Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy

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UtopYA 2013–let me tell you–was one of the most epic, amazing experiences of my life. Not only was I able to fangirl over dozens of authors I read and adore, but I was also able to connect with them alongside fellow readers and bloggers on a more personal level in a completely laid-back setting.  The conference brought us all together, and what amazed me the most was that it really made everyone feel like we were equals, sharing knowledge with one another in order to help everyone from published authors to aspiring authors, readers to bloggers, editors to designers, and the list goes on.  It was a wonderful experience and I highly suggest that you come to UtopYA 2014 in Nashville in June—you won’t regret it! And I’ll tell you why:

Hanging OutI’ve only ever been to one other big yearly convention (100+ authors present), and that is NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English).  Because I had nothing to compare the convention with, I really thought NCTE was the icing on the cake.  I walked around from booth to booth, stood in long lines, purchased books, and got them signed by the authors.  But what I didn’t know I was missing at the time was commodore.  We, the fans, stood in long lines, but we didn’t talk to one another.  It was a very quiet function actually, now that I think back on them.  Publicists had us write our names on sticky notes and put them on the title page so authors could quickly sign.  We were then ushered away from the table—no time to talk to the authors or tell them just how much their books touched our lives.  It was a “get in, get signed, get out” mentality that I thought was normal, and probably is normal in the regular signing world.  2013-06-29 10.38.40However, UtopYA is different.  Authors and aspiring authors, publicists and publishers, bloggers, and readers alike spend three days in close succession at UtopYA, and everyone is equal.  There was never any feeling of authors and publishers on one side and everyone else on the other, and there was never any feeling of inferiority, either.  There were relatively no long lines, and authors took the time to talk to their readers, really personalizing their books after getting to know the person they were signing for.  We all went to the panels together, picking and choosing which ones we wanted to attend (and there were so many amazing ones), and the best part was that I could sit right next to my favorite authors, and we, as the audience, were asked to interact with those on the panels.  It wasn’t a sit and listen to the speakers type deal like so many panel discussion tend to be.  The audience not only asked questions throughout, but also offered their own insight as we all had something to bring to the table, and there was no discouraging of it, but rather pure encouragement from the very beginning.  Panel rooms were packed to the max, and they were fun!  Not only did I learn some amazing things about the authors I love and the publishing world in general, but I also laughed hysterically.  I got to see how candid the panelists were—no frills and no cliques, and the fact that they were made up of authors, bloggers, publicists, editors, designers, and readers gave the topics more insight.  And then?  We ate dinners together, hung out in the hotel lobby together, took hundreds of pictures together, put twitter handles with faces, and all around connected in a very real way.  What other book conference can say that?  I had all my books personalized, listened to authors, bloggers, editors, and designers speak about their journeys on multiple panels, ate meals and attend gatherings with my heroes, met fellow bloggers I’ve been following, and connected with many people I didn’t know, making long-lasting friendships… it was just amazing, and I cannot, cannot, cannot wait for June 2014, which is going to be even more epic as founder Janet Wallace and her amazing assistants roll out their changes.  It’s going to be even bigger, and I just can’t wait.

Now, you might have just read all that and thought to yourself, “that sounds great, but I have no one to go with,” or “I’d love to go, but it’s probably too expensive.”  So, I just want to break that mentality right now, because I’ve been there and am so glad I didn’t listen to my inner monologue…


Event Pricing:

First of all, the conference itself isn’t expensive at all!  Right now, there are advanced tickets selling on eventbrite.  Here’s the price range you’re looking at to attend some or all of the conference.

  • $55* (for the awards and after-party ONLY—does not get you into the conference itself) *Pricing may change as we get closer to the conference

  • $75  February 1 – May 31, 2014   •   $90 June 1 – event   •   $95 at the door

    • 3-day pass to the utopYA convention (utopYAcon)
    • Fan admission to the Friday Public Signing Event
    • Admission to Saturday Pre-Awards Cosmic Cocktails hour (Appetizers included. Cash bar for those 21 and up)
    • General Admission to the Third Annual utopYA Awards
    • Admission to Post-Awards Dance Party
    • Admission to the Sunday Write-in
  •  $105 February 1 – May 31, 2014   •   $120 June 1 – event   •   $125 at the door

    • 3-day pass to the utopYA convention (utopYAcon)
    • Front-of-line Fan admission to the Friday Public Signing Event
    • Admission to Saturday Pre-Awards Cosmic Cocktails hour (Appetizers included. Cash bar for those 21 and up)
    • Preferred Admission to utopYA Awards (you enter and pick your seats before General Admission ticket holders are allowed in)
    • Admission to Post-Awards Dance Party
    • One commemorative utopYA 2013 women’s cut T-shirt (discounted t-shirt price)
    • Two lunch tickets – lunch provided on premises both Friday and Saturday
    • Admission to the Sunday Write-in

I highly, highly suggest you attend the whole conference, but act fast as these prices continue to rise as we get closer to the conference date!


Where and When:


Friday, June 20, 2014 at 7:00 AM – Sunday, June 22, 2014 at 3:00 PM (CDT)

Nashville, TN




In 2014, UtopYA is moving to The Millennium Maxwell House Hotel and the group rates are just $105 a night for a room with a King or two double beds!!! This is even cheaper than this past year’s price at the Holiday Inn Vanderbilt!  The group code to reserve this price is 1406UTOPYA.  Do it!

Oh, and they offer a FREE shuttle service roundtrip to the airport.  Even better!

For UtopYA 2013, I roomed with the amazing Tiffany King, and it was epic.  She’s an astounding author, and I’m a blogger.  See what I mean about connecting with everyone on a deeper level at this conference?  I was ecstatic to room with her and her lovely daughter!  And next door to us?  Heather Hildenbrand, Heather Self, Angeline Kace, Chelsea Fine!  And the next few rooms? Carol Kunz, Adam Kunz, Raine Thomas, Sarah M. Ross… and the list goes on and on.  EPIC.

In other words, you won’t be alone in the hotel, and if you need a roommate to help cut costs, you can easily find one!  The more the merrier in a room, as I found this weekend, and I’m actually a really quiet, shy person who is socially awkward and doesn’t speak in situations where I don’t feel comfortable.  Are you like me?  Then you’ll thrive at UtopYA.  I didn’t have trouble speaking to anyone at all, I loved my roomies, I hung out with the rest of the people on my floor… all around amazing time.

Yeah, so don’t let the hotel situation stop you from coming.  Need a roomie?  Join the We are Going to UtopYA Facebook Page and easily find one!  Think about it: if you split $105 by two it’s just $52.50 a night for three nights, a total of $157.50 plus tax to stay at the hotel where the convention is held!  That’s a GREAT PRICE!

OR, find three roommates for a price of $26.25 per night… a total of just $78.75 plus tax for three nights to stay at the hotel where the convention is held!  That’s a GREAT PRICE, TOO!  Don’t worry, you won’t be spending much time in your hotel room, anyway, so multiple people in a room, though it may sound scary, really isn’t bad at all.  Trust me.

So PLEASE don’t let the price of the hotel or the need of roommates, etc.,  STOP you from coming!


Books and SwagTravel:

If you can drive to Nashville without getting car sick (like I do), then do it!  But, if you’re like me, or if it’s just too far by car, then fly, and by fly, I mean TAKE SOUTHWEST.  Why?  I’ll tell you:

Southwest is the only carrier I’ve found that doesn’t charge for luggage.  This is a book conference, so that means you’ll have LOTS of books to take home.  You could mail them, technically, and spend a lot of dollars doing it, OR, you could fly Southwest, which allows you TWO FREE CHECKED BAGS UP TO 50 POUNDS EACH!  Yeah.  This.

I flew Southwest this year based solely on the free checked luggage.  It’s a three days conference, so you don’t need to bring much in terms of clothes and such (which I’ll talk about next).  But you DO need lots of space for your books.  I checked two bags for the conference, and one was completely empty on my way down to Nashville.  Hey, it’s free right?  And it saved me a ton of cash when I left the conference because I checked all my books… my combined weight with books, swag, and clothes was about 80 pounds between the two bags.  And about 70 pounds of that was book weight.  Imagine the price tag on mailing home 70 pounds of books?  Yeah.  Don’t.  Take Southwest.  Oh, and make sure your carry-on has wheels.  You might want it for the conference to transport all your books and swag (plus, it’s gentler on your body).

ALSO, if you have the chance, do what I did: On your flight home, if they’re asking people to standby and take another flight because your flight is full, DO IT!  Southwest asked me to take the next flight out, which was just four hours later than my original, and they GAVE ME A VOUCHER FOR DOUBLE WHAT I PAID FOR MY ROUNDTRIP TICKETS.  That means my flight to Nashville next year is ALREADY PAID FOR! 

In other words, if you don’t have any pressing engagements, take the voucher on any Southwest flight if they’re offering (free bags, remember), and it’ll add up to some awesome free flights.  For real.


Mailing Books:

If you DO decide to mail books, make sure you send it USPS (regular mail)  and tell them it’s MEDIA MAIL (if you’re mailing in the USA–media mail doesn’t exist for international mailing)!  I highly suggest avoiding FedEx because it’s mad expensive.  USPS is the least expensive, and media mail makes is even less so.


What To Pack:

Pack light.  You’re only at the conference for three days, and you don’t need to change your outfit multiple times a day.  I hardly packed anything to wear, and I still didn’t wear it all.

What you need:

  • 1-2 pairs of comfortable pants (or dresses)

  • 1-2 pairs of comfortable tops

  • Comfy sandals (shoes if you want)

  • 1 “formal” outfit for the awards ceremony with shoes to match (seriously, by “formal” I mean sundresses.  You don’t need anything more, but if you want something more flashy, think PROM)

  • Pajamas2013-07-01 19.24.18 (we’re talking pajama parties, here)

  • Undergarments (socks optional)

  • Toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, nail file, perfume, hairbrush, women stuffs, straighteners, etc.—they have hairdryers in the rooms)


  • Heavy wrapping paper (you will want to double wrap your books in stacks for the travel home so they don’t flop all over the suitcase and end up damaged)   ====> Newspaper is NOT a good idea, though, as it leaves black ink on things and is too thin.

  • Cash for books—some authors take credit cards, but it’s just easier with cash on hand.



Just in case you missed it in my hotel information tidbits, the hotel offers a COMPLIMENTARY ROUNDTRIP SHUTTLE SERVICE TO THE AIRPORT.  Call ahead to let them know you need them to pick you up, for FREE (but don’t forget to tip the driver).  #Epic.


Keynote SpeakersThe Conference:

I’ve already said it in my opening statements, but this conference is epic.  I adored it and the laid-back nature of it all.  Janet Wallace, the founder of UtopYA, has made it an unforgettable event that you just cannot miss!

In 2013, our keynote speakers were Jennifer Armentrount and Jen Sincero, two amazing authors, and their speeches inspired us all!  There were also amazing giveaways to start the morning, so make sure you’re at the conference on time!  So many people showed up late, missing the opening statements and, therefore, lost out of their prizes!  Hey, more for me!  But seriously, you don’t want to be late for the opening announcements each morning.

In June 2014, the keynote speakers are Gennifer Albin and Sylvia Day!  Whoot!  You don’t want to miss this.  Have you purchased your tickets yet?  Do it ==> eventbrite

The schedule of events for 2014 is now up…. CHECK IT OUT!

We’ll also have an author signing event on Friday night this coming 2014 UtopYA!  This is a great addition for which I can’t wait!  This will allow a set time for authors and fans alike to get their books signed, making it easier to pinpoint your particular author’s whereabouts.

I HIGHLY suggest that you bring as many books as you can TO the conference as many authors only bring limited quantities.  Though, there will be a bookstore on site this year–a new addition.  But, in 2013, I contacted all my favorite authors and asked them if they’d have all their books with them, or if I should bring my own for signing, and most recommended I bring my own to guarantee that I have them. Some authors brought copies just for my purchase based on my query too, so they might tell you they’ll reserve some for you, but I definitely recommend double checking prior to the conference.  There is nothing worse than planning on buying a book from your favorite author to find they are sold out.  So, plan ahead. Books tend to be about $10-12 on site from authors, FYI, but I’m not sure what things will look like with the bookstore in 2014.  So, I’m going to contact my MUST HAVE author’s again for 2014 just to be certain I can get their books…

Likewise, you will acquire much swag and meet tons of authors you haven’t read yet.  So bring cash in case you decide you want to buy their books as well—I met so many new authors and after connecting with them and learning about their books, I just had to have them!  Set a budget and plan accordingly.


The Awards:

The awards were phenomenal this year (2013).  I loved every minute of it!  It’s like a red carpet event and it was so awesome to be a part of it.  Right now it’s not a sit down dinner event, so eat a light meal ahead of time, but also keep your ears open as food may become part of the awards at some point down the line.

What to wear?  Well, really it doesn’t matter.  Since it’s like a red carpet event, most people were dressed to varying formal degrees—from sundresses to prom dresses, I saw them all.  I also saw slacks and jeans, so don’t feel like you have to dress up!  It’s not mandatory.  The only thing that is mandatory is that you have a good time, and that’s a given.

And, in 2014, there will be a cocktail hour AND an after-hour dance party as well… oh heck yes!

The Awards


Need to know more about the conference before you commit?  Click the links below to learn more and read real testaments from those who attended UtopYA 2013:

UtopYA 2013: What You Need To Know and Why You Need to Go in 2014

UtopYA: A Fantasy Conference Grows in Nashville—From Publisher’s Weekly

UtopYA Official Website

UtopYA: A Note To People Who Don’t Get It

Lift and Pull and Tug For That Spectacular UtopYA View

UtopYA: Why It Should Already be on Your Calendar for 2014

Impromptu Cups Song—You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone

UtopYA 2013 and Special Announcements!

Quinn Loftis and Tiffany King UtopYA 2013

UtopYA 2013! How awesome was it? This is how awesome…

Why you should attend UtopYA 2014

UtopYA, UtopYA, UtopYA

Reminiscing about UtopYA 2013

UtopYA 2013: Author Sarah Ross: Inspirational Video

Author Heather Hildenbrand talks UtopYA 2013 Video

UtopYACon…My Take Aways

My Trip To UtopYA 2013

UtopYA Con 2013 + Announcement + Ramblings

UtopYA / Quirky Chick Conference Report


What else? 

Questions, comments, concerns?  Let me know and I’ll do the best I can to answer them, or put you in touch with someone who can.  Also, make sure you check out UtopYA online as they’re already updating their site for next year’s event.  See you there!!


AND–make sure you pick up a copy of the first ever UtopYA anthology, complete with NEW, original short stories from these authors: Tiffany King, Heather Hildenbrand, Amanda Havard, Amy Bartol, Sarah M. Ross, Tammy Blackwell, Raine Thomas, and C.A. Kunz!

Take Me To Your ReaderAMAZON | Barnes and Noble


et cetera
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