Ever since I went to Realm Makers in 2015, I’ve wanted to go back, and this was finally the year.
For those of you who don’t know, Realm Makers is a unique conference for Christian writers who love speculative fiction. And speculative fiction is an umbrella term used to encompass science fiction, fantasy, and all their subgenres. Basically—weird and fantastical stories.
So today on Penprints, we’re going to do a quick recap on Realm Makers 2018. (Spoiler alert: I lied; this won’t be quick.)
I drove down to St. Louis for the conference Wednesday, and Realm Makers itself ran Thursday through Saturday, and then I drove home. That’s the super quick overview. :)
When Katie, Jaye, and I walked into the hotel, and Jeneca Zody pounced on us.
Laying in bed Friday night, listening to Katie’s song for her novel Where Shadows Lie.
Seeing Kara Swanson come up a flight of stairs and hugging her for the first time.
That time we all got cult tattoos (okay, so they were just temporary tattoos to help promote Morgan Busse’s forthcoming release, Mark of the Raven, but they were black raven silhouettes, and they looked like we had all just been initiated into a real intense cult/gang).
Seeing Nadine Brandes for the first time in forever, baby bump and all!
Eating strange St. Louis style pizza with Jeneca, Katie, and Jaye.
Every time Katie and Ashely Townsend would *boop* each other on the nose.
Spending an hour or more in the hotel’s clocktower with Jeneca and Katie, talking about life and stories and this past year and the future.
Grabbing a dirty chai from Starbucks and then running into Gillian Bronte Adams and then chatting with her (!!!!!!!!) for like twenty minutes about our stories.
Hanging out with the other Ninjas (Nadine’s street team) and Mad Hatters (Mary Weber’s street team) over tacos.
Every time Stephanie Warner swept by in all her elegance with a little mischievous wink and smile.
Seeing Savannah Grace for the first time in person (knowing her over the internet had not prepared me for how much she is in person).
Every little random detail that would crop up about Jeneca, each proving that she was one of the most interesting people there (writes dystopian, was Alice in an Alice in Wonderland play and still sometimes quotes it with a British accent, took a train and bus to get to Realm Makers all by her lonesome with all her stuff for the weekend in two little backpacks, makes stunning art in this little notebook in her pack, isn’t afraid of a lot of espresso, had an Etsy shop when she was fifteen—before Etsy was cool—plus she sews, and a whole bunch of other things that kept coming up every time I turned around).
Tosca Lee signing my copy of Havah.
Watching Katie try to wake up in the morning (it was always a process until we got some coffee in her).
When my story, That Last Breath, was read and critiqued live on Thursday night (I gasped so loud when they started reading it; nearly died; my mind was blown).
Drinking in the prose from Kira Thomas’s short story that was read and critiqued live on Thursday night. It was easily the best story, and you’ll find it in the January 2019 issue of Havok.
Nearly every word that came out of Ashley Townsend’s mouth.
Ashley giving Katie a piggy back ride.
Hearing truth from Allen Arnold about God and creativity.
Hearing truth from Tosca Lee about God and creativity.
Four of us gathered around Ashley after the costume dinner, helping her out of all the tiny little braids and metal coils in her hair while she sat on the ground with her ultra-intense Viking eyeliner smudged under her eyes.
Katie, Jeneca, and me sitting down with the Serenity crew at the costume dinner… and then Katie and I simultaneously sniffing the brown liquid in our cups to figure out what it was… because neither of us wanted to taste it until we had a notion of what it was? (It was tea, apparently, and fairly odorless.)
Sitting with Lindsay A. Franklin during our mentor appointment and talking about stories.
Meeting Kayla St. Arbor on the last night, learning what a burnt cookie is (and that I am one), and finding out she’s an INFP Hufflepuff like me.
And there were hundreds of other moments and people that made it so good: Schuyler, Liz, Mary, Heidi, Jason, Josh, JJ, Brittany, Avily, Sierra, Tricia, Kensi, Kira, Carrie-Anne, Tracey, Audrey, Brianna, Lillian, Gretchen, Laura, Bethany, Emily, Tina, Ruthie, Rolena, April, and many more. <3
As with my recap of The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference, these takeaways are paraphrased, with the speaker in parentheses at the end.
Novel writing is a thing you learn by writing novels. (Tosca Lee)
Creativity is meant to be audacious. (Tosca Lee)
We are not made to write stories and then die; we are made to love God and others well (which sometimes includes writing stories and then dying). (Mary Weber)
To write a great book you cannot please everyone. (Tosca Lee)
You need to be aware that you are being judged. But you need not be concerned about the judgements being made. (Tosca Lee)
Perfectionism is where nothing happens. (Tosca Lee)
An artist’s best work comes not from comfort but from the limitations and chaos of life. (Allen Arnold)
God doesn’t create “Christian” things; he creates trueness. (Allen Arnold)
You can’t tell a better story than you’re living. (Allen Arnold)
Live a wildly unbalanced life for what matters most. (Allen Arnold)
Free yourself from the lie that there is not enough time. (Allen Arnold)
Self-doubt can be a good thing because it means you’re still growing and learning. (Steve Laube)
The Pitching Appointment Situation
On a slightly different note, my pitching appointments both went very well—better than I had hoped. I pitched to two agents, and neither of them said my idea (aka: False Gods) was an awful idea! Which is what I was afraid/expecting they would say—either because my presentation was bad or because it isn’t right for the market or because I’ve been deluding myself about False Gods’ potential this whole time. I was bracing myself for “No thank you”, and it didn’t come!
One agent wants a proposal when False Gods is finished (we discussed how I would know when it’s “finished”) because he finds the idea really cool (*cue my mind exploding*). The other agent wants a full manuscript and a couple other things after I’m done with this draft (*mind explodes again*).
Obviously, neither of these are contract offers, but I was able to discuss a few of my confusions about genre and such with both agents. Overall, the pitch appointments were super encouraging and helpful, and I’m so excited to see where Jesus takes this. Maybe he’s planning on getting False Gods out into people’s hands sooner than I had anticipated, or perhaps he’s going to help me work through rejection again. We’ll see. :)
So there’s a snapshot of my Realm Makers 2018 experience.
This was largely people-centric for me, which is highly unusual for me since I’m a little introverted snail, but it was good. So good.
Jesus blessed me in so many ways, but he worked most profoundly in the relationships forged for the first time and the friendships strengthened and deepened.
My heart is so full.
Have you been to a writing conference before? Have you heard of Realm Makers? Will I see you there next year?
p.s. – today happens to be the day when I celebrate twenty years of being out and about on earth. O.o
p.p.s. – the main thing Jesus drove home for me this weekend is probably this: You are not meant to create in isolation. You need your tribe of people, which is in this case, a very niche part of the Church as a whole.