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Thursday, October 6, 2016

You Just Never Know - ANWA Conference 2016

Two weeks ago, I attended the American Night Writers Association (ANWA) annual writer’s conference in Tempe, AZ.  Many of these women I’ve known for years and years and love them like sisters.  The president Deb Eaton is a world-class hugger and confidence builder.  Her talents and commitment have grown ANWA into a movement of writers who are changing the world.

I attended the first workshops of the morning, 
(This was one of my favorite quotes from the conference: You can not please everybody, you are not pizza.  Thank you Anika Arrington for your great class.)

and after visiting with several author friends, walked in late to lunch.  The room was packed, with several hundred people there.  I scanned the ballroom for an empty chair, but every seat was full.  Near the back of the room, I saw a few empty seats, but as I neared them noticed the table had a Reserved sign.  At the table were the New York Times best-selling authors, literary agents and publishing editors.  Since I am not any of those things, I continued looking for another seat.  Alas, I found another table with two empty seats and as I approached the table, I noticed it too had a Reserved sign, but it was too late.  One of the women at the table had grabbed my hand and offered me a chair.  I explained to her I was not assigned to sit at the reserved tables, but she insisted.  “We’re all here and you need a seat, so join us.”
I looked around the table and recognized many faces.  I introduced myself to the Patricia Nelson, the literary agent who’d been so kind to offer me a seat and got to know her.  My friend Aprilynne Pike was also seated next to me, so we caught up on how our kids are doing and her latest projects. 

I was good, better than good.  This was amazing, the event had already far exceeded my expectations.  My "You had me at hello" moment had happened.  I was on cloud nine.  Nothing could top this

Lunch was served, the energy in the room was exciting.  It was full of creativity and hard work.  Everybody in there had a dream and somewhere along the way, it was written down in a novel, nonfiction or memoir.  Writers really are the best group of people.  Gracious, educated, self-starters, they don’t give up, persistent, visionary, helpful, encouraging, understanding—really, I could go on and on.  These people are superstars. 

I had an appointment with a publisher who was in attendance at the conference, so I was just about to leave when the founder of ANWA, Marsha Ward was recognized for her 30 years of service. You see, it had been 30 years of ANWA and Marsha Ward is the founder.  Her story goes like this:

Over 30 years ago, she was looking to join a writers group.  She called the Mesa Public Library and asked if they offered such. They did, so Marsha attended.  Problem was, while listening to other writers works, she had to listen to explicit scenes and vulgar language.  As a Christian woman and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons), Marsha just couldn’t stomach it.  In her own words, she said “I felt like my ears might burn off.” 

She turned to God in prayer and felt impressed to start a writing group for Mormon women, where she would be surrounded by people who had the same high standards of clean language and G or PG-rated story-telling.  She put an ad in the local Mormon Newspaper called The Beehive and low and behold, my mom author Sarah Hinze saw the ad, called Marsha and asked if she could join.

At the time, the group was called Arizona Night Writers Association, but it has grown nationally, so Marsha changed to American Night Writers Association.  Why night?  Let’s face it, most women are either moms or working full-time, so the majority of our writing gets done when everyone is sleeping and the house is nice and quiet.

So, like I was saying I was just about to leave lunch early, when Marsha walked up on stage.  I’d known Marsha since I was a teenager, so I stayed in my seat to hear her keynote address.  In our group, she’s like the Maya Angelou.

Marsha and I

“I started ANWA with two people,” she said.  “Sarah Hinze and Peggy Hatch.”
I heard my mom’s name.  I knew my mom had been a member of ANWA every since I could remember, but I didn’t know she had been one of the first three members. 
“Sarah is on a mission in London, but her daughter Laura is here, Laura will you please stand up.”

Oh, at that moment did I miss my mom, but as I slowly stood up in the room full of people I love, I was overcome when they started clapping.  They were clapping for my mom because she had demonstrated faith and friendship.  She supported Marsha, encouraged her, believed that there were others who someday, might benefit from a writing group for Mormon women.  Because of Marsha, my mom had another writer to turn to, to receive feedback and encouragement.  Marsha played a huge role for my mom.  

My mom recently released the 15th Anniversary Edition of The Castaways: Real-life Accounts of Aborted Souls.  

My mom would have been thrilled to see Marsha honored, and humbled to be recognized as one of the founding members.  Peggy Shumway was also in attendance and the same applause and appreciation was shared for her.  Thank you, Peggy.

Wow, well that was amazing.  A room of people, the applause, feeling my mom's love, I mean, how many special opportunities can a girl have in a day.  I was set.  I'd probably used all my perfect moments for a while.  Maybe I'd have to get a traffic ticket on the way home to make up for it.

My mom and dad on one of their days off, in front of the building where The Da Vinci Code was filmed.

Afterwards, I did meet with that publisher.  She expressed interest in my manuscript Starving Girl, “This is something I’d be interested in acquiring,” she said and asked if I’d email it to her.   

For all the novels I’ve written, all the years I’ve stayed up night after night writing, this was the moment.  Finally, someone interested in reading, even publishing what I’ve written, but Starving Girl is my story.  It’s my memoir.  I need to maintain all the rights, but what beautiful validation that it’s worthy of a publishing contract. 

Well, it was almost too much.  Was I going to grow wings too?  I mean, I was just a girl, but it looked like about every positive experience that could happen to me had happened.  After all of this, I didn't deserve a birthday present or Christmas present, like ever!

The conference was a busy time and later I met James A. Owen, Michelle Wilson, Janette Rallison and J. Scott Savage.  There classes were amazing.  If you’re interested in joining ANWA, here’s the link

Starving Girl is in the last stages of review and formatting on Amazon’s CreateSpace.  

Here's the cover we are working on.

I’ve had the best team; two wonderful editors, BETA readers, cover design, layout, book formatting, proofreaders, technical support—seriously, this is so intense.  This is the moment.  With four unpublished YA novels under my belt and 7 years of blogging, I’m so thankful I kept up with writing, even when I felt discouraged.  If it was all for me to be prepared to write Starving Girl, it was worth it.  I’ll post a link as soon as everything is up on Amazon and Kindle.  

Celebrating with the kids this weekend.  They have been so supportive.  I could have never written this book without them.

Much love and gratitude.  


  1. What a sweet tribute to ANWA, thank you, Laura, and Congratulations on "Starving Girl." It's a breakthrough memoir that many are waiting for and didn't even know. Beautiful

    1. Thanks Deb and thanks for pulling together an absolutely amazing conference. I know you do many things behind the scenes and you are greatly loved for that.

    2. Thanks Deb and thanks for pulling together an absolutely amazing conference. I know you do many things behind the scenes and you are greatly loved for that.