Posts Categorized: Writers Conference

Scout’s Guide for Conference Attendees: Be Prepared

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scouts preparing

by Susan K. Stewart

    “I am a first-time ‘camper’ and am so excited that it’s all I can do to keep from sewing nametags in my clothing.”
    “I am going for the very first time and I am nervcited!”
    “I’m coming as a first timer this year, and I’m extremely excited (also a little nervous, but don’t tell anyone ;).”
    “I will be attending for the first time, and I am beyond excited because this has been a long-time dream.”

 

These are just a few of the comments from the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference Facebook page. For these writers, this conference is a dream of their writing career.

The conference staff has prepared resources to help first-timers get the most out of the conference. Returning conferees may want to take a look as well. There is a lot of good information.

Start with the First Time Preparation Packet.

The online packet includes information about what to bring, how to prepare, preparing a pitch, first-timers FAQs, and more.

Next review the Frequently Asked Questions.

Here you will learn about airport shuttles, meeting editors & agents, and pitching projects. The information on this web page will supplement the First Time Preparation Packet.

Head over to Letters, Form, & Guidelines.

One of the most valuable items on this page is Online Course Outline Binder. The binder includes outlines for all the workshops. This information is helpful to choose the session to attend. Also, read the conference registrant letter from Kathy Ide, conference director

Take a look at the schedule.

The schedule will help you orient to the conference. Take note of the time of meals, breaks, and session. Don’t miss the First Timers Orientation with Jeanette Hansome at 1:45 on Friday. All attendees want to be at the Meet-and-Greet.

Find out what else you can do at Mount Hermon.

In addition to learning, writing, and fellowship, Mount Hermon offers a variety of recreational activities, which are free to attendees. Go kayaking, hiking, or play games in the Fieldhouse. Of course, you can also head back to your room for a nap.

Mount Hermon is a writers conference like no other. With a little preparation, first-timers and veterans can have a blessed experience to most forward in their writing career. We look forward to seeing you there.

Susan Stewart

When she’s not tending chickens and peacocks, Susan K. Stewart teaches and writes. Susan’s passion is to inspire her audience with practical, real-world solutions. She brings her trademark realistic and encouraging messages to conferences, retreats, and small groups. Her books include Science in the Kitchen, Preschool: At What Cost? and the award-winning Formatting e-Books for Writers. You can read more of Susan’s practical solutions at www.practicalinspirations.com.

More Than Skin Deep: Getting to Know Your Characters from the Outside In

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variety of women characters

by Sarah Sundin

My favorite part of writing is getting to know my characters. Although I was a chemistry major in college, I took quite a few psychology classes for fun. As a student, I loved contemplating the interplay of nature and nurture and life experiences, and as an author, I love it even more.

In my newly released novel, When Tides Turn (March 2017), I enjoyed writing from the point-of-view of Ensign Quintessa Beaumont, a Navy WAVE in World War II. It was also a challenge because Tess is my opposite. I’m an introvert; Tess is an extrovert. I’m a homebody; Tess lives for fun.

Getting to know a character means looking at nature, nurture, and life experiences.

When authors start character development, we usually start with nature. What does she look like? Eyes? Hair? Face? Build? What’s her personality like? What natural talents and gifts does she have? In Tess’s case, she’s sparkling, lively, and fun-loving. These are the types of qualities we notice when we first meet a person, but they only give us a surface knowledge of the character.

Going deeper, we look at the character’s upbringing—the nurture. What was her family like? Rich or poor? Loving or distant or abusive? Harsh or lenient? Was she the oldest, middle, or baby? What was her childhood like?

Tess is the only daughter of an acclaimed artist, much doted on by her parents and in the art community. When her parents noticed her becoming conceited, they moved to a quiet Midwestern town and cracked down on Tess, encouraging compassion. This upbringing contributes to her strengths—her confidence and her care for the outcast. But it also contributes to her weaknesses—a tendency to selfishness and entitlement.

Going even deeper, we can explore the character’s life experiences. What choices has she made—good or bad—that have made her who she is today? What trauma has she endured? What joy has she relished? What difficulty has she faced? Has she overcome adversity and grown stronger—or has life beaten her down?

Because Tess is beautiful, gregarious, and bright, everything comes easily to her. But recent failures have shaken her self-worth. She comes to realize that she puts herself first, and she’s appalled. With World War II raging, women around America are contributing to the war effort—but Tess isn’t. She decides she’s nothing but a pretty face, and she wants to be more. Of course, as an author, I make this very difficult for her.

The interplay of nature and nurture and life experience brings out fears and flaws, strengths and weaknesses, quirks and habits, goals and dreams unique to the character. This is what makes her “human” and relatable.

Just as we get to know our friends slowly over time, from the outside in, as stories and traits are revealed, the author gets to know her characters. Then she figures out the best way to torture them.

In love. Because we care for our characters and want them to grow, to overcome their sins and fears and flaws, and to become the best people they can be.

Read Sarah’s article, “17 Questions to Ask When Researching for Your Historical Novel.

Registration is still open for the Morning Mentoring Clinics.

Sarah Sundin

Sarah Sundin will be teaching a Fiction Morning Mentoring Clinic and a workshop on “Historical Research Without the Headaches.” She is the author of nine historical novels, including Anchor in the Storm and When Tides Turn (March 2017). Her novel Through Waters Deep was a finalist for the 2016 Carol Award, won the INSPY Award, and was named to Booklist’s “101 Best Romance Novels of the Last 10 Years.” A mother of three, Sarah lives in California. www.sarahsundin.com.

10 Ways to Be Awkward at a Writer’s Conference

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awkward smiley face

by Mary DeMuth

My young adult kids overuse the word awkward. As in … they say it a lot. Everything’s awkward, apparently. As a writing conference attendee, and now as faculty, I have learned the true meaning of the word. While the vast majority of folks who attend writing conferences try not to be awkward, in case you choose to embody it, let me offer you 10 ways to be awkward at a writing conference.

  1. Stalk. Follow editors and agents around–even into the bathroom. Find out personal information about them and mention it often. As my kids say, “creep on them.”
  2. Hog appointments. Take all the slots for one-on-one meetings with industry professionals. Meet with children’s editors even though you write prairie romances. Monopolize the conversation at meals with in-depth pitches of your project. Barge in on others’ conversations in the hallway.
  3. Be a wallflower. If hogging appointments isn’t your style, stay in the background. When casual moments naturally lend themselves to discussion of your project, keep quiet. After all, editors and agents aren’t the kind of people who enjoy relationships.
  4. Play the God card. Tell an editor, “God gave me these words; therefore, they are not to be changed. Ever.” Or better yet, “God told me two things: write this book, and when it’s written, it will be a New York Times best seller.” Or really go for broke with “God told me you are going to publish this book.”
  5. Choose not to learn the industry. Have no business cards (except maybe some index cards with your name scrawled across them). Ask what a proposal is. Spend your time doing anything except going to workshops.
  6. Aggrandize yourself. Tell everyone you’re the next Stephen King or J. K. Rowling, and mean it. Bring an entourage to assure others of your importance.
  7. Get noticeably angry when you experience rejection. Throw your pen. Call the agent a name. Huff and puff. And decide before you leave the conference that this one rejection means you should quit writing altogether.
  8. Avoid other writers. After all, they’re your competition. Stay aloof and unapproachable, even if they act like they’re your allies in the journey.
  9. Leave the conference with no strategy. Once it’s over, forget everything and put the experience behind you.
  10. Don’t follow up. If an editor or agent expresses an interest in your project, don’t send it in. Surely they didn’t really mean they wanted to look at it, right?

Seriously, I hope you will avoid these things. And don’t be awkward at the conference!

Have you ever been awkward at a conference? What did you learn from the experience? What is the most awkward thing you’ve seen at a conference?

Originally published at Book Launch Mentor, September 1, 2016, http://www.booklaunchmentor.com/awkward-conference/

photo of Mary DeMuthMary DeMuth is the author of thirty-one books, including her latest: Worth Living: How God’s Wild Love Makes You Worthy. She has spoken around the world about God’s ability to re-story a life. She’s been on the 700 Club, spoken in Munich, Cape Town, and Monte Carlo, and planted a church with her family in southern France. Her best work? Being a mom to three amazing young adults and the wife of nearly 25 years to Patrick. She makes her home in Dallas alongside her husband and two dueling cats.

Pre-Conference Manuscript Submission Opportunity

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a promise of rain book

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.

Writing Workshops for Children’s Writers

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chalk drawing of children

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.

Challenge Yourself

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people on rope course

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.

Get Your Professional Head Shot

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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

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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.

Morning Mentoring Clinics and More

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

sunrise over the mountains

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!