The Major Morning Tracks at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference experienced a makeover this year. Each of the six offerings delivered three key components–Instruction, Directed Writing, and Mentoring to students in all stages of their development as a writer.
In No Excuses Nonfiction: A Bootcamp for Serious Writers, taught by Lynn Vincent, the participants worked on narrative nonfiction pieces written in response to their experience at the 2015 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference.
Congratulations to Eileen Kusakabe! Her post was one of two chosen to appear on the Mount Hermon Writers blog.
Blogger: Eileen Kusakabe
My pulse quickens as I hear others around me tapping furiously on laptops or scribbling their lines on notepads.
“Why am I here?” I moan to myself. “Lord, I want to bring you glory, and present the best story I can about what you are doing in my life. You alone know my lack of education, my overuse of commas, and the genuine struggle to get thoughts and ideas down on paper. Please guide me and provide what I need to serve you well.”
My chest heaves as I take in a deep breath to settle myself and begin the task before me. “What can I write about my Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ conference experience?”
Just last Wednesday I was rolling off an inflatable mattress, reaching to turn off my “Morning Song” phone alarm. How could such a beautiful song start such a sad day? My swollen eyes bore proof of all the tears shed the night before. The end of our time together was at hand. Tiptoeing around the dorm room, I gathered my last few belongings to take down to the car. After quietly changing, my daughter Elyse gathered the car keys and we headed out the door. The crisp early morning air kept us walking at a brisk pace.
My flight, the first of three legs in the journey to Mount Hermon, was set to leave at 6 a.m. Hearing the chimes of Raley Chapel at Oklahoma Baptist University, we knew we were right on time. Few headlights crossed our path as we drove down the wide open roads of Highway 40. We both sat quietly, lost in our thoughts of the past 10 days together. Nearing the Will Rogers World Airport, her wavering voice broke the silence, “I will miss you so much, Mom.”
Feeling my own tears prick the corners of my eyes then splash down my cheeks, I hoarsely replied, “Thank you for letting me see your life and your world. I have enjoyed every moment with you, and can’t wait to see you again.”
Parking at the curb, we pulled out my suitcase, and hugged tightly for a long moment. “Want to pull a ‘Thelma and Louise’ instead?” I whispered into her thick, long hair. Elyse leaned back and rolled her teary eyes.
“Oh Mommy!” She chuckled. I stood alone as she got into the car and called out one last time, “I love you!” Spring Break has ended, and the journey to Mount Hermon begins.
“This is so crazy!” That mantra runs through my mind as I trudge down the staircase to the baggage claim area of San Jose International Airport. My heart flips when I see the “Mount Hermon Writers’ Conference” placard in the hands of a tall balding man. “This is it.” Straightening my shoulders and extending my hand, I introduce myself.
He warmly replies, “Well hello, Kristal you say?”
Shaking my head, I say too quietly, “No, Eileen.”
Continuing down the list he holds, he says,
“Courtney?” Turning my head to one side I smile and jokingly reply, “Nope. Would you like to continue guessing or can I give you my name?”
He nods offhandedly, still looking at the list.
“Eileen Kusakabe.” Looking over his shoulder, I point it out.
“Oh, you’re early,” he states, pointing to a far wall. “You can go stand over there.”
I see a group of enthusiastic men and women smiling and laughing together. I sidle up to the far edge of the group, and notice that a few of these faces look familiar. I had seen them on the website!”
Brief “hellos” are exchanged before I wander off to retrieve my suitcase from the carousel. Thoughts run rampant through my mind. What am I doing here? They look so smart! My pulse quickens as I look down at my old jeans, dirty jacket, and sneakers. They even dress smart! Coats, slacks, scarves, and shoes seem to be the norm. Oh Lord, what have I gotten myself into? Did I hear correctly when you gave me Psalm 32:8? Is this really the best pathway for my life?
Swerving through the mountains in the crowded shuttle I suggest we play, “Jello.” To the right, I hear a faint chuckle.
Small talk ensues with, “Where are you from?” and, “What are you writing?”
Unsure of myself, I rattle off a short concise response that doesn’t portray the depth of what I feel about my writing. “I am writing a memoir about my cancer journey.” How boring! How unimaginative!
Why can’t I convey that God sent me here? How do I get out the story that burns within? Will this conference help me in my quest to write, or confirm my fear that I am incapable? I feel like a spy with a secret identity that I cannot reveal. Maybe I am crazy.
Sleep eludes me after days of endless eating, teaching, and clock watching. I feel as if I am a cup being held beneath a raging waterfall.
It is Palm Sunday, and I long for some refreshment and reflection. The birds call out back and forth between the tree tops, “chrrip, chrrrip, chrrrip” as I walk outside my door in the predawn morning. Though bundled in many layers of clothes, the cold air still seeps through to touch my skin.
Seeing silhouetted forms huddled in front of the coffee shop and hearing faint conversation, the now familiar mantra in my head begins again: Do I really belong here…? Suddenly self-conscious, my gait slows as I make my way across the street. I hear a quiet, “Hello” and, “Good morning” tossed my way.
A fellow writer, Frieda, comes over and gives me a hug, as does my Pre-Conference Head Start teacher, Judy.
A new warmth seeps into my tired bones as I realize I feel a kinship towards these women. Though I have only known them for a few days, they have already read some of my deepest secrets and fears.
A hike to the cross on Mount Hermon’s expansive grounds begins with our group of enthusiastic men and women smiling and laughing together. The cold within melts away as we continue the steep climb. Gasps of delight ensue as we catch our first glimpse of the cross, silhouetted by the faintly lit sky. We circle in and begin singing psalms of praise and offering brief heartfelt prayers.
As the sky begins to lighten, so does my countenance. I am thrilled with the insights learned and the ability to see scenes in my writing. As the sun peeks beyond the horizon, I realize I am in community with these writers. I am no longer afraid.
NOTE From Mona Hodgson, Director of the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference: Thanks for sharing your blog post with us, Eileen! And many thanks to Lynn Vincent for her stellar contribution to the 2015 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference.
For those of you who left Lynn’s classroom wanting more AND for those of you who missed out and need another opportunity, I have great news! Lynn Vincent plans to return to Mount Hermon, March 16-22, 2016, as a nonfiction mentor.
Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter. And plan to join us in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California in 2016!