Reno, Realmies, and Really Awesome Fellow Nerds

I’m back! *mumbles* what day is it again? *rubs eyes mole-ishly* what was I going to talk about again?

Ah yes. Realm Makers!

If you’ve hung around my web space for very long, you’ve discovered I’m pretty obsessed with Realm Makers, which is a Christian speculative fiction conference founded by Scott and Becky Minor. My social media is full of “weird Christians”–by which I mean, writers of anything speculative–and this is the one time a year I get to hang out with everyone. This year, there were almost 300 people at the costume dinner night! It kinda sounds like an introvert’s nightmare, but quite honestly, Realm Makers is a safe space for me, a place where I feel confident and happy because everyone else is just as weird as me.

I was nervous for this year. I had super high expectations…not only was it the fifth year, but this was also my first group cosplay (and the first cosplay I’d really spent much time on too.) The group had formed a chat group on FB in order to discuss costuming ideas, but had quickly developed into something that I felt was a close friendship. So as I boarded the plane to Reno, already a little emotional over the fact that I had to leave my family behind (what? emotional? yes! I do in fact have a soul), I was nervous…what if the group didn’t get along as well as we had online? What if they all thought I was too clingy, too quick to claim them as my people? (answer: I needn’t have worried.) Plus I don’t like flying anyway, and…well. Let’s move on to some pictures for a minute.

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flying into Chicago…where I promptly had a 9-hour layover

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knitting in the airport while I listened to Red Seas Under Red Skies, the second in the Locke Lamora series. (fascinating series, full of worldbuilding and character building, but also containing more profanity than even some war movies I’ve watched. I had to take a break from it because even though I occasionally like me some grimdark, it gets to me after a bit, so I started listening to David Farland’s Runelord series, since I knew he’d be one of the conference speakers.)

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about 10 minutes out from Reno. I was fascinated by the sight of mountains with nothing on them…no trees, no snow. My now-Northern mind did not comprehend.

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Red hair, “Jedi Master Mom” tee, Hedwig necklace, black lion earrings…hmm. Must be conference season. (JK. I dress like this all the time, are you kidding me?)

I am ashamed to admit that I did not get very many pictures of the con. (in fact all of the cosplay ones are stolen from my friend Becky’s facebook.) So let me touch on some of the classes before we move on to what we all really want to see. (The cosplay! Costume dinner! Awards night! Patience oh small ones.)

I’m not going to dissect it very much, but I will at least touch on Ted Dekker’s opening keynote. (But not his closing one…at that point I was beyond exhausted and was just chilling with my friends and resting up for the Nerf War.) I know a lot of folks had issues with his theology–I did myself, although in reality I can’t remember a lot of his speech because I sat in the very back and had a hard time hearing him–but in looking at my notes, I see a lot about remembering that our identity–our “true self”–is in Christ. I also remember a story he told about a man taking a little boy out to the savannah, showing him a lion and a hyena, and asking, “Does the hyena threaten the lion?”

“Yes,” the little boy said.

“But what if the lion was bigger? Like a tree? What if he was as big as a forest?”

And so on, until the lion is as big as the whole world, and the hyena was just a little pinprick to him. (I’m greatly paraphrasing. Ted Dekker does know how to tell a good story.) That whole story was very powerful to me, because it reminded me of how powerful and great our God is. I will admit, though, that I’ve never heard someone mix mysticism and quantum physics all into the same speech…that was interesting to say the least. 😉 All in all, though I didn’t agree with him, I’m grateful Ted Dekker came and keynoted at Realm Makers. It was kinda cool to see someone so well known to be such a big part of what, five years ago, was a 50-person gathering in a few classrooms at a university in Saint Louis.

yeah, he also signed my super-old copy of Blink

Other classes…of course, I went to the fantastic Thunderdome fight workshop hosted by Carla Cook Hoch and her punching dummy cohost, Ben Wolf. (Do I have pictures of this? Nope. Again, I sat in the back.) I had to skip most of it last year, since it was on the final night, so I was super excited for this year and I learned a ton. Carla’s fantastic at giving practical advice for fight scenes, and just teaching general knowledge so we can make fight scenes more realistic. (Although I was sad to hear her say no to two knives and two swords. “Not a thing.” But at least I had already followed her advice on how to handle if I had to have someone use two swords…because yeah sorry, but Eliaster just has to have two swords. 😛 )

That night was also the Toon DnD night, which…wow. Never before have a Bigfoot, a zebra-striped flowerpot, a battering ram, a were-penguin, a shapeshifting penguin/fire hydrant, a tiny elephant, a myna bird, a stork, a magnetic whale, and a werewolf had so much fun. (And if that list of characters doesn’t give you pause, you should totally try playing the game.) (did I think to get pictures of this? Nope. I got some shaky and incoherent video instead. 😛 )

Other classes I took: Kevin Kaiser’s marketing class; Sally Apokedak’s worldbuilding class; David’s Farland’s Plotting a Bestselling Series and his Building A Magic System class (which was the class I was most looking forward to…but I embarrassingly fell asleep in), Mary Weber’s What To Do When No One’s Buying What You’re Selling, and…

I have to take a bit to discuss this last class. I originally signed up for Kevin’s continuing marketing class. On a whim on Saturday morning, I decided to attend the final session of Jim Rubart and Mary Weber’s class Heroes, Villains, and the Heart of Your Story. (I go by my gut a lot, and often find that the “on a whim” classes I chose generally have the best content for me at that time.) Oh my gosh, you guys. I cried during that class. It felt so good to hear others articulate what I’d been thinking about my own writing for the last several years. I’m going to have to get the audio, not only so that I can listen to the entire class, but so I can unpack it slowly and give my brain time to really let it sink it. That class made the entire conference for me.

My favorite quote: “Your book is going to be as shallow as you allow it to be.” (Mary attributed it to someone, but I don’t remember who.)

Now, we shall move on to the cosplay. Although I have to pause a moment before and talk about the people. I always love seeing my writer friends. Although there seems to be less and less time each year, it’s always fantastic to find a quiet corner together and actually spend some time chatting in person, even if it’s just for a few minutes. I occasionally chill with a group, but always kind of as a hanger-on, until this year.

I found my Realmie family this year. As I stated before, my cosplay group had seemed to really click online, but I was nervous that we wouldn’t in person. I totally shouldn’t have worried.

I’ve known LoriAnn since I was in high school. We kinda started the whole Voltron cosplay and I’m super glad she was up for opening it to others.

By Thursday night, I was pretty sure these were my people. Friday, our cosplay night, pretty much sealed the deal for me. I ❤ them all. They’re a fabulous set of human beings.

this is me trying to stay in character. Please ignore the double chin that is very un-Shiro-like. (see the glowing hand? *squeals*)

“Paladins, form Voltron!” No, we didn’t really want to try to do a pyramid, so we just kind of leaned on each other. Can I just say that Mike and Becky really are a Rule 63 Pidge and Lance? Seriously.

Shiro faces off against the feared Empress Zarkanna. Don’t ask how many times it took Jamie and me to get this photo right. We kept laughing. I thought I finally had it when I decided to glare at her hairline, but then I giggled over the purple fuzzy ears. She rocked that costume…and it’s not just me saying it. She won the costume contest. 🙂

gotta have a Shiro and Keith buddy pic. Sarah’s fantastic. She had Keith’s fighting pose down, y’all

genderswapped voltron

The entire gender-swapped Voltron group. L-R: Sarah Grimm, Mike Metcalf, Becky Metcalf, LoriAnn Weldon, me, Keanan Foley, Jamie Foley.

Favorite shot of the Paladins

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This is the pose we copied. For being in their casual clothes instead of the armor (and…you know…being confined by gravity…), I feel like we did a pretty good job!

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Prince Alluran and Empress Zarkanna having a stare-down

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Prince Alluran found green food!

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pardon my casual cosplay of a Paladin-in-training for the Nerf War. (I’m not obsessed or anything. Naaaaah.)

So how would I sum up my weekend at Realm Makers?

Someone told me this weekend (and I’ve heard it from others in the time since) that Realm Makers is unique among conferences. We’re a safe space for Christians, but we also welcome the weird, the strange, the geeky with open arms. We’re not afraid of challenges. It’s probably the only place where you can go from Star Wars to theology to deep third pov all in the same conversation. I walked around the entire conference with a deep sense of love, family, and the feeling that God was working on all of us.

the sunset clouds as I flew into Marquette on Sunday

I love Realm Makers and my Realmie family. I didn’t want to leave. I seriously cannot wait until my boys are old enough to go. I have so many people that I want to introduce my guys too…even though it’s in a different location every year, I can honestly say that Realm Makers is one of my happy places. The conference and the people and the heart behind it all will always remain dear to me.

Here’s to another fabulous year of creating, fellow Realmies. Go in peace and love, and may God hold us in His hand. Until next year.

book haul! all signed. From L-R: Blink by Ted Dekker; Dragon Lyric by Bethany Jennings; Scarlet Moon by S. D. Grimm; The Author Collector by Teddi Deppner; Viper (soon to be Vanguard) by Jamie Foley. All highly recommended!

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