a promise of rain book

Pre-Conference Manuscript Submission Opportunity

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

by John Vonhof
Manuscript Retrieval Coordinator

One of the benefits of attending the Mt. Hermon Christian Writers Conference is the opportunity to submit manuscripts for review by faculty. You may submit two manuscripts, pre-conference, by following the guidelines on the conference website. In this blog post, I’ll summarize the process.

Pre-Conference Manuscript Submission Guidelines

You have several options. You can request an editorial review (not a critique) by an editor or agent as a possible match for their needs or you can request a critique by a professional writer. You may submit one or two manuscripts – one for a review and one for a critique, or both for one or the other. Not sure which to do? Here’s help.

  • Critique – If you primarily want an honest evaluation of your writing, its marketability, and to learn how you can sharpen your writing. You may receive a line-by-line critique of three to five pages, some general editorial pointers, and sometimes direction on places where you might submit the manuscript for publication.
  • Editorial Review – If you want to discover if a publishing house or magazine would be interested in publishing your manuscript or if an agent might like to represent you, request an editorial review.
  • A manuscript for pre-submission consists of:
    • One article or short story (1800 word maximum)
    • One article query, with outline (3 pages maximum)
    • One book proposal. Please do not send complete books.
    • Up to three devotionals or fillers (250–400 words each, maximum)
    • No more than three poems (24-line maximum each)
    • Manuscripts are limited to 10 pages plus the other components (a cover or query letter, a book proposal, a 1 or 2-page outline for nonfiction or synopses for fiction, etc.).

    Complete details are on the conference website. Here’s a direct link to the page with submission guidelines. It’s important to read the instructions for submitting manuscripts.

    • Manuscripts should be typed, with your name on each page.
    • Your manuscript should be double-spaced and single-sided. Other parts of your of your submission package may be single-spaced.
    • Manuscripts must be original (your work) and unpublished.
    • The Pre-Conference Manuscript Submission Form must accompany your package.
    • Submissions must be received by Monday, April 3.

    What to Include

    It’s helpful to understand the different parts of what you may submit. Use this link to learn about query letters, book proposals, and the fiction and nonfiction components of each.

    If you are unsure how to write a query letter or book proposal, you are encouraged to check out any of the books available about proposals. My favorite book is Ryan G. Van Cleave’s The Weekend Book Proposal: How to Write a Winning Proposal in 48 Hours and Sell Your Book. It includes fiction and nonfiction proposal examples, a chapter on query letters, and lots of tips on the different components of a successful proposal. You can also Google query letters and book proposals to see examples.

    Make sure whatever you submit is your best work. Double-check everything for spelling and grammatical errors. If you are part of a critique group, have them review your proposal and manuscript.

    Choosing Whom to Review or Critique Your Manuscripts

    The Editorial Needs By Genre is an excellent resource to help you choose whom to send your submissions to. Use this list to learn what the editors and agents are looking for. For critiques, use the Critique Team information to learn how they can help and the team member page  to see who is on the team. Once the conference has started, the Manuscript Retrieval Team can help you think about faculty to approach about your manuscript.

    Digital Pre-Conference Manuscript Submissions

    We are trying something new this year. Four faculty members have agreed to look at digital submissions:

    • Andrea Doering (editorial reviews for Revell Books)
    • Susan King (editorial reviews for The Upper Room)
    • Sarah Rubio (editorial reviews for Tyndale)
    • Cynthia Ruchti (critiques as a freelancer)

    If you wish to submit to any of the four, please send your submission in a Word file to me at john@johnvonhof.com. Your submissions must conform to the same guidelines as the print submissions. Include all of your submission in one file. Have each item start on a new page in the file. If you include a query letter or book proposal, please have them at the front of the file. Please name your file like this: NAME-Title.doc. Submissions must be received by Monday, April 3rd.

    Your submission will be emailed before the conference starts to whomever of the four you designate. You will receive your file and comments back in digital form too, so please bring a USB thumb drive.

    Packaging and Sending Your Manuscripts

    The Advance Manuscript Guidelines page has detailed information on submissions and the Pre-Conference Manuscript Submission Form that you need to print and fill out. It needs to be sent with your manuscripts. For each manuscript submitted, you need to fill in your: name, title of manuscript, email, cell number, circle the type of manuscript, check either critique or editorial review and by whom, and add any comments. Make sure you read and follow the instructions on how to package and send your manuscripts. Be sure to check the appropriate box on the manuscript submission form—Critique by a Published Author or an Editorial Review.

    Each manuscript must be in a 9×12 manila envelope with the submission form taped to the top front side. Do not seal the envelope. If the envelope has a metal clasp, please tape over it and do not use it. Manuscript pages should not be stapled, clipped, or bound.

    Make sure you do not send your only copies of your manuscript. Either print an extra copy and bring it in a folder or bring your files on a USB thumb drive. The Hospitality Center can make copies from either source as needed for a nominal fee.

    If you hope to submit manuscripts to additional faculty at the conference, please bring a few extra 9×12 manila envelopes.

    Deadline for Pre-Conference Submissions

    All pre-conference submissions must be received at the conference center by Monday, April 3. Make sure your manuscripts are mailed early enough to make the deadline.

    When You’ll Get Your Manuscripts Back

    Saturday after lunch is the first opportunity to pick-up any manuscripts the faculty has returned. Others are returned after that, depending on faculty’s timing. Depending on what you submitted, and to whom, there will be a form inside the envelope providing feedback on your submission, whether the faculty member wishes to meet with you, or suggestions on other places to submit.

    Submissions After the Conference has Started

    Once the conference has started, you may talk to a faculty member who asks to see your manuscript. Request a signed form from the faculty member and process your manuscript through the Manuscript Retrieval system in the Hospitality Center. The Manuscript Retrieval Team will get the manuscript to the faculty member. The faculty’s first obligation is to those who submitted pre-conference submissions.

    All manuscripts must go through the Manuscript Retrieval System for tracking. Please do not hand your manuscript to an editor for review. Likewise, do not allow an editor to hand you your manuscript if it has not been checked back in through the system.

    The Manuscript Retrieval Team

    The Manuscript Retrieval Team, located in the Hospitality Center, is eager to help you with your manuscript questions. The team can look over your manuscript, query letter and book proposal, help you practice your pitch, and help with ideas on faculty that you might talk to about your manuscript. We’d also be happy to answer any questions you may have about the manuscript process.


Worldwide Ministry

Posted by & filed under Kidder Creek, Stories of Ministry.

Amy Dickson is the Ranch Manager at Kidder Creek. Not only is she passionate about horses, but loves to snowboard and is actively invloved as a leader in her Junior High Youth group at her church. Last spring, Amy and Andy Warken hosted a group of Chinese Camp Directors at Kidder Creek. During their time, Amy and Andy led them in a “typical” Kidder Creek Ranch Camp experience which included an outback trail ride to Campbell Lake. No experience at Kidder Creek is ever “typical.” Amy’s story is proof.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read an email in December requesting to come to Beijing China in just a couple of weeks! Every January, I usually do a mission trip to Africa, but for some reason God told me not to go this year—now I know why.

The group of Chinese Camp Directors who visited us last fall asked if I was able to speak for five days to various audiences about camping! I had the privilege to share how Kidder Creek provides high quality programming through safety and awesome staff.

My favorite day was speaking to horse riding instructors about teaching riding lessons for a higher purpose. Although they aren’t yet Believers, I was able to speak truth into their lives through horsemanship. They also invited me to ride a couple of their horses!

A small crowd gathered to watch the American cowgirl ride a jumping horse. Thank you the Lord, the horse was bilingual. He listened to my cues and gave me a great ride.

Hopefully this trip has opened the door to Chinese children joining in future Kidder Creek programs and ultimately meeting Jesus.

Learn More about Group Adventures at Kidder Creek


chalk drawing of children

Writing Workshops for Children’s Writers

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

The Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference has opportunities for all writers, and this year we have the most offerings for children’s writers we’ve ever had! Mentoring clinics are available at the Pre-conference Next Level Clinic (April 5-7). During the main conference (April 7-11), we have a Major Morning Track and Afternoon Workshops geared especially for authors who write for children. Check out these exciting options:

Pre-conference Next Level Clinics
The Pre-conference Next Level Clinic is an opportunity for writers to go to the next level in their writing journey. Crystal Bowman will be leading the clinic on “Take Your Children’s Writing to the Next Level.” She offers personalized mentoring for writers of board books, picture books, and readers ages birth to 10. (Additional fee. Application deadline has been extended to March 27.)

Major Morning Track
Mona Hodgson will be teaching a continuing session on “The Art and Exercise of Writing for Children.” This interactive course provides an overview of writing for children from birth to age 12. Come learn about age group divisions, fiction and nonfiction formats for books and magazines, the skill of writing for children, and much more. Receive marketing information too.

Afternoon Workshops

Christine Tangvald
Writing and Formatting Picture Books
Age Groups. Word Counts. Formats. Picture books. Board Books. Die Cuts. Novelty Books. Secrets. Come join our picture Book Adventure as we hop, skip, and jump through dozens of facts you must know to write in this delightful but difficult genre.  I’ll share a few secrets I’ve picked up to hopefully help you jump up into the top 20% of consideration.  I’ll also bring a ton of handouts.  And maybe we can actually brainstorm a picture book in class … together.  Doesn’t that sound like fun?  See you there!

Catherine DeVries
The Top 5 Categories for Christian Children’s Books
Go beyond your great book idea to a deeper understanding of the Christian children’s publishing industry. How do book sales break out by category? What are the most popular books? What are the least popular? Discover where the growth opportunities are, as well as watch outs and risks. And learn about another opportunity to get published without landing a book contract.

Tim Shoemaker 
Reaching Boys through Fiction
This is about writing for a tough market … but one of the most rewarding. Learn why it’s smart to target boys with your writing—and the secrets to doing it well. We’ll show you the ten “gotta haves” when writing for boys and the ten “kisses of death.”

Sarah Rubio 
Secrets to Writing a Great Book Proposal
How many times have you had your proposal completely ignored or sent back to you with a polite “no thank you” letter? Publishers are looking for proposals that are well crafted, engaging, and make a promise that a reader can’t resist. Come learn how to create the kind of proposal that will invite publishers to ask for more.

Crystal Bowman
Writing for Beginning Readers
Writing for beginning readers is challenging! A writer needs to know the guidelines and formulas before tackling this genre. In this session, we will discuss the specific structure and techniques used to write an engaging story with limited vocabulary, short sentences, and dialogue.

In addition to these great learning opportunities, the 2017 Mount Hermon writers conference will have agents and publishers who work with children’s authors:

  • MacKenzie Howard, editorial director of the gift and children’s areas of Thomas Nelson, a division of HarperCollins Christian Publishing
  • Catherine DeVries, publisher of children’s resources at David C. Cook
  • Courtney Lasater, editor at Keys for Kids Ministries (formerly Children’s Bible Hour)
  • Sarah Rubio, editor of children’s books at Tyndale House Publishers

Check the website for more information.

 


Extended Deadline for All Mentoring Clinics

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized, Writers Conference.

by Jan Kern

Do you have a writing project that’s nearly ready to be birthed? Could you benefit from a small mentoring group of no more than six writers? This can be the perfect setting for focusing in on developing your writing and taking your manuscript to the next level.

The Pre-Conference Next Level Clinics, April 5-7, offer mentoring groups for children’s writing, fiction,  nonfiction, and platform. The fiction and nonfiction clinics have beginning and intermediate levels.

The main conference, April 7-11, offers Morning Mentoring Clinics in both fiction and nonfiction.

The good news is, it’s not too late! Most of these clinics have room for you to join them. And we are extending the application deadline to Monday, March 27.

If you’re interested in the pre-conference clinics, check out the application details here.

If you’re interested in the main conference clinics, follow the directions at this link to request an application.

Take advantage of the extended deadline and sign up for a mentoring clinic that will help bring your writing and that manuscript into the world.


For My Father’s Glory: Life & Service

Posted by & filed under LOG, Stories of Ministry, Volunteer.

What is Echo? Echo is a two-week program at Mount Hermon where students, grades 10 through Super Senior, learn and experience what it means to live the resounding life of abiding in Jesus Christ through prayer and obedience. Also, within the program, students work with the accommodations department. While working in accommodations, students learn what it means to humble themselves through service.

This year was my second year attending Echo but my 14th consecutive year coming to Mount Hermon. Out of all the years I have attended family camp, I strongly believe that Echo helped me grow one step closer to Jesus.

However, my first year at Echo was different compared to my second year growth wise. In my first year, I came in with a negative mentality about Christ. I grew up in the church but at that point in my life, I did not make my faith my own. In fact, I was far from believing in Christ. For the first two years of high school, I wanted to “do life” on my own terms and be the leader of my own life. Doing life on my own resulted in developing depression, becoming suicidal, trying to find acceptance and love through guys and becoming a chronic liar. I was self-conscious about what I looked like not only on the outside but the inside as well.

These things of my past are what drove my desire to not attend Echo. My parents, however, strongly encouraged me to go. During my two weeks; I learned that it’s more important to focus on God than on the past.  I also learned that “[Jesus Christ] is the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and He prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” (John 15:1–2). Because our Father loves each of us so much, He prunes our imperfections away. When something in our lives is distancing us away from our Father, He cuts it off saying, “I love you my child; this part of you is no more.”

Natalie Loo Photo

Learning these things my first year at camp was beneficial. I came back home with a new perspective on life and God. However, this last year was particularly hard because I did not know how to continue my relationship with Christ at home. We did learn some tools that could help us, yes, but, the material did not fully sink in until my second year of doing Echo. For my second year of Echo, I knew that I had a relationship with Christ. However, it was my parent’s faith and not my own. Echo, this year taught me what is means to trust, love, and be patient with God and how God will love us despite all of the sins we have committed.

While in Echo, working in accommodations has helped with my relationship with Christ. I learned that it’s not about serving yourself but about serving our Heavenly Father in everything that we do.

It even says in Galatians 1:10, “Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” I remember one day in accommodations during my second year of Echo there was this cute family we encountered. They had a friend that was in surgery that same week they were at family camp. After my team was done with our accommodations shift for the day, we took the time to pray over that family and over the families at family camp. We were obeying God’s command of prayer for one another in brotherly love. Praying for the families wasn’t to boost anyone’s self-pride, it was about serving the people at Mount Hermon in our Father’s Holy Name.

Coming out of Echo a second time, I know that my faith in Jesus Christ is real and I want to keep pursuing Him for the rest of my life. I don’t know what God has in store for me, but I am praying and hoping that He will reveal his plans for me soon. Echo has helped me realize with school, taekwondo, or any extracurricular activity I participate in is for my Father’s glory.

Learn More About Echo!


people on rope course

Challenge Yourself

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

by Marci Seither

One of the most often asked questions when I talk to school-age kids about writing The Adventures of Pearley Monroe is “How long did it take you to write your book?”

When I tell them it took eight years, their eyes widen. Eight years!

I started my writing journey with a family humor column for a small town paper, then moved to human-interest stories, and later wrote feature articles.

Basically, I have a 750- to 1,200-word attention span. And to top it off, all I wrote was nonfiction.

There is a world of difference between writing newspaper articles for adults and writing a historical novel for middle-school readers. I had to learn everything about writing for that age and that style, and still maintain my skills and writing experience in the nonfiction area.

How did I accomplish the task of bringing a wonderful story to print? I went to conferences, such as the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference, and took classes outside of my area of writing expertise. I submitted my manuscript to be edited. I learned and rewrote. I learned more and rewrote again. That cycle lasted until I finally had a story my audience would love. A story my kids would have loved.

Receiving an Honorable Mention Award from Writer’s Digest for The Adventures of Pearley Monroe was a huge affirmation that my time of perfecting the writing craft was worth it.  Interacting with students who have told me they “feel like they are Pearley Monroe” tells me I hit my mark.

Along the way, I became a better writer. It was the difference between training for a 5k run or a sprint triathlon. The cross-training had carryover value that opened doors I hadn’t considered before.

Several years ago I participated in a few sprint triathlon events. For me, the swim part of the triathlon came easy, but when it came to the biking and running … well, let’s put it this way: I figured even if I had to Stop, Drop, and Roll over the finish line I would still get the T-shirt.

Just like cross-training your body is good, so is cross-training your brain. The skills you learn in writing help you become stronger in areas you may never have considered.

Recently, I talked with the editor of Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse magazine. They loved The Adventures of Pearley Monroe and wanted to know if I could write a short story based on the book and characters. It would almost be a “missing chapter” from the middle of the book.

That is a huge undertaking. It is not moving from one chapter to the next, it is starting from scratch and writing something that is historically accurate with characters and goals that are already established. I would be lying if I told you it was easy. I was a bundle of nerves.

But I did it.

I focused on all the things I had learned about writing fiction. I could hear the voices of those I had taken classes from. Lauraine Snelling, Gayle Roper, and Brandilyn Collins were just a few of many who helped me learn the craft. I wrote and rewrote until I had a 2,400-word story they loved and accepted.

I did something I would have never been able to do had I not been willing to stretch myself beyond my comfort zone. That is cross-training, not necessarily genre hopping.

I do not consider myself a “children’s author” or a “fiction writer.”

What do I consider myself?  A lifelong learner who enjoys putting into action what I have learned and accepting challenges that stretch me as a person and as a writer.

That is the value of writers’ conferences.

The Mount Hermon faculty is an amazing group of people who are there to help you stretch and strengthen your writing skills. They know it is hard work and they are there to help you along your writing journey, cheering you on every step of the way.

Maybe you’re wondering if you have something of value worth sharing. You do.

Maybe you’re feeling that you already know everything about your area of writing. Cross-train.

Maybe you’re afraid that you will fail.  Consider how you will feel if you actually move toward your goal. Now consider how you will feel if you never try.

Make 2017 the year you take action on making your dreams and goals a reality, even if it is just taking a baby step forward.

Was it worth spending eight years working on The Adventures of Pearley Monroe?

More than I could have ever imagined.

Do you want a challenge? Take part in the Mentoring Clinics at Mount Hermon Writer’s Conference: Pre-conference Next Level and Morning Mentoring Clinics.

Here is a list of sessions to cross-train at the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference.

Marci SeitherMarci Seither has written hundreds of feature stories, op/editorials, and human-interest articles for local papers as well as contributing to national publications. She has been married to her husband almost thirty years and is mom to six amazingly rowdy kiddos who have provided her with volumes of great material, loads of laundry, and symphonies of laughter. Marci encourages others with humor that packs a punch and entertains other moms with her Urban Retro style. She recently had two books published and knows how to make marshmallows from scratch. Marci is an airport shuttle assistant for the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.


Velocity Bike Park at Felton Meadow – A Look Back

Posted by & filed under Building Projects, Velocity.

It’s hard to believe but the dream for Velocity Bike Park began in 2011 when the County of Santa Cruz approached Mount Hermon to see if we were interested in purchasing the 15 acre Felton Meadow property.

Mount Hermon wasn’t looking to acquire any additional property, but we recognized the significance of this opportunity and how it would allow us to work even more closely with our community. The County of Santa Cruz helped us broker a deal with the previous owners, South County Housing, and we took possession in May of 2012. Shortly after taking possession we began a major clean-up and security effort on the property. We removed (figure of tons) tons of accumulated garbage and debris from the property and installed a perimeter fence to limit the amount of undesirable activity on the property. We also developed a pedestrian walkway to allow neighbors and residents to still access Zayante road and the Felton Faire Shopping Center. Working with CAL Fire and Felton Fire we also reduced the amount of “fuel” on the property and invasive species.

 

 

Along with improving the property we hosted a series of meetings with community members, neighbors and residents to begin planning property improvements. Through our conversations a set of guiding principles emerged that would guide our thought process:

  • • maintain greenspace on the property
  • • employ the most current sustainable development practices
  • • consider programs and amenities that would bless the local community
  • • design programs that would not compete with already established businesses or facilities, but enhance them
  • • create programs that promote healthy families and inter-generational participation

Our guiding principles helped us sort through the myriad options and settle on a few key programs and facilities:

  • • a mountain bike facility
  • • a community garden
  • • a community day-camp and after-school care facility
  • • an aerial adventure courses
  • • recreation spaces for day-campers
  • • connectivity to our existing properties

The Design Phase:

After our initial clean up, community input and discussion phases we began the design phase. We knew that we wanted to enlist the help of the best people in many disciplines to help us develop a world-class plan. After carefully considering many firms we chose Verde Designs to be the lead design firm and then began enlisting the help of experts in many disciplines including Alpine Bike Parks for the bike park design. This is also when we began working formally with the County of Santa Cruz Planning Department on developing the initial plan design.
Thinking that the design and approval phase would take approximately two years we developed and launched the “Velocity Bike Park” identity and started to promote the bike park and bike school at local events like the Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival and bigger events like the Sea Otter Classic, even partnering with GoPro to provide the AcroBag aerial trick bag! It was an exciting time and cemented many great relationships that are carried on today.

 

First Hearing:

After several years of design, survey and studies the Santa Cruz Planning Department recommended our project to the Planning Commission in October of 2015. At the hearing many people voiced support for the project and urged the commission to approve the project. After the hearing the planning commission required the completion of an Environmental Impact Report. The Planning Department spent several months choosing an EIR consultant agency and we began working with them in early 2016 to complete the EIR process.

Environmental Impact Report:

For the past year we’ve worked with the EIR consulting agency to complete all the required surveys, studies and reports to ensure the best sustainable project possible. We’re proud of all the work that has been done and looking forward to moving forward with the project.

Velocity Programs:

While we continue to wait for the Velocity Bike Park / Felton Meadow project to be approved we have begun offering mountain bike skills development programs at our Mount Hermon property as well at locations throughout the county. Velocity Bike School offers progressive mountain bike programs with talented and experienced coaches certified by the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA). Our unique and personalized approach combines core skill development and on-trail riding to help you take your riding to the next level! Programs are available this spring and summer – join us!

 

What’s next:

The draft EIR is anticipated to publish within the next few weeks which will kick off an official 60 day public comment period. Now is the time to share your voice with local officials to let them know you support the Felton Meadow project and Velocity Bike Park. You can send in a letter directly from our website at either feltonmeadow.org or velocitybikeparks.org.

There will also be two public meetings during the 60 day public comment period where we need you to show up and voice your support. We’ll announce the date, time and location of those meetings as soon as we have them.

Thanks again for your supporting the project and for supporting healthy, growing communities!


Get Your Professional Head Shot

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

With the ease of taking a selfie and relatively inexpensive photo editing software, why pay a professional photographer for a head shot? Maybe your cousin is a hobby photographer and will be happy to take some photos in your living room for you.

photographer's cameraYour head shot is your introduction to your audience, and you want to put your best face forward. Just as they judge your book by the cover, they may judge you by your photo. Featured on business cards, manuscripts, your blog, and other media, a high-quality, professional head shot shows readers, agents, publishers, and others that you take your career seriously. A professional photographer will help you look your best when you meet your audience.

Plus, if you haven’t updated your head shot recently, your photo may reflect how you think you look but not how you appear to others.

Not sure whether you need a professional head shot? Or what a professional head shot can do for you? Check out this article “Why Do You Need A Professional Headshot?

Mount Hermon has a team of professional photographers offering a great deal on author head shots this year. Here’s what Angela Breidenbach, president of Christian Authors Network, said about the photo shoot she had done at last spring’s Mount Hermon conference:

I am thrilled with both the result and the variety of photos taken for my head shot at Mount Hermon during the Christian writer’s conference! I use these photos for branding on my podcast, book covers, business cards, blog tours, website, and all my social media bios. Love, love, love how professional and versatile the experience and the photos have been for me.

Check out the details for getting your own photo shoot at Mount Hermon 2017!


Homeschooled Students Get Career Help

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

by Susan K. Beatty

photo of kara swansonAre you a Christian homeschooled teen or young adult who dreams of writing as a career? Do you wonder what it would be like to meet best-selling authors, agents, and publishers in person?

I’d like to introduce you to Kara Swanson, a recent homeschool graduate who saw that dream fulfilled. Kara attended the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference twice. She was the 2015 winner of the conference’s Most Promising Teen Award.

Let’s find out more about Kara and how the writers’ conference changed her life.

Q: Hello, Kara. Tell us about yourself–background, education, age (if you don’t mind).

A: I am 20 years old, and I graduated from high school last year. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, and I think my childhood as the daughter of missionaries, growing up in a remote tribe in the middle of the jungle, greatly influenced my love of fantasy and science fiction. I could relate to characters finding themselves in a strange world. I’ve been published in multiple magazines. At seventeen, I independently published a fantasy novel called Pearl of Merlydia, which I coauthored with my friend Charis Smith. Since then I have attended several writers’ conferences and garnered interest in my novels from both agents and publishers.

Q: When did you attend Mount Hermon’s Christian Writers Conference and how did you hear about it?

A: The first time I attended Mount Hermon was in 2015. I’d heard about it from my grandmother, who attended in 2014, and my mentor, Joanne Bischof, who has been on faculty several times.

Q: What attracted you specifically to Mount Hermon’s conference? And what made you decide to attend?

A: Mount Hermon is one of those rare conferences that is just as much about relationships as knowledge. The beautiful facility, nestled in the redwoods of Northern California, is a wonderful place to gain wisdom from many industry professionals.

As a teen writer who had never been to a writers’ conference before, I was a little nervous that I’d be overwhelmed. But the faculty members were all friendly and willing to answer my questions—in and out of sessions—so it soon felt like a home away from home. Beyond the comfort of spending a week among writers who all were all putting their soul-stories out there, and penning novels with the intent to change lives, there were sessions on every imaginable aspect of writing. And the vast host of faculty was amazing.

A: What were your expectations? Were they met, and, if so, how?

A: I didn’t really go in with too many expectations. Both times I attended, I brought manuscripts to pitch and showed my work to agents and editors. The first time I went, there were very few faculty who were interested in the genres I write (mostly Young Adult Speculative Fiction). So I spent that week learning as much as I could from the workshops and sessions. I was in a Morning Mentoring Track with Bill Myers, and it was a wonderful experience! Bill had so much knowledge and skill and humor that it was definitely a highlight.

The second year I went, I prayed a lot. There were ten industry professionals who were interested in the genres I had, but I didn’t want that to be my focus. I brought proposals, but I wanted to take the time to make lasting friendships and glean as much as I could from the faculty. Many amazing authors and editors, including Francine Rivers and Mick Silva, encouraged me in my writing journey.

That first night, I sat in the back row of the auditorium. As the keynote speaker began, I bowed my head and prayed, giving my stories to God once again—they were only ever his to begin with. I prayed that he would bring along the right publishing houses and agents for my novels. I also told him that even if no one cared about these stories that were a piece of my heart, I’d still praise him. I’d still write for his glory. Because his approval mattered most.

With that attitude, I went into the rest of the conference and approached agents and editors confidently—but also humbly. I let the stories he’d given me speak for themselves. I had an amazing amount of interest from nearly everyone I approached. The only rejections I got came from agents and houses that weren’t looking for young adult in the first place. God definitely went before me in the whole process!

I’m still continuing to walk through the doors God provided at Mount Hermon, and I expect that every year from here on will hold things I cannot imagine.

Q: Congratulations for winning the 2015 Mount Hermon Most Promising Teen Writer Award. Tell us about that.

A: Thank you! It was one of the most amazing and affirming moments of my life. Not something I had expected, considering that I’d only been to the conference once and never before dared show my writing to anyone outside of close friends and family. Not only was it special to be recognized in such a way, it was also a moment I’ve looked back on as a reminder that yes, this is what God wants me to do.

Q: Tell us what you are doing today. How are you using your writing, and what did you learn at Mount Hermon that is helping you?

A: Oh, fun question! I’m blogging on several venues—The Fandom Studio, Christian Teen Writers, and my own blog, Read Write Soar (which is soon to be switched over to karaswanson.com).

I am currently working as a virtual assistant to Kathy Ide—writer, editor, and director of the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. That was totally a God-thing because with Lyme disease I’m not able to hold most jobs. It helps me stay abreast of the publishing industry, and I’m learning so much.

In addition, I’m the marketing coordinator for the SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference, which Kathy Ide also directs. I have a freelance editing service (most of which is me trading critiques/edits with authors who will do the same for me). Right now, I’m working on a sci-fi/urban fantasy novella and overhauling my full-length novel Skyridge, which is about a girl with wings whose father is a fallen angel, and it’s set during the end times.

Each of these parts of my life has been impacted by Mount Hermon in one way or another. My stories are better because of feedback I received there. I met Kathy Ide there. I started blogging seriously after receiving input there. The two times I attended the conference have resulted in countless long-term blessings!

Q: What would you say about attending Mount Hermon to a teen or young adult who likes to write?

A: Go! Mount Hermon is the perfect place to sharpen your craft, learn about the industry, and decide what your next steps are. Whether you are a bit of an over-achiever like me, ready to dive headfirst into this whole publishing business, or you want to get your feet wet and learn what it takes to write full time, Mount Hermon is the place to do it. The atmosphere is perfect for newcomers and for advanced writers. I’d love to see you there!

Q: Writers’ conferences can be a little pricey, particularly for a homeschooled teen. How would you rate the cost versus the value? And did you do anything special to pay the conference fees?

A: I received a scholarship based on three criteria: 1) My family are missionaries, 2) I have Lyme disease and am therefore unable to hold a steady job, and 3) I’m homeschooled. I saved all year to cover the conference costs that weren’t covered by the scholarship, taking any odd jobs I could. For my birthday and Christmas, I asked for funds to go toward the conference instead of gifts. And my grandmother graciously helped me with the rest.

The price does seem steep, but it’s understandable. Mount Hermon is nearly a week-long conference with an impressive staff of industry professionals. You can meet best-selling authors and representatives from the large publishing houses. There is a wealth of knowledge to be found in the sessions, the critique team, one-on-one mentoring, and appointments with editors and agents. Writers at any stage can hone their craft and progress on their writing journey. All that plus gorgeous lodging, delicious catered meals, and fun activities like a ropes course and kayaking!

All things considered, the price is definitely worth the value of attending the conference. This is an experience that will forever change your writing career!

Thank you, Kara, for your inspiring story.

If you’d like to explore the idea of writing as a career, bring your writing to the next level, and hang out with agents, publishers, and other writers, register now for the 2017 Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. Homeschooled teens and young adults receive a 30% discount. (Young people under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian, who may pay full price and attend as a conferee or solely be the teen’s chaperone and take $500 off–basically only paying for lodging and meals.)

Learn more about Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.

photo of Susan BeattySusan K. Beatty is the author of An Introduction to Home Education manual. She and her husband, Larry, began homeschooling their three children in 1982, graduated all three children from their home school, and is the cofounder of one of the oldest and largest statewide homeschooling organizations in the United States, Christian Home Educators Association (CHEA) of California.  She recently retired as the member of the Board of Directors and is soon to be retired as general manager and events manager. She is a professional writer/journalist with a BA degree in journalism from Cal State University Los Angeles.


sunrise over the mountains

Morning Mentoring Clinics and More

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Unlike other writers’ conferences, the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference offers many options for attendees to choose from. One option is the Morning Mentoring Clinics.

The clinics are designed for writers who have some writing and publishing experience. The goal is to give fiction and nonfiction writers concentrated time for having their works-in-progress critiqued in a knowledgeable, supportive, and realistic manner. Skilled professionals in each genre are committed to coming alongside the attendees.

Sarah Sundin says this about the fiction mentoring clinics:

Imagine spending three mornings with half a dozen other serious novelists, learning from one anther and from a published author. In the Fiction Morning Mentoring Clinics at Mount Hermon, authors James Scott Bell (mystery, suspense, and thrillers), Ben Wolf (fantasy and speculative), and Sarah Sundin (historical, contemporary, women’s fiction, and romance) will lead groups of no more than six writers.

In these groups, writers will have a chapter or two critiqued by the other participants and the published author. By analyzing one another’s writing, we learn techniques that sing and pitfalls to avoid. Each published author will tailor the time to the needs of the group, offering writing exercises, teaching, or discussion time. For example, in my clinic last year, we had mini-workshops on dialogue and point-of-view, topics the participants had requested.

If this appeals to you, and if you have some writing experience and wish to take your fiction skills to the next level, apply for a clinic today!

Jan Kern, one of the nonfiction mentors, says:

Our nonfiction mentoring clinics offer a dynamic small-group setting that is perfect for writers desiring focused direction for their works-in-progress. This year we have three mentors, each ready to come alongside you in your specialized area of interest: general, men’s or women’s nonfiction, spiritual formation, devotional, Bible study, or personal-experience stories.

Participants will interact with their mentor, a skilled professional in their genre, along with five other participants in their group. Come and make connections, layer in new learning and perspective into your writing, experience the synergy of creative interaction, and discover momentum for your work in progress.

The Mentoring Clinics meet each morning opposite the Major Morning Tracks and are by application only. Fiction and Nonfiction Clinics are limited to six students each. Applications are processed and the writers placed in groups in the order the applications are received. Application deadline has been extended to March 27.

Other morning options include Major Morning Tracks. There are seven comprehensive courses to choose from, each one designed with three parts packed with benefits. All included in the main conference fee.

  • Receive instruction from top-notch industry professionals.
  • Apply some of the principles in your own writing.
  • In an afternoon critique group Saturday and Monday, share your writing for constructive response and/or brainstorming.

If neither of those options is right for you, why not make the Mount Hermon writers’ conference a writing retreat? Start your day in a Prayer & Praise session with Kim Bangs, or take a prayer walk along one of the beautiful redwood trails, or seek divine guidance in the Mount Hermon chapel. Join us for a delicious, healthy breakfast. Then spend the rest of the morning writing whatever God lays on your heart to work on.

After lunch, do more writing or take some workshops, meet with the Critique Team, have appointments with faculty members, or enjoy some of the recreational opportunities available to conferees. If you get stuck, spend some time with our Prayer Partners in the chapel. After dinner, be inspired by our evening worship and keynote speaker … or do more writing. You’ll be amazed at how much quality work you’ll get done in this inspiring atmosphere!

Register today for the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference!