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  • Writer's pictureDonovan Bergin

Realm Makers 2023

This summer, I attended the Realm Makers Conference for Christian SFF writers. It had an absolute blast, made friends, learned a TON, and even got invited as a guest on a podcast I subscribe to. The way the community supports each other through a focus on excellence of craft and devotion to Christ was just what I needed this summer.

If you’re a writer wondering if a writing conference is worth attending, or just plain curious, continue on. I’m going to dive into some of my favorite experiences at Realm Makers 2023!

Keynote & Guest Speakers

Realm Makers was stacked this year. All the sessions were outstanding, and the only issue was choosing which ones to attend. Thankfully, there were no wrong choices. Plus, all sessions were made available to attendees to view later.

What struck me about this conference was how approachable each presenter was. I’ve been to quite a few conferences in other industries, and I can tell you there's something special about Realm Makers. There's a genuine humility and earnestness in everyone I met, from attendees to keynote speakers.

So, who did I end up learning from?

Steve Laube

Steve opened the conference with a focus on imagination, creativity, and a sense of wonder. We often forget that the Bible begins with “In the beginning, God created […]”. Our creativity isn’t merely a gift. It’s a reflection of the God who created us. A God so in love with the act of creation that it’s the first thing He tells us about in His word.

As God’s act of creation moves us to wonder, so should writers strive to inspire wonder in their readers. Steve took us all through an exercise to re-awaken our sense of wonder with words themselves.

It worked.

I've returned to my craft with renewed excitement, imagination, and appreciation for the written word.

Slight Detour

Steve's opening keynote was great listening material on my way to the conference. What? That’s right, the conference actually started on my daughter’s birthday, so I showed up a day late. Even so, what a conference. I did get a chance to catch up with Steve once I actually got to the conference. It was an absolute joy getting to know him better and share thoughts on creativity, writing, and music.

For more inspiration from Steve Laube and his literary agency, you can check out his blog here: Blog - (

Charlie N. Holmberg

Charlie gave a riotous and incredibly informative set of sessions on world building. She dedicated each class to a specific subject:

  • Deep world building

  • Magic systems and creature creation

  • Worldbuilding in action

Charlie presented each topic with a unique sense of humor, authority, and best of all, teamwork.


Yeah. Each session included audience participation. We crafted our own geography and discovered conflicts between our imaginary nations. Pro tip, lava people aren't super popular. We created a hideously hilarious chihuahua harpy monster. We pitched genre mash ups. For each topic, Charlie led us with hands-on examples that were fun and totally memorable.

If you get a chance to attend any workshops for Charlie, definitely take advantage of them. In the meantime, you can check her out here:

Rowena Kuo

Rowena gave a great session on how to handle backstory seamlessly in your stories. She detailed how you can employ flashbacks, dual timelines, and backstory in dialog. Rowena provided examples on how to implement each technique along with concrete examples. Moreover, she discussed the advantages and drawbacks for each approach. Her favorite technique? Kill the backstory! It's my favorite, too.

Rowena didn't just teach sessions. She made herself present where writers and attendees hung out. She always encouraged writers share their projects and passions. She was a great encouragement at the conference.

Rowena is the CEO of a traditional and hybrid publishing agency, both under the Brimstone umbrella. To learn more about Rowena and the different branches of Brimstone, check out her website here: Rowena Kuo, Ink | Books, Movies, Creative Arts

Donald Maass

If you’re into craft and writing, and not living under a rock, you have probably heard of Donald Maass. He runs a successful literary agency, writes books on craft, and gives thought-provoking talks. In addition to all that, he’s just as approachable and friendly as everyone else at the conference.

He gave a great series of sessions on writing characters for… well, series. You know, long running, open ended ones. Now, 80% of what he spoke on was applicable to any character, but that extra focus on series characters? Chef’s kiss. I had a wonderful epiphany about the main character of the series I’m working on. It truly changed the way I will approach each book and gave me a strong theme to tie them all together. The best part is that theme is already in my writing, just beneath the surface. Donald’s talk was just what I needed to draw it out.

Sound ambiguous? Well, it’s kind of supposed to be. I’m still working on that series and I know how much the internet loves spoilers!

Does all this sound super cool and awesome? I’d highly recommend saving the date for next year’s conference! Annual Conference - Realm Makers

Podcasts, Authors, and Guests

One evening, I sat at a table with some really fun folks. As the evening went on, I got to know Zackary and Stephen better, nerd out on stuff, and enjoy dinner. Throughout the whole night, it never clicked that they are the hosts of Fantastical Truth. A podcast I’ve been listening to since earlier this year. Yep, I’m that clueless.

Anyways, I went by their booth the next day, and they invited me to be a guest on their podcast. It was a really fun experience, and if I sound well spoken in the recording you can thank their editing skills. I loved getting to know them better and being a guest on my first ever podcast!

You can check out the podcast episode here:

I also met the Paul Regnier, the author of Bard Tidings, a book that had me in stitches… once I realized it was an action comedy. Being my typical clueless self, I had picked up the book because of the gorgeous cover art. And never read the back copy, which does a great job at getting the whole humor thing across.

Anyways, I’ll talk more about the book in an upcoming review, but for now feel free to check it over on Paul's Website!

I also met a lot of great writers, published authors, and people who just love spec fiction. There’s not enough space to include them all, but I’ll leave you with the best advice I got at the conference: serve. With my wonky schedule, I wasn’t comfortable signing up for a dedicated serving slot. However, when an acquaintance urged me to go ahead and help out anyway, I jumped in on a few spots. It was a great way to meet new people and serve the community that was already refreshing me.

Who was this mystery person? None other than Clint Hall, author and podcaster. Thanks for the solid advice, Clint!

All right, it’s getting late, I’m tired, you’re probably tired of reading this, so… I think we’re done!

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