Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Homeschooling Among Authors: Creating Creatives

My fellow spec-fic author, homeschooler, and Realm Makers attendee, Aaron DeMott asked in the Realm Makers Alumni Facebook group (sorry, RM alumni only), "So, out of curiosity, how many of us either were homeschooled, or homeschool our kids?"

I expected quite a few to answer "ME!" but I was actually a little overwhelmed by the response.

My last count was 41 group members either homeschool(ed) their kids, were homeschoooled themselves, or both. To put this in perspective: the group has 144 members (although Realm Makers had 155 attendees). According to Facebook, of those only 75 actually saw the post.

41 out of 75 is more than half, for those of you who are math-challenged. More. Than. Half.

That proportion probably doesn't carry over to the other 80 conference attendees who didn't see the post, but even if ten of those people are homeschoolers, that puts the total conference proportion at about one-third, which is pretty high.

Add to that the dozen-ish homeschoolers I know on Facebook alone who write this genre and know about Realm Makers but could not attend this year.

I searched online for reasons people choose to homeschool. The reasons I found after visiting about a dozen articles were:

  • Better academics through home learning 
  • Inferior academics at local public school
  • Can't afford private school
  • Religious reasons
  • Family situation (such as moving a lot)
  • Child(ren) with disabilities or special needs
  • Safety/avoiding bullying
  • Desire for a more tightly bonded family
  • Gifted or self-motivated child who is not challenged by public school
  • Child involved in other pursuits (sports, etc) that take large amounts of time
  • Desire for control of curriculum

Hm. I noticed not one of those includes a desire for more creative pursuits. Yet, most homeschooled kids--at least the ones I know, and I know a lot--are creative. Writers, artists, musicians, video game designers, computer programmers, entrepreneurs, photographers, robotics designers...the list goes on.

Whether it is our intent or not, homeschooling families tend to create an environment that fosters creativity. 
  • Maybe it's because we can plow through lessons in fewer hours, leaving more time for creative activities. 
  • Maybe it's because we are forced to be creative as parents in order to teach from home, often multiple grade levels at the same time. We have to be flexible when the school room is the living area, and there are pets running around, and babies and toddlers, and our curriculum is all over the board, and we set that example.
  • Maybe it's because we only have our own children to teach, and we really know them, and can therefore totally see those creative sparks and encourage them to grow.
  • Maybe it's simply genetics--creative people are drawn to schooling that allows/needs creative thinking, and we're making kids with the same tendencies.
  • Or maybe it's related to public schools cutting back on creative classes.

Whatever the reason, the fact remains: Homeschoolers have a high proportion of creatives. And it should not have surprised me at all that there were so many of us at Realm Makers. 

So let's add to that list of Why to Homeschool:


Monday, August 10, 2015

Realm Makers 2015: "Most of" Awards, the unofficial list by Kat Heckenbach

I woke up this morning after finally getting a real night's sleep. Realm Makers was awesome, so I stayed awake far too late every night and woke up far too early every day, which meant I was basically a zombie coming home yesterday. I think I may have enough brain power to post about my adventure now.

Some of my fellow Realm Makers attendees have already posted on their blogs--lovely recaps and great photos. I think I'm going to take a bit of a different twist....

This is going to be sort of a "most of" post. Let's get started:

Most asked question (of me, that is): "Is that new?"

The nose ring. Yes, I got that a couple months ago.

Most anticipated meeting: Mike Duran

Been friends online for years. Mike's been a great support, and I could not wait to meet him in person. Even cooler than expected.

Most unexpected meeting: Tosca Lee

Technically, this is us meeting for the second time. But last year, every single picture I had taken with her didn't come out. She showed up unexpectedly for the Splickety pre-conference critique party and I FINALLY got a good picture with her.

Most years as online friends: Chris Kolmorgen

This guy started following my blog like seven years ago. One of my very first blog followers! We've stayed connected online ever since.  I was so honored to finally meet him in person, and so impressed with the man he's grown up to be so far.

Most adorable couple: Aaron Schlegel and Mary Ruth Pursselley

Steampunk never looked so awesome. 

Most adorable family: Aaron Demott and his lovely ladies

I had the honor of being a secret costume judge at the Award Banquet -- along with Mike Duran and agent Steve Laube -- and it was an easy and unanimous decision to choose this Star Wars loving family as the winners.

Most bitter-sweet moment: Accepting my certificate as finalist in the "Escape" short story contest

Yes, it was massively cool to be a finalist and know that my story "Darkness" will be in the anthology. But I didn't win either the readers' choice or judged first place awards. I was disappointed--I admit--but the edge was definitely taken off when two of the judges paid me very high compliments on my story, one even saying mine was her absolute favorite!

Honored to be a finalist along with Grace Bridges

Most interesting compliment: being called a "conference mom"

Heather Titus (aka H.A. Titus, author of the newly-released Forged Steel) referred to me as her "conference mom" over the weekend. Heather is one of the sweetest people you could ever meet, and I have so much fun hanging with her at Realm Makers. I love that we are both real friends and she sees me as a mentor-type. 

And last, the things that could not be captured on film...

Most heard marketing advice: "You are your brand."

I took the marketing track, which was taught in segments throughout the whole weekend. Three teachers taught about marketing--Amanda Luedeke from the MacGregor Literary Agency, Julie Gwinn from the Seymour Agency, and Suzanne Kuhn of Suzy Q author and book promotion services. All three could not stress enough that the author is their own brand.

(Just sayin'--I was told quite a few times that my look and personality are a complete fit for the kind of writing I do, so hopefully that means I'm branding myself as a writer the correct way. Or even better--my brand has organically developed from who I am.)

Last but by far not the least....

Most profound statement: Keynote speaker Robert Liparulo's words telling us we should pray, "God, make me prepared to do this."

That has been a big theme for me lately. Over the last couple of years it has really sunk in that this is truly a journey--not just to publication or to maybe someday fame as an author, but one of preparedness. I would not ever have been prepared to be even where I am now way back when I started writing. I can see these days that I've needed this time to ready myself for being more than just a writer, more than just a small-press author. I'm learning all the time, gaining confidence. THAT is what I need to pray for, not success or opportunities, but rather for the preparedness I will need when opportunities and success come along.

And hopefully, with the help of Realm Makers, those will come along.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Readying for Realm Makers

In two days, I'll be heading to St. Louis for the Realm Makers writers conference. This is my third year attending, and I'm just as excited this year as I was the previous two.

Actually a bit more so, as there's bigger names than every before, and I'm getting to meet a slew of people I've been friends with online for ages. Not to mention I'll get to find out who'll win the short story contest in which I have an entry.

This year is different in other ways. For one, I won't be dressing in costume at the Award Banquet. I simply had less time and motivation this year, and the one costume I did try working on for a little while quickly became obvious that it was not going to come out the way I'd hoped. It's okay, though. I'm looking forward to seeing the cosplayers that are present, and sitting with my non-costumed peeps.

Also, I've actually got some work to pitch to agents/editors this year--something I couldn't do the last couple of years partly because I didn't have anything ready and partly because there wasn't so much agents and editors to pitch to. This part has me really nervous, but fortunately my buddy Mike Duran wrote an excellent article about writers conferences that reminded me to just chill out.

Another cool new thing is that in addition to selling books, I'll be selling pendants with my artwork. Here's an example:

(If you want to see some more of them, I posted on Facebook.)

I'm looking forward to checking out some of the other artsy stuff for sale, too!

I promise I will try to post updates and photos on Facebook-- you can follow my author page, or my personal page. And if you don't do Facebook, I'll be posting a summary here afterward.

So, wish me luck...and say a little prayer for me Thursday because I hate flying :P.