The fantasy of building a career

Unlike the usual science fiction and fantasy conventions that focus on costumes and appeasing fans, the Life, the Universe & Everything symposium was an art and creative writing event focused on teaching writers and artists how to see weaknesses, improve skills, learn about the industry and make connections to help establish fantasy and science fiction oriented careers.

James Dashner, author of The Maze Runner series and The 13th Reality series was a keynote speaker at the event.

“I came (to LTUE) for the first time eight years ago, and I wish I had known about it sooner. . . . Go to conferences to make your own lucky breaks,” Dashner said of the information and influential people met at LTUE.

Dashner was adamant in his address to aspiring authors, saying, “with zero exception (they) should have an agent” to help them improve their work with effective editing since agents know which editors of which publishing companies will most appreciate and want to publish your work.

He explained that not all agents are created equally, so he recommended people find an agent that responds quickly to questions, shows obvious progress on your goals for your career and works with your personality.

“If you have a willingness to work hard, to rewrite and revise as many times as it takes, you will be ahead of 99% of the other [aspiring authors].” Dashner said. “Even if you are rejected 500 times…Never give up!”

The large turnout, mostly of aspiring authors, was a tribute to the usefulness of this symposium, which has been held annually since 1982. Several panelists like Dashner mentioned that the advice and connections from previous symposiums made a difference in starting their own careers. Many authors and artists return as panelists after becoming established in their fields.

Steve Keele, the other keynote speaker, explained how useful art has been for him in the businesses of advertising, product packaging and movie making. He explained some of the different techniques that he has used for many different applications.

In addition to the key speakers, authors David Farland, Tracy Hickman, Dan Wells and other authors signed books. Howard Tayler, creator of the online comic, “Schlock Mercenary,” signed his books with the original art of his characters.

One of the most interesting things about the event was how easy it was to just chat with Tayler, Dashner or any of the other guests.

Dashner and other speakers brought humor to the symposium. Tracy Hickman ran the “Killer Breakfast,” singing parodies about fantasy and science fiction to a large gathering of fans. Their laughter could be heard even from other parts of the building. The podcast, “Writing Excuses” by Tayler, gives writing advice with a dose of humor in fifteen-minute increments and can be found at

Normally, Brandon Sanderson, the author handpicked to finish Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, is part of the symposium, but he had a convention that conflicted this year.

Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury, short story author and writer’s workshop organizer, taught how to make the crucial first thirteen lines of text in your story interesting enough to hook a reader and keep them reading. She explained to writers that starting with dialogue, complicated action or a flashback can confuse or mislead the reader.

David Farland, author of The Runelords series, gave a lot of advice in a presentation titled “Rewriting to Greatness.” He explained that rewriting is about taking your work over the top and making it more powerful.

For more information about the symposium and the guests of honor, go to

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.