If you would have told me I could attend a conference I would enjoy more than the Glen Eyrie Writing Workshop, I would have told you that was impossible. And I would have been horribly wrong.
Realm Makers was (hands down) the best conference I’ve attended to date. For what I learned, the networking opportunities, the encouragement, and the challenges, I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced anything like it for so little money. I haven’t been this excited about writing in a very long time.
Don’t misunderstand. The Glen Eyrie workshop was great. And actually you really can’t compare the two because Glen Eyrie is a workshop, and this is a conference. But even the general feel of Realm Makers was different. I walked out of Glen Eyrie this year comforted because I got to spend a week with other writers who had to hold down a day job in order to write a book; I walked out of Realm Makers challenged to keep pushing forward with fiction that doesn’t fit the mold because even if nobody likes it right now, someday someone might.
I had no ideas the opportunities that exist for speculative fiction authors with a Christian worldview, and I had no idea there were so many of us out there. The conference had 65 attendees, which doesn’t sound like a lot until you remember that most of us spend our lives believing we’re the only ones who write this way.
The session on Worldview and World-making taught by L.B. Graham was probably my favorite. We analyzed bits from Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Orson Scott Card, Brandon Sanderson, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert Jordan and others to find what their worldview was and how it affected what they wrote.
There were sessions on query letters. There were sessions on flash fiction. There were sessions on how to make science fact into science fiction. There were sessions on fight choreography. After all that, I haven’t been this eager to get to work in ages.
Splickety Magazine held a flash fiction contest and asked for submissions, which I intend to take full advantage of. I didn’t do very well on my flash fiction entry, but considering that I’d never written flash fiction before, I got some great feedback (apparently I integrated the backstory too well so that the backstory was more interesting than the actual story lol).
And we also got to sit in on a “make the cut” panel where five editors sat up front and listened to four 250-word excerpts and told us whether they would keep reading or stop reading and why. It was invaluable for a number of reasons—mainly because it gave us an opportunity to see how an editor thinks. It’s great to know because those first 250 words are essential to keeping the reader engaged.
It was also doubly invaluable (and astonishingly encouraging) to hear my 250-word excerpt read aloud. I think I did a pretty good job of keeping myself calm. All the readings were anonymous, so the only way anyone would have known it was mine was if I’d given it away. And I didn’t. But Davis and I were practically vibrating through the whole thing, giving each other significant looks. I couldn’t stop giggling.
And nearly everyone had such wonderful things to say!! I’m still on cloud nine.
AND—the most awesome part of the whole thing—the editor I spoke to asked for the complete manuscript of the first AROL book.
I’ve only been working on this series for 20 years. It’s not like it matters much.
It’s still a really huge long shot. That series is Wheel of Time size, 46 novels, spanning four years, each novel around 100,000 words. Massive isn’t a good enough descriptor. And no publisher in their right minds would commit to publishing anything like it, but nobody told me I was crazy to do it. And nobody thought I was just being silly. And everyone I talked to about it thought it sounded awesome.
And just to have it to the place where I was comfortable sharing it and an editor was actually interested enough in it to ask for the whole manuscript sent my confidence level through the roof.
I’m just a tiny bit excited.
I’m touching up the first few chapters tonight, and then I’ll be sending it in. I’m kind of excited about that. Again—it’s a long shot. But anything is possible. That’s what I re-learned at Realm Makers. Not that the market is struggling and the economy is dragging and the publishing industry is being turned on its head. I knew all of that. I didn’t even learn that I needed to keep my day job just in case or that I needed to do the best I could with what I had. I got that. And I appreciate that point of view and even embrace it—I have to, otherwise I’d never get anything done and I’d have to stop eating. But I’m walking away from Realm Makers with a renewed sense of vision and a desire to keep trying and keep believing because who knows what God will do with it?