Realm Makers 2018 Recap [highlights and takeaways]

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.)

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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. :)

Favorite Moments

When Katie Grace and Jaye L. Knight showed up at my house Tuesday night so we could all drive down to St. Louis together.

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 audaciousCreativity 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)

wildly unbalancedLive 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?

With love,

Rosalie <3

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.

Realm Makers 2015

It’s hard to believe that a month has gone by since Realm Makers. I wanted to post sooner about it, but I had to finish Five Enchanted Roses and A Wish Made of Glass before I could, and then craziness descended at home, and I’ve had very little time to do writing of any kind. And then I’m also on Nadine Brandes’ launch team for A Time to Speak, the sequel to A Time to Die.  And of course I had to read that ASAP because I needed for answers after A Time to Die.

So, at long last, my thoughts and feelings on Realm Makers 2015.


Realm Makers is a relatively small conference (150ish attendees this year), but that’s part of why I love it. Introverted as I am, even with the smaller size of Realm Makers, I was daunted by all the people. Some conferences range in the thousands. Thousands, peeps, THOUSANDS. That’s just craziness. I would probably lose my mind and not recover from the experience until I had four months and twelve days of complete solitude. And even then, recovery is not guaranteed. So, Realm Maker’s smaller size was a huge draw. However, this was only Realm Makers’ third year, and it has been growing at a ridiculous rate.
Anyway, I met so many fantastic people! I was so jazzed to meet J. L. Mbewe in person after “knowing” each other a for a few years online. She’s AMAZING, and I was able to buy her book in the bookstore and get it signed! (!!!!!!!!) And I finally met Nadine Brandes, and I got her book signed too! Nadine introduced me to one of her roommates, Katie Grace, who is on Go Teen Writers. We’d seen each other a few times on the Go Teen Writers Facebook group, but it was fantastic to meet her in person! Another GTWer that I met was Victoria Grace Tucker, and she was pitching her book to the publishing houses! (She gave me one of the one-sheets for her book, by the way, and it sounds pretty groovy.)

And I had three fantastic roommates: Pam Halter, Amy McNew, and Brittany Valentine! Of course, I already knew Brittany, but we hadn’t met Pam and Amy before. I hope I was a fraction of the blessing and encouragement to Brittany, Pam, and Amy as they were to me. We did everything from helping each other with our costumes for the costume dinner to talking until 1:00 or 2:00 every morning to sharing snacks to sharing wisdom and insights about everything from writing to motherhood to tornadoes. We now call ourselves the fantastic four, and I can’t wait to see these ladies again soon!

Also, Realm Makers is focused on a very specific genre: speculative fiction, and that’s another reason why I love it. See, speculative fiction is science fiction, fantasy, and everything that falls between – time travel, alternate history, the list goes on. Basically, anything weird. Everyone from Realm Makers keeps talking about how we found our tribe, our people.

And we did.

Brothers and sisters in Christ. Check. Writers. Check. Weird writers. Check.

I’d never met so many people that think like I do. We all want to write stories that glorify God and proclaim Him to the world. Everything is a possible story, and we could just say it, and everyone was like, “Wow! What a cool idea!” Even at a “normal” writing conference, this is not typical. Usually, everyone has drastically different genres and mindsets that they come from. At Realm Makers, we were different but united. Different blood, different ages, different homes, different lives, but kin nonetheless, bound to each other by the blood of Christ, the ink that runs through our veins, and the vastness of our imaginations.

And get this, we had a Nerf war. Yes, a Nerf war. It was pretty intense, and I likely made it more intense for myself by being a jumpy little hooligan who took it too seriously. But I think we all took it too seriously. A table was thrown on its side and used as a giant shield, chairs were shoved across the floor with people riding on them, and an AIR POWERED MACHINE GUN came out and started mowing us down.

Yeah, Realm Makers are my peeps.

Lastly, I loved Realm Makers because of the amazing sessions. As I mentioned before I left, I chose the wordbuilding core sessions, and they were taught by Donita K. Paul and her son and daughter, J. Case Thompkins and Evangeline Denmark. These sessions were incredible. These three taught me and my fellow writers so much about making an authentic world from building great races to creating cultural depth to symbolism. Unfortunately, I missed about half of the four sessions because I had several appointments, but I was so thrilled to have these appointments.

I had the first ten pages (my first chapter) of Retelling #2 critiqued by Morgan Busse (the amazing author of the Follower of the Word series), and one of my appointments was with her as we discussed her notes on my pages. She was so helpful and honest yet also encouraging I learned a lot from her in such a short time, and I walked away with a giddy feeling as new ideas and ways to tighten my writing danced around in my brain.

Also, I was able to meet with Jill Williamson (she writes tons of spec fic and is one of the Go Teen Writer bloggers)! She was soooo nice and totally rolled with my doddering, stumbling questions (I was just kind of in awe, peeps). She gave me such good advice, and it was like my passion for writing was renewed as we talked about a few different ways I could do my editing. (She also signed my copy of Storyworld First, so that was pretty fantastic too.)

My last appointment was with Enclave Publishing (formerly Marcher Lord Press). The representative at Realm Makers was actually the owner himself, Steve Laube. This would have been a good opportunity for pitching, but I wasn’t there yet, and so I basically just asked him a bunch of questions because he’s been in the biz for, like, ever, and owns an entire publishing house. Those are some pretty solid credentials, and my half hour with him flew by. His answers were so helpful and informative, and I came away from that appointment with the Dune series, On Writing by Stephen King, and Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Brown and King added to my reading list along with some good ideas of what to do when I am ready to pitch.

I’m being exceptionally long-winded today, so I’ll try to wrap this up. Suffice it to say, that all of the sessions I made it to were inspiring, helpful, and chock full of writing wisdom. I’m definitely buying the CDs for all of the sessions!

Of course, there was a bookstore that dragged me in every time I wandered past. I mean, yeah, it would have helped if I hadn’t gotten so close as to see covers of some of the books, but what can one do? I went through that check-out line with a stack of books at least twice in as many days. I think the grand total was eight books: six fiction books and two craft books. It was amazing. I was in bookworm heaven, and I could have easily dropped another hundred bucks, but, alas, train tickets cost money too. PLUS, I didn’t have to feel too weird for smelling the fresh pages because I was at Realm Makers.

Unless something drastic happens (and it has to be pretty darn drastic), I’m so definitely going to Realm Makers next year because Realm Makers is the home of great learning, great books, and my great tribe.