So, last week I gave you a peek into one of my geek sides. This week, allow me to indulge that geek side of me even further. (Wow. There are a lot of -eek words in these two sentences...)
The Realm Makers Fantasy Writing Conference!
First of all, a little background:
I have been wanting for YEARS to attend a fiction writers' conference, but due to expenses and travel, I was never able to work it out. I set a goal for myself that by the time I reached the age of *muffled voice* I would make it. And time was running out.
OK, a few years back, I did make it to a small conference in Cape Girardeau (Does anyone else have to always look up the spelling for this city?? Or is that just me?) And it was a pretty good experience and I walked away with some good tools. But, because it wasn't a Christian conference, I felt a bit empty. I couldn't help but wonder, what was the point of writing a good story if it didn't reflect in some way (directly or indirectly) the greatest story ever told? The presenters and attendees were nonchalant about profanity, sex scenes, etc. etc. I decided I didn't really want to be a part of that. So, I determined to immerse myself in the Christian writing world.
And this year, it was going to happen! The American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Association was holding their conference in...wait for it...St. Louis! Practically my back yard! I was so excited. This conference is a big deal. I would get to rub elbows with some great authors and even discuss MY story with a few experts in the field. A writer's dream.
And then...COVID 19 happened. And the conference was cancelled.
To say I was disappointed is an understatement. My ONE chance, and it was taken from me.
But, that wasn't the end. I found out that Realm Makers was going online!
What's Realm Makers?
Hold on. Let me back up first. In my own writing and research, I found that there was very little market for Christian speculative fiction. (Speculative fiction being fantasy, science fiction, dystopian, etc. Anything paranormal.) And there were very few agents and publishers willing to represent them. At any rate, it was hard to find them. For a long time, the Christian market was not quite ready for speculative fiction. And, unfortunately, I LOVE fantasy.
Enter Realm Makers! My sister, Emily, introduced me a few years ago. This is a place where Christian lovers of the speculative writing genre can meet and support one another. Here we could find resources to improve our craft and the best publishers, agents, editors, etc. All with a Christian perspective
Of course, their conference this year was also interrupted by the pandemic, so they went virtual. Which meant I could attend!
This was PERFECT! And even though I missed the opportunity to be a part of it physically, it was SO worth the time and money.
OK, now that I've given the back story, let me get into my 5 reasons why I loved it.
1. It was virtual.
There's a couple reasons why I loved this. First, I could be a part of it, regardless of where it was based. Otherwise, I would've missed out. Again.
Another reason is that I am EXTREMELY introverted and reserved. I don't do well in new, crowded settings and it's hard for me to open up to strangers. This was the perfect opportunity for me to get my feet wet, while protecting myself.
2. I'm a geek. (There's that word again.)
I have friends who enjoy fantasy/sci-fi movies. But they're not really big fans. Or they're fans of watching this genre, but not necessarily reading it.
This weekend I was surrounded (virtually, of course) with people who loved it all: books AND movies. I mentioned last week that I never watched the current hit shows when I was a kid. Well, I still don't. So, when I get together with co-workers or friends who all discuss the latest blockbuster movie or series, I rarely had anything to say about them.
But these were people after my own heart. These were people who had visited Narnia and Middle Earth. They had cheered the EPIC sword fight in The Princess Bride. They flew through a galaxy far, far away. They spoke a language I understood. Sigh...
3. The positive attitudes
The very first night, when the keynote speaker was supposed to start, there was a glitch in technology.
They did get it up and going for that speech, but continued to have a few issues throughout the weekend.
And I never heard (or...read, actually) one word of complaint. Everyone-attendees, hosts, presenters, technicians-was SO patient and encouraging. It was wonderful just to sit back and watch all the wonderful and fun conversations happening on chat while we waited for things to start rolling. That would be hard to find in other programs.
4. The Christian aspect
In the Cape conference I went to, the people were friendly, yes. They were helpful. And I don't regret going. But it was not unusual for a curse word to slip. Or for a crude plot point to be discussed or even read out loud.
It just didn't settle well with me. I didn't dislike these people, and they certainly have the freedom to believe what they want.
But in THIS conference, people prayed. Scripture was quoted. People were encouraged and inspired to live out their faith and present it (subtly or obviously) in our writing. Prayer requests were given. Attendees openly talked about their churches and their faith. Without fear of being attacked or ridiculed or "cancelled."
It was wonderfully refreshing.
5. It was inspiring!
From the opening keynote speaker's description of this real world being God's beautiful, fantastical story and we are all privileged to be a part of it. AND we get to write our own versions of His story, hopefully in a way that would inspire other people to want to be better people in this world.
To the closing keynote speaker's account of being told (by a teacher!) to find another dream, because she would never be a real writer. Despite that discouraging start, she persevered and years later was able to look us in the eye (I'm telling you, she looked right past that webcam into my eyes!), declared her name, and state that she was a REAL writer. And then finished with, "And so are you."
And to every presenter in between. Their encouragement. Their patience. Their knowledge and experience they were willing to share with us. The authors who built us up and believed in us that we, too, could see our dreams fulfilled.
I walked away inspired! My faith in myself was renewed. My drive to resume my writing, believing that I could do it, was recharged. I wanted to be among these people and share my own story.
And someday, I will!
OK, I know I said five reasons, but I have to add one more.
6. It was FUN!
Can't wait to do it again sometime! Hopefully in person, because now, I'm ready to take that risk.
By the way, the ACFW conference was also moved to online streaming, so I will get to be a part of THAT one in September! That's two conferences before my *muffled voice* -th birthday! Which means, I will have met my goal twice!
I wish I could share pictures, but, unfortunately there are none. But I hope this gives you a little taste of what I felt this weekend.
And now, if you'll excuse me, I gotta get back to writing.
In the meantime, stay safe and happy...
In His Grip!