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Daniel Coleman
Daniel Coleman, author of the "Wonderland" novels, spoke at the NSL Reads Writer's Workshop on May 18 in North Salt Lake.

Two Utah authors, Lisa Mangum and Daniel Coleman, inspired adults and children alike at the Fantasy Writing Workshop presented by North Salt Lake Reads on Thursday evening.

This was NSL Reads' second writing workshop and the kickoff for its annual story contest (now in its fourth year), which is open to all ages. When asked about participating in the contest, one of the attendees, 5-year-old Eltsie, said, “I’m going to do it. I’m really excited.”

Mangum, who began working in the publishing industry in 1997 and is now the managing editor for Shadow Mountain as well as the author of The Hourglass Door trilogy, shared her thoughts about writing fantasy. She discussed why the hero's journey, a theme found in stories like Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings, is so popular and effective. The main character, Mangum told the audience, is "leaving the comfortable, facing adversity and facing the darkest night of their life to come out to light on the other side — to return home with a message that says, 'I did it, and so can you.'"

According to Mangum, this journey becomes a great resource for writers plotting a novel, and it resonates with readers because of the similarities they find in their own lives.

"I often feel like I'm stuck in this part a lot," Mangum said, pointing to the area of the whiteboard where she had written "adversity" — a statement many writers and readers can relate to. She also said reading about a main character who is able to push beyond that dark and difficult point can inspire readers to do the same.

Mangum and Coleman offered advice to writers during the Q&A session, both echoing the phrase "Don't stop writing" — which holds true even when writers may think their story is the worst ever written. "Write the best worst story that you can," said Mangum, adding later, "The best writers are rewriters."

Coleman said he first began writing when he was 30 and has now written at least 12 books, offering hope to those who wondered if they had missed their chance to join the publishing game. Nobody, he said, is ever too young or too old to begin.

But above all, Mangum and Coleman emphasized that although a writer may face many challenges while writing a book, like the hero, the most important message is "I did it, and so can you."

For those who would like to participate in the writing contest, the submission guidelines can be found here. The winners will be announced Oct. 12 at the NSL Reads Night of Magic, which will feature Charlie N. Holmberg, author of The Paper Magician series.

Bethany Hanks is an intern at Deseret Digital Media. She has a degree in English with an editing minor from Brigham Young University and is finishing a master's in folklore from Utah State University. Contact her at bhanks@deseretdigital.com