT?!) Co-chairing the conference with Mel was a no-brainer. She’s awesome, the conference is awesome: WIN WIN.

Except, the real honest truth? I have six kids. And a house and a dog and a spouse and also I write books. When I told my husband I was taking on this new conference planning responsibility, he looked at me like I’d just sold one of the children. An “I support you and I love you, but WOMAN YOU’RE SLIGHTLY INSANE” expression. (Except, Josh wouldn’t really support me in selling the children. Just for the record.)

There might have been a little truth to his statement. But I was (and still am) determined and absolutely convinced that come conference time, the year of sacrifice will have proven completely wonderful and worth it. The work of planning the conference literally begins within days of arriving home from the previous conference. In the past six months, Melanie and I have talked countless times. We have emailed even more. We’ve volleyed ideas back and forth and read conference evaluation forms and enlisted the brains of our committee members to create a plan that we knew was going to work. And it did work! Everything worked!

Until it didn’t.

When registration opened on December 8th, one little tiny glitch kept the registration site from going live like it was supposed to. ONE stupid little glitch. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. It wasn’t anything we could have prevented or foreseen. It just happened. And it totally ruined my day.

Guys, it was hard. I didn’t eat until 5 PM. I didn’t do anything (Sorry children. I’m glad you found something to eat.) but grip my laptop in one hand and my cell phone in the other while I worked with Melanie and our registration team to puzzle out the how of what happened and come up with a solution that would make things right again. A lot of people were affected by the website’s failure–people that were trusting us to do things right. My biggest worry throughout the day was that people were going to be SO MAD AT US. Angry that things didn’t work. That the pitch session they wanted and should have gotten was full. That they stayed home from work/hired a babysitter/kept the kids home to register JUST when we told them to, only to have it all fall apart. In the height of my anxiety, all I could think was “WHY DID I DO THIS TO MYSELF?? I DON’T REALLY WANT THIS JOB ANYMORE.”

And then the messages started rolling in. Text messages from people offering encouragement and support. Facebook posts and messages cheering us on. Comments expressing gratitude and well wishes and casting a positive perspective and energy over the entire experience. People were patient and understanding and all of it made me want to cry. I even got a surprise package (CHOCOLATE) in the mail a few days later from a thoughtful writer friend who knew I could use a boost. (And the chocolate. Because THERAPY.) The day was awful, but it was so much less awful because of how incredible everyone was. At the end of the day, I was so proud of my community of writers–of the grace and tolerance and kindness that was expressed as we worked our way through.

I’m not a conference planning professional. I’m not in it for the money or the fame. I’m IN because I love supporting a conference that gives writers a place to be heard and understood and validated. I love a conference that is FULL of real-life, Look! Here’s how I landed my agent/published my novel success stories. But mostly, I love a conference where people are nice.

I didn’t write this post to beg people to come. (Unless you want to. Registration is open now!) But I will say this. There is no better group of writers anywhere.