If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you likely saw my live updates during my trip to Atlantic City for Realm Makers. In the moment, I couldn’t reflect much. It was a busy time! Non-stop in a lot of ways. I came back home completely exhausted and had to head back to work, so there wasn’t much time to process. But now that I’ve had a weekend to recover, I want to share my thoughts on the event, why I want to go again, and what I plan to do differently.
First off, let me say that the venue, Harrah’s Resort, was huge! Most of my exhaustion came from getting from one place to another.
Day 1: This was a light day. Registration, hanging out around the Lorehaven booth in the bookstore, opening keynote by Tosca Lee, new attendee orientation, and an amazing agent and editor Q&A panel. Despite the not-so-packed schedule, after travelling the day before I was already tired by 8:00 pm when the Q&A ended. So, as much as wanted to attend, I opted out of the launch party for The Wonderland Trials so that I could be rested the next day, which was a lot more packed. I was sad I missed the launch party, but I was glad I got the rest.
Day 2: Started at 9:00 am. Keynote by James Rubart, a class on picking a fighting style for your character (Carla Hoch), and two of three sessions on the publishing process (Steve Laube). After an hour break to get changed into my costume, it was off to the Realm Awards Dinner. Good food. Great winners. LOTS of amazing costumes! More tiredness.
Day 3: Again at 9:00 am. Announcements and then into a session with Tosca Lee on how to keep people reading. The third and final session with Steve Laube on publishing, then a lunch break. It took me so long to get my food that I decided to skip my next session so I could eat my food and actually taste it (this is not the fault of the conference… it was the resort… huge and crowded). My next class would have been at 3:00 pm, but I had my critique appointment at 3:30. Since I already missed one session, and would have had to leave this one, I decided to skip this one as well. I read over my critique notes and went to wait for my appointment. A volunteer prayed with me and asked about my book, which surprisingly loosened me up a bit, then I went in for my appointment with Alyssa Roat, who (it turns out) is very sweet. We went over her notes, and she listened to some of my ideas and concerns, and I came out of that 30-minute session with renewed energy. I laughed hysterically through the closing keynote from C. J. Redwine, then after a dinner break, there was the Book Festival. I’d already purchased a few books, but I bought a few more and got a few signatures from the authors set up to sign.
Day 4: Technically not part of the conference proper, this was a light day. One post-conference workshop, about 2.5 hours, with Donald Maass on character arc. I’d brought one his books with me to read on the plane, and he signed that for me after the workshop.
My first Realm Makers (and, indeed, my first writer’s conference) was so much fun! I had a great time meeting people (Me? An introvert? YES!), including some of the Lorehaven gang! Next year will be back in their usual venue in St. Louis, MO. God willing, I will be there! It’s one of the things I’d do differently (not that I have control over where it’s held). I don’t know that I’d go back to the same resort. It just wasn’t made for Realm Makers. It was too big and far too crowded.
The other thing I’d do differently… try to socialize more. During registration you get a badge that you can decorate with stickers. A number for how many years you’ve attended. Different stickers for the genre(s) you write. And then there’s one that says “Talkable.” As an introvert who was already worried about people-burnout, I didn’t put this sticker on my badge. But you know what? I will next year. Why, you ask? Because I am absolutely horrible at starting conversations with people. I feel like I’m imposing. But if someone starts a conversation with me? I’m good! So, how many people didn’t speak to me first because I didn’t have a talkable sticker (and because of my chronic RBF)? Who knows?! So, next time, I will wear a “talkable” sticker and hope to get to know more people.
I did give out some of my business cards, and I collected a few in return, and will follow up on those soon.
Of course, the classes and sessions are all gold. The sad part is having to pick out of what’s available in each time slot when you register. I learned so much from every class, but I have to say that Steve Laube’s sessions on publishing were the most informative on a very practical level for the business side of writing. I took a lot of notes in all of my sessions. With my registration, I have the ability to watch my sessions again, and even the ones I didn’t choose to go to. It’s going to take some time, but I’m looking forward to each and every one!
Bottom line, if you write Christian speculative fiction and are looking for a writers conference, Realm Makers is IT!
Were you there this year? In person or online? Are you considering going next year? Let me know in the comments!
Until next year, here are some pictures from 2022!