Finding Community at Realm Makers by Allen Brokken

Finding Community at Realm Makers by Allen Brokken

Last year was my first year as a member of Realm Makers. I have been writing sci-fi and fantasy since 2nd grade, but life circumstances put me on a journey into Information Technology, rather than becoming a full-time author.

Over the past ten years, I’ve been slowly improving a story I wrote for my kids when they were little. Along the way, I self-published it with the help of a friend and then decided it might be helpful if I got some professional feedback.

I met Patti Lacy at my church, and she and her writing partner, Angie Reedy, took me under their wing and very clearly—but kindly—let me know just how much work my book needed. They didn’t write fantasy, so they looked for ways to connect me to people in my genre.

Through Patti, I learned about Morgan Busse’s work and saw she was faculty at Realm Makers. After reading a few posts on Facebook, I thought “WOW! There’s a group of Christian authors who write sci-fi and fantasy just like me!”

After reviewing the program, I signed up so I could get in a critique group, Claire Banschbach’s Bellfounders, and they are amazing. My group writes entertaining stories that are so well put together they challenge me to be a better writer.  At the same time, I get insightful feedback on my submissions as well as things to consider about the business of being a writer. I appreciate the fact that I can ask them about anything in the industry and one or more would have experience or a point of view to share.

I was so excited about Bellfounders that when the conference came up, I wasn’t paying attention to what I was signing up for. I just thought it would be great to see my new friends. Two months before the conference, I got invitations to sign-up for publisher pitches and mentor appointments. I hadn’t even thought about trying to pitch my work to an editor.

So after talking it over with the Bellfounders, I went all in on the pitch and was blessed with the opportunity to pitch to three different publishers and multiple mentor appointments. I was so wound up I could hardly sleep the week before the conference.

When I got there, it was nothing like what I expected.

I’ve been to professional conferences before, but I have never met a friendlier group of people than at Realm Makers.

It wasn’t just the openness to engage with a newcomer. It was the faith behind it. People I just met prayed for me before my pitches and with me after them as I processed the feedback I got.

After one particularly rough pitch session, Lauren Brandenburg shared her story and provided thoughtful advice over IMOs pizza. It was a real blessing to get that kind of support from someone who had just met me.

The professional development sessions with the faculty were terrific. Will Wight’s talk on how Amazon works changed how I think about self-publishing, and it helped me get my book into the hands of more readers.

Outside the formal schedule, there were deep conversations about how our work matters mixed with plenty of fun and games.

The pitches themselves were a mixed bag: one was interested, another so-so, and the last hated my pitch. I learned from each one of them, but what was more important was the connections I made with the mentors that lead to working with a new editor, S.D. Grimm. I’ve learned a ton, and the current version of my story is at a whole new level.

As good as the conference was, what’s been even better is the relationships afterwards. I dropped off the radar for a couple weeks after getting my day job back in order. My Realmie friends checked up on me to see if everything was okay.

I am super excited about next year’s Realm Makers conference. The speakers that are planned look great, but I’m even more excited about the community. I can’t wait to see the Bellfounders and pick up autographed copies of their latest books.

I’m also looking forward to some of the silliness. I’m hoping we have another SuperFight championship and the obligatory Nerf war.


More about Allen Brokken

Allen Brokken is a writer at heart. He wrote his first short story at eight and his first novel at 12. In college, he pursued hard sciences but took every opportunity to write research papers and take self-directed writing intensive courses. Professionally, Allen has written and contributed to numerous technical documents in the public domain including publications on As a consultant, he regularly wrote what he likes to call “near-field science fiction” in the form of technology vision documents. As a father of three children, Allen has been engaged with Christian children’s ministry and youth development for 15 years.

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