Posts Categorized: Writers Conference

HIs Message, Your Voice

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stream in the woods

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

How Christian Writers’ Conferences Have Changed My Life

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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.

See Yourself as a Writer

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hand with pen writing

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

Make 2017 the Year to Step Up

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sign saying next step

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.

Scout’s Guide for Conference Attendees: Be Prepared

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scouts preparing

by Susan K. Stewart

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

 

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

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

Start with the First Time Preparation Packet.

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

Next review the Frequently Asked Questions.

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

Head over to Letters, Form, & Guidelines.

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

Take a look at the schedule.

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

Find out what else you can do at Mount Hermon.

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

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

Susan Stewart

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

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

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variety of women characters

by Sarah Sundin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Registration is still open for the Morning Mentoring Clinics.

Sarah Sundin

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

10 Ways to Be Awkward at a Writer’s Conference

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awkward smiley face

by Mary DeMuth

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writing Workshops for Children’s Writers

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chalk drawing of children

The Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference has opportunities for all writers, and this year we have the most offerings for children’s writers we’ve ever had! Mentoring clinics are available at the Pre-conference Next Level Clinic (April 5-7). During the main conference (April 7-11), we have a Major Morning Track and Afternoon Workshops geared especially for authors who write for children. Check out these exciting options:

Pre-conference Next Level Clinics
The Pre-conference Next Level Clinic is an opportunity for writers to go to the next level in their writing journey. Crystal Bowman will be leading the clinic on “Take Your Children’s Writing to the Next Level.” She offers personalized mentoring for writers of board books, picture books, and readers ages birth to 10. (Additional fee. Application deadline has been extended to March 27.)

Major Morning Track
Mona Hodgson will be teaching a continuing session on “The Art and Exercise of Writing for Children.” This interactive course provides an overview of writing for children from birth to age 12. Come learn about age group divisions, fiction and nonfiction formats for books and magazines, the skill of writing for children, and much more. Receive marketing information too.

Afternoon Workshops

Christine Tangvald
Writing and Formatting Picture Books
Age Groups. Word Counts. Formats. Picture books. Board Books. Die Cuts. Novelty Books. Secrets. Come join our picture Book Adventure as we hop, skip, and jump through dozens of facts you must know to write in this delightful but difficult genre.  I’ll share a few secrets I’ve picked up to hopefully help you jump up into the top 20% of consideration.  I’ll also bring a ton of handouts.  And maybe we can actually brainstorm a picture book in class … together.  Doesn’t that sound like fun?  See you there!

Catherine DeVries
The Top 5 Categories for Christian Children’s Books
Go beyond your great book idea to a deeper understanding of the Christian children’s publishing industry. How do book sales break out by category? What are the most popular books? What are the least popular? Discover where the growth opportunities are, as well as watch outs and risks. And learn about another opportunity to get published without landing a book contract.

Tim Shoemaker 
Reaching Boys through Fiction
This is about writing for a tough market … but one of the most rewarding. Learn why it’s smart to target boys with your writing—and the secrets to doing it well. We’ll show you the ten “gotta haves” when writing for boys and the ten “kisses of death.”

Sarah Rubio 
Secrets to Writing a Great Book Proposal
How many times have you had your proposal completely ignored or sent back to you with a polite “no thank you” letter? Publishers are looking for proposals that are well crafted, engaging, and make a promise that a reader can’t resist. Come learn how to create the kind of proposal that will invite publishers to ask for more.

Crystal Bowman
Writing for Beginning Readers
Writing for beginning readers is challenging! A writer needs to know the guidelines and formulas before tackling this genre. In this session, we will discuss the specific structure and techniques used to write an engaging story with limited vocabulary, short sentences, and dialogue.

In addition to these great learning opportunities, the 2017 Mount Hermon writers conference will have agents and publishers who work with children’s authors:

  • MacKenzie Howard, editorial director of the gift and children’s areas of Thomas Nelson, a division of HarperCollins Christian Publishing
  • Catherine DeVries, publisher of children’s resources at David C. Cook
  • Courtney Lasater, editor at Keys for Kids Ministries (formerly Children’s Bible Hour)
  • Sarah Rubio, editor of children’s books at Tyndale House Publishers

Check the website for more information.

 

Extended Deadline for All Mentoring Clinics

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by Jan Kern

Do you have a writing project that’s nearly ready to be birthed? Could you benefit from a small mentoring group of no more than six writers? This can be the perfect setting for focusing in on developing your writing and taking your manuscript to the next level.

The Pre-Conference Next Level Clinics, April 5-7, offer mentoring groups for children’s writing, fiction,  nonfiction, and platform. The fiction and nonfiction clinics have beginning and intermediate levels.

The main conference, April 7-11, offers Morning Mentoring Clinics in both fiction and nonfiction.

The good news is, it’s not too late! Most of these clinics have room for you to join them. And we are extending the application deadline to Monday, March 27.

If you’re interested in the pre-conference clinics, check out the application details here.

If you’re interested in the main conference clinics, follow the directions at this link to request an application.

Take advantage of the extended deadline and sign up for a mentoring clinic that will help bring your writing and that manuscript into the world.

Challenge Yourself

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people on rope course

by Marci Seither

One of the most often asked questions when I talk to school-age kids about writing The Adventures of Pearley Monroe is “How long did it take you to write your book?”

When I tell them it took eight years, their eyes widen. Eight years!

I started my writing journey with a family humor column for a small town paper, then moved to human-interest stories, and later wrote feature articles.

Basically, I have a 750- to 1,200-word attention span. And to top it off, all I wrote was nonfiction.

There is a world of difference between writing newspaper articles for adults and writing a historical novel for middle-school readers. I had to learn everything about writing for that age and that style, and still maintain my skills and writing experience in the nonfiction area.

How did I accomplish the task of bringing a wonderful story to print? I went to conferences, such as the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference, and took classes outside of my area of writing expertise. I submitted my manuscript to be edited. I learned and rewrote. I learned more and rewrote again. That cycle lasted until I finally had a story my audience would love. A story my kids would have loved.

Receiving an Honorable Mention Award from Writer’s Digest for The Adventures of Pearley Monroe was a huge affirmation that my time of perfecting the writing craft was worth it.  Interacting with students who have told me they “feel like they are Pearley Monroe” tells me I hit my mark.

Along the way, I became a better writer. It was the difference between training for a 5k run or a sprint triathlon. The cross-training had carryover value that opened doors I hadn’t considered before.

Several years ago I participated in a few sprint triathlon events. For me, the swim part of the triathlon came easy, but when it came to the biking and running … well, let’s put it this way: I figured even if I had to Stop, Drop, and Roll over the finish line I would still get the T-shirt.

Just like cross-training your body is good, so is cross-training your brain. The skills you learn in writing help you become stronger in areas you may never have considered.

Recently, I talked with the editor of Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse magazine. They loved The Adventures of Pearley Monroe and wanted to know if I could write a short story based on the book and characters. It would almost be a “missing chapter” from the middle of the book.

That is a huge undertaking. It is not moving from one chapter to the next, it is starting from scratch and writing something that is historically accurate with characters and goals that are already established. I would be lying if I told you it was easy. I was a bundle of nerves.

But I did it.

I focused on all the things I had learned about writing fiction. I could hear the voices of those I had taken classes from. Lauraine Snelling, Gayle Roper, and Brandilyn Collins were just a few of many who helped me learn the craft. I wrote and rewrote until I had a 2,400-word story they loved and accepted.

I did something I would have never been able to do had I not been willing to stretch myself beyond my comfort zone. That is cross-training, not necessarily genre hopping.

I do not consider myself a “children’s author” or a “fiction writer.”

What do I consider myself?  A lifelong learner who enjoys putting into action what I have learned and accepting challenges that stretch me as a person and as a writer.

That is the value of writers’ conferences.

The Mount Hermon faculty is an amazing group of people who are there to help you stretch and strengthen your writing skills. They know it is hard work and they are there to help you along your writing journey, cheering you on every step of the way.

Maybe you’re wondering if you have something of value worth sharing. You do.

Maybe you’re feeling that you already know everything about your area of writing. Cross-train.

Maybe you’re afraid that you will fail.  Consider how you will feel if you actually move toward your goal. Now consider how you will feel if you never try.

Make 2017 the year you take action on making your dreams and goals a reality, even if it is just taking a baby step forward.

Was it worth spending eight years working on The Adventures of Pearley Monroe?

More than I could have ever imagined.

Do you want a challenge? Take part in the Mentoring Clinics at Mount Hermon Writer’s Conference: Pre-conference Next Level and Morning Mentoring Clinics.

Here is a list of sessions to cross-train at the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference.

Marci SeitherMarci Seither has written hundreds of feature stories, op/editorials, and human-interest articles for local papers as well as contributing to national publications. She has been married to her husband almost thirty years and is mom to six amazingly rowdy kiddos who have provided her with volumes of great material, loads of laundry, and symphonies of laughter. Marci encourages others with humor that packs a punch and entertains other moms with her Urban Retro style. She recently had two books published and knows how to make marshmallows from scratch. Marci is an airport shuttle assistant for the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.

Homeschooled Students Get Career Help

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by Susan K. Beatty

photo of kara swansonAre you a Christian homeschooled teen or young adult who dreams of writing as a career? Do you wonder what it would be like to meet best-selling authors, agents, and publishers in person?

I’d like to introduce you to Kara Swanson, a recent homeschool graduate who saw that dream fulfilled. Kara attended the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference twice. She was the 2015 winner of the conference’s Most Promising Teen Award.

Let’s find out more about Kara and how the writers’ conference changed her life.

Q: Hello, Kara. Tell us about yourself–background, education, age (if you don’t mind).

A: I am 20 years old, and I graduated from high school last year. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, and I think my childhood as the daughter of missionaries, growing up in a remote tribe in the middle of the jungle, greatly influenced my love of fantasy and science fiction. I could relate to characters finding themselves in a strange world. I’ve been published in multiple magazines. At seventeen, I independently published a fantasy novel called Pearl of Merlydia, which I coauthored with my friend Charis Smith. Since then I have attended several writers’ conferences and garnered interest in my novels from both agents and publishers.

Q: When did you attend Mount Hermon’s Christian Writers Conference and how did you hear about it?

A: The first time I attended Mount Hermon was in 2015. I’d heard about it from my grandmother, who attended in 2014, and my mentor, Joanne Bischof, who has been on faculty several times.

Q: What attracted you specifically to Mount Hermon’s conference? And what made you decide to attend?

A: Mount Hermon is one of those rare conferences that is just as much about relationships as knowledge. The beautiful facility, nestled in the redwoods of Northern California, is a wonderful place to gain wisdom from many industry professionals.

As a teen writer who had never been to a writers’ conference before, I was a little nervous that I’d be overwhelmed. But the faculty members were all friendly and willing to answer my questions—in and out of sessions—so it soon felt like a home away from home. Beyond the comfort of spending a week among writers who all were all putting their soul-stories out there, and penning novels with the intent to change lives, there were sessions on every imaginable aspect of writing. And the vast host of faculty was amazing.

A: What were your expectations? Were they met, and, if so, how?

A: I didn’t really go in with too many expectations. Both times I attended, I brought manuscripts to pitch and showed my work to agents and editors. The first time I went, there were very few faculty who were interested in the genres I write (mostly Young Adult Speculative Fiction). So I spent that week learning as much as I could from the workshops and sessions. I was in a Morning Mentoring Track with Bill Myers, and it was a wonderful experience! Bill had so much knowledge and skill and humor that it was definitely a highlight.

The second year I went, I prayed a lot. There were ten industry professionals who were interested in the genres I had, but I didn’t want that to be my focus. I brought proposals, but I wanted to take the time to make lasting friendships and glean as much as I could from the faculty. Many amazing authors and editors, including Francine Rivers and Mick Silva, encouraged me in my writing journey.

That first night, I sat in the back row of the auditorium. As the keynote speaker began, I bowed my head and prayed, giving my stories to God once again—they were only ever his to begin with. I prayed that he would bring along the right publishing houses and agents for my novels. I also told him that even if no one cared about these stories that were a piece of my heart, I’d still praise him. I’d still write for his glory. Because his approval mattered most.

With that attitude, I went into the rest of the conference and approached agents and editors confidently—but also humbly. I let the stories he’d given me speak for themselves. I had an amazing amount of interest from nearly everyone I approached. The only rejections I got came from agents and houses that weren’t looking for young adult in the first place. God definitely went before me in the whole process!

I’m still continuing to walk through the doors God provided at Mount Hermon, and I expect that every year from here on will hold things I cannot imagine.

Q: Congratulations for winning the 2015 Mount Hermon Most Promising Teen Writer Award. Tell us about that.

A: Thank you! It was one of the most amazing and affirming moments of my life. Not something I had expected, considering that I’d only been to the conference once and never before dared show my writing to anyone outside of close friends and family. Not only was it special to be recognized in such a way, it was also a moment I’ve looked back on as a reminder that yes, this is what God wants me to do.

Q: Tell us what you are doing today. How are you using your writing, and what did you learn at Mount Hermon that is helping you?

A: Oh, fun question! I’m blogging on several venues—The Fandom Studio, Christian Teen Writers, and my own blog, Read Write Soar (which is soon to be switched over to karaswanson.com).

I am currently working as a virtual assistant to Kathy Ide—writer, editor, and director of the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. That was totally a God-thing because with Lyme disease I’m not able to hold most jobs. It helps me stay abreast of the publishing industry, and I’m learning so much.

In addition, I’m the marketing coordinator for the SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference, which Kathy Ide also directs. I have a freelance editing service (most of which is me trading critiques/edits with authors who will do the same for me). Right now, I’m working on a sci-fi/urban fantasy novella and overhauling my full-length novel Skyridge, which is about a girl with wings whose father is a fallen angel, and it’s set during the end times.

Each of these parts of my life has been impacted by Mount Hermon in one way or another. My stories are better because of feedback I received there. I met Kathy Ide there. I started blogging seriously after receiving input there. The two times I attended the conference have resulted in countless long-term blessings!

Q: What would you say about attending Mount Hermon to a teen or young adult who likes to write?

A: Go! Mount Hermon is the perfect place to sharpen your craft, learn about the industry, and decide what your next steps are. Whether you are a bit of an over-achiever like me, ready to dive headfirst into this whole publishing business, or you want to get your feet wet and learn what it takes to write full time, Mount Hermon is the place to do it. The atmosphere is perfect for newcomers and for advanced writers. I’d love to see you there!

Q: Writers’ conferences can be a little pricey, particularly for a homeschooled teen. How would you rate the cost versus the value? And did you do anything special to pay the conference fees?

A: I received a scholarship based on three criteria: 1) My family are missionaries, 2) I have Lyme disease and am therefore unable to hold a steady job, and 3) I’m homeschooled. I saved all year to cover the conference costs that weren’t covered by the scholarship, taking any odd jobs I could. For my birthday and Christmas, I asked for funds to go toward the conference instead of gifts. And my grandmother graciously helped me with the rest.

The price does seem steep, but it’s understandable. Mount Hermon is nearly a week-long conference with an impressive staff of industry professionals. You can meet best-selling authors and representatives from the large publishing houses. There is a wealth of knowledge to be found in the sessions, the critique team, one-on-one mentoring, and appointments with editors and agents. Writers at any stage can hone their craft and progress on their writing journey. All that plus gorgeous lodging, delicious catered meals, and fun activities like a ropes course and kayaking!

All things considered, the price is definitely worth the value of attending the conference. This is an experience that will forever change your writing career!

Thank you, Kara, for your inspiring story.

If you’d like to explore the idea of writing as a career, bring your writing to the next level, and hang out with agents, publishers, and other writers, register now for the 2017 Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. Homeschooled teens and young adults receive a 30% discount. (Young people under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian, who may pay full price and attend as a conferee or solely be the teen’s chaperone and take $500 off–basically only paying for lodging and meals.)

Learn more about Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.

photo of Susan BeattySusan K. Beatty is the author of An Introduction to Home Education manual. She and her husband, Larry, began homeschooling their three children in 1982, graduated all three children from their home school, and is the cofounder of one of the oldest and largest statewide homeschooling organizations in the United States, Christian Home Educators Association (CHEA) of California.  She recently retired as the member of the Board of Directors and is soon to be retired as general manager and events manager. She is a professional writer/journalist with a BA degree in journalism from Cal State University Los Angeles.

Writing a Captivating True Story

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man reading story outdoors

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.

 

Four Ways Money Can Add Depth to Your World

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british coins

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.

 

The Psalmist Had a Day Job

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the text of psalm 23

by Cynthia Ruchti

For every writer who slogged through a day where interruptions outnumbered hours spent writing…

For every novelist who left a hero in deep distress because the family car needed its oil changed or the substitute teacher position turned into a financially helpful but creatively draining three-month maternity leave sub…

For every memoirist at the edge of a breakthrough in a gripping opening line, called away by a spreadsheet due on a client’s desk…

I offer hope.

King David managed roles as writer, worshiper, and warrior, among other things. He had a day job—king. But what he wrote in pensive, reflective, or desperate hours while listening to, praising, or arguing with God formed among the most frequently visited pages of history’s all-time best seller: the Bible. King and lyricist. King and musician. King and warrior and worshiper and writer.

Aspiring writers might be surprised at the number of veteran authors who—despite multiple books to their credit—have day jobs in addition to their writing careers. They teach fitness classes, work for non-profit ministries, hold down part-time jobs at coffee shops or dental clinics. Among many prolific authors are those who offer home daycare, run ranches, sit in uninspiring cubicles working on uninspiring projects until the end of the workday when their paycheck will provide more printer ink for their heart’s true passion: writing.

You mean I can have it all? I can have a prolific writing career while single-handedly managing a national or international ministry and teaching weekly cooking classes and traveling more than I’m home at my desk and raising organic goats and getting my doctorate in advanced nuclear physics and refinishing museum-quality fifteenth-century furniture and caring for my elderly parents?

No. Key words from that paragraph tell the story:

  • All. The only “alls” we can successfully handle are all God has for us and all God wants us to be.
  • Single-handedly. If the “all” God is asking of us can’t be listed in one breath, we’ll need help: His, obviously, and the help of others who can assist or, better yet, take over responsibilities we thought were ours to manage.
  • Weekly. The writer who is serious about using the gift of words, story, and language for holy, God-directed purposes will have few additional weekly, regular, time-consuming commitments. We’re not told that King David had time for a golf league or that he played the lyre in nursing homes every weekend.
  • Goats. David may have insisted on organic goat’s milk on his breakfast table, but he left his animal-herding days behind when God called him away from tending livestock. The committed writer soon learns that some activities become archives and memories in order to create time for writing.
  • Caring. God too may have glanced over all the other words in that paragraph of piled on responsibilities and landed on this one. Caring is dear to His heart. If what we abandon in our pursuit of a writing career is the caring part—caring for our families, about our relationship with the God for whom we write, about our readers, caring for those entrusted to us—the words we write will ring hollow in His ears and hollow to those who know and love us.

King David was writer, worshiper, and warrior. How did he juggle those interconnected but distinct roles? And what core principles guided all three careers?

Ah! That’s the stuff of which workshops are made.

Cynthia will be mentoring nonfiction writers in inspirational and personal-experience stories at the 2017 Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.

Cynthia Ruchti headshotAuthor and speaker Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed-in-hope. Her novels, novellas, devotions, and nonfiction have been recognized by a number of significant industry awards. She and her husband live in the heart of Wisconsin, not far from their three children and five grandchildren. Her prayer is that those who finish reading one of her books or attending an event where she’s speaking will gain the confidence to say, “I can’t unravel. I’m hemmed in hope.”

17 Questions to Ask When Researching for Your Novel

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historical book, glasses, clock

by Sarah Sundin

When I started writing my first World War II novel, I thought I just needed to read a history book, find some cute outfits for my heroine, and have her hum a popular tune.

You may now stop laughing.

Those initial research questions ended up raising more questions. I fell in love with the era and longed to bring it alive with thorough research.

Here are seventeen questions to ask when conducting research for historical fiction. Many are also useful for contemporary novels and when building a story world for fantasy or science fiction. You will not need deep research in every area, but you should be aware of them.

  1. Historical events
    You need to know the events occurring in your era. Even if your character isn’t directly involved, she will be affected by them. Be familiar with the preceding era too.
  2. Setting in historical context
    You may know your setting now—but what was it like then? Towns grow and shrink, businesses and streets change, ethnic groups come and go.
  3. Schooling
    What was the literacy level? Who went to school and for how long? What did they study? If your character breaks the mold (the peasant who reads), how did this happen?
  4. Occupation
    Although I’m a pharmacist, writing about a pharmacist in WWII required research. How much training was required? What were the daily routines, tools, and terminology used, outfits worn? How was the occupation perceived by others?
  5. Community Life
    What clubs and volunteer organizations were popular? What were race relations like? Class relations?
  6. Religious Life
    How did religion affect personal lives and the community? What denominations were in the region? What was the culture in the church—dress, order of service, behavior? Watch out for modern views here.
  7. Names
    Research common names in that era and region. If you must use something uncommon, justify it—and have other characters react appropriately. Also research customs of address (“Mrs. Smith” or “Mary”). In many cultures, only intimate friends used your first name.
  8. Housing
    What were homes like? Floor plans, heating, lighting, plumbing? What were the standards of cleanliness? What about wall coverings and furniture? What colors, prints, and styles were popular?
  9. Home Life
    What were the roles of men, women, and children? What were the rites of courtship and marriage? Views on child rearing? How about routines for cleaning and laundry?
  10. Food
    What recipes and ingredients were used? How was food prepared? Where and when were meals eaten and how (manners, dishes)?
  11. Transportation
    How did people travel? Look into the specifics on wagons, carriages, trains, automobiles, planes. What was the route, how long did it take, and what was the travel experience like?
  12. Fashion
    Most historical writers adore this area. What were the distinctions between day and evening clothing, formal and informal? How about shoes, hats, gloves, jewelry, hairstyles, makeup? Don’t forget to clothe the men and children too!
  13. Communication
    How did people communicate over long distances? How long did letters take and how were they delivered? Did they have telegrams or telephones—if so, how were they used?
  14. Media
    How was news received? By couriers, newspapers, radio, movie newsreels, TV? How long did it take for people to learn about an event?
  15. Entertainment
    How did they spend free time? Music, books, magazines, plays, sports, dancing, games? Did people enjoy certain forms of entertainment—or shun others?
  16. Health Care
    Your characters get sick and injured, don’t they? Good. How will you treat them? Who will treat them and where? What were common diseases? Did they understand the relationship between germs and disease?
  17. Justice
    Laws change, so be familiar with laws concerning crimes committed by or against your characters. Also understand the law enforcement, court, and prison systems.

Don’t get overwhelmed or buried in research. Remember, story rules. Let the story guide your research, and let research enrich your story. Your readers will love it.

Originally published by FaithWriters, October 8, 2012, http://faithwriters.com/blog/2012/10/08/historical-research-seventeen-questions/.

photo of sarah sundlinSarah 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.

Click here for more information about the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.

Harnessing the Magic of “After-Writing”

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by Joseph Bentz

I would like to declare a new stage of the writing process. I call it “after-writing.” Even though I never see it discussed in books or articles about writing, for me it has been a crucial stage in the writing of my books.

I teach writing in a variety of venues, from freshman courses at Azusa Pacific University to professional conferences like the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, where I will be leading a Morning Mentoring Clinic on writing nonfiction books this year. In textbooks, writing experts often identify and describe the various stages of the writing process as pre-writing, drafting, revision, editing, and proofreading. The “after-writing” stage that I am proposing is not represented by any of those steps. By overlooking it, writers may be losing an opportunity to harness much more of their creative energy.

creative child in afterglow of sunset Here is how after-writing works for me. I sit down for my scheduled daily writing session on the book I am working on. Let’s say I have three hours for that session. At the end of that time, I will have to set the book aside, move on to other things, and come back the next day to pick up where I left off. By the time the writing session is over, my ideas are usually flowing pretty well, I have an idea where I am headed next, and I look forward to getting back to it the following session.

As you may have experienced, what often happens the next day is that as I glance over what I wrote the day before, my sense of momentum that had felt so strong the previous day has now shut down. I often think, Now, where was I headed with this? What was I planning to write next? I can spend much of the current day’s writing time trying to reconstruct that mind-set of the previous day and re-enter that creative flow.

“After-writing” helps prevent that dilemma. Now, instead of merely stopping at the end of a writing session, I make sure to leave a little time—maybe ten or fifteen minutes—at the end of a session to jot down a note to myself about what I would have written next if I had been able to continue. This “after-writing” note is usually rough. I don’t worry about getting the wording just right or tracking down the documentation of a source or even writing in complete thoughts. What I’m after is a road map for the next day. I need notes that capture my thinking of that moment so that when I read them the next day, those thoughts will come alive inside me again, and I won’t have to waste time recreating my earlier mind-set. The notes might be so rough that they would make sense to no one but me, but I am the only one who will read them anyway.

“After-writing” has another benefit. I have noticed that when I am in my more formal writing stage, I am sometimes a little tense as I try to get the sentences and paragraphs just right. But once I enter the “after-writing” stage and the pressure is off, sometimes that unleashes a whole new burst of creativity. Even though I might have felt worn out from writing, I suddenly have a new gush of words that I can barely type fast enough to get on the screen. That second wind sometimes leads me to postpone my stopping time and keep going awhile longer.

I have discovered one final advantage of the after-writing stage. After many years as a writer, I noticed that once I have stopped writing for the day and my mind has let go of that disciplined way of thinking, I often have another rush of ideas about an hour later. I used to ignore that or even squelch it, thinking that I had already done my work for the day and should relax and return to it tomorrow. But now I prepare myself for that little “brainstorm” and take advantage of it by jotting down whatever comes during that time. Then I can go back to whatever else I was doing.

For me, writing a book includes many moments of joy, insight, and satisfaction, but it is also a long, hard slog. Good ideas are precious commodities in that process, and I want to do everything I can to capture the ones that show up. “After-writing” is one of the best techniques I have found to accomplish that.

Joseph Bentz has published four novels and five nonfiction books. His most recent book, Nothing Is Wasted, was published in 2016 by Beacon Hill Press. He is a blogger and currently at work on a book about passages of Scripture that have changed the world. He is a professor of English at Azusa Pacific University in Southern California, where he teaches courses in writing and American literature.

Joseph will be a nonfiction mentor and also presenting workshops at the Mount Hermon Writers Conference. Click here for more information.

Conference Connections

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people connectionAre you attending the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference for the first time? Returning after a long break? Perhaps you’ve attended before but are submitting to editors and agents for the first time. Conference Connections is for you!

Before the Conference

Download the First-Timer’s Packet, which is filled with helpful tips and information.

Look for our weekly Pre-Conference Preparation Tips on Facebook, starting the first week in February.

At the Conference

On Friday after lunch, be sure to attend the First-Timer’s Orientation, where you will receive valuable information on how to get the most out of this wonderful conference.

Keep an eye out for people who have hearts on their name tags. These conference veterans enjoy connecting with first-timers and those who feel like newbies. If you have a question, can’t decide which workshop to take, need help finding a room, are having a difficult day, or want to share exciting news, flag down one of these kind, encouraging registrants or faculty members. They will be happy to help, listen, or pray with you. Be sure to introduce yourself to at least one of them so they get a chance to meet you.

If you walk into lunch or dinner feeling tired, discouraged, or like you need a break from trying to impress editors, join us at the table designated as a No-Pressure Zone. There you can relax, connect with others, and get the lift you need to go into the rest of your day.

Still have questions? Contact Jeanette Hanscome and she will be happy to help you.

See you in April!

The Challenge of Writing for Children

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shelves with children's books

by Crystal Bowman

When people find out I write books for children, their response goes something like this: “Oh, how fun! I have always wanted to write a children’s book.” Writing for children is fun, but fun does not mean easy. That’s why I love teaching classes on writing for children. I enjoy helping writers learn the craft of this genre. But the more you learn, the harder it gets! Here are a few basic tips on how to get started:

  • Learn the genre and the sub-genres. The genre of children’s literature is very specific and writers need to learn how to write for children. Writing an engaging story with limited word count and limited vocabulary is difficult—even for seasoned writers. Then there are the sub-genres. From board books to early chapter books and everything in between, each sub-genre has its own specific requirements that writers need to know.
  • Understand the market. Before you invest your time and energy in writing a children’s book, research the market to find out what is already out there. If what you write is not better than or different from what is already being sold, your book stands little chance of being published.
  • Master writing techniques. Rhythm, rhyme, repetition, alliteration, onomatopoeia, and other forms of wordplay are effective tools for children’s stories. However, these writing techniques must be mastered if you want to add creative elements to your story. Misusing these techniques will send your manuscript on a fast track to the slush pile.
  • Have your story edited. Once you have learned the basics and begin writing your story, be sure to work with a children’s editor or writing coach. Your story needs to be professionally polished to catch the attention of a publisher. You must be willing to accept constructive criticism and revise your manuscript multiple times.
  • Don’t give up. There are no shortcuts or quick paths to the world of publishing. Writing for publication can take many years, and some writers give up along the way. If writing for children is truly your passion, learn everything you can about the process. Be persistent, patient, and prayerful. Learn. Learn. Learn. Revise. Revise. Revise.

 

I was thrilled to be invited back for a second year to lead sessions at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. I will be teaching a Pre-Conference Next Level class and look forward to working with some talented writers. If your passion is writing for children, please sign up for this session. I can’t wait to meet you!

Crystal is the Children’s Books and Magazines mentor for the Pre-Conference Next Level Clinic, April 5-7.

Click here for more information about the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, April 7-11.

Crystal Bowman

Crystal Bowman is a best-selling, award-winning author of more than 100 books for children, including The One Year Book of Devotions for Preschoolers, Our Daily Bread for Kids, and My Mama and Me. She has written many I Can Read! books, as well as stories for Clubhouse Jr. magazine and lyrics for children’s piano music.

 

The Power of a Mason Jar

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mason jar

by Marci Seither

“Are you going to the Mount Hermon Christian Writers conference this spring?” I asked Susan Gregory one day. I had volunteered to give her a ride to an event, and as we rode together we found out we shared a love of writing.

She told me it wasn’t in her budget but she hoped to attend one year. Despite having a book that she would love to see published, it seemed like her dream was beyond her reach.

I knew the feeling of having something you dream of doing, and even feel called to do, yet not seeing any way it could happen.

The first year I decided to attend the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference I taught swim lessons and worked as a lifeguard all summer, putting the money I made into a mason jar designated for conference tuition. I knew it would take a lot of planning and sunscreen to pull it off.

My husband gave me money toward tuition in lieu of Christmas and birthday gifts, adding to my mason jar. I did a photo shoot for a friend, and in return, she surprised me by putting cash into my Mount Hermon fund. I managed to collect enough to attend the conference. I did the same thing for a few more years after that.

“Let your family and friends know you have a big dream,” I told Susan. “And start a conference fund for yourself.”

When we got to our destination, she handed me money for gas. I gave it back to her. “This is the first deposit in your conference fund.”

Eighteen months later, Susan’s face beamed as she walked down the redwood-lined path at Mount Hermon. “I made it!” she exclaimed. “I’m here because of the Conference Fund! It took a while, but the money you gave me became something that grew.”

cover of the book slender reedsI recently saw Susan’s newly published book, Slender Reeds, being shared on Facebook. It is beautiful. And it really was a dream come true.

I later heard about a young mom named Jenni who felt led to write but didn’t know where to start. Her friend encouraged her to set up a GoFundMe account in order to attend the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. A GoFundMe account is a way for people to tell others what they need funds for and why. Instead of giving gifts or stocking stuffers, people can add funds to that person’s project. Many of Jenni’s friends helped support her and her dream of reaching others through her writing.

I’m not saying that if you just set a mason jar on the counter all your dreams will come true. That’s not realistic. But sharing your goals with others allows them the opportunity to partner with you in something worthwhile.

Pride can make us dream hoarders. Humility allows us to be vulnerable and share our dreams with others.

Do you have a big dream? Are you among the 81 percent of Americans who would love to write a book but just need the courage, and maybe a nudge, to put action to that dream?

Why not set up a mason jar conference fund and see what happens?

For more information about the Mount Hermon Writer’s Conference, click here.

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 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. Marci is an airport shuttle assistant for Mount Hermon Writers Conference.

First-Timers Contest: Winners Announced

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winners

We are excited to announce the winners of The First-Timers Contest. Congratulations to:

Ann Neumann

Erica Hale

Erin Kincaid

Karen DeBlieck

Karl Haffner

Laurel Burlew

Leah Hinton

Lisa Gefrides

Margery Warder

Robin Phillips

If you entered and were not one of the ten winners, we hope you will still consider spending an amazing and life-changing week in the California redwoods to experience this one-of-a-kind event. Find all the conference details at http://writers.mounthermon.org/.

First-Timers Contest For MH Writers Conference

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pen, notebook, and coffee for writersWhen I attended my first writers’ conference years ago, I didn’t realize how dramatically it would change my life. I met so many professionals in the publishing industry and authors I admired (and came to admire later). And it really kicked off my own writing career!

Major writers’ conferences can be expensive. But they can be valuable investments in our future.

If you’ve always wanted to attend the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, but never been able to afford it, I have exciting news for you.

Mount Hermon is running a First-Timers Contest for the 2017 conference. Ten winners will each receive a full scholarship, including economy lodging and conference meals.

There is NO FEE to enter this contest. It is open to both published and unpublished writers.

Just send a five-page writing sample (fiction or nonfiction). In addition to writing quality, winners will be determined based on the answers to these questions:

  1. Why do you want to attend the Mount Hermon Writers Conference?
  2. Why have you never attended before?
  3. What do you hope to get out of attending in 2017?

Once submissions are narrowed down based on those factors, the final decision will be made based on prayerfully asking for the Holy Spirit’s leading.

Deadline to enter is December 30 at midnight Pacific Standard Time.

Go to http://writers.mounthermon.org/resources/first-timers-contest for details, guidelines, and submission instructions.

Please spread the word to anyone you know who might benefit from this amazing conference.

Kathy Ide, Director
Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference

The Top Five Things You Shouldn’t Do in Kids’ Devotions

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Kristen GearhartBLOGGER: KRISTEN GEARHART

Managing Editor, Keys for Kids

Reviewing Pre-Submission Manuscripts for Editorial Review and Meeting with Writers at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22.

 

THE TOP FIVE THINGS YOU SHOULDN’T DO IN KIDS’ DEVOTIONS

Every year, I receive hundreds of children’s devotional submissions for publication consideration at Keys for Kids Ministries—from both new and seasoned authors. Our daily devotional is one way to break into children’s publishing to get some clips and also expand an existing author’s platform, so I see all sorts of writing levels on a day-to-day basis. Here are some examples of things I immediately decline publishing:

  1. Stories that have lofty messages or use complex theological terms. Devotions are meant to speak directly to readers. They should be able to see themselves in the situation or relate in some way. Every story should have a biblical/spiritual application, but presented in a way kids can relate to without getting too complicated.
  2. Stories told from an adult’s point of view. Because kids don’t want to read about someone’s grandma’s personal connection to her garden.
  3. Devotions that feature mythical creatures. In order to be biblically sound, I hold myself to being as truthful and upfront as possible for 6-12-year-old listeners/readers. While fantasy has its place, I’d rather not potentially confuse children by weaving biblical elements with imaginary beings.
  4. Devotions that are condescending to the reader. I don’t like it when someone wags their finger at me because I should or shouldn’t do something. I’m pretty sure kids don’t like it either.
  5. Stories that are poorly constructed or do not follow the writers’ guidelines. While I know it’s my job as an editor to smooth out plots, beef up character development, and clean up grammar issues, being forced to crawl through confusing dialogue or messy writing hinders me from truly connecting with the story.

Of course, these are just my opinions—another publisher might be interested in publishing stories featuring spiritually hungry Amish Leprechauns from outer space. Who am I to say?

__________________

Come meet Kristen Gearhart at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.

Click here to Register Now!

3 Things I Wish I’d Realized Before My 1st Mount Hermon Writers Conference

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Jill OsborneBLOGGER: JILL OSBORNE

Children’s Author; Serving on the Critique Team, March 2016; Teaching an Afternoon Workshop

3 THINGS I WISH I’D REALIZED BEFORE MY 1st MOUNT HERMON WRITERS CONFERENCE

In 2010, I stepped onto the Mount Hermon campus for my first ever Christian Writers Conference. It was one of the best weeks of my life. The valuable skills I learned, the encouraging people I met, and the spiritual guidance I received shaped me into the author I am today. I love Mount Hermon, and, God willing, I plan to come back every year.

But, when I replay the movie of that first week in my mind, I can’t help but wish I could hit the pause button at a few of the more awkward moments and yell out to my newbie self,

“Cut! Can we try that again?”

There’s the scene where I almost went home the first night, because I couldn’t pitch anything—much less an elevator.

There were scenes in the dining room where I kept stuffing my mouth with salad so I wouldn’t have to converse with “scary” agents and editors. (Stomach alert! Don’t ever eat that much salad in one week.)

And then, there was the mid-conference dark moment, when, tired and overwhelmed, I crawled back to my cabin, fished out my eyebrow pencil, scribbled a giant unibrow on my face and pronounced, “I am not a real writer.”

Friends, don’t let this become your movie!

Here are three things I wish I had realized before my first Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. I offer this advice as a gift to you, the first time attendee. Memorize these points. Write them on your forehead if necessary. (It’s a better use for the eyebrow pencil.) Recite them to yourself throughout your time at Mount Hermon.

  1. You Belong Here

If you find yourself doubting this, consider the facts:

  1. You’ve been writing, or you’ve been thinking of starting for some time.
  2. God spoke to your heart and led you to sign up. And then he provided the funds!
  3. Every published writer began somewhere, and a writers conference was one of their first important steps. Congratulations, this is your first step!
  1. You Have Something to Offer

It doesn’t matter if you don’t know the lingo—like what an elevator pitch is (I found out it has nothing to do with pitching an elevator). The people sitting next to you in the dining hall may wear the title of literary agent, editor, or best-selling author of over one-million books, but they’re real people. They struggle with family issues, job stress, and health challenges, just like you do. They might have a killer headache when you arrive on the scene. You can offer a smile, an encouraging word, or even an extra-strength Tylenol. People who have worked in a profession for a long time are energized by those who are just starting out. They need you! So be bold. Speak up. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know much about this writing business.” You never know where that conversation will lead.

  1. Your Journey Is Unique

 You will hear plenty of helpful advice about next steps to take in your writing career. Some of that advice will work for you, some of it won’t. That’s okay. God’s got your story in the palm of his hand, and thankfully, it doesn’t read like anyone else’s. A short, straight path to a desired destination is not necessarily the most scenic. If your next chapter involves trudging uphill, you’ll build the muscles you need for the next long haul. God will never short-change you in the character-building department. So, stride into that next step, breathe, and enjoy the journey. Remember what it says in Philippians 1:6:

And I am certain that God, who began a good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Welcome to your first Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. This week will be life-changing for you—in a good way! Embrace both the beauty and the chaos in each moment. Don’t forget to laugh. Find a banana slug on the redwood trail. Meet new people and invite them to join you for ice cream or coffee. Be still, and listen for God’s voice.

And come say hello to me during one of the meals! I’ll be the one not eating salad.

If this your first writers conference, what are you most concerned about?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Come meet Jill Osborne at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Click here to Register!

The Gratitude Jar

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Joy HarrisonBLOGGER: JOY HARRISON

Joy manages the Writers’ Conference Bookstore in Ivy (Upstairs street-side corner of the dining hall).

 

THE GRATITUDE JAR

I’ve been fortunate the last decade and more to be part of the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. Most of the time I am in the Writers’ Conference Bookstore helping attending authors check in their books for sale, find a book to purchase relating to their continuing writing journey, or to listen.

The bookstore in Ivy Dining Room is set up just for this conference and is unique in many ways. One of my favorite little known perks of this job is overseeing the Gratitude Jar. People stop by all day and take a moment to write down something they are thankful for concerning the conference.

It might be something they learned, how they arrived at the conference or someone they met or spoke with that day. It can be just a word or several paragraphs, but all the papers entering the jar testify to how grateful we are to be where we are.

Each day before dinner I randomly draw one of the notes and, if it is signed (because sometimes people just want a place to say thank you), I reward a book to the note writer. It isn’t about winning a book because being grateful is its own reward. But it is fun to get an unexpected gift.

Some of my favorite Gratitude Notes have mentioned a moment in conversation with an editor or a new acquaintance speaking words of encouragement, cementing the resolve to continue writing. Or this one, “I’m thankful for my grandma and my church, who helped me come here.”

Stop by the Writers’ Conference Bookstore to see what your fellow authors have published, to find a book for your return flight, or to find a book for the kiddos you left at home. When you do, I hope you’ll write a grateful note to put next to all the others in the Gratitude Jar.

I hope to see you during the conference. I’m in the bookstore and always ready to help, sometimes with a smile or a prayer or a hug. And certainly I can direct you to the books your instructor has recommended.  Just ask for Joy.

Click here for Book Consignment Guidelines

Click here for Book Consignment Form

Strategies for First Time Conference Goers

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A writer as green as spring grasses arrived at the San Jose Airport, looked for the Mount Hermon Shuttle Sign, boarded a van, and began an adventure into the publishing industry that resulted in long-lasting relationships that deepened her spiritual roots and nourished her as a writer and speaker.

I’m that writer. Mona Hodgson.

Mona-0858-Edit[1]

Twenty-eight years and hundreds of publishing credits later, I still look forward to returning to the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference every spring.

Now it’s your turn. You’re the one arriving at the conference for the first time. And you’re probably feeling as green as spring grasses. Excited. Nervous. Maybe even scared.

I’m hoping these 15 Tips and Tidbits will help prepare you for your God-ordained adventure at Mount Hermon!

1.  Connect with Mount Hermon Writers on Facebook and Twitter. I’ll continue to post updates there and on the blog.

2.  Are you flying in to San Jose and signed up to use our Airport Shuttle Service? At the airport, go to Terminal B Baggage Claim and look for a friendly face. Bob, Linda, or Marci will be waiting for you and holding a Mount Hermon sign.

Bob HodgsonLinda SmithMarci Seither

 

3.  Upon arrival at Mount Hermon on Wednesday or Thursday, go to the Administration Building (beside the Mount Hermon Post Office). That’s where you’ll check in, receive your room key, and your conference packet. For Friday arrivals, if the weather permits, you can check in at the kiosk next to the Mount Hermon Book Shop, across the street from the Administration Building.

4.  Cruise the website with frequent stops on the pages under Program, Faculty, Resources, and Blog.

5.  Take advantage of the free critique available as part of the pre-conference manuscript submission feature. Even if you plan to pitch to an editor or agent, make sure at least one of your two pre-conference submissions go to the Critique Team.

6.  Be prepared to step out of your comfort zone. Don’t be shy. New friends are waiting to meet you. Introduce yourself. Ask questions. The benches around the fire circle are a great place to meet and greet. So is the line at the Expresso Cart in Central Lounge (above the Mount Hermon Book Shop).

MH fire circle

 

7. Make education a priority. It’s tempting to focus on the pitching, networking, selling yourself or your work, but be sure you engage in a Major Morning Track (or the Morning Mentoring Clinic, if that’s the option you choose), afternoon workshops, and night owls. Visit The Critique Team in the Hospitality Center (Multipurpose Room, below the Dining Hall). Get comfortable with the idea that your first foray will be a learning experience. Be sure to join Nick Harrison in the Auditorium, Friday, March 18th at 1:45 pm for the First Timer’s Orientation.

8. Remember, it’s not just about the writing. Or publishing. Be open to God’s plan for your conference experience. Anticipate and welcome the work God wants to do in and through you. One way to prepare for that is to come with prayer support. Ask friends and family to be praying for you.

9. Expect to be overwhelmed. Information overload and over-stimulation is a normal reaction. And it’s bound to happen more than once during the conference. Pace yourself. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you have to do it all, all of the time. Take a walk. Find a quiet corner or bench where you can breathe and pray.

MH FLowernig Tree bench

 

10 Download “You Make Me Brave” by Amanda Cook and Bethel Music onto your phone and listen to it every time you begin to have doubts. (Maybe not during a workshop or one-on-one appointment, but soon there after.) By the way, even faculty members and seasoned veterans experience doubt and insecurity. You’re not alone.

11. Set goals realistic with your level of experience. Prepare emotionally and spiritually for the fact that your expectations might be unrealistic. Remember that you don’t know what you don’t know. Give yourself grace. That’s the beauty of the conference, it provides you with a place to learn what you don’t know.

12. The folks on the faculty have left families and desks that will pile high to meet you, to serve you. Sit with different ones at lunches and dinners. Introduce yourself to them and the others at the meal tables. They are coming to the conference to bless others and to be blessed by their Father.

13. Schedule time with God during the conference. Visit the A-frame chapel or one of the tables in the field down the road from it.

Chapel Exterior

 

14.  Be open about any health problems or physical limitations that might impact you at the conference. If you need help, don’t hesitate to ask for it.

15. For questions or concerns about the Mount Hermon grounds or accommodations, check in with the front desk in the Administration Building. For program related questions or concerns, see Gay or Lynn at the Hospitality Tables in the Hospitality Center (Multi-Purpose Room, below the dining hall) or connect with me (Mona).

Do any of those tips and tidbits speak to you? I hope so.

I can’t wait to meet you!

Mona

Director, Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference