The Millenium Maxwell House Hotel in Nashville, Tenn., hosted the third annual UtopYA conference, a gathering of authors and fans of supernatural YA and new adult fiction, held June 20–22. With 700 attendees – twice that of last year – and a full slate of panels and keynotes, many of them standing-room only, the conference seems poised to fulfill founder Janet Wallace’s goal for the event: “A place where no matter how big your dream is, you can find the mindset pieces, the inspiration pieces, the tribe and community pieces that, when combined with all of the biz stuff, can prepare you, build your confidence and lift you higher than you ever imagined.”

During her keynote on Friday morning, new adult author Sylvia Day (the Crossfire series) encouraged attendees to always speak up and ask questions, to never be afraid to say “yes” to opportunities or “no” when a deal or business relationship isn’t right for them. “I was so impressed by the quality of the panels and the keynotes,” said first-time attendee Shantele Summa-Martin. “There was zero condescension or attitude from even the most successful writers at the conference. There was a genuine ‘lift as you climb’ atmosphere and I received invaluable advice and warm hugs from both indie and traditionally published authors.”

Gennifer Albin (the Crewel World series) spoke of hope at her keynote Saturday morning as she shared her struggles and triumphs, telling the audience their dreams matter and, whether they seek a traditional or self-publishing route, to persevere. “UtopYA was unlike any conference I've attended in my publishing career, mostly due to the atmosphere of excitement and enthusiasm that permeated the event,” Albin told PW. “What I discovered through speaking with these women and hearing their stories is that engaging in these types of serious conversations about our struggles is absolutely vital to maintaining the shared community that UtopYA strives to create. It left me feeling heartened about the perception of female authors writing in genres that haven’t always accepted them.”

The three-day event offered an array of panels, among them “Expand Your Universe: A How-To Workshop for Newbies & Introverts,” “Rise of the Hybrid Author,” “Quantum Query,” “Amazon Marketing 101,” “Supermassive Black Hole: The Legal Panel,” and “YA vs. NA: Today & Tomorrow.” Less traditional conference activities included yoga on the lawn, a write-in, costumed karaoke, and dance parties. Said panelist Chelsea Fine, author of the Finding Fate new adult series, “My favorite moment was the last morning of the conference when Janet Wallace, the amazing director, opened the floor to the attendees to express what they've learned or gained from their experience at UtopYA. It was intimate and intense – in the best possible way – and greatly inspired me.”

The supportive atmosphere was a common them among the participants PW spoke with. “UtopYA is one of my favorite [conferences],” said C.J. Redwine, panelist and author of the Defiance series. “Traditionally published authors, self-published authors, and those who are a hybrid of both sit side by side on panels and share information freely with attendees. I constantly overhead people saying they were inspired to go home and write, or that they were thrilled to have made new friends.”

Echoing Redwine’s sentiments, author Rachel Harris (My Not So Super Sweet Life) perhaps summed up the event best. “UtopYA has heart,” she said. “Janet Wallace has built an incredibly tight-knit community, and the best part is, they eagerly embrace all newcomers. As a full-time homeschool mom-slash-author, it’s vital that I be selective about my commitments away from home, and UtopYA – more so than any other conference I’ve attended in my career – is well worth the investment.”