I had heard rumblings of a writers’ conference for oddballs like me.
Realm Makers, they called it. A place dedicated to writers of fantasy and sci-fi and all manner of speculative fiction. I also heard that conferences are one of the best investments a writer can make. And it didn’t hurt that several friends and trusted mentors were involved with this Realm Makers thing.
So in July 2017, I packed my books and pens and courage into a suitcase and boarded my first-ever flight, to my first-ever conference, alone.
I have since attended Realm Makers twice, with plans to go again in 2019. Becoming a “Realmie” has impacted my writing journey in incredible ways—here are five of them.
#1: I Found My Tribe
I may have boarded my first flight alone, but I wasn’t alone for long. Hours later, on a shuttle bus to the hotel, my fellow passengers didn’t make small talk about the weather. Instead, they eagerly discussed the abilities of vampires and the benefits of critique groups. I couldn’t help but grin. In that instant, I knew I had found my people.
We all know that writing is a solitary venture. Writing about dragons or spaceships can be even more alienating. So to find myself among hundreds of like-minded people was heartening. There, the first question strangers asked me wasn’t, “Where do you live?” or “Where do you work?” but rather, “What do you write?” And amazingly, these strangers wanted to listen.
#2: I Found Mentors
From classes jam-packed with information, to scheduled critique appointments, the opportunities to learn were everywhere. In Tosca Lee’s 2018 pre-conference session, I remember my hand cramping from scribbling at least a dozen pages of notes—my feeble attempt to capture the magic she taught.
But learning isn’t always scheduled. I can’t count the number of illuminating conversations I had with authors both aspiring and multi-published. Show up to Realm Makers with the attitude that you can learn something from everyone, and you’ll gain far more than what you paid for.
And those mentors I met? So far, they’re proving to be luckier than the sort you find in fantasy novels. No untimely deaths yet.
#3: I Laid Stepping Stones in My Career
Conferences are a great place to network, but I prefer to see them as places to build relationships, to make friends. This writing thing doesn’t have to remain solitary.
Aside from the craft-boosting benefits of learning from industry professionals, Realm Makers offers pitching appointments with agents and editors. I fumbled through my very first pitch there. In person. (What was I thinking?) But it’s a safe place to fail, and from that initial meeting with a respected agent, I gained confidence to pitch again. And again.
#4: God Made Some Appointments of His Own
The two times I’ve attended Realm Makers, I wasn’t always sure how it was going to happen, where I’d get the money from, or how I’d book the time off work. But God knew I needed to be there, and He made a way.
See, He had set some appointments for me that I just couldn’t miss. I could triple the length of this post by telling you how various Realmies touched my life.
One helped me clarify my vision.
One bolstered my confidence in a story I wasn’t sure would make it.
One made me feel seen when I was used to being invisible.
One showed me how to deepen my friendship with God by turning a performance into a partnership.
Those are just four of the incredible people I had the pleasure of meeting, four people who, perhaps unbeknownst to them, imparted words that would stay with me forever. The impact they have made has touched my writing, my faith, and my life.
#5: I Made Lasting Memories
Realm Makers is now the highlight of my year. I plan to keep going every summer as long as I am able. Late-night chats, Nerf wars, taco trains, watching Carla Hoch take down guys twice her size in the Fight Write Workshop, meeting long-time blogging friends, letting our inner fangirls/fanboys out with an explosion of costumes at the awards banquet, laughing till we can’t speak . . . More than the chances to learn and grow as a writer, I cherish the community I’ve found.
I hear there are a lot of great conferences out there. But Realm Makers is something special. If I see you there next time, come say hi and tell me what you’re writing these days.
More about Tracey Dyck
Tracey Dyck writes YA speculative fiction with lifelike emotion and a healthy dose of dragons. She was recently published in Havok, and placed as a finalist in two of Rooglewood Press’s fairy-tale anthology contests. Currently a marketing student, she lives in Manitoba, Canada, with her family. You can find her where life and story intersect at traceydyck.blogspot.ca.
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