So last weekend I went to Realm Makers for the second time. Even though it was my second time, I was really nervous about it. What is it about events like this that make me so nervous? I honestly don’t know. I feel like I shouldn’t find meeting fellow authors intimidating, even if they are published and I am not. Yet, when I friended a few on Facebook yesterday — including my continuing session teacher, Sharon Hinck — I felt like I was befriending celebrities.
I do find events with lots of people slightly overwhelming. I suppose that could have to do with my Asperger’s and possible anxiety. But Realm Makers only had like 300 people this year (more at the Awards Dinner – though that’s normal cause some people only come for that – and at the Book Festival, which was opened to the public), which is nothing compared to, say, Comic-Con (which also happened last weekend…in fact, someone said to me, upon learning I was from San Diego, “Comic-Con’s happening, and you’re here”…dude, DO YOU KNOW HOW HARD IT IS TO GET TICKETS TO THAT? Last year was the first time I’d gone in 7 YEARS). Or even Anime Los Angeles, an anime convention I went to in 2011 which had like 3,000 people — basically like the little brother of L.A.’s other anime convention (Anime Expo, or AX).
The point is, I made it. I made it to the conference. Which is saying something considering I don’t like flying that much and had a 3 1/2 hour non-stop flight to St. Louis, with a 2-hour time change to deal with as well. At least I somehow got bumped up to Premium without paying for such (I wasn’t able to pick my seat when I booked the flight — maybe cause I did it through Expedia — or when I checked in, so I didn’t know my seat assignment till I got to the airport), meaning extra legroom, and I got a window seat, so I could look out the window when I got bored. Also this particular flight — Alaska Airlines but operated by Skywest — was a smaller plane, so there were only like 60 people on board, which is kinda nice. My seatmate was pretty nice.
Landing in St. Louis, I had to go halfway across the airport to reach Baggage Claim, then found where the hotel shuttles were, and waited for nearly an hour in hot, humid weather for the Sheraton shuttle to arrive. It turned out that, in addition to the usual evening commute traffic that — I was told by the hotel front desk staff — is common at that time of day, the VICE PRESIDENT happened to be in St. Louis that day, which meant roads were shut down. This did not affect the parking lot shuttles and some of the other hotel shuttles that were for hotels closer to the airport, but it did affect the Sheraton. I kinda wish I had known this beforehand, though now that I know Mike Pence was in town, I am a little less mad.
The late shuttle meant that I missed Mary Weber’s opening keynote, which I am bummed about considering how many people I heard say afterwards that it was amazing. By the time I arrived, it was dinner break, so I went and got pizza at the pizza place nearby. Though considering how little time I ended up having to get back to the hotel from there for the Agent & Editor Q & A, and how tired I was, I probably would’ve been ok with ordering room service, even though I usually never do that at hotels cause it makes your bill bigger in the end.
It was a bit of a difficult weekend, in the end. I was stressed Thursday and almost all day Friday about my mentor appointment with Grace Bridges, even though it was the only one I’d signed up for. Panera (or rather, the St. Louis Bread Company) couldn’t find my breakfast order on Friday morning. (It ended up being under Vine, which I should’ve predicted — this isn’t the first time that’s happened to me). I messed up my left ankle on my way to the pool on Friday (there’s a big step down coming out of the hotel towards the pool, and I came down too hard), which kinda put a damper on things. I was late to the Awards Dinner cause I couldn’t get my wig on right. I missed the Scrivener spotlight I wanted to go to on Saturday cause my lunch ran long. I was unable to buy Nadine Brandes‘s Fawkes cause it was sold out. I couldn’t find Desiree Williams to get her to sign my copy of her book Illusionary. My plans to turn in early so as to be rested for my early flight Sunday morning were somewhat dashed by the signing line for Mary Weber being crazy long. On top of all this, I couldn’t figure out how to work the AC in my room — which would sometimes turn on automatically when I was sleeping and make the room super cold — and I couldn’t get hot water out of the shower, despite giving it time to warm up and also reporting it to the front desk. (I reported both of these things in more detail to the hotel when they had me fill out a survey about my experience afterward, so they are aware of it now). On my flight home, I ended up in middle seats on both legs of the flight.
But it wasn’t all bad. I did really enjoy the classes I took. The “Everything You Need to Know About YA” classes, taught by Mary Weber and Nadine Brandes, were definitely useful to me, as Music Land Maestress, while I didn’t set out to write it as YA, qualifies as YA cause it has teen characters. I really enjoyed Sharon Hinck‘s continuing session “Faith-Infused and Faith-Fueled Fiction.” Like the continuing session I went to last year (Robert Liparulo’s session “Embrace the Strange”), it really spoke to me cause of the focus on deeper matters that I do definitely need help on. I also liked that Sharon opened each session with prayer and wove Scripture into each point. Grace Bridges’s spotlight on How to Write Unstuck I related to cause I get stuck ALL THE TIME, and we had briefly discussed this in my appointment. The How to Write Believable Future Tech panel took place in the BEAUTIFUL Matterhorn room (which has views of the lake and everything) and was really useful to me cause I often feel like my sci-fi settings are just present-day locations with some futuristic window dressing. In fact, when I was signing up for classes at registration, and saw that one was there, I was like “OMG I NEED THIS SO MUCH.” (Though I’ll admit I could also have used the Writing Diverse Characters panel…guess I’ll have to get the conference audio).
I also met a lot of people. I got to explain the anime and manga series Negima to multiple people at the Awards Dinner, due to my costume being of Miyazaki Nodoka from that series. I was able to enthusiastically talk about Nukata with people. (Mostly, they thought my historical setting was cool simply for NOT being one of the eras that has been done to death). I found a couple fellow Whovians, one of whom did not seem as optimistic about Thirteen as me. (I’m willing to give any new Doctor a chance, personally). And I saw people I’d either met last year or interacted with online, such as the Burnetts (thanks for reminding me to watch My Hero Academia!), Steve Rzaza, Kerry Nietz (the Realmie I’ve probably known the longest – dating back to before A Star Curiously Singing came out actually – thanks to a forum run by Jeff Gerke that we were both part of…though I have to admit when I first met him in person last year I was shocked he even remembered me!) and Ralene Burke (who, upon encountering me in the bookstore, asked how we’d gone the whole conference without seeing each other). I also met two girls at the Trainwreck Saloon (a restaurant near the hotel) who I ended up having lunch with on Saturday.
And I had good food. The dessert at the Awards Dinner was great. The Trainwreck Saloon had good food. And the steak yakitori I had for dinner at The Drunken Fish on Saturday night was SO GOOD. Both breakfasts I ate at the airport (at San Diego and St. Louis) were pretty good. I somehow got Biscoff cookies on all my flights, despite them being different airlines (I flew Alaska going there and American on the way back), and they were really tasty. The Dallas/Fort Worth airport (where I had a layover coming back) happened to have one of those “fill your water bottle” drinking fountains, so I was able to rehydrate myself.
I’m not going to lie; I definitely had a good time. I know I did complain quite a bit in this post. But Realm Makers is definitely a conference I feel like I could return to year after year, which I can’t say about the two other conferences I’ve tried. That’s not to say I’m not open to other conferences (I noted down a few of interest when going through my back issues of Writer’s Digest the other day to decrease the amount of magazines I have lying around), but something about Realm Makers just feels special. I feel like I am around people who get me, an experience I am sad to say I don’t really have much of in my everyday life. My mentor appointment, as nervous as I was about it, was also helpful.
Coming out of the conference, I have a lot on my mind. A discussion I had with others in my continuing session about health as something that can hamper a writer got me thinking about my own mental health, and how I’ve been scared to seek help. But I do think it will help me overall as a writer if I get some help, especially with my anxiety (while I am not officially diagnosed with anxiety disorder, one doctor I went to for my Asperger’s thought I had it, and I have reason to believe he is right). Maybe it will help me with my stories as well, since right now I’ve noticed I have some rather troubled protagonists. I half-joked in my journal that I must be in my “Blue Period” (a reference to a period in Picasso’s career where he painted primarily things in shades of blue).
The Writing Unstuck spotlight got me thinking about how to write my novels faster. Like Grace Bridges, I have used the Snowflake Method, and she gave new perspective on how it can help you. I would definitely like to get some first drafts done, at the very least. Music Land Maestress needs some re-working, so I’m going to put that on the back burner, I think. But Nukata is almost done, The CYA Files has momentum, The Case of the Canterbury Colony Ship ditto, and I’m willing to revisit The Elven Princess, the novel I tried to write years ago for my Walden universe. The Stars Above Us may also need work, though I can see more or less where it is going at least, which is more than I can say about MLM right now.
So I have definitely come back challenged, and even encouraged. I feel motivated to write, something I was starting to lose going into the conference. But I also feel like my well could use some input. Maybe that’s just my excuse to binge some Netflix or read a lot, but input is important too, right? *nervous laugh*
So, so long Realm Makers 2018. Looking forward to next year, which will be in St. Louis again. Hopefully by then I will have less stress, have written more, and be less overwhelmed. Pray for me!