My Realm Makers: 2017 Reflection

Now that the dust from this year's Realm Makers conference is settling, I'm going to attempt to sum up my thoughts on the event from my very-insider point of view. I won't say I'm writing in any kind of lull, since we're already waist deep in the planning for next year's conference. In fact, the location and dates are now locked in, but you're going to have to wait a little longer to learn those details.

We took a lot of risks with the 2017 conference, and I'm glad to inform you we came out financially solvent, despite the significant potential for missteps that would have sunk the Realm Makers ship. I am extremely grateful we were able to provide our conferees with what I thought was a five-star experience (even if the hotel lobby was smoky because of the nearby casino floor. It's Nevada, what can I say?) Offering our attendees the opportunity to take classes with award winning and bestselling authors is a standard we intend to continue to strive for.

Because of the diverse paths Christian authors of speculative fiction must take to bring their books to print, we also intend to continue expanding our contacts in both the Christian and general markets. 2017 was the first year I felt we really had significant contacts to offer our attendees from both markets, and I have received feedback that this mattered to quite a few.

In offering a conference that seeks to bridge the gap between the markets so that Christian authors can learn from the strongest voices in the industry, we are well aware that we court controversy. A lot of that controversy stems from the seemingly simple question: Is Realm Makers a Christian conference?

To answer with a definitive "yes" or "no" completely oversimplifies the nuance required to navigate the current publishing climate. The following statements are ones you can always call us on remaining true of Realm Makers:

1. We are a conference run by Christian leadership. Scott and I profess faith in Jesus Christ as the fully man, fully God son of God the Father, and the particulars of our statement of faith can be found on the Realm Makers website. The other members of our advisory board and planning committee also adhere to this statement of faith.

2. We will employ teachers at our conference who are significant voices in the world of speculative fiction. Some of these individuals will be Christians as defined by our statement of faith, some will not. Those whose personal theology does not align with those points will participate with us because we have vetted them as individuals who will not take exception to a Christian worldview being expressed by our attendees or their work. We will never "flag" any faculty member as being on one side of the "Christian" line or another.

3. Although we will develop conference content with the primary goal of serving Christian authors, we welcome attendees of any background to our conference--all we ask is respectful behavior toward the worldview upon which we center our vision.

4. We will continue to develop Realm Makers in the way we believe IT should go, referencing successful conference models to guide us, but departing from those models when we feel it will benefit our attendees. We keep a keen eye toward constant reinvention, trying our best to anticipate our attendees needs, not necessarily "sticking with what worked before."

5. The content of Realm Makers will cover craft, genre, and faith to varying degrees. In all these areas, we expect our attendees to take home what is useful and set aside that which is not.

An Aside:

To this point, I was deeply grieved at the infighting that grew out of healthy discussion following the 2017 conference. We always encourage people to sift through every piece of teaching they encounter while they are with us. However, this discussion and sorting at times degenerated into name-calling and hurtful questioning of the authenticity of individuals' faith. 

So rose the ugly tendency of the Christian community to eat our wounded.

The element of this debate I found most frustrating was that the fighting ignited over points one of our speakers has previously made in his body of work and other public addresses over recent years. This controversy over points that anyone could have discovered well in advance of the conference truly slashed my soul, as individuals called into question the hard work of my planning committee and attacked a faculty member who risked being raw and transparent because he was told he could be.

Speaking of healthy discussion . . . 
Thankfully, that series of discussions has settled to a quiet smolder, if not having gone out altogether. It is my prayer that the long term impact of the 2017 conference will be that authors found equipping tools, connections, and perspectives that will serve them well on their writing journeys ahead.

On the whole, I still feel that we brought you the best quality conference yet in 2017, and as we forge ahead, we will continue to seek out fresh and unique perspectives that will continue to elevate speculative fiction penned by Christian authors.

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