Monthly Archives: July 2021

Friends

A Realm Makers 2021 Recap

Costume banquet with my daughter. Photo by Ralene Burke

In keeping with my previous blog posts, the title is based on a song. And yes, I went there. “Friends” is the 1980s church camp staple by Michael W. Smith. All I have to do is hear the song, and I’m taken back to an Aqua Net-scented cabin at Camp PYOCA in southern Indiana. In my teens, I developed an image of what heaven would be like. I would be reunited with those friends from other churches I only saw one week out of the summer.

In adulthood, not much has changed. Yes, I have more wrinkles, weigh a bit more, and my hair no longer requires half a can of hairspray, but I still look forward to eternity as the reunion of all my believing friends in the presence of our Savior and the Creator Himself. And I experienced my adult version of “church camp.”

Last week, I was at Realm Makers a faith-based speculative fiction writers conference. While Realm Makers is Christian, and we have a statement of faith, it’s a big tent event. That said, we had Frank Peretti, the author or This Present Darkness, Piercing the Darkness, The Oath, and the Cooper kids series among other books. His books have a solid Christian message, and he’s a man of deep faith. In his opening keynote, he closed us in prayer. That set the tone for a conference filled with the Holy Spirit that left us with a sense of peace, comfort, and renewal.

I think going into the conference, we were apprehensive. This is the first big public event most of us have experienced in over a year. With so much change in mask requirements, vaccinations, etc. I think we were all concerned about how to interact. But it all worked out. There was hugging. And there was grace. So much grace.

And for me, it was so much more special because I got to share it with my teenage daughter. She attended last year’s online conference, but this was her first in-person experience. She made friends and grew her writing skills. And had a fantastic time. It was an answer to prayer for me because she now knows other creative teens who share her faith.

I might have scored some “cool mom” points. I introduced her to a few of her favorite authors. She even got to sit with one of them at the banquet.

This conference was important for me as a writer. I pitched my manuscript and during that process, I was asked the question, “what do you want from your writing?” It solidified the direction I’ve been leaning for awhile. I want to be traditionally published with a small press and took steps to bring my writing to that level. A small press is the best fit for me and a few conversations confirmed this. There’s a quality expectation with being offered a contract, and I’m only pitching to presses who publish books I love. Small presses provide editing, covers, and some arrange audiobook versions.

That was the professional part. What made Realm Makers were the relationships. We were in the same venue as 2019, so it seemed like The Year That Must Not Be Counted didn’t happen. We picked up where we left off and many relationships deepened. There was lunch with a treasured writing partner who I refer to as my brother. Dinner with my “lunch table” gang, a collection of us who are in similar places in our lives. We did a couple of nights of gaming too. I hung out late at night with a different group where we discussed everything from current events to movies. We prayed, laughed, and even cried. It was all of those little moments. A quick conversation. A few minutes of prayer. It all adds up to what makes us a family.

The conference didn’t end with the closing keynote. There were several Realmies on our flight home including a well-known agent. The night before, the agent told a story about being on a flight where a person sent him a pitch written on a napkin. I might have played a prank on said agent where I replicated that tactic on a note card with a really bad premise, and a few typos including an intentional misspelling of his name. He enjoyed the joke but did reject my idea for a Dystopian Amish spy novel.

This year’s conference was a time of much-needed fellowship, spiritual and creative renewal. After a difficult year, healing has begun.

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