Posts Categorized: Writers Conference

It’s All About the DASHES

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Kathy Ide 

 BLOGGER: Kathy Ide

Coordinator of the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference Critique Team



Two types of dashes are often used in book manuscripts:

em dash: —

en dash: –

The em dash

According to The Chicago Manual of Style and The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style, an em dash should be used to denote a sudden break in thought that causes an abrupt change in sentence structure. For example:

Will he—can he—obtain the necessary signatures?

The em dash is used to indicate that one person’s speech has been interrupted by another.

“Well,” he began, “I thought I might—”

“Might what?” Jayna interrupted.

The Chicago manual also states that a defining or enumerating complementary element in a sentence may be set off by dashes.

“Suzette could forgive every insult but the last—the snub by her coauthor.”

“Three novelists—Francine Rivers, Angela Elwell Hunt, and Karen Kingsbury—have most influenced my own writing.”

CMOS and CWMS recommend that no more than a single dash (or pair of dashes) be used in a sentence. Dashes should be used sparingly throughout a manuscript.

The en dash

The en dash is used for connecting inclusive numbers, including dates, time, or reference numbers. Examples:

1981–1982                 pages 31–33                Daniel 13:3–15



Some word processors can convert hyphens to dashes. In MS Word, go to Tools, AutoCorrect, AutoFormat. Put a check in “Symbol characters (–) with symbols (—).” Then:

To make an en dash, type a word, insert a space, then type a hyphen, then type the next letter or word followed by a space. Once the hyphen converts to an en dash, delete the spaces before and after it. To make an em dash, type a word (do not insert a space), then type a double-hyphen, then type the next letter or word followed by a space.

MS Word has keyboard shortcuts for dashes. For an en dash, hold down the Ctrl key and hit the hyphen on your number pad. For an em dash, hold the Ctrl and Alt keys, then hit the hyphen on your number pad.

If your computer can’t convert, a hyphen may be used in place of an en dash, and a double-hyphen can be typed to represent an em dash, with no spaces before, after, or in between.

Note: For article manuscripts (per the Associated Press Stylebook), do not use the en dash. And insert a space before and after an em dash. For example: “Books — but not articles — use en dashes.”


Did you know the distinction between the two dashes? Think maybe those tips will help revolutionize your dash-editing process?

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. Click here to learn more about the Critique Team.


What Kind of Children’s Book?

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.


Starting today, we will feature bi-weekly posts by some of our 2016 writers’ conference faculty and resource team members. We’re starting with a little something for children’s writers.

Crystal Bowman from FB


Mentor, Pre-Conference Next Level Mentoring Clinic ~ Take Your Children’s Writing to the Next Level

Workshop ~ Rhythm, Rhyme & Repetition


When writers tell me they want to write a children’s book, I ask them, “What kind of children’s book?” They often give me a puzzled look and reply, “What do you mean?”

The writer is usually referring to the standard 32-page hardcover picture book with illustrations, but there are several sub-genres within the genre of children’s literature that writers need to know about before submitting their work to a publisher. Boardbooks for toddlers, preschool picture books, and books for beginning readers are much different from 32-page picture book with a story. Each sub-genre has its own set of requirements such as word count, page count, vocabulary, and themes.

God’s Big Promises for Kids
  • Boardbooks: Boardbooks are written for little ones who are not learning to read, they are learning to talk. Therefore the words in a boardbook need to be chosen carefully. Even though an adult will be reading the book to the child, the words need to be concrete words that a child can comprehend. Boardbooks are usually 12 pages with bold illustrations and few words per page. Even though you will have little or no say in the illustrations, you need to be able to visualize your words.
Preschool Picture Book
  • Preschool Picture Books: Though some preschoolers may begin to recognize letters, numbers, and even a few short words, many children at this age are still experimenting with sounds and learning new words to add to their growing vocabulary. They enjoy verbally playing with words and sounds, and a skilled writer will incorporate “word play” into the text. Alliteration, onomatopoeia, assonance, repetition, and rhyme are some examples of word play that can help a preschool picture book reach its targeted audience.
Picture Book
  • Picture Books: The standard 32-(or 48) page picture book is a fictional story with a full plot—beginning, middle, and ending. It is usually less than 1000 words, and the story is told using complete sentences and paragraphs. Character development is critical, as well as dialogue. The illustrations enhance the story, but the story can stand alone and is not dependent on illustrations. The market is flooded with premium picture book, so in order to get noticed, a writer has to offer something that is unique and exceptional.
Beginning Reader Book
  • Beginning Reader Books: When writing for beginning readers, writers need to write satisfying stories to get kids excited about reading. They need to use vocabulary words that can be sounded out easily. The sentence structure needs to be simple and direct with few dependent clauses. The stories are told primarily through action and dialogue, and most of the descriptions are left to the illustrations. The key is to combine good writing with engaging stores that can be developed into a series.

In addition to these sub-genres, the children’s market also includes non-fiction picture books, young adult fiction or non-fiction books, Bible storybooks, and devotions for children. So the next time you tell someone you want to write a children’s book, be prepared to tell them what kind of children’s book you have in mind.


Did you know about the various formats for children’s books? Which category best fits the children’s book you’re writing?

You’ll meet Crystal Bowman at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, where she will serve as a mentor for children’s writers in the Pre-Conference Next Level Clinics, March 16-18, and teach a workshop and serve on the Critique Team, March 18-22. Click here to learn more about the Critique Team.

The Ready Writer: Intro to Writing for Publication

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Each Monday, we’re featuring one of the Major Morning Tracks lined up for March 2016.

Choose one of seven tracks designed for writers at every skill level for your Major Morning Track—Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

Designed with three parts packed with benefits.

  • Morning Instruction
  • Guided writing in tandem with the teaching
  • Afternoon Mentoring Groups

Instructor: Kay Marshall Strom, Author 

Kay StromKay Marshall Strom is a writer and speaker with a heart for the world-wide family of God. She has authored 44 books—nonfiction and fiction. Her writing credits include magazine articles, TV and movie scripts, curriculum, books for children, and writers’ helps. Her work appears in many compilations, including various editions of NIV Devotional Bibles. Kay and husband Dan Kline live in Eugene, Oregon.

Major Morning Track #7 of 7

The Ready Writer: Intro to Writing for Publication

Writing is both an art and a craft. In this class we will develop both sides.  Art of Writing topics will include: finding ideas and determining their marketability, managing writing time, handling acceptance, and gaining through “rejections.”  The Craft of Writing topics will focus on specific how-to’s of successful writing such as structure, theme, beginnings and endings, dialogue, characters, research, and self-editing.  You will have an opportunity to apply what you learn, and by the end the course will have a finished short piece.  This class is designed for beginning writers, and also intermediates who want a more solid writing foundation.

What specific questions do you have that you’d like Kay Strom to answer in her Major Morning Track?

If you missed any of the previously featured Major Morning Track posts you can view them here.

Join Mount Hermon Writers on . . . 




Magazine Writing: Starting Point or Destination?

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Each Monday, we’re featuring one of the Major Morning Tracks lined up for March 2016.

Choose one of seven tracks designed for writers at every skill level for your Major Morning Track—Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

Designed with three parts packed with benefits.

  • Morning Instruction
  • Guided writing in tandem with the teaching
  • Afternoon Mentoring Groups

Instructor: Jesse Florea, Magazine Editor and Author 

Jesse FloreaJesse Florea has worked at Focus on the Family for more than 22 years. For the past 18, he’s been the editor of Adventures in Odyssey Clubhouse magazine (for boys and girls ages 8 to 12) and is currently the editorial director for youth publications where he oversees Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr. magazines. Additionally, Jesse has written for dozens of magazines, including current monthly assignments from devotion and teen publications. He has helped co-write more than a 20 books (including The Case for Grace for Kids, The One Year Father-Daughter Devotions, The One Year Devotions for Active Boys, The One Year Devos for Sports Fans, Linspired: The Jeremy Lin Story and Playing With Purpose Mariano Rivera).  He lives with his wife, Stephanie, in Colorado Springs, and enjoys hanging out with his two adult children.

Major Morning Track #6 of 7

Magazine Writing: Starting Point or Destination?

Is print dead? No way! But the industry is changing. This workshop looks at the reasons you may want to write for periodicals, which include the 3P’s (not to be confused with the C-3PO’s): profit, platform and portfolio. It’s also a great way to express your passion. (Hey, that’s a fourth P!) We’ll talk about how to capture an editor’s attention, practice crafting an effective lead, learn about different types of magazines (online and print), delve into devotional writing and discover how good interviewing skills can open doors to big-time periodicals.

What specific questions do you have that you’d like Jesse Florea to answer in his Major Morning Track?

If you missed any of the previously featured Major Morning Track posts you can view them here.

Join Mount Hermon Writers on . . . 




The Art and Wonder of Writing for Tweens & Teens

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Each Monday, we’re featuring one of the Major Morning Tracks lined up for March 2016.

Choose one of seven tracks designed for writers at every skill level for your Major Morning Track—Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

Designed with three parts packed with benefits.

  • Morning Instruction
  • Guided writing in tandem with the teaching
  • Afternoon Mentoring Groups

Nancy Rue cropped (677x800)Instructor: Nancy Rue, Author 

Nancy comes to the mentoring table with a wealth of experience: 31 years writing both fiction and non-fiction for middle grade, YA, new adult, and adult audiences; 43 years teaching creative writing; and 122 published books. Over a million of those have sold over her 20 years writing full time. A two-time Christy Award winner, Nancy has expanded her ministry through her Writer’s Mentorship Program to mentor new authors who are led to a writing ministry of their own.

Major Morning Track #5 of 7

The Art and Wonder of Writing for Tweens & Teens

It takes a special kind of writer to create for children and young adults. Writing for them requires not only a  degree of child-brain and kid-memory, but a  certain skill set – an aptitude – a calling. In our time together we’ll discover exactly where you fall as a young people’s author, how you can hone the tools you need in the bag, and just where to go from there as a person called to the kids.


What questions do you have that you’d like Nancy Rue to answer in her Major Morning Track?


If you missed any of the previous Major Morning Track posts you can view them here.


Join Mount Hermon Writers on . . . 




Super Charge Your Fiction and Your Writing Career

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Each Monday, we’re featuring one of the Major Morning Tracks lined up for March 2016.

Choose one of seven tracks designed for writers at every skill level for your Major Morning Track—Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

Designed with three parts packed with benefits.

  • Morning Instruction
  • Morning Writing Assignments in conjunction with teaching
  • Afternoon Mentoring Groups

Lisa WingateInstructor: Lisa Wingate, Author 

Lisa Wingate’s novels were selected among BOOKLIST’S Top 10 of 2012 and Top 10 of 2013, Publisher’s Weekly calls her work “Masterful,” and Booklist described her as, “Quite simply, a master storyteller.” She is a journalist, an inspirational speaker, and the author of twenty-five novels. She is a seven-time ACFW Carol Award finalist, a Christianity Today Book Award finalist, a four-time Christy Award finalist, a Christian Retailing’s Best Award finalist, and a two-time Carol Award winner. The group Americans for More Civility, a kindness watchdog organization, selected Lisa along with Bill Ford, Camille Cosby, and six others as recipients of the National Civies Award, which celebrates public figures who work to promote greater kindness and civility in American life.

Major Morning Track #4 of 7

Supercharge Your Fiction and Your Writing Career

Lisa Wingate, national bestselling author of twenty-five novels for Penguin Putnam, Bethany House, and Tyndale House, opens her writer’s toolkit and shares her methods of employing plot structure, character, setting, voice, pacing, editing, tight writing, author brand, and marketing strategies to tune floundering manuscripts, sustain audience, and maintain a long-lasting career in fiction. These tips will help your work speed past the roadblocks that could be standing between you and your writing goals.

What questions do you have that you’d like Lisa Wingate to answer in her Major Morning Track?

If you missed any of the previous Major Morning Track posts you can view them here.

Join Mount Hermon Writers on . . . 




Snapshots from the 2015 Mount Hermon Writers’ Conference

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Were you at the 2015 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference in March?

What would you say is one of the many benefits to gathering with others in the redwoods at Mount Hermon every spring?

Many would say ~ it’s the conversation!

Conversations with writers, agents, and editors.

classroom conversation conversation amidst the trees Conversations outside auditorium meal conversations Randy in conversation after class conversation at the field Three conversations Meal conversations three


Join the conversation . . .

March 16-22, 2016!

Mark your calender ~

Pre-Conference Next Level Mentoring Clinics – March 16-18, 2016

Main Conference – March 18-22, 2016


How To Be An Insanely Great Indie Author

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Each Monday we are highlighting one of the Major Morning Tracks for the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference.

Choose one of seven tracks designed for writers at every skill level for your Major Morning Track—Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

Designed with three parts packed with benefits.

  • Morning Instruction
  • Morning Writing Assignments in conjunction with teaching
  • Afternoon Mentoring Groups

Randy Ingermanson
Instructor: Randy Ingermanson, Author

Randy Ingermanson is the award-winning author of six novels and the best-selling guidebooks Writing Fiction for Dummies and How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method. He has a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from UC Berkeley and is famous around the world as “the Snowflake Guy” in honor of his wildly popular Snowflake Method of writing a novel. Randy is an indie author whose goal is to achieve Total World Domination. His wife is OK with that, as long as he remembers to take out the garbage. Visit Randy’s web site at to see what he’s up to next.

Major Morning Track #3 of 7


The internet is buzzing with rumors of indie authors earning millions of dollars—all on their own, without an agent or publisher.  It’s also buzzing with naysayers who warn that indie authors don’t earn diddley.  The truth is that most indie authors don’t earn much, but a surprising number are doing incredibly well.  Why the difference?  In this track, we’ll talk about the “Success Equation” that explains who will be winners and who won’t.  We’ll reveal the secrets of successful indie authors—the vision, strategy, and tactics they use to achieve success.

What questions would you like Randy to answer in his Major Morning Track for Indie Authors?

If you missed any of the previous Major Morning Track posts you can view them here.”

Major Morning Track #1 of 7

Major Morning Track #2 of 7


Join Mount Hermon Writers on . . . 

2016 Keynote Speaker for Mount Hermon Writers

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

One of the many highlights of the annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference is the faith-building encouragement and inspiration shared by a general session keynote speaker who has been there.

And our 2016 Keynote Speaker has certainly been there. Places we may dream of going. And places the rest of us would never wish to go, but her writing and her speaking are all the richer for it.


Carol Kent


Plan now to come to Mount Hermon, March 18-22, 2016, to glean from Carol Kent.

Why did I choose the word glean?

Take at look at these few facts about Carol . . .

~ 20+ books, including: Becoming a Woman of Influence, When I Lay My Isaac Down, A New Kind of Normal, Between a Rock and a Grace Place, Secret Longings of the Heart, Tame Your Fears, Speak Up With Confidence, and her newest release, Unquenchable.

~ A dynamic, humorous, biblical, and international public speaker.

~ Keynote speaker at Women of Faith, Extraordinary Women, Women of Joy, Time Out for Women, and Heritage Keepers arena events.

~ Speaker at The Praise Gathering for Believers and at Vision New England’s Congress.

~ President of Speak Up Speaker Services, a Christian speakers’ bureau.

~ Founder and Director of the Speak Up Conference, a ministry that equips speakers and writers to take the next step:

~ Along with her husband Gene, founded the nonprofit organization, Speak Up for Hope, which benefits inmates and their families.

~ Former radio show co-host and has often been a guest on Focus on the Family.

~ Regularly appears on a wide variety of nationally syndicated radio and television broadcasts. Past appearances have included the Billy Graham Prime Time Special, Dateline NBC, CNN, MSNBC, Focus on the Family, LIFE Today with James Robison, Family Life Today, and 100 Huntley Street.

~ Featured on the cover of Today’s Christian Woman, and her articles have been published in a wide variety of magazines.


As you can see we have much to garner and gain from this passionate and transparent author and speaker.

Plan now to come and reap the benefits of Carol Kent’s life and industry experience.

Have you ever heard Carol Kent speak? When? Where?

We are SO excited Carol (and Gene) will be joining us in the redwoods in the Santa Cruz Mountains, March 18-22, 2016. We’d love it if you’d help us spread the word in your writing circles.

Find Your Words in the Father’s Presence

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Each Monday we are highlighting one of the Major Morning Tracks for the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.

Choose one of seven tracks designed for writers at every skill level for your Major Morning Track—Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

Designed with three parts packed with benefits.

  • Morning Instruction
  • Morning Writing Assignments in conjunction with teaching
  • Afternoon Mentoring Groups

Doug Newton in TreesInstructor: Doug Newton, Author 

Doug Newton is the Senior Pastor of the Greenville (IL) Free Methodist Church and co-director of the National Prayer Ministry of the Free Methodist Church-USA. Formerly the 15-year editor of Light and Life magazine, Doug has authored eight books and travels extensively speaking at conferences, seminars and churches around the world. He and his wife Margie founded Mary’s Place Ministries and hosted prayer retreats for over 15 years.

Major Morning Track #2 of 7

Find Your Words in the Father’s Presence

Jesus set the standard for writers when He said: I do not speak on my own. The Father tells me what to say and how to say it (John 12:49). Seriously? All those amazing parables (fictional short stories) that change hearts? All those authoritative teachings (non-fiction) that transform minds? All that came from an intimate listening relationship with His Father? If the “Word of God made flesh” had to find His words in His Father’s presence, how can we hope to write without a similar process? In this major morning track you will gain confidence in your co-authorship relationship with God and learn how it works in the realms of reasoning and imagination. Your writing will likely become Spirit-filled and creatively fresh. And the value-added bonus? Your prayer life will never be the same.

What questions do you have that you hope Doug will answer in the class?

If you missed any of the previous Major Morning Track posts you can view them here.

Major Morning Track #1 of 7

Join Mount Hermon Writers on . . .




Writing Life-Changing Nonfiction

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Each Monday we are highlighting one of the Major Morning Tracks for the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.

Choose one of seven tracks designed for writers at every skill level for your Major Morning Track—Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

Designed with three parts packed with benefits.

  • Morning Instruction
  • Morning Writing Assignments in conjunction with teaching
  • Afternoon Mentoring Groups

Alice CriderInstructor: Alice Crider, Senior Acquisitions & Development Editor at David C. Cook

Alice Crider a Senior Acquisitions & Development Editor at David C. Cook. She began her career in Christian publishing at David C. Cook in 1998, moved to Alive Communications in 2001 and then to WaterBrook Press in 2004 where she progressed through editorial ranks acquiring and developing manuscripts. Along the way, she became a certified life coach and published several magazine articles with Focus on the Family. Before returning to David C. Cook, she worked as an Agent with WordServe Literary Group representing 40+ authors. Alice lives in Colorado, where she enjoys hiking, horseback riding, organic gardening, and time with her family.


Major Morning Track #1 of 7

Writing Life-Changing Nonfiction

Have you written a non-fiction book (or two) that hasn’t quite hit the mark high enough for a traditional publisher? Have you published or self-published a book that didn’t reach as much of your audience as you intended? In this workshop, Alice will talk about how to reach and engage your audience by tapping into a felt need they don’t even know they have. Look at the characteristics of best-selling books and how you can use the same techniques, and Alice will provide “results-based” coaching that will help you take a quantum leap forward in your writing career. Bring your current project and/or new ideas, as well as some white paper and a blue ink pen (you’ll see why), and be ready to transform how you approach your writing career.

What questions do you hope Alice will answer in the class?

Join Mount Hermon Writers on . . .





Mount Hermon Writers–A Timely Distraction

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

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.

Eileen Kusakabe with her daughter Elyse

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.

Stacy Hawkins Adams, Eileen Kasakabe, and Lynn Vincent


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!





Writing Bootcamp

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

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 Bethany Macklin! Her post was one of two chosen to appear on the Mount Hermon Writers blog.

Bethany Macklin

Blogger: Bethany Macklin

“This stupid thing, I can’t get it to work,” my husband said swiping back and forth on his iPhone. His recent job loss had been hard on all of us. He glanced at me. “My mom is sending group texts about Easter plans. I hate group messages!”

We sat in the car waiting for my ride to Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference. Going to Mount Hermon this year was a gift from God. In the face of our financial crisis, I had planned to cancel my reservation, but a generous campership had come through at the last minute. Good thing, too. I didn’t know how much more stress I could take and I hadn’t been able to write for a month.

I needed to get away. To regroup. To recharge my writing call. After months of intense work pressure, impossible ministry deadlines, and three weeks of back to back mind-numbing 14 hour days, I was done. Finished. Cooked. My mind a puddle of primordial goo. I just need to get out of town, I thought.

I sat slumped in my seat, my phone askew on my lap, exhaustion oozing from every pore. I ignored my husband’s outbursts. Instead, I stared out the window at the curb, my mind a mush pot of resume outlines, women’s ministry tea ticket sales, and tax prep. I couldn’t absorb another thing.

The energy needed to encourage my husband amidst his job angst was tapped out. To make matters worse, the late night hours I’d spent performing plastic surgery on his resume had depleted my reserves even further. By the morning of the conference, I barely had enough strength or presence of mind to dress and gather my bags.

“I can’t figure this stupid thing out.” Mike jabbed ineffectually for a moment then thrust the phone toward me, “Could you figure it out?”

I took the phone and stared at it, unable to process the simple screen. I needed to get away, but was I ready for Mount Hermon?

My goal for the conference was simple: meet with my target publisher and pitch my project. See what happened. Although editors had requested my proposal in the past, my project hadn’t made it through the final committee–despite the editor’s initial excitement over it. After seven years of incorporating suggested edits, the pressure to return home with good news hung like a yoke around my neck.

I needed a breakthrough. A prayer team had supported my writing for over eight years and my husband had funded it at great cost. And although I’d published articles with leading magazines, I didn’t always feel like a real writer. “Real writers” produced more material.  “Real writers” published books.

I could see it now:

“What project are you working on?”

“Well, uh…the same one I was ‘working on’ the first time I came 7 years ago.”

“Wow, you haven’t gotten far have you?” Translation: What a failure…

My ride pulled in and I climbed out of our car. Finally I was on my way. As we hummed along the freeway, I tuned out the happy chatter of my fellow travelers. They were going to a writers’ conference–I was going away. Destination: “Anywhere But Here.”

When we arrived at Mount Hermon I was still in zombie mode. Brain-dead and leaden limbed. A by-product of pressure overload.

My car mates had slated us for a day at the ocean to defragment before the conference began. As I sat on a bench overlooking the beach, the ocean air penetrated the pressure induced coma I’d been functioning in for the last two months. I felt the breeze on my skin. I could see the faces of those walking past me on the sidewalk. I could hear snatches of words–and they made sense. My wine even tasted good at dinner.

After a good night’s sleep, I walked briskly down the narrow cobbled path to my major morning track refreshed by the calm mountain setting. I could feel the writer in me stirring. I didn’t want to talk with anyone. I just wanted to think. To focus. To write. “Bootcamp.” Sounded about right. What my writing needed was a “do over,’” a hard reset and I was ready for it. Hungry for it.

Lynn Vincent and Bethany Macklin

A young woman pulling a small black suitcase, it’s wheels clacking on the rutted walkway drew up beside me, “Is this the way to the class?”

“Yeah, I think it’s up here past the parking lot. I’ve been coming here for several years and have never been back here.”

“I haven’t either,” the young woman walked beside me at a clip to keep up. I slowed my pace to a friendlier stride and we walked in to the first morning workshop. I was awake, engaged, and ready for a breakthrough.

That first day, I felt great. Full of hope. Of cheer. Of benevolence. Then I made the trip to pick up my submission envelope within whose fate-lined seal lay my hopes. I opened it, drew out the blue comment sheet and read the few words scrawled across the bottom, “See me at dinner to make an appointment. Are there more studies than this? What’s next after this?”

Disappointment descended like fog, dense and heavy, obscuring the optimism of the morning. I had hoped for more. I’d heard this before and thought I’d addressed it in my proposal. Obviously not. But it was a familiar question at least, and after eight years I knew how to answer it.

It took an evening of wrestling with God in prayer, rest, and renewed surrender to God’s plan before I broke through the heart fog. By the following day, I was alert, laptop open, fingers poised ready to report for “Bootcamp.”


NOTE From Mona Hodgson, Director of the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference: Thanks for sharing your blog post with us, Bethany! 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!

Meet the Airport Shuttle Team

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Are you flying into the San Jose airport for the 46th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference this week? If so, and you’re planning to take advantage of the shuttle Mount Hermon is providing for writers, I thought you might like to meet the Transportation Team and review a few shuttle details.

Bob Hodgson

 Bob Hodgson, Writers’ Airport Transportation Coordinator

Linda Smith

 Linda Smith, Writers’ Airport Transportation Assistant

Marci Seither

 Marci Seither, Writers’ Airport Transportation Assistant

Look for one of these familiar faces, or the Mount Hermon Shuttles sign. One or two members of the Transportation Team will be at Terminal A and B to greet you and direct you to our shuttle vans for the drive to the gorgeous Mount Hermon Conference Center.

Here’s a  handy-dandy checklist for using the Mount Hermon Airport Shuttle:

  1. Send in a completed Airport Shuttle Request Form (shuttle available for San Jose airport only). If you haven’t done so, please do that now.
  2. If your flight time has been changed prior to your travel day, please email with the new information.
  3. On the day of travel, if you miss your flight or your flight is delayed, please call Transportation Coordinator, Bob Hodgson, at 928-593-9280, or the Mount Hermon Front Desk, 831-335-4466). For voicemail, leave a detailed message with a cell phone number where you can be reached.
  4. Arrivals in Terminal A: Take Inter-terminal Shuttle from Terminal A to Terminal B Baggage Claim Carousel #3, look for a person with a Mount Hermon sign.
  5. Arrivals in Terminal B: Congregate at Carousel #3 in Baggage Claim. Look for a person with a Mount Hermon sign.
  6. If you requested that we shuttle you to the airport when you leave Mount Hermon, be sure to stop by the Mount Hermon Writers’ Transportation team’s table in the Hospitality Center (Multipurpose Room, below Dining Hall). Starting Saturday, Bob Hodgson or Linda Smith will frequent the Transportation Table in the Hospitality Center (Multipurpose Room, below Dining Hall). That’s where you’ll go to confirm your departure flight and get your departure shuttle time.
  7. Please report changes in your departure plans–not taking the shuttle, after all, or flight delays–to Bob Hodgson or Linda Smith at the Transportation Table in the Hospitality Center.
  8. At Mount Hermon, Airport Shuttles depart from the Loading Zone on the main road (across from the post office, in front of the dining hall). Please check-in with Bob, Linda, or Marci at the curb 15 minutes before your shuttle van is scheduled to depart.

The Mount Hermon  Airport Shuttle experience is a great way to start connecting with other Mount Hermon writers before you ever step foot on the welcoming grounds. So enjoy!

We’ll see you soon!

10 Reasons You’ll Want to Visit the Critique Team

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Kathy Ide, Critique Team Coordinator for the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, shares some of the many benefits of stopping by the Hospitality Center during the afternoons.

Kathy Ide

Blogger: Kathy Ide

The Critique Team is one valuable resource of the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference that sometimes gets overlooked in the frenzy of editor appointments and workshops. Conference participants can stop in on a break or during any of the afternoon workshop times for a 15-minute one-on-one meeting with a faculty member. No appointments are made; just come by whenever is convenient for you. As many times as you wish.

This year we have almost a dozen faculty members on the Critique Team, with expertise in fiction, nonfiction, children’s books, YA, poetry, articles, short stories, indie/hybrid/e-book publishing, blogging, ABA markets, and more. No matter what type of writing you do or what stage of writing you’re in, you will benefit from a personal meeting with one of these industry professionals.

Here are ten reasons you will want to make time in your schedule to visit the critique team:

Direction on a project or idea – The Critique Team can help you decide if your nonfiction book or novel is ready to pitch to an editor. Or whether you should turn your idea into a book or start with an article. You’ll want to visit the Critique Team early n the conference so you know whether you should start making editor appointments or if you need to take a particular workshop.

Brainstorming – Have you been told your book idea would work better as a series of articles? Or that                         your memoir would be more marketable as a Christian Living book? Does your novel lack something but you              don’t know what it is? Our Critique Team members can help you brainstorm, plot, and plan.

Feedback on your work-in-progress – If you never show your work to anyone (besides family and close friends), how will you know if it’s any good? Bring a few pages of your writing to the Critique Team. We can offer honest feedback that will help you see your project’s strengths and weaknesses. 

Practicing or preparing a pitch – You have a meeting scheduled with an editor and feel completely clueless. Everyone is talking about “pitches.” What exactly is a pitch anyway? Is yours any good? Visit the Critique Team for an opportunity to practice a pitch or start one from scratch.

Industry Insights – How does this whole publishing thing work? What are your options? Do you need an agent at this point? Ask a Critique Team member for some insights.

Help Processing –If you submit a manuscript to two editors and get responses that seem to conflict, or if an editor review leaves you confused or hurt, come see us. A Critique Team member can look at those comments through the eyes of experience, point out common themes, and help you make sense of what was said. Don’t waste time on frustration or confusion, come see us!

Encouragement and prayer – Writers’ conferences are exciting and fun, but they usually include moments of       information overload and discouragement too. Come talk with a Critique Team member if you need to pray with someone about your writing goals, cry over a disappointing manuscript review, or be talked out of going home early. (You wouldn’t want to miss what God has planned for you, right?)

Processing exciting news – Sometimes good news can overwhelm us. What does an editor mean by “Send me a proposal?” Did the agent really mean it when she said she wanted to represent you? Or maybe you just want someone to celebrate with. The Critique Team would love to share your exciting news—especially if we prayed you through a difficult moment or evaluated the manuscript that just got requested!

Applying advice – You’ve received great feedback at the conference; the question is how to apply it to your work-in-progress or to future projects. Before packing to go home, visit the Critique Team and ask for tips on applying comments and suggestions or understanding how to implement something you heard in a workshop.

Planning your next step – Whether you’re brand new to writing, coming out of a season that affected your creativity, or needing to take your career to the next level, a Critique Team member can help you figure out where to go next. You might want to do this near the end of the conference as you prepare to go home and apply what you learned.

The Critique Team is located in the Hospitality Center, under the Dining Hall. Critique Team hours are Saturday through Monday, 1:15-6:00 pm, during breaks and while workshops are in session. (Instructors understand that conferees sometimes need to leave for appointments. So if you find that a workshop you’ve chosen isn’t right for you after all, feel free to leave quietly and come see the Critique Team.)

This valuable service is included in the price you paid for registration. Don’t leave the conference without taking advantage of it. At least once!

Have you been to the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference before? Did you take advantage of the opportunity to meet with a Critique Team member? Why? Why not? 



Strategies for Writers’ Conference First Timers

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The year, 1988.

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

That writer?

Me. Mona Hodgson.


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

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

I offer 15 Tips and Tidbits that I hope will help prepare you for your God-ordained adventure at Mount Hermon!

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

2.  Are you flying in and using our San Jose Airport Shuttle service? Did you send in your Airport Shuttle Request Form? At the airport, go to Terminal B Baggage Claim and look for a friendly face. Bob, Linda, or Marci will be waiting for you and holding a Mount Hermon Shuttles sign.

3.  Upon arrival at Mount Hermon, go to the Administration Building (beside the Mount Hermon Post Office). That’s where you’ll check in, receive your room key, and your conference packet.

MH Admin corner


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

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

6.  Be prepared to step out of your comfort zone. Don’t be shy. New friends are waiting to meet you. Introduce yourself. Ask questions. The benches around the fire circle are a great place to meet and greet.

MH fire circle


7. Make education a priority. It’s tempting to focus on the pitching, networking, selling yourself or your work, but be sure you engage in a Major Morning Track and afternoon workshops. Visit The Critique Team in the Hospitality Center (Multipurpose Room, below the Dining Hall). Get comfortable with the idea that your first foray will be a learning experience. Be sure to join Nick Harrison in the Auditorium, Friday, March 27th at 1:30 pm for the First Timers’ Orientation.

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

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

MH FLowernig Tree bench


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

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

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

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

Chapel Exterior


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

15. When you can’t find the answers you need on the website, do you contact with

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

I can’t wait to meet you!


2015 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference Coordinator


Conference Programming for Indie Authors

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

The Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference is the place to be this month!

That’s true for Indie Authors as well as for writers planning to go the traditional route with a publishing house. It’s especially the place to be for hybrid authors wanting to do both.

The conference does host agents and editors from traditional publishing–books and magazines, but that doesn’t mean we’re neglecting writers who publish their writing independently or want to at least explore the possibility of self-publishing.

This year Mount Hermon is offering three Afternoon Workshops and a Night Owl specifically focused for writers who want to publish their short stories, novellas, and books independent of a traditional publishing house.

Saturday Night Owl: The Five Laws of Successful Self-Publishing

James Scott Bell

James Scott Bell see bio

Going Indie: How to Produce a World-Class E-book When You Don’t Know Diddly

Randy Ingermanson

Randy Ingermanson see bio

We’ve all heard that indie authoring is hot, but it can be terrifying to newbies. How do you actually produce your e-book? In this practical workshop, we’ll discuss the four main tasks an indie author needs to get done that a traditional publisher would normally do: Editing the book, designing the cover, formatting the e-book, and uploading it to online retailers. By the time we finish, you’ll know exactly how to do these tasks yourself—or how to hire them out to qualified professionals. You’ll be ready to produce your first e-book and start reaping the rewards.


Children’s: Indie Publish Your Children’s Book

Angela Hunt

Angela Hunt see bio

Angela Hunt has considered all the possible venues for independent publishing, and in this workshop she’ll explain the best method for publishing a children’s book through Amazon’s Create Space and Kindle programs. She’ll walk you through step-by-step, so no worries! She will also include writing guidelines so your children’s picture or chapter book is the best it can be.


Going Indie: Making Your Indie E-Books Massively More Discoverable

Randy Ingermanson

Randy Ingermanson see bio

We’ve all heard about the superstar indie authors who’ve sold millions of books. The conventional wisdom says that huge sales numbers only happen when your book is “discoverable,” but what is that supposed to mean? In this workshop, we’ll talk about four specific things you can do to make your e-books massively more discoverable. These techniques work—they’ve been battle-tested by numerous indie authors. I’ll show you the amazing results I experienced when I put these techniques into practice myself. I’ll explain why they work. And I’ll explain all the pesky details you need to know to boost the discoverability of your own e-books.


On the flip side  . . . hear from a traditional publishing insider–Alice Crider.

PUBLISHING: Book Publishing from A to B: Understanding the Book Publishing Process from Acquisitions to Book Signing

Alice Crider

Alice Crider see bio

An inside view of book publishing processes from Acquisition to Book Publication. Why traditional publishing is the best idea for most authors (in my opinion!).


Do you know a writer wanting to look into self-publishing their book for adults or children? We’d love it if you’d share this post with them and encourage them to join us at Mount Hermon, March 27-31! 


Break In Writing Devotionals

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Do you love spending time in God’s Word? As you move through your daily life, do you see God at work?

Have you thought about writing devotionals?

Maybe it’s time you did.

We have editors from two different daily devotional magazines joining us at Mount Hermon, March 27-31, 2015.

URE_MA15_Brz75.jpg Indeed MagazinePathways Susan King New

From Susan King, Associate Editor at The Upper Room

“Whenever I find my writing getting sloppy, I write a devotional for The Upper Room and it tightens it right up,” book author and former editor (The Saturday Evening PostGuideposts) Hal Hostetler once told me. He claimed that writing devotionals was the best discipline a writer could have. Then he added, “And who can resist the reach?” He was referring to the opportunity The Upper Room offers to connect with millions of readers in over 100 countries worldwide.

But these aren’t the only reasons to write devotionals. This practice also provides great spiritual discipline. After all, connecting God’s Word to the experiences of our lives is what Christians should be doing every day. Have God’s care and presence become real for you in your interaction with others? Has the Bible given you guidance and helped you see God at work? Has the meaning of scripture become personal for you as you reflected on it?

Yes? Then you have something to share in a devotional.

For more detailed guidelines and all sorts of helpful tips on writing devotionals, go to

Click here to read Susan King’s BIO.

Chris Tiegreen

Chris Tiegreen, Editor of Indeed Devotional Magazine and Pathways Magazine, is teaching an afternoon worksh0p — Devotionals: Breakfast with Your Readers

“One of the most effective ways to get your message in front of readers daily is through devotionals. But a good devotional is more than just an encouraging thought for the day. Learn how to draw readers in, take them deeper, and leave them with an insight that lingers long after they have finished reading.”

Click here to read Chris Tiegreen’s BIO. 

Join us at Mount Hermon to learn how to Break In Writing Devotionals.


Conference Tips: Take Advantage of Touch Points with Agents and Editors

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Janet Grant, one of the five literary agents joining us for the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 27-31, talks about finding clients at the Mount Hermon conference and offers valuable tips to writers wishing to connect with an agent or editor.


Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant, president and founder of Books & Such Literary Management

Conference Tip: Take Advantage of Touch Points with Editors and Agents

When a writer attends a writers conference, often one of the goals is to connect with agents and editors. But how interested are they in having a conversation with you?

Each conference varies how it facilitates conversations with publishing pros. I’ve always valued Mount Hermon’s approach, which includes your setting up appointments or interacting with faculty during meals, where the editors and agents host tables. The appointments and mealtimes allow you more than a quick-pitch moment in a big room full of tables behind which the publishing pros sit.

For an agent, these are opportunities to not only hear about your project but also to have a glimpse of who are. Agents aren’t just looking for a proposal that seems promising; they’re also seeking writers they want to work with long-term. We care about who you are, not just what you write.

I know this to be true because I’ve served on the faculty of Mount Hermon every year since 1996, when I first formed Books & Such Literary. Two other agents from our agency also regularly attend—Wendy Lawton and Rachel Kent. We have connected there with so many writers who became our clients, I’m at a loss to even provide a figure as to how many. But we’re deep into double digits.

Here are three writers who became my clients as a result of Mount Hermon:

Tricia Goyer CroppedTricia Goyer. Tricia was among the first clients I acquired when I started the agency. We formed an immediate bond at Mount Hermon, but then we spent several years of Tricia coming up with proposal after proposal, and my vigorously shopping them to publishers. Nothing stuck. Nothing. We couldn’t figure it out. Then Tricia came up with an idea for a WWII fiction series, as a result of visiting a German concentration camp and the recounting of how the town’s citizens responded when the U.S. troops liberated the camp. Moody Publishers produced the series, and Tricia has been on a writing roll ever since, having more than 50 books published, including a USA Today best-seller.

Murder by Family Kent WhitakerKent Whitaker. Kent was “introduced” to me via email by one of my clients who believed Kent’s personal story needed to be published. One of Kent’s sons had planned and pulled off a plot to kill the members of his immediate family. Kent survived the attack but found forgiveness for his son, who now is on death row. When Kent and I talked on the phone, he was already signed up to attend Mount Hermon, and we agreed to continue our conversation about representation during the conference. When we met at Mount Hermon, we both felt comfortable working together and agreed that I would represent him. His book, Murder by Family, sold immediately when I shopped it to publishing houses and went on to become a New York Times best-seller with Kent being interviewed on The Oprah Winfrey Show and on other national talk shows.

angela mills croppedAngela Mills. Last year I met Angela, who sat next to me at the table I was hosting one evening at the conference. When I looked at her nametag, I recognized her name immediately. She was a regular commenter on our agency’s blog. That got us talking easily with each other, and I felt as if I knew Angela already. She showed me a one-sheet summary of her debut novel, See Jane Post, and I loved the idea. After the conference, Angela sent me the entire manuscript, and after I asked Angela to make some changes in the way the novel flowed, I offered her representation. She and I have gone through one round of my sending her novel to editors. While they all turned it down, we received feedback that helped us to see ways to make the story even stronger. As of this writing, Angela is working on a revised manuscript, which I’ll send out when it’s ready.


When you attend Mount Hermon, don’t let fear, natural shyness, or insecurity keep you from conversing with editors and agents. Your current project might not be perfected (when will it ever be?), but talking about your project to pros can bring you invaluable feedback—and maybe a new way forward in your career.

Click here to read Janet Grant’s BIO.

Click here to learn more about Janet Grant’s AFTERNOON WORKSHOP.

Click here to read more about connecting with Agents, Editors, and Freelancers at the conference.

Click here to learn more about the two FREE Pre-Conference Manuscript Submissions for review by an agent or editor, or for critique by a Critique Team author.

Meet the Editors ~ Books and Magazines

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

2015 MH Writers Brochure


Where there are writers’ conferences, you will find surprises. Sometimes editors, agents, or freelancers have to withdraw from a conference for one reason or another. Sometimes it’s personal. Other times it might be a corporate influence.

Then there are those times when a change means you get to add to the list of publishing houses represented. That’s the case with Alice Crider’s surprise. She was coming as a literary agent, but she recently accepted a job as Senior Acquisitions and Development Editor for Nonfiction for David C. Cook.

Dawn Anderson

Dawn Anderson  |  Kregel Publications, Editor  |

Click here to read Dawn Anderson’s BIO

Kim Bangs

 Kim Bangs  |  Bethany House and Chosen, Senior Acquisitions Editor

Click here to read Kim’s BIO

Click here to view Kim’s Afternoon Workshops

James Watkins

 James Watkins  |  Wesleyan Publishing House, Book and Publications Acquisitions Editor; 

ACW Press, Editorial Advisor

Click here to read Jim’s BIO

Jessica Wong

 Jessica Wong  |  Nelson Books Group, HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Nonfiction Editor

Please Note: Jessica Wong will be with us Friday and Saturday, March 27-28, only!

Click here to read Jessica Wong’s BIO


One of the keys to planning for your time at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference is to keep apprised of the changes and have the ability to flex. Regularly, peruse the Faculty pages on the website for the up-to-date listing of who will be joining us at Mount Hermon, March 27-31.

See you there!

Learn more about the two FREE Pre-Conference Manucript Submissions

Read about how to arrange an appointment with an editor, agent, or faculty freelancer

Here’s what the editors, agents, and freelancers want to see for review or critique


Be sure to connect with us online  . . . 




TWITTER: / #mhwriters2015

About That Conference Appointment

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Steve Laube, a Literary Agent and President of Steve Laube Agency, is back on the Mount Hermon Writers blog again sharing a Faculty Guest Post Q & A. Click here to read the full bio for Steve Laube.

Steve Laube

Steve will join us at the conference, March 27-31, 2015, to review manuscripts, meet with writers, teach one afternoon workshop and co-teach another. Click here to view the workshop summaries for Landmines in Your Book Contract and Planning Your Book Launch.

Blogger: Steve Laube

About that Conference Appointment 

You snagged one of those valuable 15 minute appointments with an agent or an editor at the writers conference. Now what? What do you say? How do you say it? And what does that scowling person on the other side of the table want? What if you blow it?

Many excellent posts have been written on this topic (see Rachelle Gardner and Kate Schafer Testerman for example) but thought I would add my perspective as well.




What advice would you give to a beginning writer about attending a writers conference and meeting with an editor or an agent?

Go in with realistic expectations. The biggest mistake is thinking that this is the guaranteed method for getting a book contract and that you have one chance to make or break your entire writing dream. Modify those expectations. Instead see it as a learning experience and a place to listen and absorb the sights and sounds around you. It can, in some ways, be a safe place to fail.

Over the years it is estimated that you’ve conducted nearly 2,000 of these appointments. What are you looking for in a new author or client? Is there an element in a pitch that you look for?

This a VERY difficult question. Reading anything is an extremely subjective experience. If I like the pitch I may not like the writing. And sometimes the pitch is weak but the writing is great. And furthermore, what gets me excited may cause another agent’s eyes glaze over.

In the appointment I’m looking at the person as much as the pitch and the writing. It is the connection made with their personality and their passion and their overall presentation of themselves. That is as much a part of the pitch as the actual words in the manuscript. It is one of the reasons why agents and editors go to a conference…to see firsthand that “snap” or “spark” which makes that person stand out. Hopefully the execution of the writing delivers as well.

Understand that I’m not saying that someone has to be a “bigger-than-life” personality. That would be a rather shallow perspective. Instead it is reading the person behind the page. It is hard to explain and impossible to teach to someone else. But those of us on this side of the table know what I mean. The successful agents and editors have the ability to pick those few from the crowd..

So, please understand I’m not talking about a song and dance routine. But instead I’m talking of the internal fire, that God given spark that says, “Steve? Pay attention.”

What is the one thing that drives you crazy about people when they pitch. What is the one thing you wish they would do?

On the one hand is the person who tries to tell their entire novel or book idea with excruciating detail. That is either a case of nerves or a case of failing to practice ahead of time.

On the other hand is the person who is so precise that they sit down, smile, and hit me with their 25 word blurb. Then they close their mouth and expectantly wait for my august pronouncement, as if that is considered a conversation. That “interview” has lasted for all of two minutes at that point…. and the silence is rather awkward. (Realize I haven’t read anything yet.)

The key is a strong balance between being over eager and talkative and the sterile precision of a practiced speaker. Remember, this is a conversation. I am not only listening to your pitch, I’m also listening to you. I am also meeting you.

But if I say “No. This doesn’t work for me.” That doesn’t mean I don’t like you. It is like the sidewalk vendor who shows me their turquoise jewelry and I say “No thanks. Not today.” I am declining a business proposition not crushing your soul.

Is there any sort of unwritten protocol to which you can clue us in?

Use your common sense. The jokes about slipping a proposal under a bathroom stall door are based in fact. Imagine my surprise while standing in the bathroom doing my business when a fellow comes up to me and starts pitching his book idea. I turned my head and sternly had to say, “Not now! Do you really want me to associate your book idea with this experience?”

At one conference a woman followed me into the men’s room while making her pitch. I had to ask her if she would mind waiting outside for a moment.

I’ll never forget another lady who came up to the appointment table, stood over me, and shook a finger saying, “Now you be nice to me!” And then gestured aggressively at another editor in the room, “Because that man over there made me cry.” I timidly asked her to take a seat.

Once a writer was so nervous about the appointment that the moment she sat down she burst into tears.

My advice to every writer is to r-e-l-a-x. Be yourself. The editor/agent is not necessarily an ogre. (However, after watching me at a writers conference in Oklahoma City Thomas Umstattd gave me the title “The Harbinger of Grim Reality” or “ogre” for short. Gee, thanks Thomas.)

If you run into an editor/agent in the hall or the elevator, it’s okay to talk to them! We are not “rock star celebrities” for goodness sake. We have come to the conference with the goal to find new talent and to nurture relationships.

Try not to argue with the editor/agent. It’s okay to disagree and state your case, but if you let it devolve into a snit you need to apologize…and so does the editor/agent. Civility should reign. If I make a statement regarding the receptivity of the market to your book idea, I’m not asking for a debate (“But mine is so much better than Harry Potter!”), I’m merely expressing my observations about the marketplace.

It’s been said that some editors and agents request everything pitched to them at a conference. What is your take on this, and how often do you make requests?

There can be the problem of the “false positive” at a conference. By “false positive” I mean the editor/agent says, “Send it to me” only to later send a stock rejection letter. It is a problem of which there is no real solution. Editors/Agents cannot fully evaluate a project in a 15 minute meeting or over a group dinner table. Back in the office they can weigh your project against the others they are considering. But at least you are being considered! If you had not gone to the conference you would not have had that chance. I can name numerous times in my past where I contracted someone after reading the proposal in the office. Of course the majority receive the “no thank you” letter. Just because the faculty member says, “send it” doesn’t carry with it a guarantee of a sale.

It is especially difficult with fiction because the reading is more of an experience than an evaluation. I’m not afraid to say, “This needs work” to any writer and many of you reading this blog have heard those words from me. But at the same time our agency’s door is always open. We are always in the hunt for the “next best.” I can’t know if that is the “next” unless I get it reviewed and read it myself in a different context outside the conference.

Have you ever signed an author after meeting with them at conference?

Many times. Both as an agent and back when I was an editor at Bethany House. It does happen. Most recently it happened at the Mt. Hermon conference in March 2010. This first time author made her initial pitch during dinner. Her non-fiction idea was great and the pitch was dynamic. We then met later one-on-one to discuss the idea further. Then I spent time with the sample writing back in my office. We decided to work together and spent a few months developing a top-notch proposal. After sending it around we have had interest from five publishers with two wanting face-to-face meetings at their headquarters. Ultimately it turned into a high value multi-book offer from a major publisher…for a first-time non-fiction author. And it all started with a short meeting at the conference.

I can safely say that every editor or agent would agree that if they find one (only one) new talent from a conference it is considered a success.

I’ve had many times where nothing specific came out of that conference but years later it bore fruit. For example, Paul Robertson attended a conference where I spoke in the late 90s. He said he sent something afterwards that I rejected. Eight years later he sent me a proposal that is now a published book (The Heir) with Bethany House. So while I didn’t necessarily see anything at the time it had results nearly 10 years later.

Have you ever rejected someone who later became a successful author?

Of course! Ask any editor/agent about the “one they let get away.” They’ll be “happy” to tell you their story.

At the Florida writers conference a few years ago we had a faculty meeting prior to the event. Each faculty member stood up and introduced themselves. The first turned and said, “Hi, my name is ____ and here is my new book….which Steve Laube rejected.” We all laughed. Then the next person stood and said, “Hi, my name is ____ … and Steve Laube rejected me too.” There were over a dozen published authors in that room who claimed the “Laube rejection.” So when it came to my turn, I stood and said, “Hi, my name is Steve Laube and I’m the key to your success.” Hilarity ensued.

A lot of writers deserve their initial rejections! Often they start out with a half-baked pitch or with an idea that just landed on the bestseller list written by another author. Jack Cavanaugh went to writers conferences for ten years before he sold the first of his 25+ novels. During those years he learned the craft, he learned the industry, and he became friends with editors. And when the time was right his novel was accepted and a career was born.

Click Here to learn how to make an appointment with agents and editors at the Mount Hermon Christian Wrtiers Conference!


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Social Media Round-Up

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Laura Christianson, facilitator for Take Your Blogging and Social Media to the Next Level, a Head Start Pre-Conference Track, March 25-27, 2015, has prepared a Social Media Round-Up Post for us!

If you know any writers who would appreciate some Social Media Tips, please share this post. Thanks!

Laura Christianson 2



Do you plan your social media updates or take a haphazard approach?

Laura Christianson advocates for using a publication calendar. This article on her blog explains why an editorial calendar is valuable and provides tips and tools for setting one up.

How-to-create-an-editorial-calendar Photo



Facebook recently rolled out a new feature for pages: a call-to-action button. This handy button is perfect to use on an author page, to encourage fans to watch your book trailer, buy your book, visit your website, or sign up for your e-newsletter.

In this blog post, Laura Christianson walks you step-by-step through adding a call-to-action button to your Facebook page.

How-to-create-a-Facebook-Call-to-Action-button Photo



If you’re planning to create or redesign your website, check out the pros and cons of one-page websites – and view a one-page website created for Thomas Locke (aka, Davis Bunn), an award-winning author who will be teaching the Major Morning Track, “Taking Your Story to the Next Level.”

“Why You Should Be Wary of One-Page WordPress Themes” was written by Laura Christianson, who will facilitate the Head Start Pre-Conference Track, “Take Your Blogging and Social Media to the Next Level.”

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Come meet Laura Christianson at Mount Hermon, March 25-31. Laura is serving as a mentor in the Head Start Pre-Conference Track, working with writers as a Critique Team member, and co-teaching an afternoon workshop.

Click here to FOLLOW Mount Hermon Writers on Facebook!

Click here to FOLLOW Mount Hermon writers on Twitter!

Creating the Perfect Opening for a Novel

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Blogger: Joseph Bentz

Creating the Perfect Opening for a Novel

Joseph Bentz Book Pages

If you come to Mount Hermon to learn how to be a better fiction writer, one concept you will no doubt hear repeatedly is how important the first few pages of your novel are. If done well, they can invite the reader into your book, but if handled poorly, they can slam the door shut and prevent the reader from proceeding to any good material that follows.

How can you write a compelling opening for your novel?

In a California literature course I teach at Azusa Pacific University, we study Raymond Chandler’s novel, The Big Sleep, a classic of hardboiled detective fiction that features private investigator Philip Marlowe solving mysteries in a noir-ish and unforgettable Los Angeles setting.

After the students read the book, one of the first ways we study it is simply to read out loud and analyze the first few pages. Chandler wastes no time. His opening establishes the novel’s tone and atmosphere, captures the personality of the narrator Marlowe, and propels the plot into motion. It isn’t easy to do all those things at once. If you don’t believe me, try it.

Joseph Bentz The Big Sleep Cover

Take a look at The Big Sleep’s first two paragraphs:

It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.

The main hallway of the Sternwood place was two stories high. Over the entrance doors, which would have let in a troop of Indian elephants, there was a broad stained-glass panel showing a knight in dark armor rescuing a lady who was tied to a tree and didn’t have any clothes on but some very long and convenient hair. The knight had pushed the vizor of his helmet back to be sociable, and he was fiddling with the knots on the ropes that tied the lady to the tree and not getting anywhere. I stood there and thought that if I lived in the house, I would sooner or later have to climb up there and help him. he didn’t seem to be really trying.

What information do we learn from these two paragraphs? A private detective has dressed up in a nice suit in order to call on a wealthy client who lives in a mansion.

Those are the facts, but Chandler’s words tell us much more. Why describe the outfit in such detail, even down to the socks? If you pick up a hint of sarcasm in that little bit of over-description, it is confirmed in the next sentence: “I was neat, clean shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it.” That declaration conveys more than the surface meaning of the words. As one of my students put it, “Someone who is usually sober doesn’t need to point out that he is sober.” The same is true for being clean and shaved. Marlowe may be revealing a few weaknesses in that sentence, but also a few strengths: he’s frank, down-to-earth, and he has a self-deprecating sense of humor. I like him already.

Almost every sentence in these two paragraphs has something to commend it. For example, take at “I was calling on four million dollars.” A lesser writer might have settled for something like, “I was calling on a wealthy client.” Chandler’s sentence is better than that in both tone and content. We now know how wealthy General Sternwood is (his four million is in late 1930s dollars), and more importantly, the tone indicates Marlowe is not over-awed by money.

His sarcasm toward ostentatious displays of wealth is extended in the second paragraph, when he describes the Sternwood mansion. He doesn’t need any direct comment about how gaudy he thinks the place is. The fact that the entrance doors “would have let in a troop of Indian elephants” tells the reader plenty about Marlowe’s attitude toward the house. His commentary on the stained-glass artwork tells us as much about the unpretentious detective as it does about the questionable artistic taste of the Sternwoods.

The opening paragraphs of The Big Sleep let us know we are starting a journey with a narrator who knows what he’s doing, both as a detective and as a storyteller. We like him from the start, and we can’t wait to see what he’ll do next. He doesn’t disappoint.

Joseph Bentz, a freelance author and an English Professor at Azusa Pacific University, is part of the faculty for the 2015 conference. Click here to read the full bio for Joseph Bentz.

Joe Bentz casual

Joe will join us at the conference, March 27-31, 2015, to serve as a Morning Mentoring Track Nonfiction Mentor and teach an afternoon workshop. Click here to view the workshop summary for Strategies for Writers with No Time to Write.


Does the opening to your novel need strengthening? Do you want to make your fiction more compelling? Think about taking your fiction to the next level in our Head Start Pre-Conference Mentoring Track. 

Blog. Tweet. Live.

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Does the concept or the application of blogging, following, timeline posting, tweeting, and pinning baffle you? Overwhelm you?

Hurry, get your calendar and add the Mount Hermon Head Start Pre-Conference Track, March 25-27, 2015!

March 2015 Blogging Track


Seriously! Could you use some help with blogging and social media? Want tutored on the what, why, how, and when of using Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other social media? Mount Hermon has you covered!

Meet Laura Christianson, owner of Blogging Bistro, and the Head Start Track mentor for Take Your Blogging and Social Media to the Next Level.

Laura Christianson Head Start Mentor


The Head Start Pre-Conference Track offers an added-value opportunity for a small additional fee.

  • Entrance to the Head Start Pre-Conference Track is by application only
  • Application Deadline: Friday, March 13, 2015
  • Space is limited, eight participants per clinic.

Click here for more information on the Guidelines and Application process for the Head Start Pre-Conference Track.


WAIT! There’s more for bloggers . . .

During the Main Conference, March 27-31, don’t miss Chris Tiegreen’s afternoon workshop ~ I Blog, Therefore I Am!

Chris Tiegreen  Walk Thru the Bible Editor and Workshop Leader


YOUR TURN: Where are you when it comes to Blogging and Social Media? Lovin’ it? Love/Hate? Antagonist? Mystified? Apathetic? Other?

The Manuscript and More

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Wendy Lawton

Wendy Lawton, a Literary Agent and Vice President of Books and Such Literary Management, is our Faculty Guest Blogger. Click here to read the full bio for Wendy Lawton.

Wendy plans to join us at the conference, March 27-31, 2015, to review manuscripts, meet with writers, and teach one afternoon workshop. Click here to view the workshop summary for The Need for Agents and How to Acquire One.

Blogger: Wendy Lawton

The Manuscript and More . . .

Don’t you love those scenes in the movies where the writer wipes away a tear and types “The End,” ties a big stack of manuscript pages with a  piece of twine and sends it off to the editor? Yeah, that would be fiction. Would that it were that easy.

Manuscript plus, right? So what is the plus? What actually needs to go with the finished manuscript?


Marketing information (for both fiction and nonfiction authors): Many a publishing house requires the author to complete an in-depth marketing profile to be sent with the manuscript. This includes much of the same information that you included in your proposal but they may also ask for any contacts you have in media, your local news and radio stations, your alumni magazine contact info, etc. It’s important to start thinking about media contacts and influencers.

Nonfiction Books: 

  • All permissions. These would be signed permission letters* from any person mentioned in the book
  • Model release forms* for anyone appearing in a photograph
  • Release forms* for each interview
  • Endnotes, citations and references  (Each time you quote someone you must cite where that quote comes from in classic endnote style. In some cases permission must be obtained as in the case of any portion of copyrighted lyrics or poems; as well as any quotes that fall out of the Fair Use* parameters.)
  • Resources, if those are part of the book
  • Book club questions for the back of the book if requested
  • Possible endorsers
  • Disclaimer* (Your publisher may use his own disclaimer)
  • Acknowledgements
  • Dedication
  • And anything else the publisher may request. Check your contract.

Fiction Books:

  • Your editor may request a timeline to help with the editing process.
  • He may ask for a character list (and if it is a family saga your editor may need a family tree)
  • Maps, if it will help with editing
  • You may be asked for reference photos of possible character types to help with cover design. (And this request may come long before you turn in your manuscript.)
  • Possible endorsers
  • Disclaimer* (Your publisher may use his own disclaimer)
  • Acknowledgements
  • Dedication
  • And anything else the publisher may request. Check your contract.

It may sound overwhelming but it is part of being a careful writer. some of these elements may be part of your proposal but don’t count on the proposal and finished manuscript ever meeting again. Include those details again with the finished manuscript. Your editor will love you if you provide the manuscript plus these things without them having to run you to ground to get these.

So my question to you is this: Does this sound overwhelming? Or did you already plan on having the whole package ready?

* Samples of Permission letters, release forms, disclaimers, explanations of Fair Use, etc. can all be found in The Copyright, Permission and Libel Handbook by Lloyd J. Jassin and Steven C. Schechter. This is a book every writer needs to have and read carefully.

Photo Credit:  © Sueharper | – Manuscript From Author With Red Twine Photo