by Karen Ball
One of the best-loved conferences is the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. This year the conference will be held from March 30th to April 3rd. I first went to this conference in the late 90s, and have returned every year since. I love the heart of this conference, which is all about uplifting and encouraging, and about honoring the One who has called us to this amazing task. So, as promised last week, I’m delighted to have conference director Rachel Williams join me today to talk about this year’s conference.
KB: Welcome, Rachel! In only a little over a month hundreds of writers of all abilities, shapes, and sizes will descend on the campus of Mount Hermon Christian Conference in the Santa Cruz Mountains of northern California! Are you going totally crazy?
RW: Actually, this IS the time of hundreds of details for the conference! But it’s what I love doing, so it’s fun for me. I’m eager for everyone to get here and to have the conference in full swing. It energizes me like nothing else.
KB: Tell us about the conference. How long have you guys been helping writers?
RW: We’ve been “doing” writers conference for 43 years! It’s been such an honor to encourage, motivate, and grow hundreds of writers, many of whom are now professional authors because of the training they received here. There are many you’d recognize including, Jerry Jenkins, Sarah Sundin, Ginny Yttrup, Mary DeMuth, to name only a few.
KB: You have conferees tell you every year what they loved about the conference. What do you think are the most common benefits for Mount Hermon conferees?
RW: Networking with industry personnel, agents, and other writers is a huge plus for each participant. And the one-on-one appointments can be life changing. Plus everyone can have two pre-conference manuscripts critiqued by our team of writing professionals. I believe Mount Hermon Writers Conference is the only one who offers free critiquing. That’s worth the price of admission!
KB: You have a number of Major Morning tracks, where those attending spend hours focusing on a chosen topic, right?
RW: Absolutely. These tracks give conferees a total of eight hours of instruction on a particular topic. This year the morning tracks are geared to give conferees a deeper understanding of writing fiction and nonfiction, marketing, internet publicity, articles and–for those just getting started–the basics on the craft of writing. We even have a special track for teenage writers. Two years ago the winner of the “Most Promising New Writer” award went to a 17-year-old! There are some incredible young writers out there and we want to motivate and encourage them as much as possible so we’re giving them their own track.
KB: You’ve got some great teachers, too. Deb Raney, Ginger Kolbaba, Thomas Umstattd, Kim Bangs, Kay Marshall Strom, and Lissa Halls Johnson.
RW: And you, of course, and the Career Track teaching team. I can’t think of a better team to teach published writers than you, Sally Stuart, Janet Grant, and Wendy Lawton. I love the theme for this year: “Who Stole the Cheese??”
KB: We have a good time together. It’s so great that Mount Hermon wants to give published writers a place to learn and grow as well. Now, tell us about the Mentoring Tracks. If I’m remembering right, I think Mount Hermon was the first conference to offer Mentoring Tracks.
RW: That’s right. We’ve had them for the past half dozen years. They are set up for intermediate writers who have a work in progress and need some help to clean it up and make it better. We have two tracks, one for Fiction (with mentors Gayle Roper, Mary DeMuth, James Scott Bell, and Randy Ingermanson) and one for Non-Fiction (with mentors Karen O’Connor and Joseph Bentz). They take place during our Major Morning Tracks and are for small groups of no more than 8, so those in the group get a lot of personal attention from the mentors. Manuscripts of each member of a group are distributed ahead of the conference so everyone is familiar with them before they arrive. Lots of great discussion and helpful ideas come out of this in-depth, hands-on time. Invariably the mentees go away with really good stuff from all of that interaction. The mentor, of course, has a lot of helpful suggestions as well, so each participant is given a huge boost of creativity. What a wonderful way to sharpen your skills.
KB: Fantastic! And that’s not all. You have afternoon workshops as well.
RW: We do. There are 41 workshops available in all genres addressing the writers’ concerns. But, if the need for rest or refreshment is more important, conferees are welcome to take a nap or walk the gorgeous trails under the giant redwood trees beside Bean Creek. And our grounds hold wonderful spots for photo ops, with Dogwood, Cherry trees, Rhododendron, and Azalea in blossom around campus during our five days together.
KB: I confess, I love the Mount Hermon campus. I try to get in as many walks in the woods as I can. It’s just so beautiful there. Speaking of beauty, you’ve got a beauty of a speaker for your Keynoter this year.
RW: Liz Curtis Higgs! It’s going to be great! Each evening Liz will motivate us from the Word as well as from her experience as a prolific fiction and nonfiction author. She’s a gifted speaker—funny, captivating, practical, and encouraging. She’s a favorite here.
KB: Oh, and don’t forget the music! Can anyone play the piano or organ like Dave Talbott?
RW: Dave Talbott’s music is definitely a tradition, so we’ll enjoy singing together. And who can forget Dave’s great MCing at general sessions and each meal? Do you need to lighten up and laugh? I promise! You’ll have plenty of opportunity!
KB: You know, Dave is one of the few MCs I love to listen to. He’s hysterical. So, there’s lots to do and look forward to. But there’s something more about this particular conference that I think sets it apart, and that’s the focus on ministering to the conferees spiritual needs.
RW: Definitely! It is our intentional goal to point writers to the One Who gives the gift of writing and to encourage them in their walk with the Lord. You’ll find we encourage each one to seek His face as to what He has in mind for their writing. It may be way out of the realm of their thinking, but that’s the excitement in it . . . to let Him use their writing however He wants to instead of striving in their own strength to push themselves out front and center. We need godly writers who want to be obedient to His call on their lives and have the ability to communicate to our present generation. It’s exciting for any writer when that focus is grasped. We work hard to keep it in front of each one who comes.
KB: Thanks so much, Rachel, for dropping by. Now, those of you reading this post, come on, be honest: Is there any place you’d rather be than in the Santa Cruz mountains, surrounded by Redwoods and fellow writers? Well, here’s your chance! March 30-April 3. Mount Hermon is the place to GROW as a writer. So come join us, bring some writing friends, and check the conference out at www.mounthermon.org/writers. They’re waiting for you with open arms!
Oh, and if you need more convincing, here’s a post from the wonderful Mary DeMuth on “10 Compelling Reasons to Attend Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.”