Realm Makers Recap — a Pirate’s point of view.

Argh, matey. Thar be pirates about.

Well hello there, pirate selfie.

Well hello there, pirate selfie.

If you follow even a single speculative-fiction author then you probably heard something about Realm Makers Conference. In fact, you’ve probably read 27 different Realm Makers recaps on 27 different blogs and you’re not sure you want another one. It’s kind of like when New Year comes around and every blogger and their mother’s pet pineapple blogs their goals for the year.

But the beauty of writer’s conferences is that everyone comes out of it with something different than their friend–even non-attendees or chaperones or people who went as just volunteers. (Though there’s nothing “just” about the volunteers since the conference would implode without their glorious help.) And another beauty is that some of us attend conferences as pirates.

Pirate Costumes Realm Makers 2016

Photo Credit: Kathrese McKee, author of Mardan’s Mark

Even pirates have the good form to keep a ship’s log of the day’s events, so here is mine after sailing the seas and making some realms:

Day One – Wednesday –  (not actually a conference day, but we’re there anyway) 

– Met three awesome Uber drivers and gave them all bookmarks. (One of them was an author himself and wrote a cookbook with poetry!)

– Arrived on campus sweating more than a piece of cheddar cheese left out on summer asphalt. (Sorry for the mental picture but…it’s accurate.)

– Ate my first “official” Philly cheese steak sandwich. It was yummy. (I got it with onions, per the suggestion of a local Philly-er.)

– Joined a posse of authors and dominated an Indiana Jones themed “escape room.” This was probably one of the funnest things I’ve ever done. Oh, and we won. Because we’re authors. Mystery-solving is our thing.

Pirate costumes Realm Makers

– Posted my “10 Truths 2 Lies” game! (You thought I’d forgotten about announcing the truths and lies didn’t you?) I had a couple repeat truths and some from my newsletters. You all were major scouts and I’m thoroughly impressed. So, without further ado, the two lies were:

  • 1: I’m an early riser — HA! Riiiiight. Just ask any of my Realmie Roomies. Nadine is zombie in the morning and loves sleep more than brains.
  • 6: I’ve never finished an ebook. — As much as I dislike reading on an e-reader, I do bring it with me everywhere and use it all the time. 😛

Three people guessed both lies and will be receiving an envelope of swag! Katelyn Bolds, Clare Farrelly, and Steffanie. Seventeen people guessed one lie correctly (mostly about me not being an early riser. Bravo!) and get an honorary mention: Rachael Steele, Emily, SarahB5149, FaithSong, Carmen Shea (Mommy!! You were close!), Kiah Borman, Alice Farrelly, WritingAnyone, Hann Remraf, Abigayle Ellison, Jonathan Trout, Sarah-Kate, Amanda Beguerie, Nathan Mileski, JackieLearnsToWrite, Soleil, and Polaris. Phew!

For those of you who want explanations for some of those facts . . . expect a blog post on them. Coming soon. 😉 Now . . . back to the pirate’s log:


Tomato Pie – Was tackled by people before I could read their name tags and figure out who they were. This was the best.

– Tried “Tomato pie” for the first time, complements of Suzy and Shawn Kuhn during their marketing workshop. It was weird. It was good. I ate two slices. 😛

– MY ROOMIES ARRIVED. I got to room with the lovely Tricia Mingerink, Ashley Townsend, and Katie Grace. And we are now Realmie Roomies for life.

– Stayed up until 2am. (And woke as a half-zombie craving braaaaains.)

Day Three – Friday – First full conference day:

– Met Tosca Lee *squeal* (And forgot to get a photo. *weep*)

– Walked 5 miles in 3-inch heels. #death

– Attended a class by Steve Laube on spiritual formation for the writer and HAD MY MIND BLOWN. I’ve returned home a changed pirate-ninja. (But for reals…buy the conference audio.)

– Hung out with my ninjas! I think my ninja street team has a goal to make me cry at least once a month from all their awesomeness (like making a banana-dolphin to represent me when I am too busy to show up at mealtimes. This is totally a thing.) Also . . . ninja T-shirts.

Nadine's NinjasRM banana

– Dressed up as a pirate

– Won an award (and was so shocked my publisher practically had to drag me on stage.) Story:

The illustrious Kathy Ide stepped on stage and talked about the first ever Excellence in Editing Award. I was excited to find out who had been nominated and who had won.  Then, suddenly, she was saying “And the winner in the sci-if category is . . . A Time to Speak by Nadine Brandes.” I was so shocked, I didn’t move . . . trying to figure out how in the world she had my name or book on that list. My publisher–Steve Laube–turned to me.

“Am I supposed to go up there?” I croaked like a doofus.

“Um, YES.” (Only I’m not sure he said “um” because he’s not the type of person who says “um.”) Silly me. I think I just needed someone to tell me to move So I ascended the stage dressed as a pirate (Jacqueline Sparrow, thank you very much) and accepted a stunningly etched glass award from the elf, Kathy Ide. Much hugging and tearing up and shock shock shock.

(Also, my Enclave sister, Sarah E. Morin, took home the EIE in the fantasy category!!)


Photo Credit: The incredibly Emilie Hendryx (E. A. Creative Photography)


Photo Credit: The incredibly Emilie Hendryx (E. A. Creative Photography)

Day Four – Saturday – THE LAST DAY OF CONFERENCE #muchweeping

– Had 10-ish mentor sessions with attendees and decided that’s my favorite thing to do ever.

– Tried to pack the 6 new books I’d bought into my already over-stuffed suitcase. I had to use magic, but thankfully I’m over 17 so I didn’t get a warning from the Ministry of Magic.

– Had a late night/early morning “share-our-new-story-ideas” session with my roomies and it was easily a highlight of my trip. It’s hard to find the right people to share new story ideas with, but these ladies are kindred spirits and I’m ready to make sure we all live next door to each other for the rest of our lives.

Realm Makers Roommates

End pirate log. On to scouring the seas!

I really couldn’t possibly try to sum up how many wonderful things happened at this conference. I finally met people I’d been friends with online for years. I returned home with much inspiration, plans, and a new countdown. (358 days, people!) The next Realm Makers will be in Reno on July 27-29 with keynote speaker, Ted Dekker.

Thomas LockeI also had a chance to get some personal advice from this year’s keynote speaker, Thomas Locke (Davis Bunn) and do believe my writer-life has been changed. I’m so excited to apply the lessons on fostering creativity and spiritual formation and good writing habits.

God is using this conference, not to just grow authors but to bring them together and to foster a community of support and shalom through creation. I was thoroughly impressed with how much everyone welcomed each other–newbies and oldies alike.

This place, my friends, is an author home away from home. I encourage you to attend if at all possible.


Your turn!

What is one retreat/conference/camp/trip changed your life and grew your passions?



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.
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  1. When I went to the OYAN conference and met a ton of authors and writers, it was incredible. My writing group is talking about like going to one next year, but it’s all hypothetical. xD

  2. It wasn’t a writing conference, but the Russia trip I just went on was an amazing experiance.
    …. I was struggling so much between 2 and 6! *sigh* maybe next time.

  3. That conference sounds like the most amazing thing ever. And I mean, you and Tricia Mingerink. Both of my favorite authors? I’m jealous. And next year with Ted Dekker, that will just be insane. Like awesomely insane. And congratulations on your award. A Time To Speak is worth a million more too!

  4. Emily Joy Drown

    EEK I want to go to Realm Makers one day. Sounds like an absolute (and tiring!) blast. 😀

  5. How fun!!! I was looking at books by Tod Dekker yesterday! I might have to go next year 🙂 I just attended my first writing conference through the East Texas Writers’ Guild and that was really good. It was just a one day deal with 4 sessions on areas of writing to develop. I learned a lot, got to meet some cool people, and am glad for the inspiration to destroy my novel’s first draft XD

    • You should definitely try to make it next year. It’s going to be EPIC.
      Also, I love your attitude about “the inspiration to destroy my novel’s first draft.” LOL.

  6. I have attended mission trips and camps a lot throughout my life. Probably the christian camps I went to when I was in jr. high profoundly changed me and my outlook on life. I’ve wanted to go to a conference forever, but as hard as I try, I am not a spec fic writer. I love reading sci fi fantasy and I love watching movies but not writing them lol SOO….a different conference would probably be in order. Though Realm Makers sounds amazing and SO fun. I am stoked that it’s coming to Reno which is REALLY CLOSE to me, relatively speaking. Idk maybe I’ll write dystopians. 🙂

  7. WHAT?!?! IT WAS IN PHILADELPHIA, AND I DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT IT??? AAGH!!! *headdeskheaddeskheaddesk*

  8. “– MY ROOMIES ARRIVED. I got to room with the lovely Tricia Mingerink, Ashley Townsend, and Katie Grace. And we are now Realmie Roomies for life.”
    ^ That makes me immensely happy because I know who all of those people are and it just makes this whole Christian writer/blogger community feel small and cozy in the best of ways!

  9. Great post, Nadine. Loved your perspective on the conference. That banana dolphin was hilarious. It ended up traveling into Philly with Ashley.

    One conference that’s changed me? Hm…Oh, wait. DUH! REALM MAKERS. Three years, three beyond awesome experiences. This one ranks at the top, though (because Banana-Dolphin-Nadine is now a thing). 😉

    • IT’S TOTALLY A THING! lol This was such a fun conference. I felt even more connected and in the thick of things this time around, too. It was so fun to see you again! 🙂

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  12. Someday, I will come to realm makers. And it will be glorious and I will flail and aghhhhh. *deep sigh*

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