Adventures at Realm Makers, Part 2: CONFERENCE TIME
Continuing from last week…
I was able to catch a ride to St. Louis with my friend, mentor, and fellow writer, Daniel Schwabauer. I never saw much of a point in going to things like movies or conferences alone. To quote Winnie the Pooh, it’s just so much friendlier with two. Also, if aliens or dinosaurs or marauding Huns attack, there’s a chance that one of you can make a quiet escape while the other is abducted/eaten/skinned alive and sewn into gloves.
I just like to be prepared.
We arrived at the conference center. It appeared to be largely free of marauding Huns; it was, however, full of people, which was only slightly less scary.
But in a room full of speculative fiction writers, the ice doesn’t take long to break. I ate dinner with a crew of really cool people, and was thoroughly enjoying myself in no time. After some introductory speakers, we all jumped into shuttles and rode to the pre-conference party. The driver of my shuttle was named Steve, and had a great mustache.
I hit the sack a little earlier than most people. Sleep is important for balanced hormones, good energy levels, and cardiovascular health. Except when there happens to be a group of pre-teen boys having an all-night pool party underneath your hotel window, then it just tends to be frustrating and elusive.
It’s always a bummer when you realize that you would have gotten just as much sleep if you’d stayed up with everyone else and had fun instead of lying on your stomach with your pillow over your head, plotting murder against a bunch of middle-schoolers.
Robert Liparulo opened the next morning with a great talk about conquering self-doubt and negativity. I hunkered in the back of the room, trying not to look like the kind of guy who sends 45 pages over the critique submission limit. (If you haven’t heard about this, check out Part 1 of this story.)
Every class I attended was great. I had much anticipation for the main track I had signed up for, Editing to Greatness, With David Farland, since Farland had mentored one of my very favorite authors, Brandon Sanderson. It did not disappoint.
It didn’t have much to do with editing—I would have probably renamed it to Listening to David Farland Talk About Writing, With David Farland—but I don’t think anyone cared, because it was so good. If you ever have a chance to attend a class or workshop with David, you absolutely should.
That afternoon, I realized that I had made my second big boo-boo of the weekend.
Somehow, when I glanced at my sheet of information that morning, I got the impression that all the one-on-one appointments I had signed up for were on the second day of the conference. At about 3:00, I looked at the sheet again and realized, to my utter horror, that my meeting with Robert Liparulo (during which, of course, I had planned on explaining that I hadn’t actually intended to send him 55 pages and am actually not an egocentric oaf,) had been scheduled, not at some point tomorrow, but about half an hour ago.
You know those days when you wonder if you have at any point unknowingly disturbed some ancient civilization’s burial ground? I was having one of those.
At any point, I was able to put it out of my mind and enjoy the rest of the day. That night was the official Realm Makers costume party, for which I portrayed a casually-dressed 20-something writer from Oklahoma who needed a haircut.
There were some truly impressive costumes on display. Even Steve the shuttle driver got into the spirit of things with a rubber gorilla mask. There was some whispered doubt as to if he could actually see out of the thing, and whether it would be a good idea to ask him to remove it.
Highlights of the next day included buying way too many books, listening to Jill Williamson getting all passionate about using maps for worldbuilding, and Robert Liparulo being super nice when I cornered him during lunch and apologized profusely for sending him the wrong document and then being MIA for my appointment. He offered to give me an unofficial critique session right there, which was even superer nice.
So the whole thing turned out just fine. Take that, burial grounds of some ancient civilization.
Soon it was time to head out. Hugs and promises of Facebook friending were exchanged, and then it was back on the road again.
Will I go back to Realm Makers? I will sure endeavor to. I have made a list of things I would do differently in the event that I do go back:
- Bring a costume. I love costumes, but I don’t like buying them because I am a skinflint (except where books are involved) and I can’t make them because I have the aesthetic sense of a rhinoceros. However, if I do Realm Makers again, I would definitely try to overcome these obstacles.
- Sign up for less stuff, and be more thoughtful and prepared about what I do sign up for. The appointments are fun, but they add a lot to the stress of the weekend. I’ll go easier on them next time.
- Double-check all email attachments. This is for all of life, not just Realm Makers.
- Get to know people better! The second time around for an event like this is usually easier where this is concerned, because the awkward ice-breaking phase doesn’t last as long.
Should you go to Realm Makers? If you are a person of faith who writes speculative fiction, I highly recommend it. The conference is currently very affordable. The lectures are fantastic. You will make valuable connections with writers and other professionals in the field. You will exercise your spatial-visual development as you try to figure out how to pack fourteen books in a suitcase that is already too small for the clothes you brought.