by Carrie Talbott
Once upon a time there was a faculty member—the fairest smarty pants in all the camp. “Kill the adverbs and avoid split infinitives.”
Totally nodding my head in agreement, wise instructor lady. Love your class so far, but if you call on me I might have to break up with you and slip out the double doors.
Your basic writers’ conference gives you tools to become a better writer. Tips to hook your reader. Insights to hone your craft.
The Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference gives you a whole lot more than basic. And when one of your instructors is the Senior Acquisitions Editor from David C. Cook, you are clearly not in English 101.
Her split infinitives were plenty for this simple writer. But when overachievers in the class started showing off their grammar skills, we who just want to write glazed over and slumped down.
Feel free to look these up if you want to thoroughly
kiss up to impress an editor or aggressively bore your neighbor.
- Independent and relative clauses,
- Third conditional sentences,
- Imperfect past participle,
- Quantifiers of relative quantity.
Um, what? Totally impressed, old guy in the front. But I don’t need a play-by-play of your dramatic narrative nonfiction and how you used quantum physics in your life to manifest what you wanted while using the above list.
Spacing out now …
Craving an adjective? I gotcha covered. Need a verb? I’m your girl. Beyond that—not so much. Of course, life would be lovely if I actually knew what each of those intimidating terms meant and how to use them while I write, but alas, I do not.
I got almost straight A’s through every English class; why didn’t these rules stick? My normal routine includes hitting “Control N,” staring at a blank screen and clickety-clacking my way through new ideas. Now I wonder if I’m doing it wrong.
What’s “it,” Carrie? Don’t write like that—you know better.
I’ve got an idea, future editor of my future book… how ‘bout I write the stories and you let me know if I ever breach the English 909 rules. This will be our relationship.
When we moved on from the über overwhelming parts of the classes to the helpful, practical parts, I woke up and sponged.
“Avoid clichés like the plague.”
Yessss. That’s as refreshing as water in the desert.
“Show, don’t tell.”
I’m trying. I mean, I tried. Err … I will try.
“Write your introduction last.”
Okay. Seems awkwardly backward for Type-As, but okay.
“Don’t use words like ‘awkwardly.’”
You’re losing me.
“Practice B.I.C. (Butt In Chair)”
Woohoo—I’m doing this right now!
“Have you thanked Jesus for unanswered prayer?”
Uhh—no. But I could!
And on I went, typing with focus, ignoring my insecurities, ready to attack my new challenges. After five days of this, however, my soaked sponge clocked out and I continued on autopilot.
Don’t curl up in the back, just take copious notes and absorb when you get home.
In the midst of grammar chaos, I snagged a few quotes from our fantastic instructors and speakers. Don’t have to be a writer to love these….
- “Show up and serve.” ~ Kathi Lipp
- “Develop a heart of integrity. Don’t allow jealousy to fester. Remain humble. Surround yourself with friends who hold you accountable.” ~ Carol Kent
- “Our failures only matter when we allow them to prevent God from embracing us.” ~ Mick Silva
- “There is still room for your voice.” ~ Alice Crider
- “When God is about to bring up a new thing, Satan is usually about to bring up an old thing.” ~ Susie Larson
- “There will always be trolls; develop thick skin now. Is this your call from God? Then get back up and move on.” ~ Bill Giovannetti
In addition to the wise writers and editors, I met a multitude of conferees who surprised me with their stories and encouraged me through mine. They wrote about everything from sexual abuse and politics, to alcohol addiction, psychotherapy, and autism.
We exchanged business cards like cute little author nerds and agreed to connect in cyberspace. Not in the midst of the fourteen-hour days though—once we all got home and decompressed from the lack of sleep and firehose learning.
I learned more. I feel smarter. Maybe not compared to those of you who know what modifiers are and why you shouldn’t dangle them, but smarter than two weeks ago. And I’m more motivated than ever to continue writing thanks to Mount Hermon and the rad faculty members.
Will I return next year? Heck yeah!
I mean yes. Lord willing, yes.
And they all wrote happily, forever, with laughter.
Recent transplants from twelve years in Baja, Mexico, Carrie now lives in California with her husband and two boys. Raised in the forest at a Christian camp, Carrie’s heart is for young women and all things wood. She has a children’s book about bullying, writes for magazines, and is currently collaborating on a memoir about grit and resiliency while outlining a book about their rough and zany years in full-time ministry. Carrie is dedicated to Jesus and avocados, and blogs regularly about hope and how-to’s with a splash of wit at carrietalbottink.com. She can also be found on Instagram @carrie_talbott_ink, on Twitter @carrie_talbott and on Facebook at Carrie Talbott Ink. She believes normal is boring and weirder is better.