Conference Center Summer Staff Highlight: Christa Hansen

Posted by & filed under Adventures, General, Staff News, Stories of Ministry.

Christa Hanson Photo

Meet Christa Hansen! We love stories about how God works in amazing ways not only in the lives of campers and families, but also in the lives of our staff! Christa’s story is an example of just that! We asked her a few questions about her time on the mountain. This is what she said:

What is your past experience at the Herm? How did you hear about us? What inspired you to come and work on staff?

I worked at a different camp in 2014 and had a really awful experience of being overworked and unsupported. I ended up burning out so badly that I left the camp early and felt like a failure. One of my friends who had worked at Mount Hermon encouraged me to give it a try the next summer. He told me that the care for their staff was so much more tangible and that it would be a growing experience for me.

I have a passion for the outdoors, so in 2015, I applied to work on the adventure/rec staff. While I love hiking and other outdoor adventures, I had a huge fear of heights, and the thought of working every day 80 feet up in a sequoia wasn’t appealing at first. God called me to challenge my limits that summer and I took each fear in stride. I felt his presence encouraging me through every obstacle. Before long, I had overcome so many of my own mental limitations and found a home up in those trees, as well as a deep bond with the other members of my team who encouraged me through each moment of that summer.

  • Christa Hansen photo
  • Christa Hansen photo

A lot of staffers mention that it’s the “people” that make camp as special as it is. In your experience, what about the people make camp so impactful?  Do you have any short anecdotes about specific campers or staff members you would like to share?

My entire adventure/rec team bonded like a family. Each of them was so unique and quirky and incredibly dedicated to using their passions to serve the kingdom. I can’t really pinpoint what made them like family. I think it was just the subtle familiarity that comes with sharing life so closely together. Between exhausting joy-filled days in the sunshine, countless games of Catan, and too many trips to the fountain for our wallets or stomachs to handle, we just settled into being a team. When I was overwhelmed, someone always was there to soothe the anxiety, and when I was happy, there were countless people to laugh with. In every area that I felt weak, someone would support me and fill in the gaps, and in every area that I was strong, I felt affirmed and enabled to do good. It was such a beautiful picture of God’s design for his kingdom- unique brothers and sisters of Christ sharing their specific strengths for service.

If you could encourage anyone to join our staff, what would you tell them?

Christa Hansen PhotoIf I could encourage anyone to join Mount Hermon, I would invite the ones who are afraid to do it. To those who say, “I could never do that,” I say, “Come let God rock your world.” Before my summer working on adventure/rec, my fear of heights was almost a deal breaker.  But part way through the summer, it felt like home and I had discovered a new confidence in myself. I remember looking at the staff counselors that summer and thinking, “I could never do their job.” But two summers later, God has called me back to serve as a staff counselor, and I’m going because I am ready to be amazed again by what God has designed me to do. To anyone interested in working at Mount Hermon, I say apply, come with an open heart, and be prepared to work hard,  make incredible friends, have epic adventures, and be reshaped by the Creator of heaven and earth!

Christa Hansen Photo

Has your time on summer staff provided you with any tools (professionally or personally) that have been applicable post camp life?

Yes! I had just graduated college with a psychology degree when I first worked at Mount Hermon. I knew that I wanted to go into counseling, but I wasn’t sure what direction God was calling me to pursue. After working with the families and other campers that came through our adventure/rec activities, I realized what a positive impact getting outside and away from the norm could have on families. That summer, I realized that I want to become a marriage and family therapist, and I want to take families out of their comfort zones through outdoor therapy and wilderness immersion experiences to allow God to work a transformation into their lives through my counseling.

Once I confided this new dream to my staff, I was offered tons of opportunities to grow in that area. Nate, Lindsey, and Donny let me shadow them during their team-building sessions with guest-groups, and I learned a ton about group processes that directly applies to what I want to do as a marriage and family therapist! God works in awesome ways, and little did I know that summer that he was also preparing me to return as a staff counselor this year! I can’t wait to see what new skills I pick up this summer and where God leads me to apply them in the future.

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Do Any of Us Really Know?

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

Mount Hermon Bridge

“I am a 61-year-old college teacher raised in another religion, but I am a new Christian because of Mount Hermon.” That’s how my conversation started with Lorents, a member of the worship team during JEMS week this summer at Mount Hermon.

The Japanese Evangelical Missionary Society has hosted a conference every year at Mount Hermon since 1950. Young Nisei pastors, who struggled to revive their ministries in California after the traumatic World War II internment, gathered their families and young people from various Christian denominations for the first Nisei Christian Conference in June of the same year. Today, over 1,500 people from throughout the Mainland, Hawaii, Canada and Japan gather at Mount Hermon and various locations in July.

I could hardly believe this man, Lorents clearly beaming with the love of Christ, hadn’t known much about Christianity only a year ago. Here’s his story:

Raised as a Buddhist in a traditional Japanese– American household, Lorents had a friend in Southern California who kept telling them about “this place we go for summer vacations that’s even better than Hawaii.”

Eventually, Lorents told me, “I thought I’d better check this place out!” He was a guest at Mount Hermon for the very first time with his wife and daughter during JEMS week in the summer of 2015.

The beauty of the grounds made a positive initial impression to Lorents. But then he was impressed with the beautiful spirits of the groundskeepers.

“I couldn’t help noticing that the facilities crew, the housekeeping crew, the registration desk, all had the type of smiles and warm, welcoming spirit that you encounter all too infrequently in customer service industries these days. And it went beyond friendliness: they seemed to truly love one another, and love the guests.”

An announcement was made inviting people to go for a morning run on Tuesday, and Lorents, an avid jogger, decided to join in. When he showed up at the post office that morning, the only other person was the staff member leading the run, Bill Fernald.

Runner at Mount HermonBill is the Vice President of Guest Care at Mount Hermon, also an avid jogger. Bill was delighted to take Lorents on a personal jogging tour of the campus. As they ran, Bill casually pointed to building after building, relating the stories behind their existence.

“Maybe he didn’t realize it at the time, but every story he told was about how these buildings were an answer to prayer,” Lorents said. “Bill would point to a building and say, ‘Oh that’s really an answer to prayer.’ Point to another, ‘There’s another answer to prayer!’ That made a big impression. Prayer to me had always been just a ritual.”


“The idea of actually having answers to prayer was revolutionary. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.”


Then Lorents went on the ropes course with his daughter. Again, he was impressed with the courtesy of the staffers there. When he got to the ropes component called “the leap of faith,” his daughter, who had crossed first, kept calling back to him, “Come on Dad, take the leap of faith!” He began to consider whether he was receiving a larger overall message about the direction of his life.

That evening he attended the worship gathering. Lorents said the message of grace the speaker explained appealed to him greatly, “The idea that life is not just about karma, getting what we deserve because of our actions. The problem with karma was that to work off my bad karma, I had to deliberately add good karma, acts of charity and kindness, for example. But, I started to wonder, if I am doing those good deeds for a selfish motive, bettering the condition of my karma, aren’t they tainted with bad karma? Selfishness is the ultimate bad karma. It seemed to me an inescapable trap. Then I realized the apostle Paul was making a very similar argument in his epistles, for grace and against good deeds as a way of salvation.”

At the end of the meeting, the speaker invited people to come forward for prayer. Having just heard from Bill Butterworth about the effectiveness of prayer, Lorents decided to try it out. He turned to his wife and daughter and said, “Let’s go forward!”

When they met with the prayer counselor at the front of the auditorium, they were asked, “What would you like prayer for?” Lorents wasn’t sure. The prayer counselor made some suggestions: “Your marriage? Your health?”

“No,” thought Lorents, “that’s not it.”

“Would you like to invite Jesus Christ into your heart?” That’s it! Lorents bowed his head and was led in a prayer of repentance and salvation.

The counselor then told him to find two or three other men that very evening and tell them what he had done. Lorents did exactly that, and they were thrilled to suggest further spiritual growth steps. They found out where he lived, and recommended a church in his area.

“And today I stand here, exactly one year later, as an enthusiastic follower of Jesus Christ, involved with my local church, being discipled by mature believers, engaged in the worship team—And I didn’t even really know what it meant to accept Christ at the time!” Then he adds with a twinkle in his eye, “Do any of us really know?”


Lorents makes one thing clear to me: “It really wasn’t only a logical argument that persuaded me. It was the big picture of a loving Christian community that I saw for the first time in my life here at Mount Hermon.”


More Than A Mountaintop Experience

Posted by & filed under LOG, Stories of Ministry.

Young Girl with 25 Day ChalleAfter every one of our camp experiences we encourage students to take home a challenge booklet. This summer our challenge booklet contained twentyfive daily lessons designed for students to spend time in the Bible much like they did during camp. The goal is to keep them close to the heart of Jesus and help ensure that their time at camp was much more than a mountaintop experience. Each year hundreds of students take the challenge and each year, we are blown away at how their camp experience becomes the catalyst to lasting change. We regularly hear back from students about how God used these booklets in their lives.

One student wrote: “…Last year I used to read my Bible every morning without really paying much attention to what I was reading. I think the challenge has taught me how to comprehend everything I read in the Bible. It was a great way to keep in touch with God every day! I learned that God loves everyone unconditionally (even the people you never would think he would) and that he wants us to share the good news with everyone!”

Another student perfectly captured our hope and prayer for these challenge booklets with these words:

“…I learned not only that God is the one I can turn to for anything, but that I am representative of Him here on Earth and I should be living out a life not solely glorifying Him, but also one in alignment with the plan He has for me. Thank you so much for putting together such a great book for me to take home and make my faith reconstruction last longer than the week I was at camp. The Challenge has given me the courage to start going back to church and join the youth group there as well.”

Often, students will ask us to send them more challenge books for friends and family:

“I learned that someday God will show us everything we don’t know and thought we knew, but will put the things we thought we knew into a brand new light to show us how great He is and how small and foolish we are. My love for Jesus (and how good these devotions were) motivated me to finish them. I was wondering if I could get two more. One for me and one for my best friend. Thank you so much! I feel I’m closer to God because of it.”

The impact of these challenge books has exceeded what we could have ever imagined. Our partnering churches regularly request more challenge books. One church even throws a party after their students complete the challenge booklets to celebrate what God has done, and is doing, in their lives. What an amazing blessing it is to be a part of God’s Kingdom work in the lives of students! Soli Deo Gloria!


Mount Hermon redwoods bridge

Writer’s Conference Live – Friday Morning

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Friday, April 7, 2017

The weather is cool, but the air refreshed after overnight rain. But the air seems to always be fresh in the mountains.  The mountain get-away is also filled with anticipation and excitement as the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference officially begins in a few short hours.

Some of us have been here for a couple of days as faculty, resource team members, or pre-conference mentees. Each of us has already made new friends and renewed those old connections. I think we are all looking forward to the main event.

The afternoon newcomers will receive information at the Newcomers Orientation while the returners gather for a reunion. Faculty and attendees will mingle at the Meet and Greet, then the workshops begin.

As we share meals, chat in the coffee lounge, or walk the trails, we sense the real reason we are here. God has directed us to this place at this time for his purpose. Faculty, resource team, and attendees will leave changed. Some will have a God-moment in a workshop session or divine appointment with the perfect agent or editor. And some of us will have our minds and hearts filled with just what we need to move forward in the writing we have been called and gifted for.

For those who could not be here, please join us with prayer. Let God move and intervene in miraculous ways.

 


The Light in a Dark Place

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

For a handful of years I taught outdoor education. We would hike kids around outside, stopping to learn about nature. The great thing about using an outdoor setting to teach is not it readily lends itself to turning nature lessons into life lessons. Jesus understood this: seeds on different soil was really about the condition of our hearts.

As part of our week with those kids, we would do a night hike. The redwood forest is pretty shaded and dark during the day due to the thick canopy, but at night, it is near pitch black. For many kids that came to us from larger cities, this was usually the deepest dark they’ve seen. That plus being in the woods often made these hikes an exercise in trust (in me) and perseverance.

At one point in our night hike I would gather the kids into a circle and stand in the middle. Then I would light a small candle and hold it above my head. Every time (and still to this day) it would blow my mind just how much light that little candle would emit. That tiny flame, barely an inch high, would cast a net of light 40 ft across!  After a half an hour of stumbling through the dark, you could feel the warmth and comfort that little light brought to our circle.

I could go on for pages the different metaphors that experience would elicit. This summer at Kidder Creek we will be looking at the power of Christ working through us to illuminate the darkness around us and just how much that changes things!

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stream in the woods

HIs Message, Your Voice

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

by Shadia Hrichi

The air was crisp when I ventured out early one morning to walk Mount Hermon’s Sequoia Trail. Two days had passed at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference and I was eager to spend some time alone with my Lord. I walked about a quarter mile among the beautiful redwoods before stopping to rest on a wooden bench. A bird chirped above me in the trees while gentle waters rolled across the rocks in a stream below.

Just then I sensed God say, “Close your eyes and listen.” So I did. “How many birds do you hear?”

Up to this point, I had been aware of only two birds, one chirping up above and another off to my right. I closed my eyes and listened. Immediately, I heard a songbird behind me. Had it been singing all along? Then something resembling, “hoot, hoot” echoed high above the branches. Somewhere in the distance, a dove cooed. I began to count. Two … three … four … I hadn’t noticed that there were so many different birds nearby… five … There’s another one! … six … then down below a duck intruded on the chorus with an abrupt ‘quack!’

Seven! I count seven, Lord!

Wow, when my eyes were open, I only noticed two. How cool, I thought to myself—such variety! I started to chuckle as my mind wandered to my writing. Praying silently, I mused, which sound am I, Lord … the duck?

I sensed God’s smile, “Your voice, my child, is still unheard.” I bowed my head, surrendering to his will when I heard him continue, “… but one day it will be.”

I found God’s promise so encouraging, I shared it with my mentoring group on the last morning of the conference–everyone was deeply encouraged.

Did you know just like fingerprints, God gave every human being a distinct voice pattern? What a beautiful picture! As Christians, each of us has been given his message of truth and love to share with the world, and no two persons will voice it in the same way. As a writer, stay true to your voice for it has been given to you for a purpose that no other person can fulfill. Therefore, let each of us surrender ourselves to God: our writing, our ministry, our dreams, our hopes, trusting that he, in his perfect timing and perfect will, will make our voice heard for his great glory.

 

Shadia Hrichi

Shadia Hrichi is the author of Worthy of Love: A Journey of Hope and Healing After Abortion (a Bible study for post-abortion healing) and Nameless No More. She is currently writing a new series of Bible studies centered on various “unsung heroes” of the faith. The first study is based on the story of Hagar, to be published by Leafwood/ACU Press in early 2018. She holds an MA in Biblical and Theological Studies, as well as an MA in Criminal Justice and BA in Psychology. Shadia currently resides in northern California where she loves to visit the ocean each week for “a date with Jesus.” Visit http://www.shadiahrichi.com


Ponderosa Summer Staff Highlight: Matthew Doherty

Posted by & filed under General, Staff News, Stories of Ministry, Youth.

Matt Doherty photo

Meet Matthew Doherty– a Ponderosa Pro. He has spent two summers counseling, last summer as Pondy’s Program Lead, and this summer– Men’s Staff Counselor! We asked him a few questions about his time on the mountain. This is what he said:

What is your past experience at the Herm? How did you hear about us? What inspired you to come and work on staff?

I was inspired to work on staff at Mount Hermon by my own experience as a camper. I remember a counselor I had at Redwood Camp in 3rd grade, named Pumba. He was the first person to ever have a one-on-one conversation with me about Jesus. Even though I had known about God, and considered myself a believer, being that young I had never encountered the relationship aspect of following Jesus. Pumba inspired me to begin my journey of living a Christian life, and it was his example that I wanted to follow.

I continued going to camp at Redwood and Ponderosa Lodge, and knew that one day I would have my own opportunity to be someone’s Pumba. Each and every summer I met so many people who’s lives looked different, who lived being full of the love of God. I wanted nothing more than to be that type of person, and to live like those people did. By the time I was finally on staff however, I discovered something I never expected. In reality, as is true for most, I didn’t have it all together. And yet, simply by being there to love students, I felt like an instrument in God’s hand. It didn’t matter to God how put together I was, and it surely didn’t matter to the students. All they needed was someone to be there for them, to love them, and to support them, and God was able to use me to be just that.

  • Matthew Doherty photo
  • Matthew Doherty photo

A lot of counselors mention that it’s the “people” that make camp as special as it is. In your experience, what about the people make camp so impactful?  Do you have any short anecdotes about specific campers or staff members you would like to share?

Everyone the Mount Hermon brings together has their own gifts and talents, all of which become vital in meeting different guests where they are at. Whether it is a quirky, exuberant personality, or a more relaxed, reserved one, each person provides their unique strengths to the staff. I love these differences in people because they make coming together and spending a summer serving so much more exciting. Not everyone is like me, and that’s a good thing. Through a staff’s diversity, people need to work harder at living and loving together; it is in these situations where God begins to create a picture of the body of Christ.

If you could encourage anyone to join our staff, what would you tell them?

Joining the Mount Hermon staff is all about joining hand in hand with the work God is already doing in the world, and camp is a special place where God likes to show up. I believe that any apprehension over working with a small group of people for an entire summer gets resolved in the joint vision of Mount Hermon—to lead students one step closer to Jesus. This vision isn’t a pressure put on each individual staff member, it is a calling that one is welcomed into with open arms. Each staff member has their own unique strengths and weaknesses, and yet at the same time, they are able to lift each other up based on those qualities.

Mount Hermon is a place like no other, where you will feel supported, encouraged, and challenged to join in with God’s work already being done in the hearts of each guest. If you are looking for a place where God evidently transforms hearts, look no further than Mount Hermon; but be careful—God might just choose to transform you in the process!

Matthew Doherty photo
Has your time on summer staff provided you with any tools (professionally or personally) that have been applicable post camp life?

Working on summer staff has empowered me in my relationships with others. I have become more confident in myself and my abilities, and have become willing to reach out of my comfort zone. I was challenged in upbuilding ways to love better, work harder, and see value in each interaction. You never know what a guest will remember from their time at camp, which means even a smile can change their next year.

I also learned the importance of teamwork, and what it means to work together towards a common goal. Mount Hermon taught me to work with others who’s personalities aren’t like mine, and that a true team is one where each person’s particularity is equally valued. God calls each person individually to use their gifts they have been given to work for the kingdom, and no where was that more apparent than camp.

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How Christian Writers’ Conferences Have Changed My Life

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

by Kathy Ide
Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference Director

I love Christian writers’ conferences!

I attended my first one in the late 1980s at Biola University in La Mirada, California. I’d been helping a friend prepare for the conference, which she was directing, and she said I’d helped so much I could attend for free if I wanted. I couldn’t imagine why I would go to a writers’ conference—after all, I wasn’t a writer. But I went. And wow, am I ever glad I did!

I took some of the workshops and attended the sessions, and by the end of the week, I was timidly standing in a group of people all chanting, “I am a writer!” And daring to believe it might just be true.

After that conference, I submitted an article to a magazine I’d never heard of until I picked up their writers’ guidelines from the freebie table. They sent me a check for $100. I was hooked!

I returned the following year and found out I could sell the play scripts I’d written for my church drama teams. I ended up selling almost every script I’d ever written. The hook was set!

I went back to Biola for a third year, and it reeled me in hook, line, and sinker. Yes, I believed it. I was a writer!

And then life happened. I took a hiatus from writing. But when life settled down a bit, God brought me back in.

In 1996, I attended the Orange County Christian Writers Conference and joined a critique group with some of the people I met there.

In 1998, I went to my first Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference and was totally blown away by all the authors, agents, publishers, and divine appointments. I went back to Mount Hermon every year from 2001–2004, along with several other conferences. Each one had its own unique atmosphere, focus, and offerings. And I loved them all!

From 2006–2012, I served on the Mount Hermon critique team. In 2013, I became the new critique team coordinator.

In 2014, I was on a board to resurrect the Orange County Christian Writers’ Conference, which had been on hold for a few years. The following year, I was asked to direct the conference. In 2016, I ran the conference (with the invaluable help of a fantastic team of volunteers).

After that event, I sensed the Lord leading me to start my own conference. So I gathered my OC volunteers, supplemented by additional amazing people, and launched the SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference. Its inaugural event happens this June—at Biola University, where I attended my very first conference back in the late 1980s.

Shortly after I started the ball rolling for SoCal, I was asked to direct the Mount Hermon conference. (See my 9/7/16 blog post to read about the crazy way that happened!)

Over the years of attending all these writers’ conferences, I have published articles, short stories, play scripts, devotionals, and Sunday school curriculum. I self-published three booklets for writers (Typing without Pain, Christian Drama Publishing, and Polishing the PUGS: Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling). After meeting my agent at the Mount Hermon conference (Diana Flegal with Hartline Literary Agency), I traditionally published Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors. I then became the editor/compiler for a four-book series of Fiction Lover’s Devotionals published by BroadStreet Publishing Group as gorgeous hardcover gift books. A book I coauthored with Daniel Arrotta, Divine Healing God’s Waycame out last year. And I just released my new Capitalization Dictionary.

I also have a very successful editing business, through which I have the privilege of working with numerous authors, helping them hone their skills as we polish their manuscripts and prepare them for publication … and whatever kind of success God had in mind for them.

With directing two writers’ conferences now, I figured I’d need to cut back on teaching at other conferences. But last weekend, I was on faculty for the West Coast Christian Writers Conference (which I’d committed to before taking on the two director jobs). It was so awesome; I’m really hoping I can do more conferences like that!

When I attended my first writers’ conference back in the late 1980s, I had no idea the journey God had for me. But he has led me, every step of the way, on this winding but fun path. And most of the amazing leaps and incredible twists and turns have occurred as a result of divine appointments and relationships that were forged at Christian writers’ conferences.

If you’ve never attended a writers’ conference, I strongly encourage you to consider doing so. Conferences are a fantastic way to meet authors, editors, publishers, agents, and other important people in the industry. And get some fantastic training that will help you hone your writing craft. And make connections that can be crucial in your writing journey.

I’ve posted several times over the years about the value of Christian writers’ conferences and how to get the most out of them. You can read some of those blogs here:

Why Go to a Writers Conference (April 2014)

Survival Tips for Writers Conferences (April 2014)

Conference Season (Part 1(March 2016)

Conference Season (Part 2(March 2016)

Kathy Ide

Kathy Ide is the author of Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors and the editor/compiler of the Fiction Lover’s Devotional series. She’s a full-time freelance editor/writing mentor. She teaches at writers’ conferences across the country and is the director of the SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference and the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. She’s an owner of the Christian Editor Network LLC, parent company to the Christian Editor Connection and The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network. To find out more about Kathy, visit www.KathyIde.com.


hand with pen writing

See Yourself as a Writer

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

by Blythe Daniel

Over the years there have been messages I’ve heard from pastors or authors that really impacted or altered my thinking. And when it comes to our profession in writing, editing, publishing, and helping bridge writers with publishers, there is something I believe is pivotal to writers taking their place as authors.

See yourself as a writer. Imagine it and start seeing how God can use you. The verse that speaks to me in this is 2 Corinthians 4:18 where we are asked to see by faith. To see with our hearts when we can’t see it with our eyes yet. If we will pursue our calling as a writer, it will come to pass. You are the one to activate it. You have to imagine and walk in it.

During the writer’s conference, you will probably hear me and others ask about how you are doing this. Don’t be put off by this question but use it as a way to activate your path to becoming a writer. God told Abraham he would be a father of many nations and he would be blessed for generations to come. But Abraham had to activate his faith in that – it didn’t just happen

And so it is with your writing. Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Our minds need to be consistently on Christ and our trust in Him – not a person or a process. God has more for you – so much more than you’ll probably ever be able to tap into. But it starts with imagining, fixing your mind on what it means to be a writer and rise up to that. If you think of yourself as “I might be a writer” then you might be. But if you say “I am a writer” you have grasped that which the Lord has for you. You cannot be what you haven’t given your mind to.

So during the conference, continue to set your sights on him and remember: You are a writer. Start seeing yourself as such and you will receive all that you’re supposed to from him during the conference and beyond. If you see it on the inside, you will start to see it on the outside. Don’t let anyone or anything hinder you from seeing who you are and what you are doing with the opportunities he has given you.

blythe daniel

Blythe Daniel is a literary agent and publicist. In addition to placing clients with publishers, she has had clients on the Today show and Fox News and featured in the Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and others. Blythe was the publicity director for seven years at Thomas Nelson Publishers and marketing director for two years. She worked as the product development manager for New York Times best-selling authors John and Stasi Eldredge, and in 2005 Blythe started her agency. In early 2015 the agency launched their blogging network, which reaches several million through the bloggers and their followers. theblythedanielagency.com


sign saying next step

Make 2017 the Year to Step Up

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

by Marci Seither

Surveys say that 82 to 90 percent of Americans want to write something for publication. Crazy, right? Especially since very few actually realize that goal.

Brian Tracy, a business coach, interviewed more than 1,000 people who had said they wanted to write a book. When he asked what was stopping them, 40% stated they didn’t know where to start.

Maybe that’s you. This might be your first time to write anything EVER. But something inside you fans that little flame that whispers, “You are a writer.” Perhaps someone who has read your letters has encouraged you to write more. Maybe you’ve been shaped by the stories written by others and you desire to pass along that gift.

Wherever you are in your writing journey, you are a writer.

Don’t let fear or doubt cloud your desire and diminish your goal. Writing is a lot of work, so roll up your sleeves and join those who have already taken the plunge into the icy waters of the unknown. Take the first step in making 2017 the year you stopped dreaming and started moving forward.

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Registration for Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference is still open.

Preview the conference schedule.

Marci Seither

Marci 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 30 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.


scouts preparing

Scout’s Guide for Conference Attendees: Be Prepared

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

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.


variety of women characters

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

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

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.


Becoming a Donor– Make a Difference

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

Lives are transformed at Kidder Creek every week of camp in significant ways as campers take steps closer to Jesus.

Stories like these are common:

“Michael has a close relationship with Jesus but had been facing some emotional difficulties – camp came at the perfect time for him to reconnect and strengthen that relationship.” – Susan

“Well, if I had to tell about Kidder Creek I would say it was the best camp I ever went to. We did most of my favorite things plus another thing I never heard about. I learned so much about God. All in all, I had the most fun I ever had!” – Natalie

“I learned that no matter what, if you let Jesus fill you, you will produce great fruit. Kidder Creek was amazing. I learned more about God and made a connection with Him.” – Cooper

We rely on generous donors to partner with us in making camp available to all who want to come to camp. In 2016 Kidder Creek granted $180,000 in discounts and camperships to campers in need. Would you prayerfully consider becoming a regular monthly donor and invest your treasure in a program that is making a difference in the lives of young people by helping sponsor them to come to camp?

Find out how you can get involved!


awkward smiley face

10 Ways to Be Awkward at a Writer’s Conference

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

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.


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.

 


Founders Create Lasting Legacy at Kidder Creek

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

Dick and Norma photo

A Black Bear Send Off Back: Loyal Friesen; 2nd row, left to right: Norm Malmberg, Carol Friesen, Carolyn Jones, Dick Jones (seated); Front: Pam Malberg, Norma Jones

Dick and Norma Jones founded Kidder Creek Orchard Camp 40 years ago in 1976. Kidder Creek was the second camp established by the Joneses.

Dick and Norma, now in their mid-90’s recently moved back to Grass Valley to a retirement home near the site of Wolf Mountain, their first camp. Just before leaving I went over to have coffee with the Joneses. With tears in his eyes, Dick Jones shared this story with me:

“Way back in the early days of Ranch Camp I got a call from a mom asking if her daughter could come to camp. The mother shared that her daughter had not been able to go to any other camp because of a health condition she had and that she really wanted to ride a horse and come to camp.”

Dick asked, “Is she contagious?”  “No,” replied the mom.“ Then, of course, she can come,” and he left it at that.

When this young girl’s week of camp arrived, she was elated. It became apparent however after the first riding lesson that her health condition could limit her ability to “ride and horse and come to camp.” This young girl had a condition that caused internal bleeding when her skin was rubbed. Riding a horse was causing some heartbreaking damage.

Her cabin sprung into action! They were going to do everything possible to make this work! They made some modifications to her saddle to ease the rubbing, and she was able to ride all week!

Dick reflected, “At the end of the week, during the Showdeo, you should have seen the smile on this young camper’s face as she rode into the arena and found her mom looking back at her from the crowd.” Dick was finishing up, and his emotions were welling up remembering this young girl. “We got word a few years later that this young girl had passed away. I still remember that smile on that girl’s face and more importantly, I remember that this young girl met Jesus while she was at camp that week.”

“I still remember that smile on that girl’s face and more importantly, I remember that this young girl met Jesus while she was at camp that week.”

We are so grateful that Dick and Norma followed a vision that God had laid on their hearts and, at great cost to them, founded Kidder Creek. The legacy they established of wanting to have a space for kids to be kids, to have adventures, and through those things to meet Jesus continues today.

We look forward to the next 40 years of camping adventures with kids and continuing to see life transformation happen here at Kidder Creek!

Check out the Upcoming Kidder Creek Events!


Extended Deadline for All Mentoring Clinics

Posted by & filed under 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!


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.


Velocity Bike Parks / Felton Meadow Project Draft EIR Publishing Soon!

Posted by & filed under Building Projects, Stories of Ministry, Velocity.

This week we’re celebrating a huge milestone–
and reaching out to you for help.

Over the past 14 months we’ve been working with the County of Santa Cruz planning department and environmental consultants to complete an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Felton Meadow project, which includes Velocity Bike Park. The EIR is a long and detailed process that looks at all aspects of our proposed plan – the level of detail required to complete the EIR ensures that the project meets and in many cases exceeds required development criteria.The Santa Cruz Planning Department will soon be publishing what is called the Draft EIR for public comment. While it is called a “draft” it is the complete document which is finalized after the public comment period. The official public comment period is scheduled to last for 60 days and is your opportunity to submit letters of support.

What we need from you

This is your opportunity to support Velocity Bike Park – by writing a letter to the Santa Cruz Planning Department. It is critical that the planners and County Supervisors see that the support for this project is deep and wide.

Sign the Petition

What happens next

Once the 45 day public comment period closes we are required to respond to all the comments – which is part of the EIR process. Depending on the volume and complexity of the comments we receive this could take a few months. Once all comments have been responded to we’ll be added to the list of projects waiting for a hearing before the Planning Commission – who will vote and have the final say on the project. We’ll need your help at this point by coming to the official hearing where you’ll again have the opportunity to support the project with your presence. The timeline will look something like this:

Public Comment
60 days

Comment Response
30-90 days

Waiting for a hearing
30 days

Public Hearing
August or September

Please help us now by writing your letter of support, and thank you for your support up to this point. It’s been a long road but we’re almost there!


man reading story outdoors

Writing a Captivating True Story

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

by Jan Kern

What draws you into a nonfiction book or article and keeps you captivated? Many readers find  themselves drawn in through story.

Why Story?

A few years ago, Diane Turbide, an editor at Penguin Publishing, said:

People nowadays are assailed on all fronts. They’re busy, they’re overwhelmed by the pace of life, by information. They can’t make out the shape, or the path, or the arc of their own life. Everything is a blur. . . . People are looking for some kind of narrative thread, some kind of plot that makes sense that doesn’t feel so formless. (Penguin Publishing, December 2011)

In our busy culture, readers are looking for connection and grounding through a narrative thread that helps them build a framework to discover meaning for their lives. A well-told true story is one way to effectively create space for that discovery and connection.

The Craft of Storytelling

Lynn Vincent, a master in the craft of narrative nonfiction, naturally creates this space for discovery and connection for her readers. In Same Kind of Different as Me, she does this in part by capturing the nuances of the voice and personality of the two main characters, Denver and Ron. As readers, we get to know these men at first through their independent stories, and then as their paths cross and a connection is formed. We gain not only an expanding view of their lives but also of our own. That’s masterful storytelling.

When I mentor writers, I often use this book as one example of strong narrative writing. I believe great fiction can be researched so well that you believe it must be true, and nonfiction can tell a true story with such excellent use of fiction techniques you have to take a second look to confirm that you’re not reading a novel.

Of course, the scaffolding of the nonfiction story must be research, facts, and reality. That’s a given. But couch this with creative, well-told narrative, and you amp up reader connection several notches. It’s more likely your readers will remember your key message when they put down your article or close the cover of your book.

What’s Next, Storyteller?

Which story will you tell? Here are ten tips as you begin to write your story:

  • Look for life-changing moments: a triumph or a failure, a poignant discovery or monumental decision, or the intersections of conflict.
  • Tell the human story: the real, the authentic, and the fallible.
  • Watch for unique or inspiring angles that will connect well with your reader.
  • Have in mind a key focus question that your story will explore.
  • Decide how much of the story is emotionally appropriate for the purpose of your project and especially in caring for your reader.
  • Consider which POV (point of view) would present the strongest story.
  • If the story is lengthy, consider layering in dialogue and setting, and develop it through a story arc.
  • Watch chronology. Make sure your reader can follow the unfolding of events.
  • Plan the conclusion of your story with a strong takeaway for your reader.

So go ahead, begin. And then bring your story—your own or someone else’s—to the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference and share it.

photo of Jan KernAs an author, speaker, and life coach, Jan Kern is passionate about story—both how we live it with hope and intentionality and how we write it with craft and finesse. Her nonfiction series for teens/young adults garnered ECPA Gold Medallion and Retailers Choice finalist awards. Currently she is enjoying new ministry and writing opportunities for women. When Jan isn’t writing or coaching, she serves alongside her husband, Tom, at a residential ministry for at-risk teens. Jan will be mentoring the nonfiction clinic at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.

 


british coins

Four Ways Money Can Add Depth to Your World

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

by Chris Morris

Many novels hardly even mention currency in the story. And most characters never run out of money or supplies … unless it’s a convenient plot point.

But a creative author can use money as a way to introduce the intricacies of the world that is created. Currency can shine light on the motives of a character. In fantasy, the currency is often based on one or more types of metal. Classic science fiction fare typically has paperless credits or universal currency. So long as authors stick to the mantra of “show, don’t tell,” economies can serve as much more than background.

  1. Political unrest

Imagine a world where a usurper just commandeered control of the kingdom where your story takes place. As an indication of his newly established dominion, he mints new currency with his face on the coins and issues an edict that all commerce must be conducted with his coins only.

Those who support the usurper will gladly comply, while those merchants with less-than-loving feelings toward him will be inclined to continue to accept the “old money.”

Placing your protagonist in the midst of this political intrigue opens a variety of options that will enhance your story.

  1. Bartering with a twist

Picture a universe where a horse with a lame leg has more value to a merchant than a healthy horse. There are  myriad reasons this could be the case, each giving you the chance to expand your world.

Perhaps the sacred texts of your world include this proverb: “The favor of the gods will shine upon the man who cares for a lame animal, for his heart is pure and worthy of reward.”

This uncommon bartering system would create some particularly memorable scenes in a time-travel plot line like Outlander, where the protagonist is not familiar with the world. Your readers would then be able to experience confusion with your main character, which creates further connection with your story.

  1. Black market

It would be easy to “play the religion card” in this scenario. To use an example that could potentially occur in our actual world, consider what the market for hamburgers in India might look like if India were a militant Hindu nation.

But religion is not the only reason a black market might exist. There are many creative concepts that could be applied here. The monarch of a kingdom could be deathly allergic to nuts, so they are banished. But there are certain indigenous tribesmen who still rely upon the sale of Brazil nuts. Welcome to the Brazil nut black market.

Your protagonist can enter this black market for a variety of reasons, ranging from an insatiable desire for Brazil nuts to a need for extra income.

  1. Money exchangers can provide insight into the prejudices among the races.

Consider for a moment what it would be like for a Romulan in the twenty-fourth century to work at a currency exchange for a Klingon world? Try as he might, his strong prejudice against Klingons would come out. This can be brought into the narrative using a short dialogue scene like this:

“We don’t want to exchange our money until Sbardi is working. Like all Romulans, he hates Klingons and gives a better exchange rate.”

In two sentences, the readers are clued into racial tension and see how it impacts the protagonist. The possibilities are endless when you introduce money exchange as a component of your universe.

I am a CPA, but I realize that most people would not want to read a treatise on the economic conditions of Diagon Alley. I’m not suggesting the focus of your stories be on the intricacies of how goods are bought and sold. Instead, I’m pointing out the opportunities that exist in the context of money exchanging hands. Rather than quickly moving over these exchanges, and treating money as a non-entity in the stories you craft, you can add depth and vibrancy to your world.

What other ways could you see currency being used to open up your world to your readers?

Chris is presenting financial workshops for creative people at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference April 7-11, 2017.

photo of chris morrisChris Morris is the founder and managing partner for Chris Morris CPA, LLC, an accounting firm focused on meeting the tax and accounting needs of creative entrepreneurs. He has the privilege of counting editors, digital designers, magazine publishers, authors, photographers, online marketing firms, and book illustrators among his clients. He is the author of the book I’m Making Money, Now What? A Creative Entrepreneur’s Guide to Managing Taxes & Accounting for a Growing Business.