Monday, August 3, 2020

Realm Makers 2020 Recap

by Ralene Burke @RaleneB

In light of the COVID-19 regulations, Realm Makers hosted their first virtual conference in July 2020. With the use of new technology, standout faculty, knowledgeable staff, and a fantastic schedule, Realm Makers presented a unique experience for speculative fiction writers. 

The quick turnaround—from in-person event to online—left writers and publishing professionals wondering how effective and cohesive the conference would be. But the Fantasy Network helped Realm Makers embrace new technology to engage the attendees. Workshops were held through CrowdCast, pitch appointments were hosted on Zoom (using breakout rooms), and writers were able to connect in the social hub Discord. While there were a couple hiccups, the majority of the conference went on without a hitch. Even the awards ceremony was made extra special by having the winners accept their award via CrowdCast. 

The faculty for #RealmMakers2020 was really something special. We enjoyed not one, not two, but THREE amazingly inspiring keynotes from N.D. Wilson, C.J. Redwine, and Thomas Locke (also known as Davis Bunn). These three authors/speakers, along with Steven James, also gave in depth continuing sessions that the attendees have been raving about ever since.

To add to the fun and learning occurring in the workshops, #RealmMakers2020 also had some fun events, including a trivia night, awards ceremony, and an afterparty hosted by Havok. Many of the vendors and publishers in the virtual vendor hall held their own “live” sessions as well. There may have even been an online “game” hall for people to hang out and play games.

The highlight of each Realm Makers conference is the Realm Award ceremony, which is a costumed event. Of course, this year, we were all attending virtually—but costumes were still encouraged! Still, what a blessing it was to celebrate with the winners. 

Book of the Year was presented to Emily Hayse for Seventh City, which also took home the Realm Award for fantasy. Other award winners included: Brand of Light by Ronie Kendig (sci-fi AND Alliance Award), Fyrian’s Fire by Emily Jeffries (Debut), Mercury On Guard by Steve Rzasa (supernatural), Amish Werewolves of Space by Kerry Nietz (horror), To Best the Boys by Mary Weber (YA), Hello Ninja by N.D. Wilson (children’s), Iggy & Oz: The Plastic Dinos of Doomby J.J. Johnson (MG), and Heart of Curiosity by H.L. Burke (Parable award for book cover).

Congrats to all the winners!

At the end of the Realm Award ceremony, founder/director Rebecca P. Minor announced that Realm Makers would be returning to the Westport Chalet in St. Louis in 2021 with Frank E. Pertti as the keynote speaker. Squeals of joy abounded! (Though certainly we could not hear them because we were online and muted.)

For me, while I loved listening to the few workshops I could sit in on, the best part of the conference was what I love about every Realm Makers conference—networking and meeting new friends! I hung around in the chat room, helping newbies find their way around, answering questions about everything from writing to social media, and reconnecting with friends.

#RealmMakers2021 will be twice as special because it will be the first time many of the Realm Makers tribe will have seen each other in two years. What joy it will be to hug people in person, to gush over books and swag, and to just remember what it’s like to really fit in somewhere.

Here’s to you, #RealmMakers2021!


Whether she’s wielding a fantasy writer’s pen, a social media wand, or a freelance editor’s sword, Ralene Burke always has her head in some dreamer’s world. And her goal is to help everyone #SHINE Beyond their circumstances! Her novels, Bellanok and Armor of Aletheia, are available on Amazon. More fantasy novels coming soon!

When her head’s not in the publishing world, she is wife to a veteran and homeschooling mama to their three kids. Her Pinterest board would have you believe she is a master chef, excellent seamstress, and all-around crafty diva. If she only had the time . . . You can also find her on FacebookInstagramTwitter, or at her website.

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