Kristi Gillespie ’93 spends her time creating worlds.
Picture a kingdom of 10,000 people. There are royals, peasants and people dressed in medieval armor, ready for combat. Tents line a giant field, glowing with string lights in the Pennsylvania night. People run rampant in giant wooden castles and reenact their own storylines.
This is the Pennsic War, a live action roleplay event held by the Society for Creative Anachronism. Gillespie was first introduced to the Society in college, and though her time served in the Navy drew her away from such activities, she was reintroduced to role playing when she met her wife and reentered the fantastical worlds of seven different groups.
One thing Gillespie finds most appealing is the inclusivity it provides. As a disabled veteran, Gillespie isn’t able to participate in the combative events but said there is so much else to do within these worlds, such as blacksmithing, leatherworking and cooking.
“It’s an escape from reality,” Gillespie said. “You get to be somebody else. You don’t have the baggage of your daily life for the weekend.”
Gillespie has published one book, titled Gultar, the Gentle Giant, and is in the process of writing another. She uses her writing skills to craft weekend-long live-action events with 80 or 90 different storylines. She’s running an event this October and working to make it even more inclusive by designing characters for transgender and nonbinary people, an idea she picked up at a new Harry Potter-inspired event she attended last year.
While being a famous author and turning her books into movies are among Gillespie’s dreams, for now, she said she is content creating worlds for people to entertain and be entertained by.
“I’m happy just making other people happy at this point,” Gillespie said. “I’ve lived a really full life. I’ve done almost everything I’ve ever wanted to do in life.”