Realm Makers 2017 Recap //

by - 7:00 AM

Realm Makers.

Where do I even begin?

It was one of the most memorable weekends of my life. 

I met so many friends (!!!), learned a ton of things, got books signed, met real authors, took selfies with aforementioned authors...


day 1 // 7.26.17


My mom and I had a bit of a snag going out the door that morning (her laptop was doing updates for over three hours), but we somehow got on the road only a little later than planned. Upon arrival at the airport, we headed through security. My suitcase set off some kind of warning and they had to search it--most stressful thing ever, wondering what they were going to find and confiscate *gulps.* I think I actually had a panic attack there, and I was shaking for a while afterward. 

Thankfully, that was the roughest part of the trip. Our plane landed in Chicago several hours later, where we killed time during our four-hour layover. AND GUYS. The Chicago airport was the coolest thing ever. There was this rainbow walkway thing, lots of cool architecture, and even a dinosaur skeleton in one terminal. I may or may not have snapped waaaay too many photos. *coughs* 

Our flight was actually switched to a different terminal and that gave us another little scare. The airport in Chicago is MASSIVE, but we were fortunate enough to have plenty of time to make it to the other terminal.

After another rather lengthy flight, we landed in Reno, caught a shuttle to the hotel, and were attacked by the smell of smoke in the lobby. (The casino resort was NOT my favorite part of the trip. :P) We crashed in our room soon after because it was so late--midnight in Reno, but 3 am in our time zone.

day 2 // 7.27.17


We got to sleep in the next day! Well...technically it was only 8:30 when I got up but still. XD There was a pre-conference workshop with David Farland going on, but I didn't sign up for that because #money. ;) It sounds like people really benefited a lot from it, though, so I'll have to consider that if I go again.

My mom and I went out for breakfast at this nifty little bakery, where I got this delicious cinnamon-sugar bagel. The rest of the morning/early afternoon, I holed up in the hotel and wrote up a blog post like a good little blogger. With that checked off, we went down to the conference floor to check in. (And I met Kyle Robert Shultz in the elevator! I had a bit of a freak-out reaction when I realized who he was, and it was rather amusing. XD)

After checking in, I actually met Kara Swanson! Um...offically that is. She was the first person I met at Realm Makers, when we were going up the elevator (yet again) on Thursday. I had no idea at the time that she was actually Kara Swanson--I just looked at her, commented to my mom that she "looked like a writer," and then she actually approached me in the elevator and said basically the same thing. Evidently we just don't like the casino type. ;) I was a bit floored when I found out who she was later that day. But really, she was the sweetest person ever, and I had great fun with her during the conference!

Then it was time for the opening! WHERE I MET PEOPLES. :D After the opening, the teens all had this awesome hangout in the arcade with Jill Williamson and her husband Brad. IT WAS THE BESTTT. I connected with quite a few people due to my Studio C shirt. ;) The night also included a keynote speech by Ted Dekker (which was...interesting), the amazing Fight Workshop with Carla Hoch and her "assistant" Ben (they were hilarious and taught me soooo many things about fight scenes), plus a giveaway at the end. 

Met this sweet girl, Arielle, in the Teen Track! 

day 3 // 7.28.17


The morning started off with breakfast with my dear friend Tracey. It was so surreal sitting down with her and eating muffins together. (And watching her spill coffee on herself. *chuckles*)

We all had an epic table during the opening (with Tracey, Jonathan, Hann, Audrey, Liv, Elise, and a couple other people) and then split off to our respective classes. I was lucky enough to be a part of the Teen Track with Jill and Brad Williamson this year. And wowwww, was that an incredible experience.
I learned a ton of things, including...

- In his mind, the villain is the hero.

- Everyone in your book thinks of themselves as the star.

- Build your storyworld with purpose; only build what you need and make sure that elements of your world actually create conflict and are important to the story.

- The most important step of writing dialogue is knowing your characters.

- Most guys don't typically roll their eyes. (DON'T LAUGH. This is important information, people. I didn't even realize guys don't do this very often. XD)

This course continued over Friday and Saturday. On top of all the great information, Jill gave us all a free book! (Which means she's awesome, obviously.) We also all plotted a story together as a class and needless to say, that got a little insane with sixteen people trying to plot the same book. XD But it gave me lots of cool ideas, and I'm really looking forward to writing that story!

I had two other classes that day, including a worldbuilding one and an editing demo. Both were really great classes, and I especially loved the editing demo.

Some things I learned from those:

Worldbuilding for Middle-Grade with Sally Apokedak //

- Give purpose to quirky details. (Kind of related to what Jill said in the Teen Track.)

- You should create a beautiful world worth fighting for. It makes your readers actually want to visit or live in that world.

- Everything impacts everything; events in your story should have a ripple effect.

Editing Demo with Lisa Mangum (aka one of my faaaavorite classes) //

- Don't fix something unless it's wrong. In other words, if a writer has given you their story to edit/critique, don't just change something because it's not how YOU would have written it. Only change it if it's actually wrong.

- Changing the font before you edit can help switch you into "editor mode.'

- Sans serif fonts are easier to read on screens.

- Also lots more stuff but I'm too lazy to recap it all. 'Hem. (Hann gave me all her notes from this because she's AWESOME.)

After all the classes for the day concluded, we all headed up to our rooms to get ready for the costume banquet! This was a highlight of the trip, for sure. I dressed up as Bilbo Baggins, minus his dagger and walking stick. (I figured security would frown upon those items. ;P) We hung out for a while, taking tons of pictures and stalking different people to see who they were dressed up as. Everyone was so nerdy, and it was the best. XD

The awards banquet itself was great fun (even if some of the food was a bit...questionable to my taste buds *ahem*). I sat with Tracey, Arielle, Kara Swanson, and several other people. I almost choked on my food and died of laughter, so I'd call that a pretty successful evening.

The banquet concluded rather late, but I stuck around for a bit and chatted with people. I swear I was the most extroverted that weekend that I've EVER been.

Me and the ever-sweet Tracey! Loved spending time with her. <3
Hann and Jonny! Had so much fun with these two. ;)
Me and Victoria! It was awesome meeting her. ^_^
Our epic table! *thumbs up*
Hann and moi ;)
Group selfie at Teen Track!
The costume banquet! You see the upper half of Tracey's Emma Swan
costume and my Bilbo Baggins costume.
Elise as Elizabeth Swann, Jonny as Robin Hood/random peasant/Peter Pan (let's just
stick with Robin Hood, shall we? XD), Hann as herself, me as Bilbo, and Audrey as herself.
Me, Tracey, Brianna as a medieval peasant, and Lisa as Arwen
Tracey, Liv as a fairy, Lisa, Brianna
Alllll the steampunk!
Steampunk + Toothless = perfection
Jonny and Elise
The two Jonathans ;)
Jonathan and Tracey
Um...don't ask. XD
Snow White and her adorable little dwarf <3
Kara as Anastasia!

day 4 // 7.29.17


SATURDAY WAS THE BEST. And also the worst because I had to say goodbye to all the peoples. *wipes away tears*

I started out the day with delicious breakfast (seriously--donuts and fruit and muffins...what more could we want??) with some of my friends. Afterwards, we had the opening and then split into our respective classes.

Teen Track was the first on the list again. It was actually really sad because it was our last session and we had to say goodbye to Jill and Brad. (Although I saw them that night, too--can't get rid of them. *winks*) I really learned a lot from that class, got fabulous story seedlings, and grew closer to a lot of teen writers. IT WAS FAB.

Then there was the character motivation workshop with Lisa Mangum. Truthfully, she was probably one of my favorite people teaching at the conference. Her classes were SO helpful!

Make Me: Character Motivations + Goals with Lisa Mangum //

- Your readers will believe anything if you give your characters the motivation to do it.

- You should make your characters have to choose between two things that are extremely important to them. (For instance, "nothing is more important than family EXCEPT revenge.")

- Every option the characters face must have consequences or risks.

- Don't promise change in your story that does not occur. 

We took a break for lunch, and I stole away from our table to finalize some book purchases. (I got LOTS of books, folks. Lots. Of. Books.) Afterwards, we attended one of the sponsor spotlights which was all about connecting with readers. I sadly missed part of it because of my critique session, but from what I heard, it was really encouraging and interesting. I'm not published yet, but there are some tips that really are applicable to any writer.

For Authors Who Want to Reach Readers with Suzanne Kuhn //

- An author without readers is just a diarist.

- Never be without a Sharpie. They're permanent and can write on anything. (Like when you're signing your books for people.)

- Know what author your style is like. This doesn't mean copy them, obviously--everyone has their own unique flair that sets them apart. However, readers enjoy reading books with a similar feel to other authors they've read so this is a good thing to keep in mind.

As I mentioned, I had a critique session with Jill Williamson that afternoon. It went really well, and I'm glad I signed up for it! She sent me tips on a piece of my writing that I emailed her before the conference, and when we met up, I chatted with her and asked any questions that came to mind. It was a lot different than I expected. More of a relaxed conversation about her writing experience and tips she had to offer. I will definitely want to do this again in the future, though I will probably want to write out some questions beforehand.

The two of us actually got so involved in our chat that we were really late to the next workshop. #oops xD I caught the tail end of the magic systems class with David Farland, where he shared some things that really stuck out in my mind.

Building Your Magic System with David Farland //

- There's a moral consequence to magic.

- There should be limitations to the magic in your story. It's not an all-powerful cure-all.

- Along those lines, the magic system should be somewhat broken. It shouldn't be easy to use and able to fix everything.

With that, all the actual conference workshops were over. I skipped out on much of the ending keynote by Dekker and chatted with some people during that time. A big group of us went out and ate delicious pizza (with pineapple on it--yesssss) and had deep conversations over dinner. (We also talked about how Jonathan sounded like a valley girl and learned about Canadian money...totally normal.)

Then there was the book signing! AHHHHHH. I got books signed by Kyle Robert Shultz, Kara Swanson, Jill Williamson, Robert Liparulo, Ted Dekker (thanks to Hann for waiting in line for me!), and Laura VAB. We all got an epic selfie with Mary Weber also and enjoyed a chocolate fountain. Basically...IT WAS PURE EPICNESS.

The concluding event of the evening? The nerf war. Oh my word, can you say best thing ever?? I've got to say, this was one of the highlights of the trip. Although I was 1000% clueless and basically hid the entire time, it was a blast. There were hundred-or-so writers gathered in a room with weapons. Was it chaos?

...You better believe it. ;)

Sadly, all good things must come to an end. Jonathan and I stayed there until midnight (because let's face it: midnight is the defining point of awesomeness) and I had to part ways with all my friends. *sad sigh* All in all, the perfect way to end one of the best weekends of my life.

The bookstore. (One side of it. Sadly, I didn't get a picture of
the whole place.)

Breakfast *drools*
(For the record, I was NOT ready for this picture. :P)
Forgive the blurry conference pictures aren't the
best quality. 
Selfie with Jill!
Tracey and me :)

Funny story: Tracey actually came up behind me and nearly gave
me a heart attack before this picture
was taken. (Thanks, darling. xD)

Selfie with Mary Weber (yes, this is epic)

I'm actually really obsessed with this picture.

People I Met //


You guys are all fabulous, and it was so cool meeting you! I didn't get to spend much time with some of you, unfortunately, but it was still a great time meeting everyone. :)

Authors I Met //

Kara Swanson
Kyle Robert Shultz
Jill Williamson
Mary Weber
Robert Liparulo
Laura VAB
Morgan Busse (well, kind of--she asked me to take a picture of her and some other people at the costume that counts? XD)

Things for Next Time  (because Katie Grace and Audrey did this before, so it's obviously a good idea) //

- Take more pictures. (I know what you're thinking: "this isn't enough??" Well, I was basically the only person with a big camera to lug around so I felt out of place taking pictures. Thus, next time I'd like to have an iPod/iPhone for more convenience. But we'll see.)

- Save room for books in your suitcase. Um. Let's just say it was interesting packing everything up when we left.

- Write out questions for critiques/meetings/talks with authors. I didn't do that this time, and I regret it. Although I had a great time chatting with Jill during the critique, I really wish I had thought to write down questions I had for her beforehand.

- Get business cards. Because these make you look 10000x cooler than you actually are. XD

- Take pictures with authors. I actually only have a couple pictures with authors and that's sad. NEXT TIME, PEOPLE.

- Do the pre-conference workshop. It's more money, obviously, but I think it would be really valuable. So yes. I'm interested in doing this next time. :D

- Bring a Nerf gun. Because I shall need it. Also, bring a backpack, Mary. The bags I brought to the conference were Very Awkward.

- Pre-write blog posts. News flash: it's actually really stressful to have to crank out blog posts during a writing conference. Who woulda thought. *rolls eyes* :P

Additional Notes //

- I obviously didn't take all these pictures. Photo credit for lots of these pics goes to Audrey, Tracey, and Jonathan. (Thanks for letting me steal all your group shots and candid photos! *salutes*)

- Jonathan learned how to pronounce debut at last. I'M SO PROUD.

- Pizza is good. Pizza with writers is better.


Um. So I hope you enjoyed this post two months late. It took me aaaaaaages to write, let me tell you. I had an amazing experience at RM and miss all my friends. <3 SERIOUSLY RELIVING IT ALL RIGHT NOW AND GETTING ALL EMOTIONAL.

Well, did you survive this enormous post? If so, have some cookies. *hands you some* Will you be going to Realm Makers 2018? (They just announced that it's in St. Louis next summer!) Maybe we'll see each other there next time!

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  1. OHMYGOSH!!! Someone dressed as Toothless?! Why has no one said so before!! Great post and pics!!😀😀

  2. I want to go next time SO BAD! But I make $5 a week... so I can't afford it. *sobs*

  3. That looks like so much fun! Also, all those pictures of food made me hungry. XD

  4. WHY DID YOU HAVE TO POST THIS LIKE IM SOOOOOO JEALOUS and had just slightly gotten over it BUT NOW uhg uhg uhg lol jk i loved it kid. these photos are the bomb and are gems NEVER LOSE THEM

    *sigh* still tho..

  5. AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!! THIS POOOOOOST. IT MAKES ME SO HAPPY. ...And sad because I wish I had been there but at least I get to live it via your post so...IT STILL MAKES ME HAPPY.

    I am just soaking up all these pictures! ALL MY PEEPS. And all the authoooooors! I'm fangirling over here. IT IS SO COOL YOU GOT TO MEET ALL THOSE AUTHORS. You got to just sit and chat about writing with Jill Williamson??? COOLEST. THING. EVER.

    I loved all the tips you shared that you learned. Especially the one about how guys don't roll their eyes much! Like...I DIDN'T REALIZE THIS EITHER. You are not alone! This is a new realization. o.O

    You were the most adorable Bilbo! You costume is golden. I love it so much! And it's so fun seeing ALL the costumes. Everyone did so awesome! I'm DYING over Snow White and her little "dwarf". I CAN'T HANDLE THAT MUCH CUTENESS. <333

    The book signing and nerf ward definitely sounded like the best parts! :D

    GAH. I JUST LOVED ALL OF THIS. And your list of things to do next year is SUPER helpful, and if I get to go I'm keeping all these in mind. *nods* Because...I REALLY, REALLY WANT TO TRY TO GO TO THE NEXT ONE. Nooo clue if it'll happen but...I'm gonna try!

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us! I was literally clinging to every word and picture. It was so much fun to get such an inside look at Realm Makers and your experience there. I'm so happy you got to go and had such an amazing time!!!

  6. The only thing I was thinking while reading this was YES XD Just YES TO EVERYTHING. omw, I love that you included the fact that Jon learned how to say debut XDD It's honestly just priceless. *is now super nostalgic and wish I could go back*

    (*whispers* and thanks for calling me awesome xP)

    I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I had such a fun time with you, Mary, and I'm honestly so glad we got to meet <#

  7. This looks like SO MUCH fun!! Btw, your hair is so beautiful <3


  9. AAAHHH NOW I MISS EVERYONE AGAIN xD I'm really hoping I can go next year even though St. Louis is a bit far for me.

    I almost want to get a print-out of that picture of us with the Nerf guns. #epicness

    Awesome, awesome recap, Mary <33

  10. MARY! THIS POST WAS SO WORTH WAITING FOR. I feel like I'm re-experiencing RM all over again, but through your eyes, and ahhhhh. As Jonathan said, cue the nostalgia!

    (I've been meaning to comment on this post for days, by the way. Thanks, school, for delaying me. :P)

    Lololol, you mentioned me spilling coffee. XD There had to be at least one awkward/funny moment between us, right?? Seriously though, it's just one of many great memories I made with you! <3

    Oh, but did I tell you about breaking one of the glass cups?! I was grabbing one at breakfast--I forget which day...the time they served stuff in the bookstore--and they were stacked so closely together that I knocked one to the ground and it shattered. >_> Yep. Scott Minor was nearby, and I apologized. He seemed totally fine with it, and called over a staff member to clean it up, making some kind of joke about having to "keep an eye on the kids." SO EMBARRASSING. But rather funny too. XD

    Your comment about the most extroverted weekend of your life: yeah, pretty much! It definitely brought out my inner extrovert. I mean, if you can strike up conversations about fictional universes with random strangers and NOT get the raised eyebrow, you gotta sieze that chance! ;)

    All those tips you wrote down are soooo good. I really like that one about creating a beautiful world worth fighting for.

    And all the pictures! Gah! I miss it so much!!!

    The pizza/theology/valley girl/Canadian money experience was a HUGE highlight for me too. ^___^ (Also, sorry Jonathan for poking fun at you!!!)

    As for all those tips to remember next time: hear, hear! I can especially vouch for the pre-conference workshop. Obviously I've only been to one so far, but it was PACKED with great info.

    *sigh* Is it bad that I'm already starting to look forward to St. Louis next July? I mean, I'm very much hoping to go, but it's not for sure yet. Even so, all the memories are resurfacing and I can't wait to make new ones!

    Wonderful, wonderful recap, Mary! <3

    P.S. You're welcome for the heart attack. ;D


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