So back in 2018, I really wanted to go to Realm Makers, a conference for Christian speculative fiction writers.
So, like, basically where my people are.
But coming off of a trip to Peru, financially it wasn't gonna happen, so when I learned they'd be hosting the conference in the same place, I settled for 2019.
So the early bird registration opens, and I pounce: I book my room, register for the conference. Picked my sessions/classes. Only mild freak-out excitement. It's still months away, so it was essentially a "yea, I'm doing this in July" kind of chill thought. No biggie.
But then July hits, and it becomes "I'm actually doing this."
So then I actually have to plan. I'm driving there, by myself, and I planned to make one straight shot to St. Louis, with only stops for gas. So I made detailed packing lists, over-prepared, bought things I needed, and made sure my car was travel-worthy.
Then on Thursday, 18th of July, I was off. at 6:20AM I was on the road, headed through downtown to the highway and then onto the highway.
I should probably mention I’ve NEVER done a solo drive like this before. Ever. The furthest I’ve driven my car was up to my grandparents’, about 2 hours or so away. This was a seven hour trip, and I wasn’t gonna stop.
Thursday, July 18th
I survived my trip! It was long, and an hour after the gas stop (had about another 2 or so hours left) I was so, SO ready to be done driving. I was screaming in relief when I made it off the highway into St. Louis.
But I SURVIVED. I found lovely parking right up by the hotel, which was gorgeous, and basically just sat in the car and decompressed.
I checked in easy-peasy, made the mistake of tucking my room keys by my phone, so when I went back down for my stuff, I couldn’t get in. So a lovely Realmie (people who attend Realm Makers) offered to watch my stuff while I ran back down to get a new key.
I wasn’t able to find out who she is, but dang girl you know who you are, and I thank you a thousand times over for that offer, and not minding too much my state of frazzled frustration and disarray.
I was a hot mess, guys. St. Louis in mid-July was BURNING.
So I finally get my stuff into my room, and I DON’T put my room key by my phone. I freshen up and eat and basically made myself more willing to stick around for the conference and socialize. xD
After loitering in my room (lemme tell you: having a hotel room to myself was weirrrrd), I went down to get checked in. I received a fancy name badge (which I decorated with stickers) and a bag of fun swag.
I got a BOOK
So basically I was already a huge fan of this conference and I hadn’t even seen it all yet.
The guest of honor at this year’s RM was Terry Brooks. I’ve only really read a nonfiction book by him (“Sometimes the Magic Works”), and at RM I received book 1 of his Shannara series.
So after I explored my goodies bag and got myself reorganized, I head down to the vendor hall, where I know a few people via Twitter would hopefully be.
Guys the vendor hall was vast and glorious. So many authors and their books, and other creatives and their gorgeous products (there was a person selling suuuper gorgeous pens). I didn’t know where to look first. Being an introverted grape, I’m always shy about browsing a vendor’s stall and getting pulled into conversations, and then moving on without buying anything (I’m weird. I’m well aware).
But I finally found the Twitter people. Guys, the ladies of the Phoenix Fiction Writers are the coolest and they’re all so so sweet and cheerful and they let me lurk around their booth even when I just stood there awkwardly. Basically these three girls are amazing. I snatched up books from them and made them sign them. xD
[Hannah Heath, moi, K.L.+Pierce, and Beth Wangler]
After that was the opening keynote and such. Basically the thing that kicks off Realm Makers. Just a few minutes into that, I got a SECOND Terry Brooks book. Two books in the space of a few hours. <3
The keynote speaker was Brent Weeks. He was an author I wasn’t familiar with (most of the fabulous speakers there were people I didn’t know, but they were all still cool), but his opening speech was really good.
After the opening speeches there were a few other talks, but I needed food and wanted to explore. So I found another Twitter friend, Kate. I can confirm she is not an axe-murderer. She is very nice and awesome and funny and I made her sign my copies of her books.
[See she’s pretty cool. B) ]
She and I got noms at the Panera across the street, and we chatted about all the things.
After that, I don’t remember if I went to bed or explored. I probably explored the vendor hall. Might’ve bought more books.
Guys, I went to St. Louis with five books to have signed.
I came home with an additional eleven. All got signed.
I may have a problem. xD
Friday, July 19th
The next day was full of sessions and vendor-shopping. I visited the Hospitality Suite (basically a few connecting hotel rooms), for breakfast, and swapped business cards with a few people before I had to go down for my first class.
The continuing session I attended was Wayne Thomas Batson’s on balancing life and writing. That first class was FANTASTIC and I was excited for the next two of that class. Mr. Batson is a cool guy, and he made the time feel casual and relaxed, while still professional and serious. He started out with something like disclaimers, listing what you might have to sacrifice in order to write. It’s not an easy path.
I had two other classes after that. One was on dialogue and subtext, and the other was fairytale retellings. Both were super great. The former was useful for my own writing, but also as an editor, it was nice to have those tips and know to be on the lookout during editing. The latter session was really nice, because fairytale retellings are so cool, and I have a lot of ideas bouncing around my head.
Somewhere in between the dialogue and fairytale sessions was lunch. I lunched with the epic PFW ladies and Julia Garcia. Julia is an absolutely sweetheart and I love her and she is mine. MINE.
I’m calm. But seriously, she’s super sweet and it was so so cool to meet her in person and I just <3
[Julia, Kirsten, Naomi Cohen, and Beth. We went for Fuzzy Tacos]
Then there was a second session with Mr. Batson. That one was even better than the first, and I LOVED it. During one of my vendor hall explores, I purchased the first book of his series. I may have goofed a little when I asked if he could sign my copy of the Door Within and said I hadn't read his books before. YES I am aware I am a painfully awkward introvert. I KNOWWWWW.
Ahem. But he was pretty cool about it I think?
After that last session of the day, there was a break before dinner. Because dinner was a for real banquet, but where you dress up as fictional people. It’s basically a huge summer Halloween party with a bunch of writers. It’s awesome.
I wasn’t brave enough to dress up, so I just made myself fancy-ish and enjoyed everybody else’s costumes. I wandered around snapping pictures of my favorites and was brave enough to ask if I could take pictures instead of trying to be covert.
Introvert me did a lot of things she wouldn't have normally done, guys.
[A few of the super cool costumes. I’m afraid I only know/remember the names of Dr. Strange and the Ancient One (Scott and Becky Minor), but please if you know who they are (or who you are), tell me! Send me a link to your blog or something so I can add it here!]
Books were also given awards, and it was so fun to watch. The dinner was fantastic, and there was cake. The line for round 2 of cake was basically a mad dash for the cake tables, and it was wild. Again, something introvert me usually wouldn’t do, but she did, guys. She ran for that cake like a madwoman.
After cake and awards were passed around, I retreated back to my room. Looking back, I feel like I should’ve stayed up longer on this trip, but it was still a packed day of fun and I regret nothing.
Saturday, July 20th
Sadness. The last day of Realm Makers. After breakfast in the Hospitality Suite, there was a Q&A with Terry Brooks and Brent Weeks, where they basically sassed and snarked each other and it was awesome. I also got the two Terry Brooks books signed! He’s a pretty cool dude. In hindsight, I kind of wish I’d gotten a picture (though I’ve yet to read the books :x) but it was still fun!
I had a few more sessions to attend. The last of Mr. Batson’s sessions involved a Kahoot game, and I was so excited and possibly got a little too competitive, because I missed one question and I’m bitter at myself for missing it. XD But it was still an absolutely fantastic class and I learned so much.
My last two sessions were ones on worldbuilding, and a panel of authors who discussed writing on topics that go a little beyond PG-13-ness. The panel was interesting, though I’m still trying to sort my thoughts.
Somewhere between the last two sessions, I made a Panera lunch run with the PFW ladies, Julia, and… I wanna say Deborah? I don’t remember who else was there (I’m sorryyyyy it’s been over a month things are mushing together). It was a yummy lunch, and I loved hanging out with all of these ladies.
[The Phoenix Fiction Writers booth had a poll every day. I voted Snape. B)]
With the last session done, things were winding down. There would be a book festival in the vendor hall, where authors would be signing all the books. I’d gotten all of my books signed, so I just explored the hall.
It was fun just to wander. I did cave and buy another book, buuuuut I got it signed too so… worth it?
Later that evening, they also drew winners for the many, many raffled prizes. Then I got nervous. Not because I’d entered any.
Oh no, newbie Realmie me had decided to donate a prize. My editing services. Which at first I was all excited about it but then I’m sitting at the PFW booth like “omg what have I done.” But for some reason I was nervous?
But there was a winner! I plucked up the courage to go meet her and her husband, and they’re pretty cool people. I’m super excited to work with her.
After that, booths were being packed up. There was a post-conference class, but I had to leave in the morning. But Saturday night was the latest I stayed up. I helped the awesome PFW ladies break down their booths and tote the stuff to their hotel room (after getting separated by the funky elevators. Those were weird, guys).
Then I spent the evening chilling with those girls while Hannah, Beth, and Kirsten packed for their super early flights (Beth and Hannah planned to pull and all-nighter and I’m pretty sure they all have superpowers).
But eventually, it was time for me to go sleep. Because remember that disgustingly long drive I did on Thursday? I still had round 2. So after saying goodbye and *sniff* goodbye, I crashed into bed after doing my own packing.
[The books I brought with me + the books I bought. This is what I had to lug home.]
Sunday, July 21st
I was able to spend a lovely breakfast with Julia, and we chatted about all things life and writing. I was also betrayed by the nastiness of iced coffee. But my cinnamon roll was delish. <3
But alas, I had to leave. I said my final goodbyes and got myself and my stuff loaded into the car. I planned to make a brief detour and drive by the Arch, but when my GPS and physical roads didn’t seem to align, I nixed the plan and settled for seeing it from far off (it’s still cool).
The drive was smooth and uneventful right up until I passed the border into my home state. The rain poured hard and heavy, and then mere blocks from my house my phone tells me of a tornado warning (no worries! I think it was a few minutes old and had already passed. All is well!). It did put a little boost to my speed. XD
But I got home safe and sound. That weekend is one I’ll never forget. It was fantastic and I learned so much. I was introverted sometimes, but I did more than I’d thought I’d ever do, and I’m pretty sure it changed me. <3
Next year’s Realm Makers is in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and if you can go I highly recommend. Because Scott and Becky Minor are a literal power couple and it sounds like they’ve got cool things getting set up. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to go (my next adventure may keep me within my home state this time) so I’m relying on your pictures and stories! ;)
Now: Did you go to RM this year!? Did I meet you (because I suck I remembering names to faces and I apologize profusely)? What sessions did you go to, and what are your overall thoughts/feelings about that weekend?
Bonus Question: Did you go to the banquet in costume? What did you go as?