The Finding and Forging of Fellowship

Realm Makers Blog Voyagers – you are in the right place, even if the post below might not immediately confirm that…

My son is a high school wrestler. As a former basketball player, it has been quite an experience watching his wrestling career unfold. Here is some of what I’ve learned.

Wrestlers work really, really hard, because wrestling is really, really hard work. Also, while a wrestler is on a team, when he is on the mat, he is all alone. There’s no teammate to pass to, no sub waiting to come in, it’s just you and your opponent. Further, despite all the hard work, except for rare wrestling-friendly schools, wrestling usually operates in the shadow of basketball, the winter season glory sport. On a Friday night the basketball game might be packed, but generally its just parents and the occasional girlfriend at the wrestling meet.

Despite all this, or perhaps because of it, wrestling teams can often develop a special closeness, a fellowship of suffering, if you will. They might wrestle alone, but the other guys in the room understand all that you carry because they carry it to. The fact that their larger community barely notices them becomes a badge of honor and their toughness is a garment they wear with pride, and if the outsider doesn’t understand, it’s all right, because the team does.

Maybe it is stretching it to say writing is like this, but in some ways it is. One way is that it is generally a very solitary venture. To do it, we normally have to find and protect time away from other things, distractions and people. Another similarity is the hard work. To be sure, the grueling physical aspects of wrestling don’t translate to writing, but the very basic fact that if you want to do it well, you will need to be disciplined and persistent certainly does. Many people want to write a novel, few people do. Even fewer write a good one, since that requires lots of editing, revising, accepting critical feedback and so forth, (not to mention the hard work of actually trying to sell and promote a book). So it is no surprise that many who are interested in writing fall by the wayside along the way.

A notable difference between the writer and the wrestler is the absence of the team. Wrestlers train and compete together, but most writers are generally alone. They may have supportive friends and family, but there’s a limit to what a friend or family member can truly understand about the task if they don’t do it themselves. Consequently, a writer can feel very isolated trying to create their stories, as well as trying to sell and promote them. Finding fellowship with others who understand, then, can be all that much more rewarding.

Perhaps this helps to explain some of the magic of the inaugural Realm Makers Conference last year. A host of established and aspiring speculative fiction writers converged for two days in St. Louis, and right from the start, there was a tangible excitement in the room. I think part of that was a collective sense of, I am surrounded by people who understand both my passion for and my pursuit of writing. At least, that would be part of my read of how the conference came together so well and was enjoyed so much.

On a personal note, this experience was highlighted for me by the chance to meet Kathy Tyers. I’m a relative old-timer in the Christian speculative fiction world – my first fantasy novel, Beyond the Summerland was published ten years ago, at a time when Christian publishing was fairly gunshy of the genre and before the explosion of Indie publishing. Let’s just say the landscape at the time was pretty bare for new Christian fantasy, especially fantasy not geared toward young kids.

Having said that, there are some notable authors still active in Christian publishing who have been at it longer, and Kathy is one of them. In fact, her Firebird books were initially published in the late 80s. In many ways she stands with Stephen Lawhead as a pioneer of a new era of Christian speculative fiction between the publications of LOTR and Narnia in the middle of the 20th century and the more recent proliferation of titles. And, for my part, being able to meet and talk to her was the real highlight of the conference – and it certainly helped that she’s humble and gracious despite her success.

In short, it can be very difficult to find and forge real fellowship with other writers, and while convening for a couple days for a conference may not satisfy all of our desire to be part of a community that understands our passions and pursuits, it can sure help.

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