Each year I’ve gone to Realm Makers, I’ve had major expectations. I expect to hear excellent instruction on writing. I expect to make new connections and to see people dressed up and having fun at the annual costume-optional banquet. And I definitely expect to be inspired to take on my dreams and plans and…
Sometimes what I expect doesn’t happen. This year was odd for me since I had great expectations, but I also had some “real life” things weighing heavily on my heart as I attended. I almost didn’t go to the conference at all. Honestly, the collection of concerns in the back of my mind never quieted down, but I really got what I needed this year at Realm Makers. As I look over my notes, a few weeks after I’ve returned from Reno, I can see that I learned and needed to hear so much this year.
My Crosshair Press teammates had awesome stories from meeting with many Realmies for mentoring appointments, and I had the pleasure of sitting down with some amazingly talented writers who pitched to us this year — if that was you, thank you so much for trusting us with your vision and asking for our feedback. It’s always humbling when you meet with creatives who not only have a gift with words but a desire to send those words into the world as a way to reach people with hope.
One highlight this year was having author Ted Dekker as the conference keynote speaker. I’d only read a little of his work many years ago, so I was fascinated to hear more about not only his writing journey but about his spiritual background. Some of his words turned out to be a bit controversial, but he definitely challenged me to stop, think, and pray about what was true in my own spiritual journey.
During Dekker’s opening keynote, he did clarify that he was speaking from a personal level, so if he said something that didn’t resonate with my personal spiritual walk, I went ahead and marked that down to his own particular experience. He was very encouraging with much of what he had to say about writing with purpose and from his heart. He brought up the fact that scientists say we tend to see ourselves and our lives in story form. So Dekker began writing for himself because he wanted to learn more about his own story, to discover who he was, to learn more about his Father (God), and to deepen his perception about himself and God. This allowed him to write stories that not only resonated with his own heart, but with others who relate to his struggles.
“Write to discover… Take a character to the depths of despair, and when they finally find the light, weep alongside them.”
While much of Ted Dekker’s spiritual advice (which he reiterated was purely his personal perspective, not necessarily advice for others to follow), seemed to stir up controversy among some attendees, I’m so grateful that he came and shared his perspective. At a time in our world where so many are hurting and hurting others, sometimes it is beneficial to have someone shake us mentally to reevaluate what we believe and why we believe it.
For my main class, I attended Mary Weber and Jim Rubart’s class, “Heroes, Villains, & The Heart of Your Story.” They were engaging, interesting to listen to, and had awesome insight into marketing, creating believable characters, and emotionally grabbing your reader.
I wish I could share a full video of Carla Hoch’s Fight demonstration, but the truth is I have very few notes from her session that make sense, as her demo was so physical and engaging. It might be best if you head over to her FightWrite.net website if you have questions about different combat styles and defense methods. And how to best slit a throat. And how to fight off a knife-wielding opponent. You know, everyday stuff. She also offered some priceless insights like,
“Please come at me with a 40lb. sword. By the time you’ve lifted it up, I’ll have stabbed you like a sewing machine,”
The Costume-Optional Banquet
With so many new attendees this year, it’s so cool to compare the very first year that Realm Makers was held versus the huge ballroom we filled, now five years later. We had a flock of Doctors Who, there were an array of Steampunk and Dieselpunk costumes, and so many more! I was also thrilled to see a cosplay of my favorite Star Wars EU character, Mara Jade.
Realm Makers still stands out as one of the writer’s conferences I’d highly recommend to anyone wanting to write speculative fiction. They offer a high quality of instruction and resources, but also a sense of community and encouragement, which is rare in such a competitive field as writing. Amidst all the critiquing and the red markups, this is a group of writers who love writers, who love story, and love Jesus, too. And that makes all the difference.