If it takes a village to raise a child, does it take a group of like-minded creative souls to raise a writer? I don’t know, but in my case, having a writing community around me really helped. That community was Quark, BYU’s Science Fiction & Fantasy club.
I joined Quark my second semester of college. I’d heard about the writing group, and on a whim I decided to check it out. This was when Ben Hardin was the writing group leader, back before the current iteration of the club was really well-organized. Aneeka Richins had basically built the writing group from scratch only a year or two before, and Kindal Debenham and Annaliese Lemmon had each spent a year as president shortly after that. They were all still around, workshopping their stories and adding to the community.
We met on the second floor of the Harold B. Lee library, in one of the study rooms way in the back near what is now the classical music area (2520 was the room number, I think). Looking back, it seemed like a weird place to meet, since we were always so LOUD. However, back in those early days Quark didn’t get a lot of respect from the BYU student administration (BYUSA, known more familiarly as BYUSSR), so we kind of organized under the radar.
The spring semester of 2007 was a lot of fun! I fit in very well with the group, and made a lot of friends. It wasn’t until they made me the writing group president that I started attending regularly, though. In retrospect, accepting that post was probably the best extracurricular decision I could have made. I lead the writing group for two years, from fall of 2007 to spring of 2009, and that’s when I really became a writer.
When I first started back in 2007, I had a couple of hobby projects kicking around here and there, but the main thing I wanted to write was a Final Fantasy VI fanfic. At the same time, I had a great idea for an original novel, but I’d never written a complete novel before, so I wasn’t sure what to do. Aneeka convinced me to go with my own project, and that became The Lost Colony, also known as Ashes of the Starry Sea.
Around that time, I also started this blog, mostly so my writing friends could keep me honest. I finished the first draft in 2008–a whopping 168k word manuscript that barely held together. After coming back to the US from a study abroad program in the Middle East, I started revising it, but soon decided to trunk it in order to work on other projects. Shortly thereafter, I finished the first draft of Genesis Earth, and the rest is history.
I later wrote up a detailed post on the origins of Quark, one that was published in a short-lived magazine called Mormon Artist. You can find that article here. Orson Scott Card himself commented on it, which really made my inner fanboy squee. For me, though, Quark was all about surrounding myself with like-minded friends who could foster my natural sense of creativity. I probably would have become a writer anyway even without them, but it would have happened a lot later, and the road would have been much more rocky.
And now that we’ve all graduated and moved on, I’m happy to say we still keep in touch! Kindal is a self-published indie writer much like me, with some excellent books out there. He’s organized an online writing group that is mostly made up of us old-time Quarkies. Aneeka’s got her webcomic, which seems to be fairly successful, and the others who chose to go a more traditional path are having success there as well. But mostly, it’s just great to keep in touch.
After my time as president, Quark really exploded in popularity and became officially sanctioned by the BYUSA. It’s really thriving right now, with a book club, a board/video gaming group, a film forum, and a bunch of other stuff. Most of that was there when I was in the writing group, but it was floundering, and the writing group was much more autonomous. But the guys who have carried on the torch seem to have done a great job making things even better, and that’s encouraging. More »