VIRTUAL SPACE, Earth—Last weekend’s 2020 Realm Makers: Pandemic Edition conference finished late Saturday night–very early Sunday morning (EDT).
Late-early Sunday hours (EDT) found Realm Makers guests milling about the cyber-hotel lobby (hosted by Discord), awaiting their shuttles to the airport. Most attendees tried to act like they hadn’t lost hours of sleep, playing games or rewriting novel proposals. Few succeeded.
At the end of Friday night’s Realm Awards virtual banquet, organizers announced the 2021 keynote speaker: bestselling novelist Frank E. Peretti.
By Monday morning, some Realm Makers guests had returned to their day jobs. Some experienced the phenomenon that psychologists call Post-Christian-Conference Spiritual High Crash (PCCSHC). Others fared slightly better. They found natural connections between their onrush of creativity, powered by oft-praised keynote sessions by N. D. Wilson, Thomas Locke, and C. J. Redwine as well as a host of bestselling Christian creators as faculty members. Perhaps during said day jobs, they used the time to catch up on conference video recordings. (Unlike previous years, the virtual format allows attenders not only to “apparate” between classrooms, but also to turn back time and quickly recap sessions they had missed!)
Nearly half of 2020’s Realm Makers guests were first-year
More seriously, breaking this pseudo-press-release’s format: Of 312 registered attendees, 46 percent were going to Realm Makers for the first time. That’s nearly half the whole conference this year.
“Over half of our attendees registered after we announced the switch to a virtual conference,” co-founder Scott Minor told me.
Also, Scott said nearly two-thirds of attendees were fairly young, below age 45.
My personal take: This group likely represents at least a large part of the future of Christian-made fiction for future generations.
Many attendees have began planning to attend the 2021 Realm Makers Conference, already being assembled.
For 2021, organizers have planned to return to Realm Makers favorite locale of St. Louis, Missouri.
Oh–and in 2022, the conference will try again to host for real in Atlantic City, New Jersey. That’s the original location of this year’s conference.
“We hope that you always find comfort and safety at Realm Makers, but at the same time it’s a place where you’re always asked to do the impossible,” Scott said.
First-year guests praise Realm Makers 2020
Several attendees took time to share with Lorehaven publisher E. Stephen Burnett their love for the conference. Stephen personally contacted several Realm Makers guests who had never before attended the event, in reality or virtually.
Here are their stories.
Sofia Becker (website)
I went into #RealmMakers2020 not knowing what to expect for myself. So far, I’ve had one mentoring appointment which was so encouraging to me! In that call, I realized that I’m attempting to write an epic and that somehow, all these stories are connected. And I’m so grateful to all the people I’ve met so far for their encouragements! . . . It was amazing! I loved the virtual aspect of it and that we could bounce around the different sessions. I loved meeting new people and all the encouragement I got.
A big thank you to all who made this happen. As a newb, I didn’t contribute much, but I enjoyed it anyway, despite being overwhelmed sometimes. Lord willing, I’ll be back.
The conference was such a blessing! I learned so much from all my classes, especially from C.J. Redwine’s Branding and Marketing sessions. The time seemed to fly by just because of all the information being packed into my brain. I’m so glad I can go back and rewatch everything to finish taking notes. This stuff is worth it’s weight in gold!
Ok, ok… Quick conference review: Very very much fun. I enjoyed hanging around the discord server, participating in the activities, and having the occasional friendly disagreement. wink Attending classes and sessions worked out surprisingly well, despite a few initial hiccups. I learned a lot, and loved the opening talk from N.D. Wilson – which was very inspiring, and which I’ll probably replay tonight! And just like a “normal” conference, I found my mind over-full of new information and ideas – which will probably take me several weeks to process (especially since I only have a three-day pass, so I’m cramming everything I can!). All that said, I did miss some aspects of an in-person conference: talking with people, casual conversations with industry professionals, and lots of goofing off with friends. Still – so much fun to attend!
Realm Makers 2020 (pandemic edition) was amazing. The information is still swirling around my mind. As I picked up my [work in progress], I saw it through new eyes. I am ready for the next phase: application. The people are honestly the grandest bunch you could possibly imagine. I hope next year to be able to attend, and that it is a face-to-face conference. Now, I must go drink coffee and gather some energy. ☕️ Here’s to next year in St. Louis!
L. G. McCary (website)
It was a bit of a miracle that I was able to attend Realm Makers 2020 (Thank you, Havok for that scholarship!). It was an incredible experience! I felt old trying to figure out Discord, but it turned out to be such a blessing! Video chat in the Mermaid room was definitely better than sitting in socially distanced circles and wearing uncomfortable masks for hours, trying to find a way to socialize safely. Best of all, I still got to celebrate with new friends when good things happened! That’s one of the best parts of conferences: comforting each other through failures and celebrating victories together. Realmies are the best at both! I can’t wait for next year and I’m already planning my costume!
Philip Wilder (website, on Facebook)
I loved attending Realm Makers 2020. The people were very welcoming, friendly, and down to earth. I made many new friends, despite the fact that the entire conference was online. I also got the chance to play several games with others online. I even regained my passion for writing fiction and was able to get some great feedback on a new novel idea I’ve been rolling around in my head. Attending the conference online made me much more excited to attend an in-person Realm Makers conference. Perhaps one day Corona will stop trolling us all.
Thank you, Realm Makers, for putting on a fantastic conference! I’m a young mom who wouldn’t have been able to attend in person, so I was thrilled to be able to participate in this inspiring gathering that transcended technology with soul-stirring teaching and practical insight into the world of publishing. As a follower of Jesus and as a writer, it’s encouraging to find my place in this group of people who hold fast to the hope of heaven and who are united with a passion for touching readers’ hearts through our writing.
Kristen Aguilar (website, on Facebook, on Pinterest)
I heard about the Realm Makers Conference last minute when a friend invited me to go. Held virtually this year, I was able to register right before the conference started and I never looked back. Realm Makers is in a class all by itself. The people were friendly, fascinating and fun. Even virtually, Realm Makers went above and beyond to foster community and to encourage engagement with an immersive, positive experience. Whether it was branding, marketing, how to conduct media interviews, or how to take your writing or screenwriting to the next level, there was a plethora of incredible speakers and events packed into three days. I learned a ton. Plus, I went into the conference with one new friend and left with many more. Overall, a great experience!
Parker J. Cole (author, host of The Parker J. Cole Show)
I’ve wanted to go to Realm Makers for some time but never had a chance to. This year, COVID made it possible. How strange to thank a pandemic that has shifted world politics and populations with a sketchy future on the horizon. Yet I do. In its virtual form, Realm Makers was I expected and more. I had the honor of being a panelist for a touchy subject, and due to the warmth and friendliness of my fellow Realmies, I was able to speak my mind quite vigorously. Plus the sessions were to die for. Writers who write speculative fiction or readers who read it loved the plethora of ideas available for imagination’s consumption. It was a place where geeks and nerds dominate, with inside jokes that show our love and connection for the final frontier.
My first experience at a Realm Makers conference was this year’s “Pandemic Edition,” and I’m very pleased with it. The quality of the panels, the keynote addresses, and the “pitch“ and mentoring sessions were excellent; and after years of going to various kinds of professional conferences, I confess they were truly better than I expected. By a lot. Every session had something of substance to offer, with well prepared presenters, and significant opportunities to develop new relationships and networks. The people were very forthcoming and honest and I’ve benefited from each one. The technological platform that supported this virtual conference was outstanding. The instructions were clear, and I experienced no glitches. I’ll definitely be back.
Realm Makers 2020 was an amazing experience both as an attendee and a staff member. I had a lot of fun meeting new people, seeing new names (and sometimes faces), and hanging out with both staff and attendees in the voice and video chats. I learned a lot of new things from the mind-blowing sessions I attended. I’m so excited at the possibility of going to a live conference next year! The virtual conference felt just like what I imagined a real conference would be, and also a test drive to see how I handle the extra input that comes with a Realm Makers conference.
Lorehaven staff also loved Realm Makers 2020
Editor Elijah David, editor, author of Paper and Thorns
I’ve been hoping to attend Realm Makers for several years now. The atmosphere has (from a distance) reminded me of the healthful environment of another community I first met online. In an ironic twist, the pandemic that had kept us all separated afforded me the opportunity to attend this year’s virtual conference. While the atmosphere was understandably different from an in-person conference, I still found the community to be the friend-making, Christ-honoring, craft-honing hive of writers I’d been hoping for. The highlight for me was definitely listening to N.D. Wilson “blather on” about God, creativity, writing, and life. I could have listened to this all week.
Marian Jacobs, columnist, aspiring author (website)
Although there was a huge piece of the conference missing this year (all the hugs and hanging!), I found the content and chats far better than I could have anticipated. The keynote speakers were the best I’ve heard to date, and the classes were exactly what I needed to hear. I frequently felt as though the Lord was meeting me in these sessions, teaching me just what I needed in the place I’m at in my writing journey. I also loved how much more we were able to “interrupt” the speakers using the chat feature in Crowdcast. I will always prefer going in person, but this was so successful, I hope the conference organizers consider offering a virtual option in the future!
Zackary Russell, podcast producer, aspiring author (website)
What I love about Realm Makers is that this is a group who takes both writing and their Christian faith seriously. They don’t view creative imagination as an add-on or an enemy to faith, but a core integration. Although we all write unique stories and from various points on the overt vs. covert faith expression spectrum, there’s so much unity. Every Realmie friend I’ve made takes the gospel seriously and lives it out. I’ve continually been blessed by not only great instruction but awesome Christian community.
E. Stephen Burnett, publisher, coauthor of The Pop Culture Parent (website)
Real-life conferences can’t be beat. Or can they? I already had some training the previous week, teaching at the virtual SoCal Christian Writers Conference via Crowdcast. Realm Makers leveled up, with not only Crowdcast sessions (exclusive to con guests) but a custom-brewed Discord server. Suddenly all my NarniaWeb days came back, yet with a drastically upgraded “forum.” You could jump into various rooms. Instant-message. GIF-react. Start a video or audio chat. Or jump straight to the conference feeds or pitch meetings, just like that. Nope, it’s not the “real” Realm Makers conference. But in some ways, the virtual conference is even better. (GIF-reacting in real life just isn’t the same.) From grilling burgers and hot dogs for my own choice of Realm Awards banquet menu, to avoiding the traveling and hotel and instead not-sleeping from the comfort of my own home, now I can say that a virtual Christian writers’ conference also can’t be beat. Sure, I want to return to St. Louis for real next year. Yet secretly I hope we can also find some way to enjoy the virtual-world conference joys even in a non-pandemic universe. Until then … “Computer! Exit.”
About Realm Makers: Realm Makers began in 2013, and from small origins has grown to serve thousands of Christian fiction authors online and at annual conferences. Faculty members have included bestselling novelists such as Ted Dekker, Tosca Lee, Brent Weeks, and N. D. Wilson. Realm Makers exists to help creative Christians in their journeys, providing education in craft, connections with industry professionals, and strategies for finding readers who love these kinds of stories. Meanwhile, the Realm Makers Bookstore offers a curated collection of speculative fiction from Christian authors, traveling to events such as renaissance fairs and homeschool conventions.