Posts Categorized: Writers Conference

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

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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

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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!


See more at:

Social Media Round-Up

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

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.”

Two-common-problems-with-one-page-WordPress-themes Photo


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

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

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

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

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

Say No to Creativity

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Meet Nick Harrison, Senior Editor, Harvest House Publishers! To Read the full bio for Nick Harrison, click here.

Nick Harrison

Nick plans to join us at the conference, March 27-31, 2015, to review manuscripts, meet with writers, and teach an afternoon workshop. Click here to view the workshop summary for What to Do When You Don’t Have a Platform.

Blogger: Nick Harrison

Say No to Creativity

taking a testStop it with the creativity….for a while anyway. Being creative doesn’t get you published. Many very creative people never make a go of their writing career. Why?

Because they’re so busy being creative, they’re not taking the time to plan their career. And many mediocre writers succeed because they’ve stopped being creative long enough to plan to succeed.I’m going to put on my drill sergeant’s hat now (reluctantly of course) and have you take a little test.

How many of the following statements are true of you?

  1. You have more than half a dozen unfinished writing projects somewhere on your computer.
  2. You resent the intrusion of having to write a book proposal, rather than just work on the book itself.
  3. You write when you can with no specified writing time, often missing two or three (or more) days at a time.
  4. You are a self-confessed procrastinator about your writing.
  5. You’ve come up with acceptable reasons for not attending a writer’s conference this year.
  6. You have no idea how different your writing career will be one year from now.
  7. You do not impose deadlines on your projects.
  8. You’ll skip writing to watch a mediocre television program or spend more time on Facebook.
  9. Your writing future consists more of hopes than it does of plans.
  10. You’re still bummed about your most recent rejection. (Get over it! Blame it on the editor if it helps you get past it.)

If you answered yes to a few of the above, that’s okay. Welcome to the real world. None of us is perfect.

But if more than half are true of you, you need to turn off the right side of your brain—the creative side—and engage the left side of your brain to set up a plan to succeed. That plan can consist of several possible elements, not limited to these below.

  1. Compose a mission statement for your writing. What is your goal as a writer? Keep it brief. Just a couple of sentences should suffice. A mission statement will help you stay focused.
  2. Create a list of your writing projects prioritized by their importance. You can define importance in the way that works best for you. For me, the list is prioritized by my passion combined with what I perceive as the marketability of the idea. I’ve just winnowed my list down to 44 items. If I live long enough to complete 5-10 of them, I’ll be happy. We all know not all ideas are created equal. Some are true duds and can eventually be discarded. Some simply arrive before their time and must wait several notches down on the list until they “ripen.”
  3. Take your top three projects and assign deadlines for some aspect of their progress. For instance, set a deadline for when you will have a completed proposal on number one on your prioritized list. Set a deadline for a “one-sheet” description of book number two on your list. And a deadline for a paragraph summary of book three. Other possible deadlines: securing an agent, sending a query, conducting an interview for your project, etc. Most writing projects are unique enough to have several possible deadlines. Be sure and write your deadlines and goals on your calendar. Keep them in mind daily. Move toward the goal with anticipation of setting a new deadline when the present one is reached.
  4. Set aside a specific time each day to write. For those of us who are admitted procrastinators, the trick is to tell ourselves that this sacred time needs to be only five minutes. Anyone can sit down and write for five minutes. But hopefully you’ll discover, as I have, that those first five minutes are the hardest. One you commit your backside to the chair and begin to write, the five minutes will turn into fifteen, then into half an hour and beyond. Simply committing yourself to those five minutes is key. And even if you do only write for five minutes and move on to something else, you’ve started a habit. Now keep it up.
  5. This will be the hardest for some of you. Search out a good Christian writer’s conference near you and plan to attend. I know the reason this is hard is often due to economic reasons. If that’s the case, ask the conference director about scholarships. Or about working for your tuition. Back when I was just starting, I couldn’t afford to pay for a conference, so I volunteered driving conferees back and forth to the airport. Another option is to see if your church will pay your way. After all, for most of us, writing is a ministry. Pray the money in. Just do what you can to be there.

Okay, there are just five steps to take to begin planning to succeed as a writer. Add more as necessary. When you set these five in motion, go get creative again.

If all this makes writing sound like a job….bingo! A pleasurable job to be sure, but a job and a calling nonetheless.

Taking off my drill sergeant’s hat now.

YOUR TURN: Do you have more trouble turning on the right side of your brain (the creative side) or turning it off?

Conference Discounts

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Unbeatable Value and the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference~One and the Same:

But wait, there’s still more . . . TWO DISCOUNTS!

dollar sign with Save

EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT ~ Register by February 1st and receive $75 OFF!

WRITERS’ GROUP DISCOUNT ~ Register with a group of 5 or more and save $50 each! Call 888.642.2677 for group registration.

Scholarships ~ The Family of God Reaching Out

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Meet Kay Strom, Author and Novelist! To Read the full bio for Kay Strom, click here.

Kay Strom

Part of the conference Resource Team, Kay plan to join us March 27-31, 2015 to lead the Returners’ Reunion, critique manuscripts, and meet with writers in the Hospitality Center.


Guest Blogger: Kay Marshall Strom

The Family of God Reaching Out

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a writer.

Pencils image


My first book met with great success—Tommy the Tuna, written in fourth-grade cursive and stapled inside a green construction paper cover decorated with a lopsided pieced-together fish. My classmates voted it best class book. Like Tommy, I was hooked!

My writing was waylaid by college. And marriage. And teaching. And motherhood. Yet my desire never faded. When my friend Sharon told me about the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, I knew it was meant for me!

I made myself a writers conference bank. Whenever I got a substitute teaching job, I put part of my pay in that bank. When my friends asked me to go to lunch, I ordered a snack and the money I saved went into that bank. My excitement grew with each coin or dollar bill I dropped in. Five months until the conference! I could save enough by then.

Except that my husband suddenly lost his job. One month passed, then two months, then three and still no job. Our savings were fast dwindling. With tears in my eyes, I told Sharon I wouldn’t be going.

“Why don’t you apply for a campership?” she suggested.

Now, I practically grew up at Mount Hermon. Friends owned a cabin, so my family went for two weeks every summer, and periodically throughout the year. I met my first boyfriend there. Got my first kiss under a redwood tree I can still point out. I celebrated my birthday there every year from the time I was four until I was eighteen. The only banana splits of my life came from the fountain there. I thought I knew everything there was to know about Mount Hermon. But I had never heard of camperships.

“Like a scholarship,” Sharon explained, “only it goes toward the cost of the writers conference. Anyone who needs help can apply.”

Hmmm. A tempting idea. But I felt bad about accepting people’s hard earned money. Surely there were others who needed it more than I did.

“People give to the fund because they want to make it possible for others to attend the conference,” Sharon said. “It’s the family of God reaching out a helping hand to one another.”

With Sharon’s encouragement, I hesitantly applied. The campership I received, added to the money in my conference bank, totaled $6 more than I needed. More than enough to buy a banana split at the Snack Shack!

My first book sale came out of that conference.

Have you always wanted to write? Are you eager to learn the craft in a Christian context? To meet editors and agents who are there to meet you? To share with others who have a passion for writing? To be encouraged, and be encouraging?

Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference 2015 just may be the conference that will change your life. And if money is standing in your way, take my friend Sharon’s advice: Let the family of God reach out a helping hand.  Maybe next year, you can reach out to another writer in the making!

A NOTE FROM MONA: Might receiving a campership/scholarship for the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference make it possible for you to join us at Mount Hermon in March? If so, please email to ask for an application.


YOUR TURN: Have you ever received a Mount Hermon campership/scholarship? Did it make a difference in your life?


Bridges Can Burn

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Our Faculty Guest is a Literary Agent and President of Steve Laube Agency ~ Steve Laube. 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

The sale of Thomas Nelson to HarperCollins and the sale of Heartsong to Harlequin brought to mind a critical piece of advice:

Never Burn a Bridge!


Ours is a small industry and both editors and authors move around with regularity. If you are in a business relationship and let your frustration boil into anger and ignite into rage…and let that rage descend on someone in the publishing company, you may end up burning a bridge. And that person who you vented on might someday become the head of an entire publishing company.

True Story

A salesman got into a verbal altercation with the buyer for a major chain. The salesman stormed out and called his boss asking to be taken off the account so that he would never have to talk to that buyer again. A month later the salesman’s company hired that buyer as the salesman’s new boss. (Yikes!)

A, B, C, D, & E (and beyond)

Scenario based on a true story: An author was so frustrated with her editor she wrote a scathing letter to the publisher (A) dressing down the entire editorial staff. The next year that editor moved to a different publisher (B) and when that author’s proposal was presented at a meeting, the editor relayed to the publishing team (B) the volatility of that writer.

Soon the writer was with a new publisher (C) because she was so mad with her previous publisher. Everything was great…until something set the writer off. She again melted down and with a scorched earth method set every relationship on fire…and watched it burn. A year later the marketing at this publisher (C) moved to a new opportunity at another publisher (D). And shortly thereafter the editor (C) became an editorial director at yet another publisher (E).

You see the pattern? There are technically five publishers that were burned by this author, two by action, three by proxy. Each bridge fell into the river. And guess what, this writer is now mad at her publisher (C) but is having trouble finding a new home.

A Last Example

When working as an editor I had an agent call me on the phone and berated me and our company for about five minutes. Most of the monologue was done by shouting. The agent concluded their rant by demanding to talk to our Vice President. So I called the VP with a warning and transferred the call. I later asked how the call went. My VP said everything was all peaches and cream, so why did I need to issue a warning? It became obvious that this agent just wanted to get past me to talk to “someone important,” i.e. a real decision maker. Suffice it to say I knew something about that agent that stuck with me…especially after I was promoted and became a “real decision maker.”

(Don’t ask who I have been talking about, it is irrelevant. I’ve been in the industry for 30 years and have seen a lot of things happen over a long period of time.)

What Do You Do When Things Go Wrong?

1. Talk to your agent.  Your agent’s inbox or phone line should be a safe place to vent. Do not vent to your critique group, to your writing friends, on Twitter, or Facebook, or your blog. Talk to someone you can trust. You might actually be wrong in your frustration and don’t know that what you are experiencing is supposed to happen that way. Every agent will concur that a big part of our job is helping our clients measure their frustration in a professional manner.

[[I’ve spoken to authors who did not have an agent and things had gone wrong with their publisher. Things that could have been easily prevented with a good contract or a solid relationship with the company. These authors now want an agent to come in and fix things. Often it is too late. So, at the risk of sounding self-serving, this is one really good reason to have an agent from the beginning.]]

2. Own the anger, but don’t let it control. It is foolish to deny that you are frustrated. But letting emotion control your actions is not a good idea.

3. Write out your thoughts and send it to your agent in an email but only if you can trust the agent not to forward it to anyone. Better yet, call your agent and read it over the phone. You are a writer! Use your gift to express your thoughts. Sometimes that is enough and you will never have to hit the “send” button. What I have done on occasion is ask that the client to write the “Angry Letter” but send it to me and only me. Many times I can edit the tone and the words and put the language in “publisher’s speak” so that everyone’s situation is respected and frustration expressed firmly but without anger.

4. Beware of bitterness or distrust. I read so many blogs from authors, both Christian and in the general market, who love to tell their tales of woe, and then conclude that all publishers and editors are evil.

Remember that people make mistakes. And sometimes businesses make business decisions that affect you negatively. I understand. I’ve been fired from a job with no warning before, I understand. But it can only become worse if you let that pain fester inside like an infection. Your craft will suffer and your calling as a writer will be stunted.

5. Remember Colossians 3:12-13 where Paul wrote: “Put on…compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

By the way…

I said never burn a bridge. But I didn’t say you can’t light them on fire. There are times where you need to make a stand for what is right or point out an error. It is how you make that information known that determines whether or not that bridge can still be used the next morning. But that may be a good post for another day.

You Will Have to Neglect Something

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Meet another one of our esteemed faculty members ~ Joseph Bentz, a freelance author and an English Professor at Azusa Pacific University. 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.

Blogger: Joseph Bentz

You Will Have to Neglect Something—Make Your Choice

How big a place in your life should writing be given?

That question frequently comes up at writers conferences like Mount Hermon. When you’re surrounded by writers who are constantly pitching this and that to agents and editors, it’s easy to think writing should be everything. As you look around at other writers, it’s easy to feel guilty that you haven’t written more or published more, but it’s important to put writing in perspective.

Writing is important, and most of us could do it better, but writing isn’t everything. It is one part of life that should take its proper place among other priorities. But how do you determine what that place is?

cat at keyboard

I used to think that if only I could get organized enough and follow the right disciplines, I could find a way to fulfill my goals and obligations in my personal and professional life without having to leave work undone or relationships unsatisfied.

I no longer believe that. I now believe that time and energy are so limited that I will have to neglect something important to me. I simply have to choose what that will be. Will I write less than I want to? Will I devote less time to my family than I want to? Less time to my church? Less time to my students?

The Limits of Our Attention

A writers group I am part of studied the book, Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. In one section, the author discusses the idea that attention is a limited resource but crucial to creativity. Since we have only so much of it, we must decide where we’re going to put it. Then he makes this memorable point:

“Another consequence of limited attention is that creative individuals are often considered odd—or even arrogant, selfish, and ruthless. It is important to keep in mind that these are not traits of creative people, but traits that the rest of us attribute to them on the basis of perceptions. When we meet a person who focuses all of his attention on physics or music and ignores us and forgets our names, we call that person ‘arrogant’ even though he may be extremely humble and friendly if he could only spare attention from his pursuit.” (10)

Creativity book Joe quoted

As we pursue our passions, few of us want to be perceived as selfish, arrogant people who care only about our writing or our music or our art or whatever other work we feel called to do. Better to be a generous, well-rounded person who cares about others but also makes a meaningful contribution to our field. However, with the truly creative person who brings about a groundbreaking change in a domain, Csikszentmihalyi writes that “it is practically impossible to learn a domain deeply enough to make a change in it without dedicating all of one’s attention to it and thereby appearing to be arrogant, selfish, and ruthless to those who believe they have a right to the creative person’s attention” (10).

During the 2012 Olympics, one TV commercial showed athletes training vigorously, and in voice-overs they told some of life’s pleasures they had given up for their sport: “I haven’t eaten a dessert in two years,” says one athlete, and others told of giving up television, burgers, etc. The list they gave focused mostly on trivial pleasures, but I’m sure many of them also sacrificed more important things also, such as spending time with family, hanging out with friends, and so on.

At certain points in life, I have practiced the kind of focused discipline those athletes are talking about. While I was still single and in graduate school trying to finish my dissertation, I gave up television for a couple years, dedicated one room of my apartment to nothing but a computer and dissertation materials, and set rigid hours for working on the project until it was finished. Even now, when I write a book, I commit to working on it at least a little every day until it is finished.

Deciding Where to Set the Limits

As a writer today, I am willing to sacrifice for my passion, but I will go only so far. I believe all of us make trade-offs, but we don’t always knowingly make them. Often we simply slide into letting things get out of balance in one direction or another.

The choice I knowingly make now is that I am not willing to sacrifice my family for my work. When my son says, “Let’s go play soccer in the backyard,” I go. I take him and his sister to their sports practices. I take long walks with my wife. I have more writing projects than I can ever complete. I want to get to them. I do the best I can with those projects, and I get some of them done. But I know that I will simply have to neglect some of them.

My teaching also holds me back. So does my church. So do my friends. So do my other interests. So be it. I care about those things and intend to give each of them some of my Attention. When I teach American literature, I sometimes teach authors who had writing as their only priority, even when it brought shipwreck to their personal lives. They were creative people. They made a contribution to literature. The cost was high.

For me, writing has an important place, but as much as I love it, it doesn’t get all of me.


YOUR TURN: What have you given up to write? And if you haven’t given up anything yet, what are you considering giving up for more time and attention to devote to writing?

Writers Meeting Editors and Agents ~ Oh my!

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If you have an interest in writing or in the publishing industry, we’d love to see you at Mount Hermon, March 25-31.

How do you know the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference is right for you?

computer keyboard image


You’re going to want to join us at Mount Hermon, if . . .

1.  You have to write. You can’t help yourself, you’re a writer.

2.  You care about meeting and mingling with folks of like-mind, who share your interest in writing and publishing.

3.  You desire to build relationships with folks in the publishing industry–published authors, editors, and agents.

4.  Social media and the concept of blogging baffles you and you could use some help with it all.

5.  You have the desire to explore a new genres or type of writing.

6.  You’re interested in studying the craft of writing with a multi-published mentor.

7.  You need encouragement from writers who have been where you are and taken have the next steps.

8.  You don’t know all there is to know about writing for publication, publishing, marketing, and promotions.

9.  You’re wondering what to do next in your writing career and could use some direction.

10. You crave Christian fellowship with other publishing industry professionals.

11.  You have been in the desert and could use some spiritual nourishment.

12. You see value in a contemplative stroll through a stand of awe-inspiring redwood trees.

Which one or ones in the above listing best fit you in this season of your writing life?


Here’s how to REGISTER

Click here to find Mount Hermon Writers on Facebook


Procrastination: Win the Battle

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Our Faculty Guest is an Author, Blogger, and Editor of indeed magazine and Pathways Magazine (Walk Thru the Bible) ~ Chris Tiegreen. Click here to read the full bio for Chris Tiegreen.

Chris Tiegreen


Chris will join us at the conference, March 27-31, 2015, to review manuscripts, meet with writers, and teach two afternoon workshops. Click here to view the workshop summaries for Breakfast with Your Readers and I Blog, Therefore I Am.

Blogger: Chris Tiegreen

Win the Battle Against Procrastination

Imagine your first dive off the diving board. Scary, wasn’t it? If you’re like most people, you stood there a while and tried to work up the nerve.

People were watching, so backing away wasn’t an option. And standing there longer wasn’t going to make the height any shorter, the water any more inviting, or your nerves any calmer. So why did you stand there? Because you felt emotionally unprepared. And there was a payoff for putting it off. You gained some comfort for the moment by postponing the discomfort of the future.

Procrasination Photo


Procrastinating as a writer can be like that. It’s delaying the inevitable, but somehow the inevitable seems safer later than now. Yes, the writing may be more difficult when the deadline gets tighter, but in the moment you’re not doing it, it isn’t difficult at all.

Every writer knows procrastination well. We all do it. We know we do it. It’s not complicated. No one needs to set up the concept for you. So diving right in, the question isn’t whether you procrastinate as a writer. The question is why you’re doing it and how to get over it. Actually, how you get over it is the only question between those two that really matters. But knowing why you do it can help you overcome it.

So why do you procrastinate in your writing? Very simply, you don’t want to be writing right now. Maybe you don’t have the energy, or perhaps you’re burned out. Maybe you really do need a break, and procrastinating is the only way to get it. Still, if a deadline nears and you don’t have words on a page, that’s a problem.

Here’s where you have to be really honest with yourself and tell yourself some basic truths. And you may have to be persistent with them:

1)  Putting this project off will not make it go away. You will have to do it sometime, and no matter how much better “later” looks, it isn’t. Looking back, you’ll be very glad you jumped in when you did.

2)  Projects look more overwhelming at the beginning than the do in the middle. And certainly more than they do at the end. The only way not to feel overwhelmed is to start and keep going. There’s no other way to get around it.

3)  You want the exhilaration of being done. You can imagine how great it will feel. There’s only one way to get that feeling, and you know what it is. Think of how you’ll feel when it’s over, and use that energy to get going.

4)  What you’re writing will help someone. No one would have hired you to do it—or you wouldn’t have come up with the idea for it—if it were pointless. Somewhere, somehow, it’s needed.

Telling yourself those truths—again and again—will help get you started. Why? Because procrastination is an emotional issue, and these truths help defuse negative emotions and put positive ones around your project.

So dive right in. If the beginning seems too difficult, begin with the middle and add an intro later if you need to. Just begin. Because starting is the hardest part, and finishing is the best part. Procrastination doesn’t get you there. Starting does. And that’s not nearly as scary as it seems.


YOUR TURN: Are you battling procrastination? Ever have a problem with it? Have any suggestions to add to Chris’s?

Branding: A Bad Word?

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Welcome to the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Blog!

I’m glad you stopped by. And what good timing, too. Our first 2015 Faculty Guest Post!

Our guest is a Literary Agent and President of Books and Such Literary Management ~ Janet Kobobel Grant. Click here to read Janet Grant’s complete (and amazing) bio.

Janet Kobobel Grant Books and Such Literary Management


Janet Kobobel Grant will join us at the conference, March 27-31, 2015, to review manuscripts, meet with writers, and to co-teach a workshop with Davis Bunn and Laura Christianson. Click here to view the workshop summary for Planning Your Book Launch: Q & A.

And now . . . on we go to read Janet Kobobel Grant’s controversial (or at least thought-provoking) post.

Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

Branding: A Bad Word?

Hello, Mount Hermon Writers!

I know, I know, some of you have heard about branding so often that your ears flap shut when the word is uttered. But this topic seems to keep popping up, even if it isn’t invited into the conversation.

colored pencils Branding Image


Is branding a “bad” word? One that you can’t bring yourself to care about? Or is it a word that can help you to breakout of your current status (be that mid-list or trying to break into publishing)? My answer is…it’s both a bad word and a good word.

Recently I was chatting with a woman at a recent Mount Hermon Writers Conference who is unpublished but makes her living as a marketer. She clearly was savvy about how to position her projects. But the problem was that she had written a romance and a nonfiction book that would appeal to a specific, broad, and easily-located readership. Her question to me was: “Am I shooting myself in the foot by presenting to editors two very different types of writing?”

My answer: “I don’t think so.”

Here’s my reasoning:

While some people are born “branded” and know who their audience is and how to reach it, most writers enter the world of publishing not sure of the direction they should go. I advise those people to knock on all doors to see which one will open. It’s a simple matter of The Open Door Policy. Once you land a contract, you can think about focusing on branding.

Receiving a contract offer means you have put together a project that the publisher believes will find a ready audience, is tightly focused, and that you have the means to help to publicize. It’s a thumb up on all fronts!

This particular conferee had presented her fiction and nonfiction projects to a variety of editors and 100% of the editors requested to see the project. Now, here’s the smart action point the writer took: She only presented one project to each editor rather than talking about both projects.

Why was that smart? Because, if she had presented both, she would have looked as if she were flailing around to grab publishing’s attention anyway she could. She would have looked unbranded.

This writer could, and I believe would, put all of her focus on whichever project ended up with a contract being offered. She had the know-how and the passion to pursue either. That’s the crux of branding; it’s a combo of walking through the door that opens and remaining true to your passion.

Two dangers exist in presenting more than one project at a time:

  1. You could find both projects are happily received by different publishing companies. While that sounds great, two giant, golden-egg-laying geese have just landed in your lap. Now you have to write and market two projects, with two different audiences, at two different publishing houses, and figure out how to brand yourself while you’re going in two directions. It’s like starting two businesses simultaneously.
  2. You could distract yourself from purposefully branding yourself and becoming known as a certain type of writer to editors. Editors and agents have awfully good memories about what you’ve pitched them in the past. So if you pitch a nonfiction book to an editor one year and a fiction title next year, that editor is likely to remember…and to wonder if you “get” the importance of branding.

I also would advise against having more than two genres you’re working in because it’s very difficult to write middle-grade fiction, adult fiction, and adult nonfiction. Well, it might not be hard to write in several genres, but it’s only the extraordinary person who can effectively market in all of them. Most authors struggle with how to write fast and well and to aggressively market their books and develop a significant platform–all of which are requirements in today’s competitive publishing world.

YOUR TURN! Do you write in one genre? Did Janet Grant’s “take” on Branding give you pause when it comes to switching genres? 

What’s New. What Isn’t.

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Mona from Arizona, here!

If you’ve ever been to Arizona, and especially if you haven’t, you know the expectation. Arizona is always hot and dry. Right?


Last Wednesday, Central AZ became a Winter Wonderland. (Yep, the song is playing in my head, too. You’re welcome.)

2015 Arizona Snow Collage

Expectations can disappoint us. Lull us into complacency. Expectations might even cause us to miss out on a glorious surprise because we think we know what to expect and don’t anticipate anything more. Or we snub the surprise because it means things are different.

You may have heard the rumors . . . change is in the air for the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference. I’m not sure what you’ve heard, if anything, but it’s true that change is coming to the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference. We’ve hit the refresh button for 2015!

So far, I have run in to two different camps.

  • Those who initially respond with “oh.” Picture sagging shoulders.
  • Those who initially respond with “Oh!” Picture eyes wide with anticipation.

The good news is that the “oh” easily becomes “Oh!”

So . . . I’m here to break it all down for you ~ What’s New and What Isn’t.


If you’re already a fan of the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, you know that the fabulous Rachel Williams is the Conference Director. Following the “passing through” of her husband, Roger, Rachel has taken a leave of absence from her job at Mount Hermon. That’s why you’re hearing from me. I’m serving as Coordinator for the 2015 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference.

Who am I? A Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference veteran (okay, old-timer works too). It was my first writers’ conference. When? (I was afraid you’d ask that.) In 1988. I’ve been in the publishing industry awhile and Mount Hermon and the relationships I’ve made at the conference over the years have played a key role in my writing journey. Click here to learn more about the progression of that journey.


Break out the chocolate ~ it’s a New Website!

Don’t miss out. Go ahead . . .  take the new website for a spin. While you’re cruising, check out what’s new in the program.

Oh, and don’t forget to visit the familiar and new faculty faces.

Looking for the guidelines and forms for the various conference features? Resources has it all!


The Writers’ Conference Blog. It’s integrated into the new website and easy to access there. Yes, but that’s not all. There’s a plan.

You don’t have to wait until you’re breathing the Mount Hermon redwoods in March to get to know the faculty and start gleaning from their years of experience in the publishing industry. (Yep. I heard that “Oh!”) Not only will you find helpful tidbits about the conference and ways to prepare to get the most out of it, we’ll feature Faculty Guest Posts too.

Make sure you subscribe to receive the blog posts by email so you don’t miss out on any updates.


I hear you. And it’s true. Expectations have their perks. Indeed, there can be comfort and even joy found in knowing what to expect. Especially if your expectations are grounded in the What’s Not New about the conference features. So . . . for 2015, we’re giving everyone a bit of both. The familiar. AND the surprising.

Signature Features that have given the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference its stellar reputation in the publishing industry . . .

Mount Hermon, the bridge between writers and agents, writers and editors, agents and editors.

Added-Value Features new to the 2015 conference . . .

Come see for yourself. REGISTER ME NOW!

Mount Hermon offers a one-of-a-kind atmosphere for writers at every skill level, from unpublished to professional, and offers help to writers in a wide span of genres and in every phase of a writer’s career. We continually research the latest trends in writing and publishing, seeking out the foremost experts.

Whether you desire to publish the traditional way with a royalty publisher or you intend to go the indie publishing route, you’ll find industry professionals who can instruct, direct, and encourage you.


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YOUR TURN: We’d love to hear from you. What are you most looking forward to at the 2015 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 25-31?


Two Writers Faculty with the Lord

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Ethel Herr and Barbara Curtis, friends, writers, and long-time members of the faculty at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, both died on October 30.  Ethel died in Sunnyvale, CA, after a lingering multi-year battle with cancer.  Barbara died of a hemorrhagic stroke in Loudoun, VA.

Ethel was one of two surviving faculty members who were at the first Mount Hermon Writers Conference, 44 years ago.  She was a busy writer, coach, and mentor.  Her surviving husband, Walter, also assisted at the Conference for many years.  Her memorial service is set for 1:30 pm on Sunday, November 11, at the Valley Church in Cupertino, CA.  A web site has details:

Barbara Curtis, 64, was the author of over 150 articles, author of nine books, and mother to 12 children, with five of them still at home.  Her family has posted a link to a picture tribute, which can be accessed through her web site at, then click on Tribute Video.  A fund to help with the support of her surviving children has been established  as The MommyLife Memorial Fund, P. O. Box 682, Lovettsville, VA 20180.

Memorial gifts may be made to the Mount Hermon Book of Remembrance at PO Box 413, Mount Hermon, CA 95041.  Family will be notified of gifts (dollar amounts are not revealed).

Ethel Herr . . . an Amazing Woman, Author, Friend.

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Over the weekend, I read on author Robin Gunn’s Facebook that Ethel Herr is now on hospice.  I asked Robin if I could use her comments here as so many of you know and love Ethel.  She has been a part of Mount Hermon Writers Conferences for years, longer than anyone else I know.  She has fought cancer for the past years, and her doctor has seen the hand of God in her life because she lived it before him.  Robin says it so well . . .

Yesterday I received a call from the daughter of my dearly loved writing mentor. “We’ve called in hospice,” she said. “The cancer has spread and now her liver is failing. It won’t be long.”

I closed my eyes and tried to imagine a world without the vibrant, constant presence of my unsung heroine and longtime friend, Ethel Herr. It could not be. It should not be.

Ethel was the one who initiated our relationship at a writer’s conference decades ago. She didn’t know that her warm greeting would spark an undying affection in my novice heart. I’m sure she never expected that I would politely track her down before the conference was over and nervously beg to be included in the critique group that met in her home. How gracious she was to let me come to visit the closed group and share what I’d been writing.

“It’s a novel for teens,” I explained to the five experienced writers who viewed me at that first gathering with what I interpreted to be masked scowls. “The girls in the youth group are helping me write it. But it’s not going well. I don’t know what I’m doing.”

Ethel asked me to read the first three pages. I did. She gave a quick scan of the other faces in the circle and said to me, “You definitely have some work to do. Let’s do it together. Come the first Wednesday of every month. We work from nine to three. Be prompt and bring a sack lunch.”

For the next six years I arranged for a babysitter and drove an hour each way in order to “put my feet beneath the table” as Ethel called it. Her Parts of Speech Critique Group rejoiced with me when my daughter was born. They rejoiced even more when the first Christy Miller book was published. Then the work began in earnest as they lovingly helped me shape the rest of the series, carefully critiquing each chapter.

During those years I know that Ethel put aside her own writing many times so that I might receive the extra attention my current chapter needed that month. Much of her energy was spent as a full time caregiver for both her mother and her grandmother who lived with Ethel and her husband at that time. Her three children were grown and married. She spoke of them with such affection that I felt I knew her son and daughters without having met them. She loved all things Dutch and every spring the gathering table was adorned with a bouquet of tulips cut from her backyard.

When our family moved to Portland my visits with Ethel became scattered but always sacred. Her love of history was kept alive every spring when she came to Multnomah Bible College to present the Ethel Herr award to a history graduate for outstanding achievement. Her gift for mentoring writers was exercised heartily each year at Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference.  She was always ready to stop, listen and linger.

I think Ethel viewed people as forests; magnificent forests with all kinds of fascinating things growing and running about. Conversations to her were the paths through those forests. Along every path lay eternal truth just waiting to be discovered. She was never timid to enter any forest no matter how overgrown, shadowed or foreboding it seemed. She believed in the nuggets of deep value hidden in every forest and her tenacious spirit would not stop until she found that treasure and held it up in the light. The sense of wonder at the discovery was always mutual.

When Ethel’s daughter gave me the update yesterday I suddenly felt lost. How could there be a world without Ethel?  But then I could see her Ethel’s face. I could easily imagine my forever friend lingering on this side of heaven with a childlike expression of anticipation for what awaits her when she enters the presence of our Glorious Redeemer. She will be the treasure that his nail-pierced hand plucks from the shadowy overgrowth of this fallen planet. He will bathe her in His radiant light. The wonder of it all will be revealed.  And at last she will fully be where her heart has always been; in the palm of His hand.

But oh, how she will be missed.

Right before Ethel’s daughter hung up yesterday she said to me, “I don’t know if my mom ever told you, but my daughter loves your books. Especially the Christy Miller series.”

I could barely swallow her closing words. What an exquisite elixir of joy and pain when a full circle is completed in such a way as this.

Ethel’s daughter, Martha, said the doctor told Ethel she could do anything she wanted from this point on.  She informed him she wanted to eat lots of cookies and ice cream.  Sounds just like her, doesn’t it?

Lissa Halls Johnson is collecting comments from writers who have been inspired by Ethel over the years. She’ll be sending the compilation on to the family.  So if you wanted to add those here, I’ll be sending this link to her so she can pull comments from it for that purpose.

I’m sure the family would appreciate prayer as they travel these next days together.