Last week I mentioned my attendance at the Realm Makers and this week I’m going to summarize my experience there.
I think last year I summarized some of the changes between attending simply attending and attending as a vendor and publisher. That is, as a vendor I was there to show and sell my books, which meant I spent a lot of time at my table and a lot of the rest of my time taking mentoring and pitch appointments for people who are hoping I will publish their story or give them key advice about it. That’s quite a different experience than going to a conference to just have fun and learn what you can from classes. But that’s not new, last year was the same for me (and even before that my experience was already changing).
The appointments were probably the most important thing for me, all things considered. Among a group of people who spoke with me (which included some people older than I am), I met a number of young writers who asked frank questions about publishing and I did my best to answer without shying away from any unpleasant truths (like, getting an indie book noticed is generally hard) but in a way that I hope encouraged them to continue writing. I pray with sincere longing that something I told them will help them along the way to become great writers. I found it deeply satisfying especially to meet with the young writers, but I in fact enjoyed all of my appointments and sincerely hope (and pray) that things I said will prove to be helpful to every individual I spoke with.
I also noticed as I walked around the conference that I didn’t see too many other name tags with the number 7 on them (the number indicated how many times attending Realm Makers–the number 7 being the maximum number possible). In fact, a number of people I met remarked about my number 7 with a bit of surprise, which tells me that I’m part of an increasingly small group. That’s interesting and perhaps gives me a bit of perspective on the conference others might not have.
Some of the people who have been around for more than a few years I can see developing as writers–with books out, when before they didn’t have any in years past or new books doing very well–I see a number of writers and publishers developing and growing over the years. Jason Joyner and Carla Cook Hoch come to mind as individual successes and Uncommon Universes Press developing as a publisher and Lorehaven as successful in its own unique niche. (Note there are many, many more people who I see growing over time that I could have mentioned but did not. Please don’t feel left out if I didn’t drop your name.)
Myself, I’m working on developing and growing Bear Publications, too (Bear is my small publishing company). I think I still have a lot to learn, but can see I’m making some bits of progress year by year. Important to me is the emphasis I’ve been talking about on getting books into foreign language markets, something I found a lot harder in practice than theory (translation of books isn’t easy)–but finally I have one book published in Spanish, Lelia Rose Foreman’s Shatterworld (Un Mundo Quebrantado). Yay!
I was also happy to complete the Beatitudes and Woes anthology–note that anthology was conceived of on the Realm Makers Consortium Facebook page and executed by authors either attending or interested in Realm Makers. Which shows just one way that RM has positively impacted my creative life, giving me projects I wouldn’t have even thought of except for people I met at this one particular conference.
But I wonder what is wrong with me that I’m always launching a new book too soon before Realm Makers. As if that conference is the only deadline that matters for me or something…well, that’s gotta change, so I’ve now made a set of goals for publication for the whole year (yes, for the first time, lol), which will keep me on track, God willing. I plan to publish about 6 new books in the upcoming year, the Lord permitting…but by now know better than to make that a promise. We’ll see what happens as of next year.
But anyway, I was very pleased to have Steve Laube from Enclave come by and say some nice things about the Beatitudes and Woes antho and also about Lelia Rose Foreman’s Writing Speculative Fiction (which really is a great book on writing). He offered me some free advice, which I really wasn’t expecting. Which is one of the nice thing about Realm Makers: you never know what is going to happen in advance, which particular meeting might wind up changing your life as a writer–what relationships you will build, what projects you will learn about, what bits of fresh information someone will share with you.
I was happy to meet some old friends I’ve talked to many times before, including Kerry Nietz and Lelia Rose Foreman. I was glad to meet a few people whose names I’ve heard many times, but whom I’d never actually met in person, like Paul Regnier. I was sad that some people who had attended for numerous years weren’t there this year, like Kirk DouPonce.
In fact, the proportion of first or second year attendees seemed higher to me than in the past. That’s an impression based on name tags with 1 and 2 on them and on how many people raised their hands when asked if this was their first and second year, not a scientific count. A lot of new people means seeing less familiar faces, but it also means Realm Makers is reaching new people, which is I think is good.
Speaking of good, Brent Weeks spoke very well and Mr. Terry Brooks seemed like a very nice man. They were great additions to the conference and it was nice to see them around–though I didn’t go autograph seeking. Though perhaps I should have–I read Terry Brooks as a teenager and Brent Weeks mentioned he’s originally from Whitefish, Montana, where I lived for six years growing up (where in fact I was living when I read Terry Brook’s The Sword of Shannara). But I’ve never been interested in autographs much. I don’t know why.
But I perceive other people are interested in them, so I gathered together as many of the Beatitudes and Woes authors as I could to sign a set of the books I had shipped to the conference (these authors may not be famous now, but that will probably change in the future 🙂 ). The picture of one group of us signing books will be the featured image for this post, for my Realm Maker’s report.
It shows what the conference has become for me–about creating new works from the labors of fellow Realm Maker’s attendees. About promoting such works at the conference–about it being my deadline and most important goal over the past 7 years. And it also shows that what really matters to me are the people I meet in person and the interactions I have with them, rather than the overall conference and the classes and featured authors. (Why that matters most to me, I’m not entirely sure, but that’s the way things are.)
I’d like to express gratitude here to Becky and Scott Minor, who invented the idea of this conference and who make it happen every year. Their concept and hard work has been deeply inspirational to me and in numerous ways has changed my life. And of course, they didn’t do this alone–they’ve recruited many other people to help them.
To all of you who create Realm Makers as an annual event, thank you!