by John Vonhof
My life changed at the Mt. Hermon fountain enjoying a dish of ice cream one evening in 1997. My wife and I were attending an Empty Nest conference for couples facing an empty house when the kids are finally gone. I noticed a lady at a table going through a writers conference binder and went over to talk to her. She told me about the conference.
The next year I was there—and I’ve been going since.
As a first-timer, I pored over the list of faculty and workshops offered. It was inspiring. Major Morning Tracks, workshops, Night Owls, possible meetings with editors and agents, and a whole lot more. I charted the workshops I wanted to attend with a first and second choice. I studied the bios of the faculty to make the best decisions. I even went to the library and looked through the giant Books in Print to see what each faculty member I wanted to talk to had written. I wanted to know as much as possible about them. Then I went to the conference with my book proposal in hand. I knew I had a winner.
Well, maybe or maybe not. I learned about things like platform and the value of big-name recognition and that I didn’t have either of those important ingredients. I also learned about markets and how my topic did not have a large enough market to interest a publisher. Yes, I was humbled. But long story made short, I went home and self-published the book, The Pastoral Search Journey: A Guide to Finding Your Next Pastor, which the following year was picked up by a small interdenominational publisher. The title is now in a second edition and has sold over 8,500 copies and still sells. I went back with another book idea and was given a list of big-name authors who wrote that type of book, and still I didn’t have that kind of name recognition and platform.
So what did I do? I went home and sold an article on the power of story in the nonfiction genre. Then I changed my book idea from the traditional nonfiction book style into one that uses the power of story to teach while it entertains. After twenty years of tugging at my heartstrings, it’s close to being done. It’s a book that won’t let go of me and it’s evolving into a better book than I could have imagined. Mt. Hermon has taught me to keep on learning, and many of those ideas have worked their way into my articles, proposals, and books.
Why do I keep going back to Mt. Hermon? It’s easy to say why. I’ve learned more than I ever thought possible. Pitching, proposals, cover letters, characters, plot, marketing, genre-specific instruction, believing in myself, and so much more. I have confidence in my writing. And of course, I love it. But I also love the people and the interaction with conferees and faculty.
Over the years, I have served in many ways, teaching workshops, Night Owls, and even Major Morning Tracks. I now manage the Manuscript Processing Team and love handling everyone’s manuscripts. The team is blessed as we help all the conferees and faculty.
What I love most is taking time to encourage conferees as they pick up their manuscripts and ask questions. The conferees trust us with their hopes and dreams—their manuscripts. Our goal is to do well by them and help them have a positive conference. The faculty, resource team members, and Mt. Hermon support staff are there to bless you and serve you—the conferees.
The whole conference is designed to help you have a positive experience, learn a lot, work on your writing, meet genuinely nice people, eat great food, laugh, sing, and worship—all in an effort to help you improve your writing. I hope you will join us in this 50th anniversary year.
John coordinates the Advanced Submissions for the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. As part of registration, conferees may submit up to two manuscripts (maximum ten pages each) for faculty readings. Details and submission procedure requirements.
John Vonhof writes nonfiction books on a variety of interesting subjects. His topics range from a book about foot care for extreme athletes, and books about church life, book marketing, niche writing, and more. In addition to Fixing Your Feet, John has authored several self-published books about book marketing and niche writing. Writing and its related endeavors are a huge part of his life. In 2015 he started the podcast and website Writers & Authors on Fire. John and his wife, along with their happy cocker, live in California’s Central Valley. John is the owner of Footwork Publications and is always looking for new ideas to develop to help others.