Realm Makers 2015 Recap

I’ve attended eight writers conferences, but none of them left me reeling (in a good way) like Realm Makers did.

There’s something freeing about being with 150 other people who get you. I felt like I entered a family reunion of best friends. In short: Realm Makers was home. (Tweet this)

Fav quote #1: “The worldview comes through the author — that’s the driving force of Christian fiction.” – Steve Laube

I miss everyone. I’ve stalked Facebook every waking moment since leaving, just to glimpse one more zombie apocalypse photo. But I’m going to let you in on why Realm Makers is now my to choice, must-go-to conference forever more. Prepare yourself for total transparency:

I made new friends, Mom!

My enclave peeps! Kerry Neitz, Morgan L. Busse, Jill Williamson, Just B. Jordan, Steve Laube (also known as most-awesome-publisher), Gillian Bronte Adams, Ronie Kendig, and…me!

I know a lot of people online. That’s kind of the life of an author. But at Realm Makers I got to meet everyone, finally, and totally tackle them in hugs (whether they’re huggy people or not. Sorry for those who weren’t…) No matter how well I thought I knew them via social media, real-life chat, smiles, laughs, and goofiness will always trump. One person I had a particular amount of fun with was Katie Erickson–my word war buddy. She and I were roomies, everyone asked if we were sisters (my, how I wanted to lie and say yes!), and I can’t wait to see where God takes her writing!

IMG_9933IMG_9867 IMG_9872

I got to pour in to people.

One of the most common questions I received at this conference was, “So…what do you do at a conference now that you’re published?” Well, I still have a lot to learn. My book hasn’t even been out for a whole year yet! BUT…they had a point. I acted differently at this conference. One reason might be because practically everyone knew who I was.

That’s new. (And weird.)

But I got to pour in to others. I got to share my experiences, give writing advice, listen to the stories of others, build frienships. Pure…shalom.

I’m totally behind on this whole costume thing.

I’ve worn costumes before, but not with people who totally own their costumes. This year, I dressed up as Parvin Blackwater (from my book, A Time to Die) and even climbed a cliff! (Okay, it was just a minor stone tower…) But I met Sherlock Holmes, a Twi’lek family, Toothless, an X-wing, and many other incredible characters who stayed in character all through the costume dinner.

Next year, you just wait…my costume will be epic.

Me climbing a cliff as Parvin! ;-)

Me climbing a cliff as Parvin! 😉

I still have so much to learn about marketing.

The incredible Suzy Q and her husband, Shawn Kuhn, blew my mind with a one-on-one meeting and then four hours of marketing workshops! I’m so ready to take the next step in marketing (yeah, I’m the weird author who likes that sort of stuff.)

I got to be myself
The lovely Jennette Mbewe!

The lovely Jennette Mbewe!

I can be professional. I was trained by my Dad from an early age, to don the professional attitude when needed. This is a great talent to have, but sometimes the dork-Nadine slips out. At Realm Makers, dork-Nadine was present all the time. And I didn’t mind one bit! Neither did other people, it seemed! I got too loud sometimes, made ridiculous faces and voices, got all klutzy when I got too tired (yes, I did totally eat pavement in front of a bunch of fellow authors), and talked about Harry Potter without feeling like an overpowering fangirl. (Jennette Mbewe rocked a Harry Potter costume, complete with chocolate frogs!

My life was changed.

This is one I’m not sure how to elaborate on, because I can’t pinpoint exactly how. All I know is I’m not the same. There’s this bittersweet longing to be back with everyone again, sharing our passions and weirdness. All the introverts coming out of their boxes, or scooting their boxes closer to each other. There was an awakening in others, in myself…I’m changed.

And I’m going back next year.


I finally got to meet the genius behind my book covers, Kirk DouPonce from DogEared Design!

Fav Quote #2: “It’s more important for a cover to create a mood than to tell the story.” – Kirk DouPonce


My Post-Conference Advice:

I may be having Realm Maker withdrawals, but we have to move forward somehow and I wanted to share my advice with fellow conferees who are suffering as I am. (Tweet this) Now that we’re all home…

1. Write a list of the encouraging things you heard at this conference. (Tweet this)

Do it. NOW. Because in a week you won’t remember the details or the exact phrasing. In two weeks, you’ll be working on your novel and you’ll hit the wall of discouragement like we all do every other time we open that document. Being able to look up at the post-it note or framed list of positive encouragement you received from PROFESSIONALS will be a fantastic reminder of God’s affirmation for your writing calling.

Write down those phrases word for word, every time you go to a conference. Keep them in a place where you’ll see it when you’re discouraged.

2. Do the things that important people asked you to do!

I cover this a bit in my Tips for Going To A Writers Conference post, but still….send in that proposal, or those three chapters, or that full manuscript. If you’re not ready, then send an e-mail letting them know when you WILL be sending it. Don’t just neglect these requests.

3. Go through the business cards you received from others and connect with them.

Stay in touch! This is where you meet that person who ends up offering you a contract four years down the road, or who becomes your most valuable critique buddy, or who makes it big and gets a foot in the door for you, or who will encourage you down the long road of writing. Don’t miss this opportunity. Find their social media, connect, and keep connecting all the way until the next years’ conference!


Myself with the esteemed Mike Duran

Fav Quote #3: “The devil’s more likely to show up in a bonnet than with fangs.” – Mike Duran



The lovely Morgan L. Busse and Just B. Jordan


The mysterious and brilliant Sherlock Holmes *ahem* I mean, Jeff Gerke


My friend and fellow author, Charles Franklin.

I know that if I wrack my brain, I could squeeze out more than three pieces of advice, but those are the main ones that popped into my head.

For anyone who’s attended Realm Makers or another conference: what’s a highlight?

For those who have yet to attend a conference, what do you look forward to from your first conference?


About Nadine Brandes

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She never received her Hogwarts letter, but rest assured she’s no Muggle (and would have been in Ravenclaw House, thank you very much.) This Harry Potter super-nerd has been known to eat an entire package of Oreos (family size) by herself, and watches Fiddler on the Roof at least once a year. She writes about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her dystopian trilogy (The Out of Time Series) challenged her to pursue shalom, which is now her favorite word (followed closely by bumbershoot.) When Nadine’s not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she and her knight-in-shining armor (nickname: “hubby”) are out pursuing adventures.
Bookmark the permalink.


  1. jessicascoullar

    Sounds like great fun. So sorry I am half a world away and couldn’t make it.

    Very timely advise as I am going to the Romance Writers of Australia Conference next weekend in Melbourne. I need to get a business card holder. And possibly a business card.

  2. Sounds like an incredible time! I went to my first conference last year and I was in awe at all of the FB friends I got to see in person and finally meet. I hope we can do that one day too! Seeing all of the great pictures and comments about RM makes me wish I wrote in that genre…I mean, really, really. 🙂

    • You know, you could just attend the RM conference and maybe you’ll end up switching and writing spec-fic! 😉

      I hope to meet you in person, too. 🙂 Will you be at ACFW this year?

  3. Awe I made it into your blog! My Realm Makers highlight? Being sought out by an author and person that I greatly admire! Oh, and I had no doubt that everyone would know who you are. I hope your hand doesn’t hurt from all those autographs! 🙂

  4. Kat Heckenbach

    You are so right about bringing home encouragement from the conference. YOUR words of encouragement to me are something I will be holding on to! I am bummed, though, that we never got a picture together. But hey–there will be next year!!! Glad you have discovered the amazingness that is Realm Makers–which gets better every year!

  5. Awww, you are too sweet, Nadine! *heart melts*
    One of my highlights was DEFINITELY meeting you. It was such a joy to finally meet in person and stay up until 2 a.m. word warring. 😉
    And I love the idea of writing down all the encouraging things that were said to you. Just being around a bunch of writers got me encouraged, and I don’t want to forget that feeling.

    • Yes! Word warring in person! That was so much fun!

      I hope you DO write down all the encouraging things. Sometimes I write down the messages I get from people afterward on FB and email, too. 🙂

  6. I’m so upset I didn’t get to go this year. I was there last year (which was awesome) but there were so many more people went this year that I know from social media. Oh well, hopefully I will have the money for next year.

  7. Eeeee, if you go next year we will probably get to meet!! I was psyched to learn that it will probably be in Pennsylvania next year, which is only a 5 hour drive for me – SOOOO exciting, because it means I won’t have to pay for airfare! This sounds like one of the most awesome events ever, and I can’t wait to go.

  8. Wow! It looks like you had so much fun, and I love these pictures. I saw Katie’s recap post before I read yours, and I immediately recognized you as Parvin because I just started reading A Time to Die and for some reason your description of Parvin’s outfit stood out to me (maybe because it’s so fabulously unique!). Did you sew it yourself like Parvin would?

    It’s so great that you got to meet Katie. I hope to meet both of you and so many of those other fabulous writers there if I end up going next year. This year I don’t think I was quite ready for a writing conference, but next year I know I will be as I’ll have a polished manuscript by then. Also, I am very excited that it is changing locations because that might mean that it will be cheaper and more convenient for me to go-as long as I convince my parents to let me attend. I do have a question about the conference, though. I write some speculative fiction but I’m also interested in historical fiction, and I’m not sure whether my most polished book by next year will be sci-fi/fantasy or historical fiction. Would it be weird if at the conference I pitched a historical fiction book to the agents there (or at least the ones that regularly accept historical fiction)?

    • EEE! I love that you recognized me as Parvin before you knew I WAS Parvin! *freaking out*

      I did not sew it, no. I was planning to make myself one, but then my best friend surprised me when my book released with the skirt. She and her grandmother sewed it together from the descriptions in an old draft of the book. 😀

      I hope you can make it next year. It would be awesome to meet you! In answer to your question, I think it really depends on what publishing professionals attend the conference. For example, this year Bethany House was represented by David Long and they publish more than just spec-fic. I am guessing that next year will have even more options.

      Also, a conference is about a lot more than just pitching. Since you write both genres, the workshops and sessions would all still apply to you. You would still network and learn a LOT about writing. So…while attending such a niche conference might not be the best option for pitching your historical fiction, it would still benefit you as a writer AND benefit your love for spec-fic stories.

      I suppose we’ll just wait and see which manuscript ends up being polished! 😉

  9. It was so nice meeting you at RM, Nadine! 😀 Lots of great advice and lots of great memories! Conferences are such awesome experiences. ^ ^

  10. I’ve never felt so at home anywhere. It’s only my second year at Realm Makers, and it already feels like a family. The level of trust and belonging is amazing.

  11. Thanks for the shout out! It was awesome to finally meet you in person! I am still processing, recuperating, and trying to get everything back in order. Ack!

  12. Thanks for the thoughts on the conference! It brought it all back again 😉
    I have to agree, Steve Laube is amazing. Only got a few minutes to chat, but I love his passion for what truly matters.
    I love that photo of you climbing the “cliff.” You should totally frame that…

I love hearing from you!