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  • Naomi P. Cohen

Among the Realm Makers

For the last month I have been gearing up for my very first writers’ conference. I made all the plans and reservations for it nearly six months ago, and it didn’t feel real even as it loomed ever nearer. A few weeks before the conference I discovered that a pair of phoenixes were booked on the same flights as I was. They were kind enough to invite me to sit with them on the journey that spanned time zones. An aside, San Diego is an excellent place for phoenixes to live. I also recommend it to any dragons who are considering relocating.

Flying with the phoenixes made the plane ride so much fun. We discussed books and watched an old movie. A third phoenix was waiting for us at the St. Louis airport and helped us find our way to the hotel where I parted ways with the phoenix trio.

The flight with the phoenixes was the first of many small, delightful “meant to be” moments throughout the conference. Alternate blog title: The Chair, the Shirt, and the Pen. The Shirt came first. I was considering purchasing a Realm Makers tee with a gorgeous logo on it. When I went to look, they had one left. In my size.


Look at that logo! So beautiful!

Then there was the Chair. Early in the conference I was approached by H.L. Burke, who offered to be my extrovert for the weekend. I took her up on this offer several times, including at the costume banquet. The Ladies of Uncommon Universes were so kind, even though I mostly silently hovered on the edge of their group. When they sat down for the banquet, for several moments it looked as if their table would be filled up. I hovered in a near panic, wondering if I’d have to drift around and search for somewhere else to sit. One chair remained after everyone was seated. I am so grateful they offered it to me. The Ladies also heard me out about a short story about a mermaid-lobster shifter, and my clumsy attempt at a pitch for The Fey of Castle Garden.

Next, the Pen. As the conference wound down, I was hovering close to the phoenixes’ table, wondering if I would be able to get an autograph from Rebecca P. Minor on her book that I’d bought. I noticed her rushing by on some mission and moved to intercept her. After I was in her path, I realized I didn’t have a pen and it didn’t look as if she was carrying one. I considered stepping back out of her path, and then I noticed a pen lying on the floor, dropped and forgotten. Rebecca P. Minor was happy to autograph my book with the foundling pen and then she carried on with her mission.

These small moments were wonderful, but the true highlights were the speeches by Brent Weeks and the connections I made. Brent Weeks gave a message of encouragement at the beginning of the conference, and at the end reminded us to put taking care of ourselves ahead of our writing. After enjoying the Q&A with Brent Weeks and Terry Brooks, I showed Terry Brooks a small piece of my writing. He was kind enough to read it, and then signed my journal. I enjoyed conversations with the authors Kara Jaynes, Mary Schlegel, Kimberly Rogers, and of course Lauren Salisbury, who brought me Scottish shortbread!

The hotel itself had a whimsical air like something from a Diane Wynne Jones book. There were two different sets of elevators, with the lobby marked as the third floor in one and the second floor in the other. The final mystery came on the flight back. My suitcase weighed 36 pounds upon departure. I sold all five copies of Circus Phantasm I’d brought, but I purchased a plethora of novels in their place. I was sure it would weigh more than the 50 pound limit and I’d have to take some books out and carry them with me. The scale at the airport declared 35 pounds before the suitcase was whisked away into the bowels of the luggage system.


All the books I could carry and then some!

I remained in an exhausted daze the entire journey back, grateful for the phoenixes’ company. Altogether, I had an amazing time and I am already planning for next year! Thanks to Scott and Rebecca Minor for orchestrating the event so seamlessly, to Lauren Salisbury for sharing a hotel room and bringing me shortbread, to the Ladies of Uncommon Universes, and to the Phoenix Fiction Writers who journeyed with me!

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