Our annual conference in 2017 was held on September 22 and 23 at the BYU Salt Lake Center. The theme was “The Power of the Word.” The Spirit was strong as we listened to knowledgeable and inspired speakers share both spiritual and practical lessons for our publishing careers.
We kicked off the conference with a wonderful message from John S. Tanner, president of BYU–Hawaii. Speaking metaphorically, he compared LDS publishing professionals to anableps, an unusual kind of fish with eyes on the top of its head that simultaneously see both below and above the water. “In a similar fashion,” he said, “LDS publishing professionals must look up to heaven and down to earth at the same time. They must care about mundane matters, like markets, profits, and the expectations of audiences, yet they need to do so with eyes single to God and His glory.” This practical and inspiring message was the perfect start to our conference.
Brother Tanner’s talk was followed by two breakout sessions. The classes covered writing, marketing, editing, the past and future of LDS publishing, WordPress, self-publishing, and networking. We thank the speakers, moderators, panel members for their time, preparation, and excellent messages. When the time came for the networking lunch, there was a palpable feeling of enthusiasm in the air.
At the networking lunch, authors pitched their book ideas to editors, marketing professionals learned from one another, and others excitedly shared what they had just learned in the breakout sessions. After lunch, conference participants attended three more breakout sessions, where more information was given about marketing, writing and editing in all genres, how to work with photographers, how to navigate the publishing world, the inner workings of Cedar Fort, and how to use Adobe InDesign. We thank the speakers for their well-thought-out messages, time, and preparation.
We closed the first day of our conference with an inspiring message from Sheri Dew. Drawing upon the phenomenon of the Total Eclipse in August, Sister Dew talked about how every human being has a divine orbit and the potential and privilege to influence all who come inside his or her orbit. “Those blessed with gifts of expression are in a unique position to have incalculable influence and do inestimable good,” she said. As one conference attendee put it, “Sheri Dew completely changed the way I think about myself as a writer. No longer do I desire to become famous just for the sake of being famous. Now, I desire only to build the Lord’s kingdom, and if as a result I become famous, well then, all the better for being an instrument in His hands. My work isn’t about me anymore. It’s about Him.”
The next morning, conference-attendees arrived eagerly anticipating what new wisdom the day had in store for them. Wendy Ulrich started off the day by instructing us on how to navigate the paradoxes of creating content for an LDS audience. She said, “As authors and artists, we want to offer something fresh and new, but we’ll have trouble getting heard if we stray outside the bounds of Church orthodoxy. Secular training may increase our credibility with some Latter-day Saints but decrease it with others. Our personal faith experience gives us insight into our audience but can tempt us to overextrapolate. Navigating paradox is an element of artistic and psychological maturity that will enrich both our creations and our ability to publish and sell them.” Paradoxes indeed! We so appreciated Sister Ulrich’s guidance and expertise.
Sister Ulrich’s address was followed by breakout sessions not only on writing, editing, and marketing, but also on topics such as social media, reality TV, freelancing, and how to maintain our values while working for non-LDS publishers and media companies. The speakers were truly inspired and so enjoyable to listen to! We thank them for their time, preparation, and wonderful messages!
After the breakout sessions, we again enjoyed a fabulous networking lunch, coupled with an awards ceremony honoring the winners of the 2017 LDSPPA Praiseworthy Awards. We had such impressive submissions this year, and we cannot wait to see our submissions for 2018!
We ended our conference with a fantastic interview with best-selling fantasy and science fiction author Brandon Sanderson. In this interview, Brother Sanderson argued that words have incredible power—to unite or divide, to build worlds or tear them apart. Listening to how he creates worlds in his books was insightful and inspiring. To watch the interview, click on the YouTube video below. A special thank you to Miles Wheeler for filming and uploading the interview, and to Devan Jensen for conducting the interview.
We thank everyone who contributed to making the conference a fabulous experience for attendees, as attested in the following feedback: