From New York Times bestselling authors to famous artists who’ve worked at Disney, Fyrecon 2019 at Weber State Davis Campus brought some big names this year.
Fyrecon is a writing and art conference for the sci-fi and fantasy genres. Fyrecon spanned June 21 to June 23 this year, the third Fyrecon to date. Writers and artists, novices and professionals alike, flocked to Layton for the conference.
Dawn Ray Ammon is one of the founders and directors of Fyrecon and works on bringing the best possible people she can to Layton for the event.
“We work on bringing in some of the top people in the field because they’re the ones who are going to teach others how to get to the top,” Ammon said.
Fyrecon offers a variety of classes and activities over the weekend, including master classes in writing and art, improv workshops and medieval weapons demonstrations.
Ammon discussed how the master classes are taught by professional authors and other artists. Some last up to all three days of the event at six hours a day. In one of the classes taught by award-winning, New York Times bestselling author David Farland, the participants did homework assignments with Farland critiquing their work and offering feedback on their writing.
Distinguished artist Philo Barnhart, who worked as an animator on Disney movies like “The Rescuers Down Under,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Secret of Nim” and “The Little Mermaid,” attended the conference for his second time this year. Barnhart taught two master classes this year: “Adapting Intellectual Properties into Consumer Products” and “Sequential Art and Storyboarding.”
“My favorite part is imparting the information that I have to new artists, creative people,” Barnhart said.
Despite it being summer, attendees of all ages seemed eager to learn, asking questions and taking notes throughout the classes offered.
Authors and artists who taught the classes also did readings, presentations and signings. In addition to the workshops and signings, the conference also featured a vendor hall with local artists, authors and game makers.
Kelly Olsen, who was working the Utah Speculative Fiction Authors booth, made it clear that the event is mainly aimed at creative writers and artists. She also spoke on the event’s speculative fiction focus, which includes the fantasy, science fiction and paranormal genres. She mentioned that most of the authors of the books she was selling were there at Fyrecon, so attendees could likely pick up a book and get it signed.
However, a greater result of the conference is not entirely based in helping creators develop new skills; rather, a large part of Fyrecon, it seems, is helping bring creators together.
Art and writing, as well as the smaller subset of gamers who were also represented at Fyrecon, tend to be solitary crowds, and interaction between creators is something that the conference hopes to encourage.
“We’re really just trying to create a sense of community and build a support system,” said Karma Chesnut, a volunteer at Fyrecon and herself an author with a forthcoming release. “They can meet other people with similar interests and then suddenly it’s ‘oh I’m not alone in this passion, I can have friends who are working towards the same goal.’”
Art and writing are, largely, solitary activities, as author Scott Bryan, a member of the Utah League of Writers, said. He believes events like Fyrecon benefit writers and artists by showing them there are other people just like them.
“As a writer, you don’t know you can do it,” Bryan said. “If you wanted to be a football player, you would work with a coach and a team. When you’re a writer, you’re sitting in your basement by yourself with this amazing concept, but you’re the only one that believes in it right now.”
However, Bryan maintains that once a writer attends the conference, he or she realizes other people are in the exact same situation.
“You have to learn that you’re not the only one that believes in it, you’re not alone, there are a thousand other people in their basements, in their pajamas trying to get that story out,” Bryan said.
The idea of bringing creative minds together to learn, create and connect with professionals isn’t a new idea for Fyrecon. It’s one of the core concepts that goes back to the conference’s foundation, according to freelance editor and Fyrecon head of registration Melissa Meibos. Meibos stressed the sense of community and belonging that creators get from the conference as crucial for crowds of people who don’t quite fit in anywhere else.
“Fyrecon was founded with the ideals that everyone should be able to fuel their creative spark,” she said. “These conferences and conventions give creative types a place to gather, to connect with those who think and act the same way.”