Writers’ Conference Spotlight: Mount Hermon


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?

Rachel Williams working on the details of the conference

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.

A panel discussion with Robin Jones Gunn, Jerry Jenkins, Patsy Clairmont, Angie Hunt, and Debbie Macomber.

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.

Me with Kristen Heitzmann, Colleen Coble, and Kristen Billerbeck on one of the trails.

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!

Dave Talbott and Ethel Herr sharing a laugh.

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.”

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News You Can Use – Feb. 28, 2012

Why Authors Need Agents – Four professionals weigh in on the discussion.

How to Stop Procrastinating and Start Writing – Read this when you have the time.

Questions an Agent Might Ask You – Be prepared if an agent calls you with these questions. It might happen today.

E-b00ks: The Giant Disruption – another breathless evaluation and ominous prediction about publishers. From the UK.

Why I Hope Real Books Never Die – Kevin DeYoung writes this wonderful salute to the printed book.

The Death of Chick-Lit – The Salon just got the memo? Publishers (and readers) made this decision a long time ago.

Here are some staggering statistics from the infographic below.

Over 845 million active users. 1 out of 5 page views on the Internet come from Facebook. 2.7 billion “Likes” a day on Facebook.
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Where is My Money?

Before I became a literary agent I had no idea how much energy this profession spent being a “collections agent.” Recently someone asked us the following questions (use the green button to the right to ask your question!):

What do you do, as an agent, when a publisher does not pay advances on royalties on time as per their legal contract?

What if a publisher is consistently late (months) saying they have cash flow problems and will pay when they can? Shouldn’t authors be able to count on getting paid the amount and on the date stated in their contract?

Is this common and is there anything that can be done or said regarding what seems to be a breach of contract?

This is an excellent series of questions. The full non-answer is “It depends.” Generally publishers are very good about making the payments according to contracted schedules. The above situation is much more dire and is a good reason to have an agent who know who to talk to inside the publishing house. There are ways to approach the situation that gets results, just remember, “Don’t Burn a Bridge.”

However, there are a few possible reasons that authors should keep in mind before getting impatient with a tardy paycheck.

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Fun Fridays – Feb. 24, 2012

The Joke of the Year Award goes to Tim Vine in London at the Lafta Awards banquet. Award is given to the year’s best one-liner jokes or puns. Below is the winner and then five more from Tim Vine. Can you top these?

Conjunctivitis.com – that’s a site for sore eyes

Crime in multi-storey car parks. That is wrong on so many different levels.

Eric Bristow asked me why I put superglue on one of his darts. I said you just can’t let it go can you?

I saw this advert in a window that said: “Television for sale, £1, volume stuck on full.” I thought, “I can’t turn that down.”

I’ve just been on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. I’ll tell you what, never again.

Do you ever get that when you’re half way through eating a horse and you think to yourself, “I’m not as hungry as I thought I was.”

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Why Do I Have to Jump Through Your Hoops?

Recently, my assistant had a conversation with an author who did not send a complete proposal. The author was referred to our guidelines and gently reminded that we needed more material in order to make an evaluation. But instead of saying “thank you” for the guidance, the author declared they did not have to jump through any hoops, and took the opportunity to aggressively express their complaints about our review process.

What made this all the more frustrating to us is that it happens more often than you’d think.

Why All The Work?

Have you ever worked in an office where you could swear one of your coworkers could find something — anything — wrong with your work so they could get it off their desk and back onto you? Well, that’s not what we are doing when we ask for a proposal. We are not giving you busywork so we can get back to our soap operas and coffee.

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A Gathering of Twitches

This blog is from one twitch to another. Let me explain…

My husband loves that I’m a writer. He loves my creativity and passion. And he loves how happy I am when I’m writing. He knows when I’m writing because I get “twitchy.” Translation: Distracted. Otherwise occupied. Caught up in scenes and conversations no one but I—and that multitude in my mind–can see or hear. He knows that when the twitchies hit, he’s only wasting breath to ask me things like, “Did you pick up milk today?” or, more true-to-life, “Why is the milk in the oven?” He knows when I’m lost in twitchiness that I don’t realize what’s happening in the here and now. And so he just sighs, checks to see if the milk is still cold, then puts it away. Or goes to the store for a new gallon.

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News You Can Use – Feb. 21, 2012

My Favorite Article of the Week – Please read it and make your agent happy.

What Publishers Can Learn From the Airlines– Andy Le Peau of IVP renders a very clever take on what publishing could look like if they would only emulate other industry practices.

Amanda Knox Signs a $4 Million Book Deal – Sigh…Think about it for a second. In 2005 a relatively unknown senator from Illinois got $1.9 Million for two non-fiction books, his name was Barak Obama. And right before he took office as president he signed a $500,000 advance deal for a children’s book. Former President Bill Clinton got $8 Million up front for his memoir. And former President George Bush received $7 Million for his Decision Points memoir.

Do You Ignore Issue of Copyright? – This article shows the complexity of copyright when going from one country to the next. For example, Hemingway is public domain in Canada, but not in France. Do you even care?

Men are from Google+, Women are from Pinterest – clever article

Adult vs. YA Dystopian Novels – Interesting look at the phenomenon of dystopian novels in today’s YA market. And if you don’t know what that means, click the link.

25 Subordinating Conjunctions – I was afraid to read the article too. Clever help for flat writing.

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7 Ways Agents Measure Social Media

Guest Blog by Thomas Umstattd

In the old days all you had to do was tell an agent or publisher “I’m on Facebook, Twitter and I have a blog” and they would be impressed with your online presence. Now publishers are getting more sophisticated in measuring your online presence. They are realizing that not all blogs are the same and that the size of your Twitter following does not directly correlate to influence.

This post goes over 7 ways agents and publishers will measure your social platform in 2012. You may also want to check out 7 Things Agents & Publishers Look for in Author Websites (2012 Edition).

1. Number of Facebook Likes

What is it?

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Charmed, I’m Sure

Dear Editor:

You really should meet this author! He knows all the best places to dine. I couldn’t believe the fabulous meal we were served at a hole-in-the-wall place I’d never heard of until I made his acquaintance. He has also been quite generous and charming to my family. My husband and my kids have nothing but great things to say about this wonderful author!

In our meetings both in person and on the telephone, he has convinced me that his book will sell millions! And because of his extroverted manner and considerable verve, I believe it really doesn’t matter if his book is any good or not. His platform isn’t anything great yet, but it will be — as soon as he gets paid your hefty advance so he can travel the country, taking meetings. In fact, he wants to meet with you at your early convenience. Can you fly out to meet him in Charlotte on Tuesday morning? 



Of course I would never send this letter like it to any editor, but on more than one occasion, I have found that this is how authors seem to think marketing to editors works.

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