Posts Categorized: Writers Conference

Ready for a Promotion

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Susie is teaching two Afternooon Workshops and serving on the Critique Team at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22.


Someone once said that a person’s gift may open the door, but his or her character will keep it open. Though it’s important to hone our craft, we need much more than skill to stay the course as a Christian writer.

Many years ago I spoke at a women’s conference and had a humbling experience. At the time, my writing credits included my first book (which I self-published), and the numerous articles I’d written for Focus on the Family. I’d not yet reached my goal and dream of getting published with a mainstream Christian publisher.

During a break in the conference I met up with the keynote speaker in the green room. She walked ahead of me in the buffet line, kept her eyes on her plate and asked, “So you write for Focus on the Family, do you?” Feeling validated, I smiled and said, “Why yes, I do.” She scooped up more food and replied, “Hmmm. Well. I myself don’t write articles. I save all of my content for my books.” She then peeked over her shoulder, gave me a tight-lipped smile, and walked away.

While I embrace opportunities to humble myself, I don’t particularly enjoy feeling humiliated. I found my way to a corner chair and sat there with my little plate of food. I felt smaller than the pitiful portions I’d taken for myself. I bowed my head and prayed for my meal. And for the knot in my gut.

In that very next moment, God whispered to my heart something I’ll never forget. He said, “Susie, wherever you go, you’ll find people that I’ve promoted serving alongside people who’ve promoted themselves. From the outside looking in, they’ll look very much the same, but the difference will be in the fruit. When you abide in Me, you’ll bear much fruit, and that fruit will always nourish others, not diminish them.”

We don’t like to wait for our dreams to come true and it’s tempting to rush ahead to make something happen in our own strength and on our own timeline. But just look in Scripture to see how well that worked for some of the folks who’ve gone before us.

You see, it’s not enough just to ‘get there’ – wherever it is we’re trying to go. When it comes to our dreams and our calling, God intends not just to get us there; He wants us to be able stand there, win our battles there, so when we’re ready, we can move on from there. But that will never happen on gifting alone. We need Christ-like character to whether the storms, trials, and temptations that go along with this calling.

Self-ambition may give us a good start but it will never promise a good finish. In fact, scripture tells us that self-ambition, envy, and jealousy are gateway sins to every other kind of evil (see James 3:14-15).

God is good and He withholds no good thing from His kids who walk intimately with Him. He’s an invested Father and will not send us out unprepared. If He’s making us wait it’s because He’s making us ready. We can trust Him.

A.B. Simpson wrote these wise words:

God is continually preparing His heroes, and, when the opportunity is right, He puts them into position in an instant. He works so fast, the world wonders where they came from. [1]

If it feels like your dream will never come to pass, lean in and trust God. Do the next thing He tells you to do. Hone your craft. Stay humble. And remember that at the best time possible, God will finish what He started in you.

[1] A.B. Simpson, Streams in the Desert, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 1997, p.174


Come meet Susie Larson at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference in March 2016.

Click here to Register for the conference!


How (& Why) Not to Geek Out at a Writers’ Conference

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Kathi Lipp (533x800)BLOGGER: KATHI LIPP

Kathi is teaching the Pre-Conference Next Level Clinic Workshop–PLATFORM: How to Find Your Readers, Lavish on Your Audience and Sell Your Book and Afternoon Workshops, also serving on the Critique Team at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March


My husband and I have a particular weakness for The Big Bang Theory. In fact, living in Silicon Valley (where we have a higher than usual number of socially awkward geniuses), I like to refer to myself as the “Non-Hot Penny” the normal girl living among a sea of people with their PhDs. In fact, everyone in their group has their PhD, except Penny, and Howard Wolowitz – the Engineer.

But what Howard lacks in a Doctorate, he makes up for in experience. He is the only one of his group who has been to the International Space Station. Yes, Howard is an astronaut.

And he’s not going to let you forget it.

Scene: The Comic Book Store

Howard: Oh, hey, Stuart, I got you a little souvenir from my trip to space.

Stuart: Well, Howard, that’s very nice of you.

Leonard: Yeah, maybe. Open it first.

Howard: It’s my official NASA portrait.

Stuart: To Stuart, your comic book store is out of this world. Just like the guy in this picture was.

Sheldon: For the record, he also thinks the Walgreens and the dry cleaners are out of this world.

Howard: That’s not true. At the Walgreens I was “over the moon” for their store-brand antacids.


Howard can’t be in a conversation that doesn’t turn into a reference about his trip to space. And frankly, everyone’s a little sick of hearing about it.

So here’s my advice to authors while you’re at a writer’s conference: Don’t be a Howard.

Don't Be a Howard 600x600

A Howard is the author who can (and will) turn any conversation back into discussing their book.

A Howard is the author who says things like, “Wow, we’re having Italian dressing at dinner tonight? That’s so weird because my protagonist’s grandmother is Italian too!”

A Howard is the author who carries around a stack of their own books and a PayPal swiper at a writer’s conference to sell their own books to other attendees. (Yes, I’ve actually seen that happen.)

I know you need to market your book. I get it.  And if you’re yet to be published – or even if you are – you need to market you.

What Howard was forgetting was the person on the other side of the conversation. That there was a real,  live, breathing human who has wants and needs, who is looking to connect – not just to be impressed by him.

Don’t be a Howard.

When you get to your writer’s conference, yes, people are going to want to hear about your project, but remember – they are people. They are excited to be at a writer’s conference with real, live writers like you.

Here are some suggestions when it comes to not completely geeking out a writer’s conference.

Ask other people questions. I know it seems pretty obvious, but at writer’s conferences, we all tend to lose our minds a bit. You just can’t wait for someone to just stop talking so you can share about your character’s love of the harp. But you are going to learn more (and have more writing friends) if you ask other people about their loves and passions.

Find out about their project.  I had a consultation with a writer at a conference and when I asked her what other projects she’d heard about that she found interesting, she said, “I didn’t spend all this money to talk to people about their projects.” Part of becoming a writer is developing a writer’s life. That means having other writers in your life. Find out about what they do and what makes them tick. You will be a better writer for it.

Ask editors about what they love to read. Editors are editors because they love to read. Find out what those editors love to read – and then share some of your favorite books. When you are not labeled the crazy writer who is stalking all editors, it’s much easier to develop a relationship.

Because here is what I’ve found – when it comes to publishing a book, editors want to work with people they want to work with. In other words, people they like. Be an author – a human being – worth liking.


Be honest. Ever geeked out a writers’ conference?


Come meet Kathi Lipp at Mount Hermon in March!

Ready to Register for the conference?

Attending a Writers’ Conference: How Would Your Life Be Different?

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Marci Blog Graphic cropped



My husband walked through the room as I began repacking my suitcase for the umpteenth time.

“What’s up?” he looked at the pile of clothes strewn across my bed and the tall stacks of writing samples and business cards I planned to take.

“You are only going to be at the writer’s conference for four days. Why do you need five pairs of black shoes?” he asked.

I felt my lip quiver and the familiar tightening of my stomach. “What if they find out..” The words stopped.

“Find out what?” John asked, realizing that I wasn’t kidding around. The tears at the rim of my eyes were real.

“They find out that I am NOT a real writer.” I sighed.

That was in 2002. I had worked all summer lifeguarding and teaching swim lessons so that my teenage daughter and I could attend a writer’s conference together. After looking online I found one that sounded great and only a few hours from where we lived. Calvin Miller and Randy Alcorn were the keynote speakers and they had a teen track for Emma and an article track for me. Perfect.

I had my samples, my spreadsheet of editors who would be attending and what they might be looking for, and all of the outlines from the classes I might want to take.

The interesting thing was that I had been a published humor columnist and article writer for about two years for a small town paper, but I never considered myself to be a writer.

My writing adventure started after a story I wrote about a cookie baking fiasco with my kids appeared in the local paper. I would have never sent in anything if it hadn’t been for my mom’s prodding. After my husband and I, along with our three kids, moved from my home state of California to Minnesota I began faxing updates to my mom, who encouraged me to get them published.

“They are just funny to you, because they are about us,” I replied.

“No,” she responded. “The whole office enjoys reading them.”

I swallowed. The whole office!  Obviously they didn’t know I wasn’t a writer.

In fact, if there had been an award for “Least likely to be published” in my high school yearbook I would have won, hands down. I was the only student in the history of Ponderosa High School to ever be demoted from electric typewriter back to manual typewriter. I also never read a book that wasn’t assigned and read in class. When extra books were required to be read and reported on for English, I lied. I made up the book, the author, the publisher, and created a believable story line that usually involved espionage and cold-war tactics. I just made sure I mentioned that it drug in the middle or didn’t have noteworthy characters.

Yet there I was, in my room surrounded by shoes and paper, having visions of someone looking over my pieces and advising me against quitting my day job.

It was about the third day of the conference when I called my husband outside the little cabin room Emma and I shared. I had been to the critique center earlier that day to have someone look over my samples.

The woman on the other side of the table chuckled while she read over the humor piece I brought. Finally, she looked up and said, “You are a really good writer.”

Tears stung my eyes as she gently handed me a Kleenex. She understood.

I will never forget my first meeting with Barbara Curtis.  She was one that encouraged me to keep writing.  We stayed in contact until she passed away a few years ago. She was one of many wonderful people who helped encourage, instruct, and even critique my work over the years. She inspired me to write to the best of my ability.

That first conference was so precious because it helped solidify the fact that God has a plan for me, even if I didn’t feel worthy or capable. In fact, the Bible is full of unworthy and incapable people that God used so really, am in good company!

I have only missed a few years since 2002. Each year I learn something new. Each year I find that The Lord uses something or someone to help me along in my writing journey.

I think it might have been Lee Roddy who said one time, “Writers write. Waiters wait. So stop waiting and start writing!”

How would your life be different if someone you trusted said, “You are a writer”?

Guess what? If you are reading this, chances are that God already did.

So start. Commit to giving Him your best.

What are you waiting for? Register now for the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference.

Note to self…only one pair of black shoes is really necessary, however, you might want to bring a small package of Kleenex, I will be in the critique room waiting to help cheer you on.


Marci SeitherCome meet Marci Seither at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Marci Seither will serve on the Resource Team as an Airport Shuttle Team, on the Critique Team, and lead a Night Owl at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 16-18.

Passive Vs. Active Verbs

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Coordinator of the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference Critique Team

Freelance Editor



Wherever possible, strive to use strong, precise verbs rather than weak, vague verbs. Instead of saying, “They were going,” write, “They went.” Or better yet, show how they went. “They jogged,” “They raced,” “They ambled,” for example. A single descriptive action verb is almost always better than a weak passive verb.

Here are some examples:

Passive: It is believed by Sue that a curfew must be placed on her son, Matthew.
Active: Sue believes that she must place a curfew on her son, Matthew.

Passive: It was earlier demonstrated that Matthew could be intimidated by too much freedom.
Active: Friday’s party showed Sue that too much freedom could intimidate Matthew.

Passive verbs often indicate that a subject exists, or that something happens to the subject. Active verbs describe something a subject does.

Passive: Andrew had dark, curly hair and a bushy beard.
Active: Andrew ran his fingers through his dark, curly hair and stroked his bushy beard.

Passive: Two cups of coffee were on the table.
Active: Joe picked up two cups of coffee from the table.

In nonfiction, there are a few acceptable reasons to use passive verbs:

1. To emphasize the action rather than the subject.
Example: Jim’s bioengineering proposal was approved by the committee.

2. To keep the subject and focus consistent throughout a passage.
Example: The astrobiology department presented a controversial proposal to the committee. After long debate, the proposal was endorsed by …

3. To be tactful by not naming the subject.
Example: The e-mail message was misinterpreted.

4. To describe a condition in which the subject is unknown or irrelevant to the sentence.
Example: Every year, many people are diagnosed with Environmental Illness.

5. To create an authoritative tone.
Example: Visitors are not allowed after 9:00 p.m.

Even in fiction, the occasional use of a passive verb is acceptable. But do a search of your manuscript for is, was, are, were, be, been, would, could, has, had, and have, and wherever you find one of those words, see if there’s a way you can show what’s happening instead of just telling about it.

NOTE: It is an infringement of copyright law to reproduce this publication, in part or in whole, without the express permission of the author. To request permission, please e-mail

How about it, are you seeing opportunities in your article or book proposal for tightening your writing using active vs. passive verbs?


You’ll meet Kathy Ide at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, where she serves as the coordinator of the Critique Team.

Register Me Now!



Can Bunnies Pray?

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Can Bunnies Pray graphic



Children’s authors often use animals as the main characters in their stories. Anthropomorphism, also known as personification, is attributing human characteristics to anything other than a human being.

Using animals as characters works well for children’s stories for many reasons:

  • Children love animals and like to read stories with animals as characters.
  • Using animals gives the author more freedom in creating his or her characters and stories.
  • Animal characters appeal to both boys and girls.
  • Using animals as characters avoids the issues of stereotyping in race, gender, or age.
  • It is more acceptable for an animal to disobey than for a young child to disobey, therefore the author can teach deeper lessons with stronger emotions.
  • Animal characters can add kid-friendly humor to the story.

Writing stories using animal characters works well for the Christian market as well as the secular market. However, authors need to be careful when getting into spiritual matters. For example, can bunnies (or any animal) pray?

There are two answers: YES and NO.


When anthropomorphism is used and the animals are given human characteristics, then the animals can pray. If Bunny talks like a real person, lives in a house, wears clothing, and goes to school, then when the Bunny Family gathers around the dinner table to eat their meal, they can ask God to bless their meal or thank Him for their food. When Bunny gets lost, or he meets a bully, or anytime he is afraid, he can pray to God to help him. Mother and Father Bunny can tell Junior Bunny about God and how He is always with them. The Bunny family can read Bible stories at bedtime and say their bedtime prayers. This is fine!


When the characters in the story are humans and there are animals in the story who are “real” animals, then the animals do not pray. I once read a children’s story by a Christian celebrity. In her story a little boy is following a bunny (a real bunny) and the bunny gets lost. The author wrote that the bunny was frightened and prayed to God to help him. Not okay! It would be okay for the little boy to ask God to help him find the bunny, or for God to keep the bunny safe, but real bunnies do not pray because they do not have a personal relationship with God.

 God and Animals

We can teach children that animals are an important part of God’s creation and that He cares for them just like he cares for the people He created. In my devotional book, My Mama and Me (Tyndale, 2013) I have a verse that says:

God helps the squirrels find nuts to eat.
He helps the bees make honey sweet.
He helps the robins build their nest
so they can have a place to rest.

Do Pets Go to Heaven?

I once read a book where a mom tells her little boy about heaven. He wants to know if his bird went to heaven after it died. The mom tells him that because he loved his bird, it is in heaven. Really? Though this may be comforting to a child, we do not have Scripture to back this up. In Isaiah 11:6-7 we read the prophesy of animals co-existing in peace and harmony, but this refers to the future and does not mean there are animals in heaven right now hanging out together. There might be—I don’t know—and so my advice is to avoid this topic and stick to what we clearly know from Scripture.

As long as there are authors writing books for children, there will be stories with animal characters. I hope this discussion helps to clarify the issue of animals praying. I am open to feedback and would love to hear your opinions.

Always writing for Him,

Crystal Bowman

Crystal Bowman from FB


Crystal Bowman will serve as a children’s writers’ mentor in the Pre-Conference Next Level Clinic, teach an Afternoon Workshop, and serve on the Critique Team at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference.


Register now to join us for the Children’s Emphasis Extravaganza at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 16-22.

Getting Started with Novellas

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Joanne Bischof - Headshot 1BLOGGER: JOANNE BISCHOF

Joanne Bischof will serve as a fiction mentor in the Pre-Conference Next Level Clinic, teach an Afternoon Workshop, and serve on the Critique Team at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference.


Though they are short, novellas are no simple thing to write. Yet they sometimes take on a bad rap of being too short, sweet, and simple. Today I want to share some tools that we can use to make these stories complex. It’s my belief that readers can be moved by a 300 page novel or a ten page short story. Basically, there’s an art to writing novellas, one that is somewhat different than full length works.

The Heritage Brides Collection This-Quiet-Sky-1


As the author of two novellas, one both a Christy and Carol Award finalist, I’m here to share with you a few of my must-haves for short fiction. So let’s get started!

Write tight, then write tighter

By writing tight, this gives you the word count to fit more into your novella. If it takes you one sentence to explain that the hero doesn’t like pie and two sentences to explain why he’s opposed to this flaky desert, why not try arranging all of that into one brief sentence? Maybe there’s an unexpected way you can phrase things that not only makes the description tight, but also intriguing. (For an example of this, see tip #3)

A great way to practice writing tight is by summarizing your fiction. Write a really, really strong synopsis. Then a really, really strong paragraph summary. If you can write an excellent one sentence pitch, you’re not only writing tight, you’re writing tighter. This is a key skill for fiction with limited word count. If you can express yourself eloquently in fifty words, then when given 30,000 – you’ll feel like you have tons of space to tell your story! I find that the more I practice writing tight, the bigger novellas feel. And most importantly, we can pass that feeling along to readers.

Keep things simple – but poignant

Chances are, your novella isn’t going to be a sweeping saga. I’m sure we can all agree that there just isn’t room. But what I find is that writers sometimes think that equates to telling a short and simple story with a basic beginning, middle, and end. I believe a strong novella needs to focus on the contrary – keep it simple but poignant by telling a portion of a sweeping saga. Elude to what comes before, elude to what may come after, and simply pluck out the most interesting section of a grand tale to suit your novella. Basically, you are giving readers a glimpse into a broader tale. There’s an art to this and it may take practice. Give your novella the respect of a novel. Treat it as profound and readers will walk away feeling like you’ve given them something really special.

Multi task

Many things in a novella will need to serve double and even triple duty. If you need to have a minor character in the story—perhaps a school teacher—also utilize them as a tool that can aid your character in his or her arc. Don’t just let that character be one-dimensional. That way, when the reader reaches the end, they look back and realize that much more was at hand then they initially realized. This can apply to many different parts of your story. Give each element as many dimensions as possible (while keeping things natural).

This can also apply to dialogue. Let your dialogue pack as much punch as possible.  Let’s draw on the above example of our hero not liking pie. Here are two of the ways it could be written:

“I don’t like pie,” he said.

Or to mutli-task you could say this:

“I haven’t eaten pie since I took one in the face for the school fundraiser last fall.”

In the second example, we’ve informed the reader that not only does he not like pie, but we’ve given them a glimpse into his past. A chance to learn something about his character: he volunteered his time—and his face—for charity! I don’t know about you, but that makes me like him more. This fundraiser doesn’t need to be a part of the novella, better yet if it’s not because we can utilize the limited word count to keep moving forward, but in those few words…something bigger was accomplished.

So those are a few of the tools I like to use for writing short fiction, but there are also many more.

Do you read novellas? Have you written a novella? What are some ideas that you have for making short fiction really stand out?


Come meet Joanne Bischof at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 16-22, 2016.

Click here to REGISTER!

Writing Your Proposal From Your Heart Goal

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MickSilva_2 (800x577)BLOGGER: MICK SILVA

Mick Silva will serve as a fiction mentor in the Pre-Conference Next Level Clinic and serve on the Critique Team at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference.


I’ve helped dozens of authors sell and publish books and I use a very simple form which is on the front page of my website ( When people come to me for editing or coaching, at the beginning of the process I have them fill out these 10 questions, starting with the last one:

“In 100 words, share why you wrote this book. What does it mean to you personally?”

The purpose of this question is to cut through all the fluff and stuff and get to the heart of what will make people pick up your book over the millions of others out there. Your strongest competitive advantage is how truthfully and succinctly you can answer this question and summarize your passion for your project. All of your other proposal pieces—your pitch, your positioning, your audience, your comp titles, your marketing materials—are secondary and derive from this.

A big reason Mount Hermon has become the premiere conference for Christian writers is not because of its fluff and stuff, but because they know their why. And their long legacy shows their leadership attracts a high caliber of writers who know their why.

I’ve seen this over many years attending and watching the writers who succeed and stand out. Such writers spend time crafting their why, and gotten to know their ultimate goal. They’re interested in the why of others, the masters and the soon-to-bes. But most of all, they remain solidly attracted and attached to that primary motivation, their deepest heart goal.

Mick Silva Proposal Pic


Focus on the Heart

Everything they do emanates from and is an extension of that heart goal.

And whether you’re an aspiring author or a world-class writers conference, that heart goal requires a bedrock commitment to digging deeper than surface-level and initial impressions. That’s why people will be attracted and dedicated to you, not simply to your products, but because you reveal a process. Namely, a process of refinement.

So seek your why diligently and commit to refining the statement of your goal until it’s clear, concise, complete and uniquely you. It needs to offer the best glimpse into what makes your work remarkable.

The remaining answers will follow—your summary, audience, felt needs, the benefits, market potential, comparative books, even your qualifications—those other sections every proposal needs. Endorsers and those critically important partners you can call on will also be those who share that heart goal.

This is the best advice I can give. Research other successful authors’ heart goals. It may not be obvious at first, but it’s there. This isn’t just being smart; it’s vitally important for success. Then, keep refining until you land on the best way to express yours.

Borrow the Best

I suppose I think I write about this a lot, but maybe it’s not enough. Especially in learning to write your books, proposals, publicity pieces, and even blog posts and Facebook posts, you’ve got to learn to express your heart goal by learning how others express theirs.

In the same way you can’t just read the books that made you want to write yours, but have to pick them apart piece by piece, you also have to find what went into the posts and proposals and marketing of your favorite authors that makes their stuff work? What makes it so attractive and “sticky?”

I guarantee it’s the way they’ve learned to crystalize and express their heart goal.

Be Adventurous

What has happened to our sense of adventure in this spoon-fed culture of ours? Everything’s how-to’s and “short cuts” but nothing is really nailing the core of how to be a successful author. I don’t know, but I think that’s because no one wants to hear you just have to read others’ successful examples and learn it yourself.

I’m not being particularly original here. Isn’t this how authors have succeeded for ages? You read and then you copy and in the process, you find your own way. I think it’s clear that’s how all those teachers and guidebook writers found their material that they’re now trying to package for you. But what they can’t give you is the self-satisfaction and deep value for these insights from actually discovering them yourself.

It may be that this is a difference between successful writers and the rest. Maybe the successful writers know which tools and tips and secret methods to value more because they discovered them from their own indigenous sources.

If that’s true, maybe learning our heart goal from our deepest why could help us find freedom, instead of focusing on more teaching and training, simply to write more.

And ultimately, through refining to express it better, we might come to know our true selves more fully, to simplify and return us to our first love—that original experience of a better, more fulfilling way.


Come meet Mick Silva at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 16-22, 2016.



3 Ways to Impress a Judge

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Angie will teach an Afternoon Workshop and serve on the Critique Team at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, 2016.


Do you have the courage to put your work in front of people who will judge…you? Entering contests is like standing naked and alone. Confidence is a tough commodity when all possible flaws are visible. Waiting and waiting and waiting some more while other people read, comment, and score your book is excruciating. How do you make sure your entry isn’t a waste of time and money? Here’s a couple of tips to help and why those simple tips are important.

Angie Impress Judge Post


1. It’s not about you. The book or project you’ve created is not about you personally. Take the element of “them versus you” out of the equation. Don’t get offensive or offended. Judging a professional project isn’t about attacking an individual. It’s about looking at the project as an objective outsider. Ask, “Does it meet the criteria of the contest?” before sending the book. Then, above all, do not try to sell your work to a judge. (Yes, I receive sales materials regularly from contest participants.) It’s a huge faux pas unless the rules specifically allow it—and most don’t. Don’t send flyers, bookmarks, postcards, etc. The judge is not going to promote your work. It’s unethical for a judge to do so.

2. Read the rules. Elementary, right? Wrong. Having judged close to 1,000 books, often well over 50% of writers do not follow the contest rules. If not disqualified, missing the details can cause your book to score so low it’s a problem even if the book is fantastic. Publishers, contests, news outlets (the list is endless) all have guidelines. Writers lament over not being accepted or always losing. Too often the reason is that they haven’t paid close attention and, gasp, followed the rules. Check formatting, topic, word count, font, header/footer, book cover front/back elements, interior styles and placements, and any other rule. Check again. Once more before sealing the mailer!

3. There may be exceptions to writing rules, but not in contests. Yes, writers who know what they’re doing can, and do, successfully break writing rules. But in a contest, you’re showing you know and understand those rules. It’s like being back in school. A test demonstrates knowledge and ability to apply what you’ve learned. A contest could be considered a professional level test of what you know and understand about writing a non-fiction book or novel. Write the best book you can. Your book will stand out when you do follow the rules because, though a shocker, a large portion of entrants will not. How do you annoy a contest judge? Present a project and ignore the rules they’ve signed and/or agreed to use in judging the books. One last thought on those nefarious rules. If there isn’t a way to equalize the field, then how would you know what a win looks like? Try playing any game with no rules or the wrong set of rules. You get the picture.


Come meet Angela Breidenbach at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22.

Click here to Register Now!

A Writer’s Sabbath in a 24/7 World

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Historical novelist Sarah Sundin will serve as a mentor for the Morning Mentoring Clinic, teach an Afternoon Workshop, and serve on the Critique Team at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Sarah Sundin Sabbath Post


Feeling overwhelmed?

While the life of a writer sounds idyllic—spinning stories and autographing books—the reality is a whirlwind. When my fourth novel released in 2012, I worked nonstop—writing, emails, Facebook, interviews, Twitter, newsletters, articles, speaking engagements. By November, I was a wreck.

I haven’t been a big fan of “God’s One Word of the Year for You.” One word only? Every January 1? Right on schedule? Really? However, in 2013 a word emerged for me. Granted, God gave it to me in February. But I knew it was from God because I didn’t want to hear it.


To most of us Sabbath means going to church every Sunday. Sure, we can do that. But God’s commandment is much more than this. It’s a command to rest.

Exodus 20:8-11: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work…For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day.”

If the Lord Almighty took a day off, so should we! The Lord knows our tendency to run ourselves ragged. Before creation, he knew we would live in a 24/7 world with our faces glued to our screens. The Lord made us, and He knows we need rest.

The command to rest is an exercise in trust. Do we trust the Lord to help us meet our commitments, even if we take time off? Like the manna in the desert that decayed when the Israelites gathered too much, the time we “steal” from the Lord decays in our hands. We end up burned out and less productive than if we’d rested in the first place.

How loving and merciful He is to command us to rest. Yet we resist, like toddlers being put down for naps.

Practical Approach

What does Sabbath rest look like for a professional writer living in a 24/7 world, where deadlines need to be met, emails need to be answered, and social media needs to be updated? How can we incorporate Sabbath into our lives?

For me, this means a two-pronged approach. First, I’ve trimmed things down. Instead of jumping on each writing or promotional opportunity, I evaluate it. Does it meet my career goals in a significant way? Will it reach new readers, connect with current readers, or minister to people? If not, I’ll pass.

Second, I’m intentionally working Sabbath into my routines. Daily—time in the Bible and in prayer, plus regular breaks to walk the dog or read a novel. Weekly—in addition to Sunday services, taking a day off—except the daily internet necessities (sigh). Yearly—a vacation focused on family and being outside.

How about you? How can you incorporate Sabbath into your life?


Meet Sarah Sundin at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, 2016.


How I (Finally) Made Peace with Social Media

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Nancy Rue cropped (677x800)BLOGGER: NANCY RUE

In March, Nancy Rue will teach a Major Morning TrackThe Art and Wonder of Writing for Tweens and Teens–at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference.



I started my authorial career (doesn’t that just sound so professional?) in 1981, a blissful time in publishing when all we writers had to do was pen great books and keep ‘em comin’. The publisher did the rest, including the marketing.

It was literary nirvana.

The first time I heard about Facebook was at a writers’ retreat. When some of my younger colleagues raved about how many “friends” they had and I realized they were talking about people they didn’t even know, I rolled my eyes practically onto the floor. I wasn’t going to sit around doing that. I had books to write. Authors of my era joined me in disdain for all this self-promotion that seemed to be happening a generation behind us. Yeah, we were pretty snobby about it.

Fast forward a couple of years when I won a Christy for The Reluctant Prophet. Unlike my previous books, this one wasn’t going off the charts in sales. The numbers were embarrassing, but now, with the award, surely the novel would make it to the best seller list.

It didn’t.

The marketing director at the publishing house gave me a list of all the things I needed to be doing to boost those sales. What I had to do. Me. The author. Was she serious? Set up a Facebook page? Make videos and post them on YouTube? Blog? I wailed that if I did all that stuff, I wouldn’t have time to write. Without batting a proverbial eye she said, “You can do this, Nancy.”

I couldn’t agree. For the first time since my career began 25 years before, I felt incompetent and unconfident and downright klutzy. This was not in my skill set.

I wanted to throw up.

Before somebody had to call for clean-up on aisle three, the publisher offered to use part of my marketing budget to hire me a virtual assistant. Best thing ever. She taught me how to set up my Facebook page, and how to tweet, pin, like and throw an online party.

So, yeah, I was out there in the social media stream, but I was still floating on my resentment. Why should writers have to market their own stuff? What the Sam Hill were the publicists and the PR people doing? Jane Austen didn’t have to connect daily with her audience. She just wrote books.

I was waking up every morning with a sense of dread over how I was going to sell my work. I dropped out of Brownies at age 8 because I couldn’t bring myself to go door to door with boxes of Thin Mints. Clearly I had to get over it, or all that I’d worked for, all the ways I’d tried to serve, were going to be for naught.

That’s when I got it. What if I thought of marketing on line not as social media but soul media? What if I stopped trying to sell books and focused on connecting with people? What if I saw the Internet as an additional means for spreading the message of authenticity God gave me way back in 1981? What if I used every possible resource and venue to help?

What if I got over myself?

I have. I’m not Jane Austen. The Golden Era of Christian Publishing is fading in the mist.  What God has given me to say is still important. I can’t think of it as marketing. It’s ministry.

I have to admit: I’m actually enjoying it. Even the shyest, most private, least internet savvy author can too. A book that helped me tremendously was Kristen Lamb’s Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World. Mostly, though, it was God saying, “Use every means possible. Just get it done.”

So here’s what I’m doing. And if I can, trust me, anybody can.



Nancy Rue

Here’s where you can connect with Nancy:

NancyRue@NancyRue3 (twitter)


Come meet Nancy Rue at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, 2016.


5 Questions to Ask Before You Self or Indie-Publish

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Agent, The Blythe Daniel Agency

Jessie will teach two Afternoon Workshops, review Pre-Conference Manuscript Submissions, and meet with writers at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, 2016,


To Do Folder pic Jessie KirklandA common debate right now in the publishing world is whether or not authors should traditionally publish or self-publish. Every writer has heard wildly successful tales from both sides of the fence. As an agent, I fully believe that strong publishing partnerships are priceless. When you find the right publishing house to partner with, your career should be better for it. At the same time, I do think there are certain types of projects, circumstances, seasons—and certain types of writers—that lend themselves well to self-publishing. There are many instances where a quality, self-published title has helped an author get a contract from the agents and publishing houses they hoped to secure in the first place. If you are a writer who is considering the self-publishing route, here are a few questions to consider before you go on your way.

Money. Are you ready to be the bank? Many authors fail to consider the cost of self-publishing before they move forward with their book projects. I know many writers who are self-publishing well, but all of them spend anywhere from $1000 to $3,000 just to get the essentials: a good cover, a thorough developmental edit, and a quality copyedit. Can you do it cheaper? I’m sure you can, but my warning to you is that you get what you pay for. That doesn’t include any extra money spent on publicity or marketing. The nice thing about publishing with a traditional house is that they are the bank. They take on the risk and bring to the table all of the necessary personnel to make your story market-ready. As a self-published author, you should absolutely have a team that looks identical to what the publishing house would supply for you—but you have to find them, hire them, and pay them out of your own pocket.

Momentum. Are you ready to build a team to help push your book forward? When you self-publish, you volunteer to be a team of one. And if you want to be successful, you can’t stay a team of one. There are two types of teams that every self-published author needs: a prep team and a launch team. The prep team consists of all the people that help prepare your manuscript for production. These are agents, developmental editors, line editors, graphic artists, formatters, etc. Then, there is the launch team. These are marketers, publicists, social media assistants, readers in your target market, and other focus groups that are willing to tell the world about your book and share it on social media.  It’s rare to find someone who can wear enough hats to do this on their own. Your team might be five people or ten people, but you must have a team in order to launch a book that will help your career.

Marketing. Are you prepared to market your work weekly? There are millions of books on Amazon. And if you want to join the ranks of those millions of books, then you need a marketing strategy to get noticed, because it’s pretty darn noisy out there. I believe that authors, any type in any market, should have a marketing plan for 6 months prior to their publication date, and 6 months after launch. You will not drum up anything but disappointment if you simply upload your book to Amazon and walk away. You have to remind people, in a responsible and non-annoying way, that you are a writer with a book for sale. Many people hate to market. If you are one of those people, then you probably shouldn’t self-publish or you will need to hire someone to do the marketing for you.

Motive. Why are you choosing to self-publish? There are a number of motives that drive a writer’s decision to self-publish their work. These motives can be derived from both positive and negative experiences that writers have faced in their careers.  Maybe you want to self-publish because you are a great writer and marketer, so self-publishing is a natural fit for you. I know a few authors who have had long careers in traditional publishing and left for a bigger paycheck in the self-publishing world. But, again, those are established authors with huge followings, so they can run the risk of not having a publishing partner launch their titles. Sometimes writers who decide to pursue self-publishing do so through a lens of rejection. They have received no’s from traditional publishers, or they get impatient trying to find an agent, and decide to run ahead of the process. Most of the time, this ends badly—with damage done to their career almost before it begins. If you are interested in self-publishing, you need to weigh your motive against possible outcomes. Did a publishing house tell you no because your content wasn’t ready? If so, self-publishing could be a disaster for you in that moment of time. Do you write in a genre that only has a few reasonable opportunities? Then self-publishing might be a good route for you.

Manuscript. Is your manuscript publication ready? Have you given your story enough time to bake? Before I was an agent, I wanted to be a writer. The best advice that anyone ever gave me was to go to a writer’s conference if I was truly interested in pursuing writing as a career. It took me six years of writer’s conferences to fully grasp what good story looked like on the page. I’ve read countless books on how to write as well as studied bestsellers, all to become better. Have you studied your craft? I know a handful of authors who wrote a first draft before they studied the art of writing, but they didn’t stop learning after their first draft. A first draft is a baby step. It’s an amazing accomplishment, and harder for some than others, but you need to know the rules of writing and good story. And then, if you creatively choose to break a few, know the rules you are breaking. Some ways to get your manuscript ready include: get your prep team assembled, join a strong critique group, create a group of Beta Readers to give you general reader feedback.

One piece of advice I give to debut authors is that even if competition is high and opportunity to break in and get a traditional contract feels low, these factors should never change your passion for writing. A changing publishing landscape should never make you quit. If anything, it should make you a stronger, smarter, and more strategic writer. In the event that you have weighed your options and self-publishing is your path of choice, educate yourself and do it well.


Come meet Jessie Kirkland at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22.


Allowing God to Lead You

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Managing Editor, Molly Green Magazine

Reviewing Pre-Conference Manuscript Submissions and Meeting with Writers at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22.



“Then Moses called Bezalel and Aholiab, and every gifted artisan in whose heart the LORD had put wisdom, everyone whose heart was stirred, to come and do the work” Exodus 36:2, NKJV

A few years ago our pastor challenged us to ask God to use us in our area of talent. My heart leapt and I immediately thought, “I want God to be glorified through my writing—I want Him to use me.”

This wasn’t something that unexpectedly pounced on me that morning. Since childhood I’ve enjoyed imagining and writing stories. I majored in Communication Arts, but in the busyness of raising and homeschooling six children and being a wife and homemaker, I pushed the desire to create to the sidelines. Occasionally I’d slip away to write, but rarely found or made time to do.

That Sunday morning something changed. I could feel it. God stirred my heart and I responded.

Within a short period of time I began to see Him answering. Completely unaware of my whispered prayer, I was asked to co-write the skits for the upcoming VBS at our church—an event that averages about 500 children a day. Then the Women’s Ministries offered another writing opportunity. My dormant desire was being nourished and once again I began working on my unfinished books and stories, as well as these other projects.

In 2012, after an incredible and encouraging experience at Mount Hermon Writers’ Conference, I decided I needed a platform. Within a few months I stumbled on an opportunity—writing literature unit studies for a homeschooling website—perfect for this season of my life. This opportunity led to writing articles, as well, but also to my current position as the Managing Editor of a magazine that covers topics that highly interest me and still allows me to home educate our children.

As I look back on the past few years, I see how faithful God has been to answer my prayer to be used in an area I love, and to guide my steps—even when I feel like I’m flailing.

Maybe for years you’ve had a desire to write, but the circumstances in your life haven’t allowed you to be able to commit the time needed. Is now the time? Is your heart being stirred like the artisans in Exodus to come and do the work and allow God to direct your writing journey?

Ask Him.

Perhaps attending the Mount Hermon Writers’ Conference in 2016 is the next step and will help lead you to a new season in your life. If your heart is being stirred, He’s the one inspiring you.

What will your journey look like?


Come meet Marla Schultz at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, 2016.


Weaving Grace into Non-Fiction Writing

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A Nonfiction Mentor for the Pre-Conference Next Level Clinic.

Serving on the Critique Team and teaching a one-hour workshop at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference.



My equipment consisted of a hammer, an empty soda can, and a stool. Over a thousand people watched me set the can on the stool and crush it flat by a hundred little taps. No, not a skills test, but a sermon before the church that calls me pastor.

My goal was to illustrate a painful point: so much of the Christian message seems to consist of a thousand little chores. People are tired. So many come to church worn out. What do they get? Hope? No. A glimpse of the power of God to transcend their mundane problems? No. A promise to claim? Another attribute of God to rest upon? No. No. No.

What they get is another item for their already backed up to-do list. Tap! We need help in the nursery. Tap! Did you pray/read/study this week? Tap. Integrity matters. Tap. Tap. Have you fallen into crazy love with Jesus? Tap! Tap! Tap! Be radical! Tap! Get to work, Mary! Go help Martha!

No crushing blow. No giant wagging foam finger of shame. But a thousand micro-guilt-trips, delivered courtesy the most sincere Christian communicator, resulting in a dispirited readership that would, if it had the clarity of mind, would through the offending book across the room, in Christian love.

Non-fiction writers, like pastors, need to weave grace into their writings. You may look at your body of work and protest, “Well, I never pound my readers on the head.” Amen! I’m happy to hear that. Now look more deeply. Study hard the thrust of your words. What are you writing about? Duty? Obligation? Practices? Christian chores?

Right, you may not pound. But do you tap?

Relentless tapping is today’s literary equivalent of yesterday’s water-drip torture.

Here are three ways to weave grace into your writings.

  1. Emphasize the DECLARATIVE over the IMPERATIVE.

Only in a writer’s blog could I get away with that statement. The bulk of Scripture is written in the in declarative mode. Scripture-writers relish to lay out a feast of who God is: his character, attributes, names, and deeds. They revel in his promises, and reveal his provision. They blaze forth the message of a God able to lead his people through the wilderness, and prepare them a table in the presence of their enemies. Without shying away from life’s painful realities, they nurture hope by pointing to eternal realities, more real and lasting and significant than anything we see with our eyes or feel with our senses.

As non-fiction writers, we have an embarrassment of riches from which to work. Yes, there is most definitely a place for the imperatives of the Christian life. But let us be sure to anchor them in the abiding declaratives. That is the only way our readers will know both the reasons for their obedience, and the power from which that obedience flows.

  1. Emphasize IDENTITY over ACTIVITY.

As a Christian author, you are naturally concerned with the way of life your readers embrace. It’s tempting to spell out that way of life in so much detail you begin to rival the Pharisees. The simple reality remains that people act out of who they are. More correctly, the act out of who they think they are. If they label themselves stupid, or weak, or victim, or ugly, their lifestyles invariably take on those hues.

If you really want your writing projects to speak to hearts and change lives, then speak to your readers’ identity. Who are you in God’s eyes? How does he label you? What does it mean to be truly beloved, wanted, cherished, protected, provisioned, enabled, empowered, and accepted in Christ?

If you spend a little more time telling people who they are than you “tap” their craniums with what they should do, you’ll see the grace take root and grow up like a tree.


Yes, the Holy Grail of modern Christian writing is, in my mind, woefully misplaced. What are we, Oprah with Jesus sprinkled on top? Dr. Phil Got Religion?

Of course, readers need tips for living. But those tips are just taps unless they’re rooted in something heavenly, something miraculous, something that transcends the mundane stuff of tabloid and Internet advice.

When a writer lifts that veil that separates earth from heaven’s throne, and describes a glimpse of God’s never ceasing labors in your everyday affairs, when you lift your reader’s mind above the humdrum of daily existence to the glories of the world above, when you make your reader’s heart skip a beat over the angelic watchers, and gasp at the glories to come, you have strengthened them to face the day by the matchless grace of God.

Sometimes “practical” is code for “tap, tap, tap.” Write to thrill the heart with the never-ceasing love of God, and you will have a your band of raving fans… not of you, but of the grace you proclaim.

Oh, and they’ll buy and sell your books too.

The saintly Robert Murray M’Cheyne wrote, “For every look at self take ten looks at Christ.” That’s what I’m talking about. Instead of tap-tap-tapping on your readers with what remains undone, fill their hearts with what has been done for them, perfectly, completely, and irrevocably by God’s matchless grace.


Come meet Bill Giovannetti at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference.


Registration is Now Open!

Writing for Middle Grade Boys

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Serving as a fiction mentor for a Morning Mentoring Clinic at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Leading a bonus session Friday night, Preparing for the Appointment 



If you’re writing for middle grade kids, you may be making a critical mistake. Writing for “kids” suggests you’re targeting both boys and girls. Do that and you’ll likely only get the girls.

A better technique? Write for boys. You’ll get the boys and the girls if you do it right. Girls will read great writing targeted for boys, but many boys won’t read something they sense is written for girls. Lets look at things your writing for boys needs, and things you need to avoid.

Three Things Writing for Boys Needs

White Space– If you have too much margin-to-margin text your book looks like work to read—instead of fun. Many boys will simply close the book. Break up the page with dialogue, interior thought, etc.

Short Chapters– Some boys count the pages for a chapter before they read it. If the chapter is too long, they may not even start. Sometimes a boy only has fifteen minutes to read. If they can’t finish the chapter they’ll be frustrated. Find a good place to end the chapter sooner. I often average five or six pages. And remember … more chapters mean more cliffhangers—which is exactly what you need for boys.

Strong Starts– You know you need this. Your story is like a car on the line at a drag strip. When the reader opens to Chapter One, that’s the green light. You can’t be adjusting your mirrors and showing the reader what the track looks like. On the first line of the book you pop the clutch and stand on the gas. From the very first line you want to intrigue your reader … hint at danger. And not just the first line of the book, but the first line of every chapter.

Three Things Writing for Boys Must Avoid

Romance– Middle grade is a tricky time. Some boys are interested in girls, some aren’t. Many writers want to put a little romance in their stories just to keep the girls interested. Don’t do it. You’ll lose too many boys, and it isn’t needed. Girls will read—and love—a well-written story that has no romance.

Preachy– A good, well-written story will teach subtle spiritual truth. Including portions of a sermon the junior high character just happens to remember comes off as hokey. And so do many conversion scenes. They won’t seem real to the boy reader. When the story doesn’t seem real you’ll lose much of the potential impact your book could have had.

Lengthy Descriptions– The detailed descriptions you think will bring life to your story will more likely kill it. Boys skim descriptions—unless you’re describing a weapon, a cool machine, etc. They don’t care what most rooms look like. Honest. Limit your description only to the details that matter to your POV character at the moment, and give it to the readers in very small doses.

You want to write for middle grade kids?

Excellent. Target the boys, and you’ll get them all.


Come meet Tim Shoemaker at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Registration is Now Open!

Building Your Platform with a New “P” Word–Potential

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Editorial Representative, Guideposts Magazine

Teaching an Afternoon Workshop, Reviewing Pre-Conference Manuscripts and meeting with writers at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22.


You’re hard at work on a novel or nonfiction book. You sign up to attend the conference and are eager to discuss your work with agents and publishers. Along with feedback, get ready to hear this question, “What’s your platform?” Right now you might have to say, “I don’t have one,” but you can change that.

Don’t despair. Everyone has a platform. It is built on YOU! And you can start right now to construct yours or add to what you already have. Friends, family, acquaintances, even other writers, are a great beginning. And it’s what I call the new “P” word: Potential.

Start small and add to it weekly. Join Twitter, or Pinterest, or any of the social media sites. How do you get started? Google “how to get started on (blank)” in the search bar (insert one of the following into the blank space: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest). You’ll be amazed at the information that pops up to help you.

A large platform doesn’t happen overnight. A novel doesn’t get written in a day, and thousands of followers and friends don’t just drop out of the air one night. Layer your platform one step at a time, like building the foundation of a house, or constructing a novel. You may already have a Facebook account. Build it up by making friends outside of your circle of family. Not on Twitter? It’s not hard, but like everything else, there is a learning curve. The same with Pinterest or any of the other sites. Take time now to invest in your platform, then look forward to those meetings at the conference.

Set goals and work toward them. Do a little bit more on social media than you have done in the past. Post a few times a week on your sites. Taken one small step at a time it’s not so scary, not so insurmountable, not the big bad “P” word you thought it to be. You can answer an agent or publisher the next time they say, “What’s your platform?” with the following response, “I’m building it, and it has great potential.”


Can you name three things you’re doing to build your platform?

Come meet B.J. Taylor at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Ready to learn more about Platform and work with a mentor to build your writer’s platform? Join us for the Pre-Conference Next Level Clinic and participate in Kathi Lipp’s Platform Workshop.

Click here to register for the Next Level Clinic and the Main Conference!


Registration is Open for the 2016 Writers’ Conference!

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Strike up the band . . . for the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference.

The Mount Hermon Writers’ website is (mostly) updated!

Wait there’s more ~ Registration is open!

conversation amidst the trees


March 16-18, 2016 ~ Pre-Conference Next Level Clinic

March 18-22, 2016 ~ Main Conference

March 16-18, 2016 ~ Pre-Conference Next Level Clinic and Main Conference


Check out the stellar 2016 faculty . . .

Keynote Speaker



Workshop Leaders

Critique Team

Resource Team


Randy in conversation after class


Peruse the power-packed program . . .

Pre-Conference Next Level Clinic

Major Morning Tracks

Morning Mentoring Clinics

Afternoon Workshops

Night Owls


meal conversations


Don’t miss the Special Features and Resources, including . . .

Free Manuscript Review and/or Critique

The Critique Team

Airport Shuttle Service


Critique Team in action cropped

Click here for a peek at the 2016 Conference Schedule.

playdoh 1


“Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame.

Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant.

Don’t quit in hard times….” 

Romans 12:11-12 MSG

We can inspire and equip you to Be Unquenchable!

Emilies and others photo opp classroom conversation


Plan now to join us in the California Redwoods in March for Community, Instruction, Inspiration, Connection, encouragement, Spiritual Refreshment, and Blessing.


Writing and Selling Your Memoir: It’s All About Theme

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Memoir Cartoon


Associate Editor, Nonfiction, David C. Cook Publishing

Reviewing Pre-Conference Manuscript Submissions and meeting with writers, March 18-22, 2016



“Memoir is about handing over your life to someone and saying, ‘This is what I went through, this is who I am, and maybe you can learn something from it.’ It’s honestly sharing what you think, feel, and have gone through. If you can do that effectively, then somebody gets the wisdom and benefit of your experience without having to live it.” ~ Jeanette Walls, author of The Glass Castle

You have a personal story. It may have been tragic or traumatic or very emotional, and you not only survived it, you learned valuable life lessons from it. Perhaps it can help others if you share it. So, what do you need to know about writing and selling your memoir?

Here are some basic writing guidelines:

  1. Rule #1: Your memoir is not about you. There’s more to crafting a memoir than writing your life story. It isn’t one long journal written in chronological order. It also isn’t a book-length rant. Writing your memoir can be cathartic, but good memoir is geared more toward the reader’s experience.
  2. Tell the truth. With recent books having been fabricated, it’s more important than ever to make sure you’ve got your story straight. That doesn’t mean you have to remember what color shirt you were wearing on a certain day, or that you have to include every factual detail. It means be honest, don’t embellish, don’t exaggerate. Also, you’ll want to document facts, especially if you have legal or medical aspects to your story.
  3. Use fiction techniques. Every page must drive your story forward, so you need to create tension and remember to show, not tell. A good memoir often begins with an intense, emotion-packed moment of drama.
  4. Make ‘em hungry. Only include things that will actually interest your reader and make them want more. So what if your cat hacked up a hairball? Just because something happened, doesn’t mean it’s interesting. Keep in mind that the reader wants an emotional experience, and they’re always looking for what’s in your story for

Annie Dillard says, “You have to take pains in a memoir not to hang on the reader’s arms, like a drunk, and say, ‘And then I did this and it was so interesting.’”

What do agents and editors want to see in a memoir?

  1. A query with a strong hook. Unless you’ve met in person with an agent or an editor, don’t send anything more than a query letter. Make your letter stand out by creating a compelling hook for it.
  2. A complete, compelling proposal. Follow agency guidelines when submitting to agents. If you haven’t already written a book proposal, do this even before you finish your manuscript. A book proposal is like a business plan for a book. It will help you fully evaluate your audience, your market, and your own merit for writing a memoir.
  3. Excellent writing—an absolute must. Do not send your manuscript to an agent or editor until it is ready! The worst thing you can do is to be in a hurry to publish. Have a professional critique and/or edit your manuscript and proposal first, and be willing to do revisions if needed.
  4. A sensational or highly emotional story. Readers only keep reading memoir that holds meaning for them personally. They want an experience, not just lovely prose. Also, note that Christian publishers prefer a redemptive ending.
  5. A considerable platform and/or media attention. This is especially important to publishers these days, so you’ll want to give it your best effort.

Finally, remember that writing your memoir, even though it’s your story and what you learned along the way, is not about you. It’s about your reader—their life, their issues, and what they care about. And readers only read because they want to.

Alice CriderCome meet Alice Crider at the conference, March 18-22, 2016!

Registration is Now Open!

Down Payment on a Dream

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.


Literary Agent and Vice President of Books & Such Literary Management

Co-Teaching a One-Hour Workshop and serving on the Agent Panel.



I’m guessing that some who investigate the cost of attending a writer’s conference like The Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference are taken back by the cost. Four nights of accommodations in a pristine giant redwoods setting with a couple dozen meals, snacks and food events not to mention professional mentoring, teaching and networking with publishing professionals. Does it give you sticker shock?

I’m rereading Mark Batterson’s Draw the Circle: The 40 Day Prayer Challenge for the third time. Yes, it’s only been out for a little less than two years but this book is worth reading and rereading even in the space of a few months. On day seven, which he titles, Put on Waders, he tells the story about the year before his congregation bought what is now the famous coffee shop, Ebenezers, on Capitol Hill. They were praying for a piece of property to come available– any piece. They knew it would take a near-miracle to find anything for sale, let alone for a price they might be able to pay.

That year he took an $85.00 step of faith that set them up for the three million dollar miracle to come. His children’s school held a charity auction and he attended. Most people bid on trips or tickets to sporting events but he decided to bid on a book on Capitol Hill zoning codes donated by the Capitol Hill Restoration Society. Batterson bought the book and considered it a down payment on a dream. He sensed he needed to demonstrate his faith even before they found a property.

As I read that for the third time, it hit me– that’s what we ask writers to do all the time. Put a down payment on a dream. What are some of the things you might do?

  • Create a website and begin building a reader following long before you have your first contract.
  • Jump into social media and begin to build a platform long ahead of your book.
  • Join the writing community and connect with other writers, both published and not-yet-published.
  • Spend scarce dollars to take classes and webinars.
  • Create a writing environment in your home– a place for you to be serious about your dream. (I know, I know, but Noah built the Ark on dry land, didn’t he?)
  • Or maybe, just maybe, click on register for the 2016 Mount Hermon Writers’ Conference. Let it be your down payment on a dream.


Come meet Wendy Lawton at the Mount Hermon, March 18-22, 2015, where she’ll participate in a couple of workshops, review pre-conference manuscripts, and meet with writers!


There’s Never Been A Better Time to Write for Kids!

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.


Children’s Author

Serving on the Critique Team, March 2016; Teaching an Afternoon Workshop


There’s Never Been a Better Time to Write for Kids!

I stared out at the crowd of a hundred or so kids at VBS.

Should I ask the question or not?

I was afraid, a little, because I’m a writer. But I was curious, a lot, because I’m a writer.

“How many of you like to read?”

To my surprise, three-quarters of the hands shot up. Half of them belonged to the boys.


My fingers fumbled with the zipper on my purse as the young couple in front of me talked about the joys and struggles of raising three girls.

Be bold. Ask them.

“What’s the age of your oldest?”

“She’s ten.”

“Does she like to read?”

Their eyes widened. “She loves it.”

“Then I’d like to give her a gift, if you don’t mind.” I pulled a book out of my purse, signed it, and handed it to them.

“You’re a writer?” They both teared up a little. “Thank you so much. We just visited our daughter at summer camp, and she’s struggling to fit in with girls her age. We know this will encourage her.”


I noticed an alert from a parent on my author Facebook page.

Go ahead. Click on it.

“My OH so picky reader LOVES your books! Thanks for following Jesus.”


There’s never been a better time to write for kids.


“I’ve thought about writing for kids,” you might say. “But… (Fill in your best ‘but’ here.)”

Hmmm. Sounds like you need encouragement. I have some for you.

The Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference in 2016 is shaping up to be one of the best years yet for training, inspiring, and discovering children’s writers!

Check out who’s on this year’s faculty:

Children’s Authors:

  • Mona Hodgson (She’s the conference director but has written many books for kids—one that is currently my granddaughter’s favorite)
  • Christine Tangvald (A picture book genius and the inventor of enthusiasm)
  • Tim Shoemaker (I love his intense Code of Silence series.)
  • Nancy Rue (I’ll finally get her to sign all my Faithgirlz books!)
  • Crystal Bowman (She’s an expert at loving the littlest readers with her many picture books and Bible stories)
  • Me (I’ll be teaching a workshop and hanging out at the critique table. Please come and get a “Hey, you’re a children’s writer!” knuckle bump and some M&Ms.)

Children’s Editors:

This list is amazing! And it doesn’t even include all the super-talented writers for kids who plan to attend the conference.

I hope you will be one of them.

Why? Because kids really do like to read these days—even the boys. They’re also struggling to grow up godly in a culture that is fighting against them at every turn. Parents are hoping and praying and searching for quality materials for their children to read. And you, my friend, are a writer.

Sounds like the best time ever to write for kids.

See you at Mt. Hermon!

Why I Attend Writers’ Conferences

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.


Literary Agent with Books & Such Literary Management

Serving on the Agent Panel workshop and meeting with writers.



Thank you for the opportunity to share on the Mount Hermon blog.

[Mona: We’re happy to hear from you, Rachel. Thanks for the post!]

I’m excited to get to be a part of the writers’ conference next year. I always enjoy the Mount Hermon conference! I have met a lot of my clients there and the classes are top notch.

[Mona: We’re thrilled you’re going to be with us and part of the faculty in March.]

Obviously, agents go to writers’ conferences to meet potential clients, but are there reasons beyond the obvious? YES!

Here are a few of the other reasons I like to attend writers conferences:

1) I attend conferences to help authors learn about publishing and what agents do. I usually teach one or two workshops. I am not teaching at Mt. Hermon this year because I have to leave on Sunday, but I will be participating in an Agent Panel workshop Saturday afternoon and I’m available for appointments–not only for pitches, but also to help answer questions writers might have.

2) I always enjoy gathering with fellow bibliophiles and worshiping God with other Christians. The worship time at many Christian conferences is a highlight for me. And worshiping surrounded by people who love books is a small slice of heaven.

3) I take time during conferences to talk with the editors who are also there on faculty. It’s a great time for us to connect face-to-face to discuss projects that are in the works, find out what the editors are looking to acquire, and discuss projects that I have to pitch that might be of interest.

4) I like to take the time at conferences to connect with my clients who are also at the conference. At larger conferences where there are many clients gathered, we’ll host a get-together for all of our agency clients to meet and mingle. I try to fit in one-on-one time with each client, too.

What are some reasons you like to attend writers’ conferences?

Will I see you at Mount Hermon’s Christian Writers’ Conference 2016?


Come meet Rachel Kent at Mount Hermon in March!

What I Wish I’d Known When My First Novel Was Published

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

LisabooksigningthumbPBXBLOGGER: LISA WINGATE

Award-Winning Novelist

Instructor for Supercharge Your Fiction and Your Writing Career, a Major Morning Track, Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 2016


What I Wish I’d Known When My First Novel Was Published

No matter what trajectory your particular writing career may take or what point you’re at in your quest, you can safely assume that, if you’ve chosen this profession, you’re in for a roller coaster ride. A writing career is challenging. It’s demanding. It’s busy. It can be unforgiving and maddening. It can also be unbelievably rewarding and filled with moments of story and human connection that are nothing short of bliss. With my twenty-fifth book, The Sea Keeper’s Daughters, hitting shelves in September, I can honestly say that my career has been filled with things I didn’t expect. That’s probably because I knew next to nothing about the business when I started.

If I could go back to the moment I sold my first mainstream novel, Tending Roses, to (then) Penguin Putnam, I’d tell myself a few things:

  1. Write because you love it.  I know everyone says that, but it’s true. If you really want a long career, you must figure out how to produce book, after book, while managing promotion, production edits, multiple forms of communication, and life in general. Set a manageable daily page quota or daily writing hours, and hold yourself to it. One of the hardest things about writing is time management.
  1. Finish your first manuscript and write another.  It’s almost impossible to sell on a partial in fiction if you’re unpublished. Polish your manuscript and send it out, because as much as we’d like them to, editors won’t come looking in your desk drawer. While you’re waiting for news, write another book.  If the first one sells, you’ll be set for a two-book deal. If the first one doesn’t sell, you will have eggs in another basket. Be tenacious, be as thick-skinned as possible, keep writing while you wait for news.
  1. Rejection stinks, but it happens. Rejection isn’t anything personal; it’s just part of the business, and it’s to be expected. Your project isn’t bad just because it gets rejected. It may not be that editor’s (or agent’s) cup of tea, the house might not be buying right then, they may have another author under contract whose work is similar to yours, and so on. There are so many reasons a book can be rejected, and the real trick is to look at the rejections as a tool and then move on. Don’t make sweeping changes based on one opinion unless there’s an imminent sale involved. Conversely, if you receive the same criticism from several editors (or agents), consider pulling out the red pen and getting to work
  1. You probably won’t hit the NYT immediately. In fact, few writers ever reach this coveted level. Be careful how you measure success. Setting lofty goals is a good thing… right up until you feel like a failure for not achieving them. Myriad factors determine which books get the “perfect storm” of great cover, great market timing, and heavy publisher promotion. Some of it is just luck. Write the very best book you can. Do what you can to promote. Stop obsessing. Write another book.
  1. Find your creative tribe. On any given road, you’re never the only traveler. Others walk in shoes like your own and shoes that are different. Find them. Critique one another’s work, brainstorm together, give creative criticism, take creative criticism, and learn from one another. Give back more than you get.
  1. Cheer for other people. One of the best promotional avenues available to writers today, yesterday, and tomorrow remains cooperative promotion. Find authors whose work is similar to yours. Shout out for one another’s successes, awards, and new releases. Your readers will thank you for the tips and you’ll feel good about doing something positive for someone else. You’ll also have that warm feeling when others do the same for you.

Above all, while you’re walking the writer-road, be aware, be in the moment, don’t close your eyes even for an instant. Wherever you go in life, there are nuggets of story along the trail. Sometimes you’ll see them coming; sometimes you’ll stumble over them. Pause long enough to pick them up and examine them. Your writer’s mind can take it from there.


What piece of advice from Lisa struck a chord with you? What next step will you take in response?
Lisa Wingate The Sea Keepers Daughter

Read a free excerpt of The Sea Keeper’s Daughters!

Come meet Lisa Wingate at Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, 2016, where she will teach a Major Morning Track for fiction writers. In the meantime, here’s where you can connect with Lisa on the Internet.

Lisa’s website 

Lisa’s newsletter signup 




Lisa’s blog

A Courage Challenge

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Many thanks to our 2016 Faculty for supplying two posts a week through the conference in March. 


Nonfiction Author

Pre-Conference Next Level Clinic Coordinator and Nonfiction Mentor

Morning Mentoring Nonfiction Coordinator and Nonfiction Mentor



Artist Vincent van Gogh asked the question, “What would life be like if we had courage enough to attempt anything?”

As a writer who is also a credentialed life coach, I love asking questions like this. They are big dream questions that lift us out of the narrow scope of vision we are living. They help us explore, not simply possibilities, but where our heart might be already longing to go, where perhaps God has been inviting us to go next.

But what is courage enough for us as writers?

Courage enough to…

  • slash what isn’t working in our stuck plotline
  • cut open the tough places of our own story
  • take that leap toward a different reader-audience focus
  • face down the daily taunts of inadequacy
  • add our voice to a seemingly satiated market
  • compose those first difficult words of a new project

These are what stir our writer’s gut with longing or fear, where we find we are holding our breath.

What is stirring for you as you look at your unique writing projects or publishing hopes and dreams? Capture a clear picture and then allow me to add one more—a courage challenge:

Courage enough to trust God to take you wherever he needs to in order to shape you as his writer so he might powerfully set loose words and stories through you for his purposes.

Where might he take you? Can you imagine the heights? Or does hesitancy keep you grounded? You might have already seen and been inspired by the popular quote by contemporary poet, Erin Hanson:

There is freedom waiting for you,

On the breezes of the sky.

And you ask, “What if I fall?”

“Oh but darling,

What if you fly?”

In those words, and really throughout Scripture, we see a companion to courage called trust. The question that begins and ends the whole adventure of flying is God’s: “Do you trust me in this?”


Where do you struggle most with courage?

You’ll meet Jan Kern at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 16-22, where she will coordinate the Pre-Conference Next Level Clinics and coordinate the Nonfiction Morning Mentoring Clinic. Jan is also a nonfiction mentor in both programs.

Why Viewpoint Matters

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.


Freelance Author, Fiction

Mentoring a fiction group in the Morning Mentoring Clinic, March 2016; Teaching a one-hour workshop



Think about the last book that made you forget everything but the story. Maybe making dinner slipped your mind. Maybe you stayed up way past your bedtime.

Why do we do this?

A deeply involved reader is temporarily convinced that the story events are really happening. For as long as she’s reading that book, she actually feels like she’s a character, experiencing the romance and adventure, the strange and wonderful world that the author created.

But a human being can only be in one place at a time, experiencing one person’s thoughts. That’s why—to convince readers that they are living the story—it’s vital for a writer to understand viewpoint.

Skillful authors use viewpoint well, and once the adventure ends, their readers thank them—after recovering from those forgotten dinners and missed hours of sleep. Satisfied readers want to repeat the experience, too. They want to buy the next book in the series. They recommend the author to their friends, so they can share the excitement.

Good, strong viewpoint anchors the reader in every scene without confusion or frustration. Authors use many kinds of viewpoint, but one in particular is easiest to write well: we call it “third person limited.” Since the reader becomes one character in every scene, living in story time, it feels like real life. To create this sense of living inside the story, an author uses vivid, active verbs, skillful speaker attributions, body language and gesture, realistic sequencing, and other elements of strong fiction writing.

That’s why studying viewpoint is essential. I’d love to see you next spring at Mount Hermon, where I’ll teach an afternoon workshop on taking your readers along on the journey using strong viewpoint.

Kathy Tyers Gillin


You’ll meet Kathy Tyers Gillin at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, where she will lead the Morning Mentoring Clinic for Fantasy and Speculative Fiction writers and teach a one-hour workshop.

Writing Your Own Story

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.


Freelance Author, Fiction and Nonfiction

Leading the Returners’ Reunion and teaching The Ready Writer: An Intro to Writing for Publication, a Major Morning Track at the March 2016 conference.



You have lived through some tough stuff. But you have also received unexpected blessings. You feel certain that people could benefit from the lessons you learned, but is it possible to write personal experiences in a way that resonates with others? When your writing is done, will anyone want to read it? Will it be published?

Excellent questions! (The answers are: yes, hopefully, and that depends.) So, how to proceed? I’ve written from my own experiences, and I’ve also taught personal writing, and what I’ve found is that these four steps can pave the way to a strong manuscript.

1. Find your focus. Suppose your entire neighborhood was destroyed by fire. One person might focus on the horror and loss of such a catastrophe. Another might write about the bravery of a particular rescuer. Another might concentrate on how best to explain loss to children. Still another might focus on a biblical examination of God’s protection. Which of these is the right focus for a personal experience essay? If you said, “Any of them!” you are right. The important thing is that you choose a single focus and stick with it.

 2. Search out a Universal Truth. We all experience tough things. Some so tough that they forever divide our lives into before and after. The problem with writing about such events is that readers tend to think: Yes, that’s bad. But what happened to me is even worse! Why, one time…  However passionately you write, however poignantly you express yourself, readers will never be able to feel as deeply as you felt. It’s not their experience. The best way to write about your milestone is to make it a frame for a universal experience. Have it illustrate something to which we can all relate. For instance, if you lost your house in that fire, the universal truth might be perspective. Your loss is a terrible tragedy. (I know, because it happened to me!) But still it is just a house. Whatever your topic, I suggest that you make a list of Universal Truths and find one that will fit your experience. Here are some suggestions to start your list: Give thanks always. This world is not my home. The truth will set you free. Where your treasure is, that’s where your heart will be.

3. Determine your audience. Who do you expect to read your writing? Your family? Other Christians? People who are experiencing similar difficulties? People who have no idea what it’s like to be in such a situation? This is important for you to know, because you will write differently for each—for instance, readers who already know and love you and understand your pain, as opposed to strangers who are struggling to make sense of their own situations.

 4. Start writing! Should you write about your personal experience? Absolutely! Way too many people get so busy talking about writing that they never get around to actually putting words on paper. Should that writing be published? Maybe, or maybe not. But this I can say unequivocally: no one will ever read it if you never write it!

Bring your writing with you to the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in March 2016. Remind me of this post, and I will go over your work with you.

Write on!


Are you working on a personal story? Which of Kay’s four steps will you work on next?

You’ll meet Kay Marshall Strom at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, where she will lead the Returners Reunion and teach a Major Morning Track.



A Celebration of Villains

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Elizabeth Mazer head shotBLOGGER: ELIZABETH MAZER

Associate Editor

Love Inspired, Love Inspired Suspense, Love Inspired Historical

Teaching two afternoon workshops and meeting with writers, March 18-22, 2016


A Celebration of Villains

Romantic suspense writers are amazing. The way that my fantastic Love Inspired Suspense authors balance compelling characters, fast pacing, strong conflicts, terrifying danger, deep faith and sweet, satisfying romance into each story never fails to impress me. Writing a good romantic suspense story isn’t easy, but when it works wow how it dazzles. How can you make that happen for your story? Here’s my tip—take a closer look at your villain.

I am a champion of those poor, underappreciated bad guys—and you should be, too. The villain is the heart of your story. He (or she! or they!) makes it all happen. In your mental plot party, the hero and heroine bring the warmth, the charm, the strong sense of duty and gradually blossoming love—but the excitement and adrenaline-rush don’t step through the door until the villain arrives with the high-stakes danger.

Know your villains as well as you know your protagonists. What are his goals? What is he willing to do to get what he wants? What’s standing in his way? And how does every action he takes play into his grand scheme?

Imagine a heroine sees something she wasn’t supposed to see, and bolts before the villain can stop her. Once the villain tracks her down, what does he do? Does he send her a threatening note? No, he doesn’t want her on her guard, he wants her oblivious so he can sneak up right behind her. So don’t start your story with a threatening note—start it with the heroine waking up in the middle of the night to someone breaking into her house. Or discovering her car brakes have been cut. Or a gunshot out of nowhere.

Maybe the heroine has info the villain badly needs. Will he try to kill her? Nah, she can’t tell him anything if she’s dead. Will he threaten her? Maybe…but with what? Could he hold one of her loved ones hostage? Could he blackmail her with the threatened exposure of some past secret? Before the story even starts, your villain needs to be asking himself these questions—and finding answers that get him everything he wants.

That’s the fun part of villains—they have a plan. Whether they want to steal an inheritance, cover up a murder, or take over the world, the villain knows precisely what he’s after. Villains aren’t reactive—they start the ball rolling and keep it rolling. While the hero and heroine are dodging bullets and wondering what on earth is going on, the villain is giving an evil laugh and telling his hairless cat that everything is going according to plan. J

Dig deeper into your villains, and watch the story fall into place. Once you know how your villain has decided to threaten/attack/connive his way into what he wants, you’ll know what your hero and heroine are up against. And with those high stakes and ruthless plans in place… the party begins!


Who are your favorite villains?

You’ll meet Elizabeth Mazer at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, where she will review manuscripts, teach two workshops, and meet with writers.