Posts Categorized: Writers Conference

Buddy System for First Time Mount Hermon Writers

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Twenty-Four Days until our Headstart Mentoring Clinic commences, and 26 days until Writers Conference begins.  Can you believe it?  We’re moving up in our registrant totals so if you’re going to come, sign up NOW!   Don’t want you stranded if you intend to experience this amazing conference this year.

Wanted to share another comment from a past writer who has been to Mount Hermon Writers Conference . . . this one from Jeanette Hanscome, our Buddy System Chairperson.  This is what she says.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work; if one falls down, his friend can pick him up…”  Eccesiates 4:9-10a

I arrived at my first Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference in 1995 not knowing anyone.  As excited as I was, I felt clueless and scared.  I had so many questions.  What workshops should I take? What if an editor wants to see my work? What should I wear? Am I the only one who feels overwhelmed?

A few years ago, while reminiscing about our first conference experiences, my friend Marilyn Hilton, and I got an idea for a pre-conference mentoring program that would allow first-timers to get such questions answered before they arrived at Mount Hermon.  They could also receive advice on how to pace themselves through the jam-packed schedule, approach editors, and get through moments of discouragement.  The idea grew into “the Buddy System.” 

It has been so encouraging to watch the program evolve over the last few years.  God has used it to create friendships, provide conference veterans a way to give back, and allow new registrants to arrive at the conference feeling confident and ready to make the most of their Mount Hermon experience.

Are you feeling like I did in 1995–excited but petrified?  Do you have a long list of questions? Would you like to walk into the opening lunch knowing someone? Sign up for the Buddy System.  Think of it as one of those “Two are better than one” things.

You’ll get a better return for your work:  Getting pre-conference questions answered will allow you to avoid mistakes, plan ahead, and be a good steward of your five days at Mount Hermon.

If you fall down, a friend can pick you up:  If you start panicking before the conference, your buddy can encourage you.  If a crisis strikes, you have someone to pray for you. If you get discouraged halfway through the conference and are tempted to go home, you have someone to help you over the hump.  And next year you will have a place to serve at the conference as you pass all that you learned on to someone else who needs help.

If you would like to be matched with an experienced buddy, please contact me at  If you would like to serve as a buddy, I would love to hear from you!  Buddy pairs will be matched up this week so it’s not too late.

Jeanette Hanscome has attended fifteen Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conferences. She is the author of three books for Focus on the Family and over 300 articles, devotions, and stories.  She lives in Reno, NV with her husband, two sons, one needy dog, and two crazy cats.  Visit her website at

Major Morning Instructor, Glenna Salsbury’s Excitement

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Oh, the gift of writing!  Fiction or non-fiction…major publisher or self-published…books change lives.  But only if they are read!  And “word-of-mouth” provides a huge assist to the “word-of-your-pen”!  I know because I write and I speak…and my mouth is a big help to my message reaching readers.

So, if you would like to increase your speaking confidence, hone your verbal message, learn to tell spell-binding stories and hold an audience in the palm of your hand…join me at Mount Hermon Writers Conference in my Major Morning Track, “Enhancing Your Mouth–While Standing on Your Feet!”

This is the third time I have had the privilege of teaching this series at Mount Hermon and there are numerous Mount Hermon authors who are now, to their own amazement, being paid to speak!  In addition, they are selling hundreds of books from the back of the room!

In this Major Track you will:

  • Receive individual coaching
  • Learn how to tell your own story
  • Discover the secret to creating rhythm as you speak
  • Find techniques to overcome your fear and/or resistance to speaking
  • Enhance your understanding of your life purpose
  • Identify the essential clues for connecting with an audience–from book signings to banquets

It’s my heart’s desire that you experience fresh enthusiasm for your relationship with Christ, so each day I will be sharing some Biblical truths and personal experience that the Lord has used to enhance my walk as a believer.

Come join me.  I believe you will be a more inspired writer, a more confident communicator and have an enhanced checking account as a result!

Besides all that, you will experience large doses of laughter during your learning!

Glenna Salsbury, Instructor:  Enhancing Your Mouth–While Standing On Your Feet!  Glenna is a professional award winning speaker.

Writer Sees Mount Hermon Writers as Essential

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As a Bible teacher and speaker I had thought it would be an easy transition to writing.  Mount Hermon’s Writers Conference set me straight.  When I attended my first conference in 2003, I entered a world I didn’t even realize existed.    And I realized I would need to learn a new craft.  It was actually frightening at first.  I felt very inadequate, but the professionals at Mount Hermon balanced the reality of the business of writing with the encouragement to follow God’s call to write.  Each succcessive year of attendance widened my scope of knowledge, furthered the professional contacts I made, and increased the friends who continue to teach and encourage me.

I can’t imagine trying to write professionally and not taking advantage of the vast resources Mount Hermon’s Writers Conference offers each year. It is truly a gift and worth every penny.

Mona and her husband, Gary, co-authored Unfaithful, Hope & Healing after Infidelity, published by David. C. Cook in 2006 with a revision released in 2009.  She’s had several articles published and is active in a local professional writer’s group.  She and her husband minister to couples in crisis through Hope & Healing Ministries.

Catherine Felt Appreciates all She’s Received at MH Writers Conference

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When I first came to Mount Hermon four years ago, I had virtually no knowledge of the writing industry, or the craft.  During my three years of attending the conference I had the chance to be mentored by two amazing Christian authors and learn about the industry from agents, editors, and other writers.  The free critiques helped me fine-tune my writing.  I now have a well-respected agent and am working on revising my novel.  Mount Hermon Christian Writers conference is a great place to go if you want to learn how to get started as a writer.  The community is friendly and helpful, and the knowledge is absolutely priceless.

Catherine Felt, YA Fantasy Novelist

L-R: InkBlotz Writers Group members Joanne Reese, Cheri Williams, Catherine Felt, Hillari Delgado, Jennifer Vallier

L-R InkBlotz Writers Group members Joanne Reese, Cheri Williams, Catherine Felt, Hillari Delgado, Jennifer Vallier.

Just a reminder that Mount Hermon is the only Writers Conference that caters to all levels of writer, from the beginner,  intermediate, to the professional. Our goal is to be able to advance skills for all levels of proficiency.  We love serving all of you at the level of your abilities.

Rachel Williams, Director of Writers Conference

MH Writers Conference Moment with Joanne Reese

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“I find it difficult to put my Mount Hermon experience into words.  I could talk about the cozy accommodations, the great food and the breathtaking surroundings.  I could tell you that career-boosting connections and lifelong friendships were made, that mentoring help was accumulated by the truckload, and critiquing comments polished me up until I shined.  All would be true.  But for the sake of honesty, I feel the need to post a disclaimer:  God showed up!  His presence was more real to me than it had ever been.  And coming down off that mountain air, I knew two things.  One, just how difficult becoming a writer was going to be; and two, that God was calling me to something so much bigger than myself.”

Joanne Reese ( contributes regularly to a local on-line magazine called  Her devotions have been published on, and she has been published in Light & Life magazine.  An article will also appear in Vista magazine during the summer of 2010.  She has composed several articles for her church’s newsletter and has created Bible study curriculum for home groups.

Joanne is pictured with her 2009 Mentor Karen O’Connor

Writers Conference Instructor Changes

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The Lord has His creative ways of working things out for Writers Conference each year, and this year is no exception.  Several of our faculty members have had to cancel and I wanted to let you know.

TRICIA GOYER, our Teen Track instructor, and her husband have been trying to adopt a little Chinese baby for the past three years, but have continually faced a non-responsive, frustrating process.  Last week they got a call about a baby that will be born the first week of March right in their area . . . did they want to adopt this child?  What would you say if you were in their shoes?  Of course they want the child!  Because they can’t take their little girl across statelines until the adoption is final (which could take considerable time) this cuts out Writers Conference for them!  Tricia was sad/happy . . . sad, because she really wanted to teach the Teen Track . . . happy with this incredible gift God has placed in their laps.  I totally understand.  How could I not?  Tricia has agreed to teach the 2011 Teen Track!  Thanks, Tricia!

Wednesday  God provided BRYAN DAVIS to fill in for Tricia.  Bryan was our Teen Track instructor in 2008 and the students loved him.  And he loved them, staying up ’til all hours of the night helping them with their writing projects.  Even though Bryan has a seminary degree and a degree in industrial engineering, he relates well with the teens.  We’re so excited Bryan had the time to fill this vital position.

Two other instructors have had to cancel because of unexpected surgeries.  VICKI CRUMPTON, executive editor with Revell/Baker Publishing Group, let me know several weeks ago the doctor wants her to have neck surgery as soon as possible.  She asked if it were possible to fill her spot with Revell’s senior editor ANDREA DOERING.  Now she’s worried that we’ll like Andrea so much we may never invite her back!  Not a chance, Vicki, and thanks for helping me fill this spot!

Then agent JANET BENREY, with Benrey Literary, ended up hurting her knee right around the holidays, and is facing knee surgery, which didn’t bode well for her hobbling around Mount Hermon’s hilly terrain.  We have filled her spot with agent SANDRA BISHOP of MacGregor Literary.

I see this as clear proof  God cares about writers conference and has His people in line to help make it the best possible.  I’m looking forward to what He is going to do.

TIME LEFT: Just a reminder there’s only two months left to save your shekels and register for this awesome conference that will change your life!  Hustle gang!

Looking forward to seeing you here . . . soon!

Creative Ideas for Getting Your Friends to Writers

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Last week I got an e-mail from a woman who is in charge of a good sized writers group, asking if there was a way she could bring a group to Writers Conference!  Why YES!  Go for it, was what I responded.  Even suggested they use the campership fund if necessary to get them all here.  It looks like they’ll be bringing 11 or 12 writers!  How fun is that?  Imagine coming to Mount Hermon Writer’s with a group of your writing buddies.  Sounds like heaven on earth to me, how about you?

Are you a part of a writers group?  Have you suggested that everyone come to the writers conference together?  Do it.  And if you do, e-mail me and let’s talk about how to get the largest grouping of your writing friends here at the same time!  My e-mail is  You WILL hear back from me.

Eager to see how many of you take me up on this.  You’ll never be sorry you did!

Pre-Conference Manuscripts Starting to Arrive!

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Gang, I received our first pre-conference manuscripts today, TWO MONTHS before the Writers Conference.  That’s what I call pre-planning!  Way to go, Chris Janssen!  I’m impressed, if no one else is.

Are you getting ready?  Saving your money?  Writing your hearts out for the B&H Fiction Contest?  Some have asked where they can get Leanna Ellis’s Once in a Blue Moon.  Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, and Borders are taking pre-orders and folks will receive it first of February. It will also be in stores mid-Feb or you can read the manuscript for free on netgalley.  Any way you choose to get ahold of the book  you should have enough time to read it and write what you think would be a great additional chapter to the end of the book.  Start laying out scenarios in your mind as soon as possible.  Your chapter needs to be sent to no later than March 10th.   Have at it!  You can do it.

If you haven’t encouraged a couple of your writing buddies to consider Mount Hermon Writers Conference, please do.  They’ll never be sorry.  And this year is going to be top knotch.  The faculty is awesome, keynoter Charlie Peacock is a great motivational speaker and author, and the opportunities for you to improve the craft of writing is unparalleled.  And what can be said about the incredible networking with other writers, publishers, magazine company reps, and agents?  Nothing quite like it.  Free critiques are an amazing plus.  If you’re a writer, you really shouldn’t  miss this.

And those of you who need just a little help financially, register and pay your registration fee, then ask for a campership form.  Through the generosity of people who love Mount Hermon, we have some limited funds that can be used against the cost of tuition.  If you need it, use it.  That’s what it’s for.

Only two months to go . . . get those pre-conference manuscripts in . . . and urge your friends to register and come with you!



It’s Not About Publishing–It’s About the Process!

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I asked Austin Boyd, Mount Hermon friend, faculty member and best-selling author, if I could quote him in response to 2010 Writers Conference faculty member Mary DeMuth’s FB question as to how long it took to finally get published.  Here is his response.  Love his realism!

“How many hours did I write before I was published?” I’ve lost count.

Like Forrest Gump, running across the country because he needed to, I was penning poetry from age 10 to 23. Reams of it, because it was gushing out and I had to capture it. How many hours? Conservatively, 2000.

I dropped poetry “cold turkey” when I became a Navy pilot; writing quatrains in the ready room before a mission to hunt down Russians can ruin your career. So, I wrote prose… dozens of articles, news clips, magazine blurbs, technical papers and a 626 page thesis that would crush your foot if it fell on you. How many hours in 20 years? Conservatively, 5000.

I spent 10 years on my first novel, The Evidence. I revised it through three developmental edits and $7000, learning the craft and accumulating freelancer edit expenses. I read more than 25 Writer’s Digest books, including everything published about novels from 1994-2004. I counted the words of all those versions, well over 10,000. How many hours? I kept a log. Just shy of 2000.

So, it’s a wag… but 9000 hours, give or take 10%. It’s an estimate; age 10 was 45 years ago.

I wouldn’t trade away a minute of those hours. They were the formation of who I am. God placed in me this strange need to compose with words. It’s my music, my greatest love outside my wife and kids. And I kept every word I’ve ever written. None of those hours were wasted. They define me.”

Austin Boyd

So my word to you? Exercise your  gift of writing  no matter now long it takes!  After all–it’s honestly not about getting published… it’s the process!  Learn the craft to the best of your ability by attending Mount Hermon Writers Conference (or other Writers Conferences), reading all you can on your genre, and letting God put that learning to good use in changing people in whatever way HE wants to through your written words.  Have at it, for His sake!

See for information on the 2010 Writers Conference.  You won’t be sorry!

How About Asking for Writers Conference Help This Christmas?

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A month before Christmas??  Where has 2009 gone?

I’ve been thinking that perhaps the best Christmas gift anyone could receiver this year (other than Salvation and a loving family) would be money given toward Mount Hermon Writers Conference!  Wouldn’t that be awesome?

Do you have several family members who have asked you what you want for Christmas this year?  Perhaps  several could go together to give a substantial amount toward your conference registration?  Think about it.

We’ll do all we can on this end to make it valuable for your writing career as well as supply the eternal value, too.   Count on us to do our part.  Might be the best Christmas gift you’ve ever received.

Here’s to a Writers Conference Fund gift this Christmas.  Hope to see you in 2010.  It’s going to be wonderful.

A Few Fun Details of 2010 Writers Conference

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Has it really been since May that I’ve written on the blog? Must rectify this!

2010 Faculty are all invited –a very exciting group of people will be here to teach and facilitate this coming event. We have some first time faculty who will bring some new flavors to what is already wonderful.  There will be an Internet Major Morning Track besides a Sci-Fi/Speculative Fiction Major Morning Track . . . things we’ve never done in the longer training sessions. Prolific fiction author and teacher, Tricia Goyer, will be teaching the Teen Track which should be great fun! One of her writing students won the Most Promising Writer award last year at 17 years old and has a contract for her first historical novel with a well-known publisher!

Awards continue to grow . . . this year we’ve added a new award for the  Most Promising Teen Writer! Are there any home schoolers out there who have a group of students that like to write?  Let’s get them motivated to start saving to come to this amazing conference where they’ll be well trained in the craft of writing.   Come on, gang. Get writing!

And we have a NEW Fiction Contest as well. B&H Publishing Group is sponsoring a contest for “adding an additional ending” to Leanna Ellis’s new book, Blue Moon, which comes out in February 2010.  Length of entries is limited to 3500 words. If you’re interested, purchase your book at the first of February and read it, then get your pencil sharpened (well, you computer techies know I’m speaking in a figure of speech) and “get the lead out” on the paper so you can turn your best idea in by March 1st.  I know it doesn’t give you much time, but you can do it.  Writers need goals, right?  Details are up on the website–click “forms” at the top menu, then on “General Info for Writers” under that.  Check it out.  The winner will have some pretty wonderful opportunities.

In the meantime, continue to save your money and motivate some of your writing friends to do the same. Let’s pack the place out . . . for your creative growth and His sake!


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Yeah!! Our first 10 teens are registering right now for the Teen Track at our 2010 Writers Conference! Students from Turlock Christian School in Turlock, CA are selling muffins in the mornings and ads for the school newspaper to raise the money they need to come to the Conference. They are so excited and their English teacher, Lyn Thompson, is thrilled. So are WE! Years ago Oliver Wendell Holmes said when a mind is stretched by new insight, it can never return to it’s original dimensions! It will be a life changing experience for them.

Do you know of any other Christian Schools who would be interested in sending high schoolers to the Writers Conference? I’m happy to work with them on ideas for raising funds. If they get started right now it will be possible for them, and what an exciting experience to watch them work hard at raising the funds to make this happen. Contact me at

And, are the rest of you working on saving a little each month so that 2010 can be a packed house? You won’t be sorry you did.

Have a wonderful week.

Teen Track Growing Already for 2010 Writers

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Today I had a phone call from a Christian school teacher who is already planning on bringing her journalism class to the Teen Track at the Spring Writers Conference!!!! I’m so excited. She is planning on starting the school year off with cupcake sales each Friday to start raising money right out of the shoot! What a great idea. Yeah, Mrs. Thompson!

Are there more folks out there who have connections with Christian school administrators, or English department heads that could so some “word-of-mouth” marketing for us? It would be great to have a whole lot of teenagers here learning along with all us adults, wouldn’t it? If you have any ideas, or can connect me with administrators who might have the authority to let students take the time away from school and perhaps even get credit for it, let me know. Happy to talk with them. My e-mail is or my direct phone is 831-430-1238. Let’s fill the place . . . and gain a huge increase in teens for 2010.

Thanks, and have a great weekend!

2010 Writers Conference Keynoter Announced

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Charlie Peacock may be best known for his creativity as a singer-songwriter, pianist, record producer, but in addition to his successful music career, he is a published author, speaker and noted expert at the intersection of Christianity and the Arts.

Charlie’s writing includes the discipleship book, New Way to Be Human, and his analysis of Christian music, At The Crossroads, both published by Waterbrook Press/Random House.  As a columnist, Charlie has writtten for CCM, Christian Musician, and Worshipper Magazines, with articles in ByFaith, Prism, and Re:generation Quarterly.  He has also been cited in First Things, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, Mix, Electronic Musician, Keyboard Magazine, Billboard, CCM, Melody Maker, Details, Publishers Weekly, Paste, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and others.

Sara Groves:  “I like a lot of things about Charlie Peacock, but my favorite thing is his joy.  It pours out into his music, production, writing and friendships.  He is preoccupied with the Kingdom, how it works, and how it is meant to come to us, and because of this, his books, his music and his life are full of fruit and clues about kingdom living.”

Denis D. Haack, Ransom Fellowship, editor of Critique:  “Few people have the necessary gifts to communicate wonder in both music and words, and Charlie Peacock is one of those rare artists.  In both the poetry of his lyrics and the thoughtful prose of his books, he asks just the right questions so that we see more deeply.  Those hungry to be fully human will gravitate to New Way to Be Human, not because Charlie is clever (though he is), but because his heart and imagination is aflame with The Story that brings both grace and hope in our fragmented world.”

Charlie and his wife, author Andi Ashworth, co-founded Art House America in 1990 — a ministry of hospitality, art, and Christian studies, whose primary mission is the advancement of the integration of arts and the Christian faith for the benefit of the Church and the culture at large.

Rachel Williams Co-author for Don Miller’s New Book?

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How do you feel about viral marketing?

I first read a couple of months ago that one of our Writers Conference alumni, Mary Hampton, was a “co-author” to Don’s new book. Wow! I fell for it and congratulated Mary on FB. Then this morning on FB I saw that another alumni and mentor for our Head Start mentoring clinic this spring, Tricia Goyer, was the co-author! Being exceptionally bright, I murmured, “Something’s fishy here.”

I did some research and, behold, Thomas Nelson personnel blogging about “You too can be a co-author with Don Miller”! Fill in the blanks and add a comment about working with Don — and “walla” . . . Don’s wakky idea for marketing to get the title of his book out there in the public. So I said to myself, “Self, why not just for fun? And make it silly so people would know it was a joke.”

Check it out at: Rachel Williams Co-author for Don Miller’s New Book

How close to the line should we go for marketing? Does this sell books or merely bring laughs and build community around humor? Good questions to ponder in your spare time today. Let me know how you feel about this.

Totally apart from viral marketing . . . how are you doing on your saving program for 2010 Writers? Faculty are already being invited and I’m waiting for some specific information on our keynote speaker so that I can let the secret out. It’s going to be something special and different. Can’t wait. Hope you’re excited, too. Check the website in the next couple of weeks for the denouement!

Looking toward 2010

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Cherry blossoms have now been replaced by the most glorious array of dogwood blossoms I’ve ever seen at Mount Hermon!  Wish you could see them.  I love that God puts on such a display of His glory right around the time of Writers Conference every year.

Didn’t we have an amazing 2009 Writers Conference?!  God was so evident in our midst and a palpable sense of peace pervaded everything that went on.  Bill Butterworth knocked it out of the park with his motivational/Biblical general sessions, Dave Talbott and Dave Burn’s worship times were wonderful, while instruction and mentoring were life-changing.  The teen track added fun and laughter to the whole with their full-campus espionage game played in costume Saturday evening.  They even put on foreign accents.  Funniest thing — the kids were so authentic they actually fooled our Mount Hermon security guards who stopped them for questioning!  :>)

We’re already planning for next year and are excited to be able to put up specific information on the web as soon as we have confirmation of our keynoter. One new thing we’re working on is pre-registration for those of you who would like to secure your place while you save for the 2010 conference through the rest of this year.  Be watching the website for updates on this.  It’s the first time we’ve offered this option.

In the next little while we’ll have the CD/MP3 form up for anyone desirous of ordering individual workshops/tracks/general sessions from the recent Writers Conference.  It’s a great way to continue learning during the year.  And they’re exceedingly reasonable.  Even if you weren’t able to come this year you may purchase them.  Watch the web for the little icon that will lead you to the form.  We should be receiving the audio masters in a few weeks from OT Studios and then I’ll get the form finished and uploaded, hopefully by May 15th.

Can’t wait to see you all again.  Have a fabulous summer and fall, and make sure you’re encouraging friends and new writers to start saving for 2010.  A little bit of cash put away each week will enable you to be ready to come March 26, 2010.  It will be life-changing, as you well know.  In the meantime, I’ll meet you on FB and Twitter !


40th Writer’s Conference Anniversary

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We’re a week away from our 40th Writer’s Conference Anniversary!! Can you believe it?  And I’ve been thinking a lot about the present economy and its effect on writing in general, and publishing in specifics.

–I read the first-time CBE event in Dallas over the weekend was expecting 10,000 registrants and came in with less than a third of that! Is it just the economy?

– just came out with it’s second version of the Kindle making it possible to download and read any book out there. Will this cut into the publishing business? And the business of literary agents?

One of our Mount Hermon executive staff members cut an article out of the Time Magazine from February and gave it to me to read . . . I wonder what you’re thoughts are about it.  Read it and think laterally for the future of writing!  Willing to share your thoughts and creative ideas for the future of Writes Conferences?

Excerpts from an article in Time Magazine, February 2, 2009, pg. 71-73

Written by Lev Grossman and reported by Andrea Sachs.

“…The publishing industry is in distress. Publishing houses—among them Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Doubleday and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt—are laying off staff left and right. Random House is in the midst of a drastic reorganization. Salaries are frozen across the industry. Whispers of bankruptcy are fluttering around Borders; Barnes and Noble just cut 100 jobs at its headquarters, a measure unprecedented in the company’s history. Publishers Weekly (PW) predicts that 2009 will be “the worst year for publishing in decades.”

A lot of headlines and blogs to the contrary, publishing isn’t dying. But it is evolving, and so radically that we may hardly recognize it when it’s done. . . .

What’s the Matter with Publishing?

It isn’t the audience. People are still reading. According to a National Endowment for the Arts study released Jan. 12, literary reading by adults has actually increased 3.5% since 2002, the first such increase in 26 years. So that’s not the problem. What is?

The economy, obviously. Plenty of businesses are hurting . . . (but) publishing has deeper, more systemic problems, like the fact that its business model evolved during an earlier fiscal era. It’s an antique, a financial coelacanth (def. no real commercial value, apart from being coveted by museums and private collectors) that dates back to the Depression.

Consider the advance system, whereby a publisher pays an author a nonreturnable up-front fee for a book. If the book doesn’t “earn out,” in the industry parlance, the publisher simply eats the cost. Another example: publishers sell books to bookstores on a consignment system, which means the stores can return unsold books to publishers for a full refund. Publishers suck up the shipping costs both ways, plus the expense of printing and then pulping the merchandise. . . . These systems are created to shift risk away from authors and bookstores and onto publishers. But risk is something the publishing industry is less and less able to bear.

If you think about it, shipping physical books back and forth across the country is starting to seem pretty 20th century. Novels are getting restless, shrugging off their expensive papery husks and transmigrating digitally into other forms. Devices like the Sony Reader and Amazon’s Kindle have gained devoted followings. Google has scanned more than 7 million books into its online database; the plan is to scan them all, every single one, within 10 years. Writers podcast their books and post them, chapter by chapter, on blogs. Four of the five best-selling novels in Japan in 2007 belonged to an entirely new literary form called keitai shosetsu: novels written, and read, on cell phones. Compared with the time and cost of replicating a digital file and shipping it around the world—i.e., zero and nothing—printing books on paper feels a little Paleolithic.

And speaking of advances, books are also leaving behind another kind of paper: money! Those cell-phone novels are generally written by amateurs and posted on free community websites, by the hundreds of thousands, with no expectation of payment. For the first time in modern history, novels are becoming detached from dollars. They’re circulating outside the economy that spawned them.

And there’s a staggering amount of fan fiction, fan-written stories based on fictional worlds and characters borrowed from popular culture—Star Trek, Jane Austen, Twilight, you name it. It qualifies as a literary form in its own right. hosts 386,490 short stories, novels and novellas in its Harry Potter section alone.

No printing and shipping. No advances. Maybe publishing will survive after all. Then again, if you can have publishing without paper and without money, why not publishing without publishers?

Vanity of Vanities, All Is Vanity

. . . It’s true. Saying you were a self-published author used to be like saying you were a self-taught brain surgeon. But it has begun to shed its stigma. Over the past couple of years, vanity publishing has become practically respectable. As the technical challenges have decreased—you can turn a Word document on your hard drive into a self-published novel on Amazon’s Kindle store in about five minutes—so has the stigma . . . . The fact that William P. Young’s The Shack was initially self-published hasn’t stopped it from spending 34 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list.

Daniel Suarez, a software consultant in LA, sent his techno-thriller Daemon to 48 literary agents. No go. So he self-published instead. Bit by bit, bloggers got behind Daemon. Eventually Random House noticed and bought it and a sequel for a sum in the high six figures. “I really see a future in doing that,” Suarez says, “where agencies would monitor the performance of self-published books, in a sort of Darwinian selection process, and see what bubbles to the surface. I think of it as crowd-sourcing the manuscript-submission process.”

. . . And there’s actual demand for this stuff. In theory, publishers are gatekeepers: they filter literature so that only the best writing gets into print . . . but (self-publishing would suggest) that there are cultural sectors that conventional publishing isn’t serving. We can read in the rise of self-publishing not only a technological revolution but also a quiet cultural one—an audience rising up to claim its right to act as a tastemaker too.

The Orchard and the Jungle

So if the economic and technological changes of the 18th century gave rise to the modern novel, what’s the 21st century giving us? Well, we’ve gone from industrialized printing to electronic replication so cheap, fast and easy, it greases the skids of literary production to the point of frictionlessness. From a modern capitalist marketplace, we’ve moved to a postmodern, postcapitalist bazaar where money is increasingly optional. And in place of a newly minted literate middle class, we now have a global audience of billions, with a literacy rate of 82% and rising.

Put those pieces together, and the picture begins to resolve itself: more books, written and read by more people, often for little or no money, circulating in a wild diversity of forms, both physical and electronic, far outside the charmed circle of New York City’s entrenched publishing culture. Old Publishing is stately, quality-controlled and relatively expensive. New Publishing is cheap, promiscuous and unconstrained by paper, money or institutional taste. If Old Publishing is, say, a tidy, well-maintained orchard, New Publishing is a riotous jungle: vast and trackless and chaotic, full of exquisite orchids and undiscovered treasures and a hell of a lot of noxious weeds.

Not that Old Publishing will disappear—for now, at least, it’s certainly the best way for authors to get the money and status they need to survive—but it will live on in a radically altered, symbiotic form as the small, pointy peak of a mighty pyramid. If readers want to pay for the old-school premium package, they can get their literature the old-fashioned way: carefully selected and edited, and presented in a bespoke, art-directed paper package. But below that there will be a vast continuum of other options: quickie print-on-demand editions and electronic editions for digital devises with a corresponding hierarchy of professional and amateur editorial selectiveness (Unpaid amateur editors have already hit the world of fan fiction, where they’re called beta readers.) The wide bottom of the pyramid will consist of a vast loamy layer of free, unedited, Web-only fiction, rated and ranked YouTube-style by the anonymous reading masses.

And what will that fiction look like? Like fan fiction, it will be ravenously referential and intertextual in ways that will strain copyright law to the breaking point. Novels will get longer—electronic books aren’t bound by physical constraints—and they’ll be patchable and updatable, like software. We’ll see more novels doled out sporadically, on the model of TV series or, for that matter, the serial novels of the 19th century. We can expect a literary culture of pleasure and immediate gratification. Reading on a screen speeds you up: you don’t linger on the language; you just click through. We’ll see less modernist-style difficulty and more romance-novel-style sentiment and high-speed-narrative throughput. Novels will compete to hook you in the first paragraph and then hang on for dear life.

None of this is good or bad; it just is. The books of the future may not meet all the conventional criteria for literary value that we have today, or any of them. But if that sounds alarming or tragic, go back and sample the righteous zeal with which people despised novels when they first arose. They thought novels were vulgar and immoral. And in a way they were, and that was what was great about them: they shocked and seduced people into new ways of thinking. These books will too. Somewhere out there is the self-publishing world’s answer to Defoe, and he’s probably selling books out of his trunk. But he won’t be for long.”

There you have it from the secular side of things. I’m not an alarmist, but this had made me do a lot of thinking. I’d love to know what you think about the future of publishing?

  • Is this writer accurate in his analysis?
  • How does this affect your own writing?
  • How does this affect Writers Conferences as we know them?

I’d love to “pick your brain” on this whole subject. Looking forward to interacting with you . . . on the Web, of course!

Author Austin Boyd Lauds Writers Conference

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“My agent, Les Stobbe, had some sage guidance for me from day one. A bit of wisdom that I recommend every writer follow was “go to a writer’s conference.” He offered me two that were coming up soon and I chose the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference, near Santa Cruz, California at Mount Hermon Christian Camps & Conference Center. What a great bit of advice from Les! I had always considered these gatherings to be for writer groupies and critique groups. I was so wrong. Mount Hermon exposed me to a dozen interested editors and that networking was the catalyst to get my work into print. In the many seminars and editor meetings that I attended in those critical five days, I found that often a publisher buys the author as well as the book. A conference gives you the chance to interface with people who are seeking an author that will be a draw for audiences in the marketing phase, and an author who can articulate the message of his or her manuscript. Mount Hermon was a watershed event in my publishing process.”

Thanks, Austin, for your great comments. And the rest of you . . . have a great weekend!

C.S. Lewis: Five Rules on Good Writing

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This is the first blog I’ve written in a week and a half having been visited with the respiratory flu bug. Not fun . . . but while I was “resting” I read something C. S. Lewis wrote that I thought was perfect for the writers blog, so here it is–Enjoy!

1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.

2. Always prefer the clean direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keep them.

3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “more people died” don’t say “mortality rose.”

4. In writing, don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the things you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us the thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please, will you do my job for me?”

5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

So there you have it, in Clive Lewis’s own words! If you can pull that off you’ll be a much better writer than you presently are. Go for it!

TAYLOR’S TIPS for a productive writing career…

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One of our Writers Conference faculty, B. J. Taylor, sent this blog today. Enjoy!

When the professional photographer set up a fan and started blowing my hair around I wanted to yell STOP. Wind-blown hair, flying all over the place, that’s just not me. It felt uncomfortable. It felt like I wasn’t in control–every strand of hair wasn’t perfectly in place. It felt well, different. But I told myself it was okay to stretch, to take a leap of faith, to stick my neck out there…to blow in the wind. So I let her take the shots. And I looked at them when she was done. Hmmm…I liked it. I was out of my comfort zone, but it felt kind of good.

I wondered if I was in a comfort zone with my writing. Reach out and try new markets? That would be too scary. Speak at a women’s event? Goosebumps would break out all over my body. Write a novel? Too daunting to even think about.

But what am I getting by doing what I’ve always done? I’m getting the same thing as always. So for 2009 will you join me? Let’s take some chances, fly with the wind, dare to risk. Let’s stick our necks out. Here’s a list of some of the things you might try:

  • Write a book proposal for that idea you have.
  • Speak at an event, or join a speaker’s bureau, to get your feet wet.
  • Make an appointment to talk to an editor or agent at a conference.
  • Submit to three new markets.
  • Begin to work on your novel (you know you’ve been thinking about it!).
  • Take a class to beef up your writing skills.
  • Join a writers group.

What else can you think of that is outside of your comfort zone? It might be a little scary and feel quite uncomfortable, but pretty soon if you keep doing it you’ll become more and more at ease with stretching, growing, and blowing in the wind.

Fly with me in 2009. And if you want accountability, send me a quick email to tell me WHAT you plan to do…and then as Nike says, “Just Do It!

Follow your dreams…

B. J. Taylor

Important Form for Registrants of Writers on Website

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I just uploaded the form on the web that helps registrants know what the publishers, editors and freelancers want to see and are willing to critique. It’s the most important form for writers to see so they can make intelligent decisions as to what person they want to peruse/critique their pre-conference manuscripts. Have at it, writers! 

Keep praying for more writers to sign up even though the economy is difficult at the moment.  We’re excited about what God wants to do through this time together.

Thanks so much,

Rachel Williams
Director, Christian Writers Conference

Jerry B. Jenkins Got His Start At Mount Hermon Writers Conference

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The Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference has long been the standard by which all others are judged.  I attended their first more than 30 years ago and have been back nearly 20 times.  It’s been a kick to see it grow.

It may seem strange for someone who hosts his own writing conference every year to, in essence, endorse the “competition.”  But I’ll admit it: Our Christian Writers Guild’s Writing for the Soul conference patterns itself largely after the Mount Hermon conference.  It was there I learned especially the value of a deep lineup of workshops and exposure to book and magazine editors and veteran authors to evaluate manuscripts and counsel people on their writing futures.

Mount Hermon also offers inspirational keynote speakers and great music, and the friendships and professional relationships begun there can last a lifetime.  My entire adult life has been immerced in writing, editing, and publishing, and I still like to attend writers conferences as a conferee.  No matter where a writer is in his or her journey, we all need to remain lifetime students of the craft.

Jerry B. Jenkins

New York Times best-selling author of the Left Behind books and Riven; owner of the Christian Writers Guild

Kudos From A Former Writers Conference Attendee

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I cannot begin to recommend the Mount Hermon Writers Conference enough!  It’s always held Psalm Sunday weekend in the awe-inspiring redwood forests of CA.  I credit this conference (God-inspired, of course) for landing my contract with Multnomah for my passion book, Love Letters to God: Deeper Intimacy through Written Prayer.

Just so you know, I didn’t sign a contract there, but met the editor who would champion my book all the way to a contract.  Networking is invaluable, especially these days when many publishing houses will not accept freelance work.  It pays to know someone.  Editors are looking for fresh talent at conferences.  That is one major reason they participate.  When you send in a query and submission to a publishing house and can say you met the editor at Mount Hermon’s Writers Conference, you’ll most likely get your project looked at.

So I encourage you to go to Mount Hermon’s Writers Conference.  You will learn tons, make invaluable contacts, and begin wonderful new friendships.  It’s not cheap, but nothing worthwhile is. If you can’t go this year, start saving your pennies for next year. 

There are a number of wonderful conferences out there, but this one, hands-down is the best–la creme de la creme!  And what other conference could beat those renowned redwood trees?  Go for it!

Lynn Morrissey

Head Start Mentoring Gets Boost from Mentoring Faculty Member

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One of our faculty members for the Head Start Mentoring Clinic sent in this e-mail this morning and a new video to encourage those of you who might not have considered this opportunity. Here is what she says in her own words:

I created this new video for the Mount Hermon Head Start Mentoring program that falls right before the conference April 1—3.

First off: No, I’m not going to make a career out of writing conference promotional videos!

But, I am really passionate about this mentoring program, offered right before the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. If you know of beginning to intermediate writers who would benefit from some one-to-one and group mentoring prior to the conference, consider steering them toward this clinic. It’s not often folks get to have a professional critique your work, help guide a career, and learn from other writers. This is a unique opportunity.

Check the Mount Hermon website for all conference information, forms and instructions you need to register. By the way, I’m one of the nonfiction mentors for Head Start, so if you’re writing nonfiction, there’s a good chance we might get to work together!

Mary DeMuth