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My thoughts on League of Utah Writers Quills 2021

By Lewis Figun Westbrook

Packing for your first-ever writers’ conference is an interesting experience, especially when you procrastinate until the last minute.

Though in my defense, I only found out that I was going a couple of days in advance and didn’t know that Terra Luft had already published a very useful checklist.

I should probably explain. I didn’t know a single thing about Quills or the League of Utah Writers until July 30th, when one of my partners sent me a link to the Under the Umbrella Scholarship. That led to a deep dive, a very quickly filled out application, and brought us to me packing on Thursday after I had already attended a workshop (bless hybrid attendance).

And suddenly, I was waking up way earlier than I like to on Friday to head to the hotel.

To say I didn’t know what I was doing would be an understatement. I had to ask a volunteer to help me find the New Attendee Orientation and even then I ended up following another new attendee into the room. But immediately, there was Rachael Bush and Terra Luft bantering like an old couple. It didn’t make me feel that much more prepared, but it did make me feel very welcome because ‘hey, here are people who are also not ready to be awake and just love writing’.

Which very quickly became the theme of the weekend and is probably the thing I am most grateful for.

I was able to talk to keynotes speakers like Aminah Mae Safi and local authors like Alex Jay Lore to unpublished writers like me. And every conversation was amazing. There was so much insight, but also just shared passion and excitement.

And now a very long list of not yet published books I desperately want to read.

The workshops and presentations were also amazing. I learned about how to write action scenes, was taught how to use a longsword, discussed the power and steps to a retelling, and walked through the process of writing flash fiction for a submission call.

I wrote over 6k words of notes, and I don’t even consider myself a note-taker which means it would be very difficult to explain everything I learned.

But I think the other highlight was Sunday morning when at the end of the poet’s breakfast, Bryan Young opened up the stage to anyone who wanted to share some poetry. Me and Rebecca, the other scholarship winner, pulled out our phones while members of the league read their poetry. We weren’t bored or trying to be mean. We were actually both staring at our own poetry and trying to figure out if we were allowed to read our own.

Then we made eye contact. And together with hastily pulled up poems we stood and walked over to the side of the stage. We read very different poems back to back. Rebecca’s was hilarious, and mine was very emotional, but we did it together, and that made it extra cool.

I’m really glad I went to the conference and applied for the scholarship. For a lot of reasons, honestly, but right now, I’m most excited about my new friends, so I’m letting myself be a little sappy.

What I could have used, though, if I had packed or prepared better was a jacket. Those hotel rooms are strangely cold.

Thank you again, Under The Umbrella and the League of Utah Writers.

Lewis Figun Westbrook

Lewis (He/They) is a comedian first as it is a defense mechanism appropriate for any setting, and a writer second as it is a defense mechanism best saved for time alone in a room where they can cry all they want. They love puns, pretending they can do sports and talking to people. Even though all of those things make them nervous. Find them at most social media @lewisrllw


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