By Kathy Ide
The Mount Hermon Christian writers’ conference is always an amazing experience — professionally, personally, and spiritually. This was my fifth year there, and my first year on staff with the manuscript critique team. What an awesome conference this is! And what a privilege it was to be part of the faculty for an event that has been so special to me for so many years.
To begin with, Mount Hermon always attracts an amazing faculty. This year was no exception. In attendance were multi-published authors like Karen Ball, James Scott Bell, Brandilyn Collins, Cecil Murphey, Kay Marshall Strom, and renowned children’s book writer Christine Tangvald.
Acquisitions editors were there from all the major Christian book publishing houses: Baker, Barbour, Beacon Hill, Bethany, Harvest House, Howard, Legacy, Meredith Books, Moody, Multnomah, NavPress, Tyndale, Warner-Faith, WaterBrook, Wesleyan Publishing House, and WinePress (a subsidy publisher).
And agents attended too, including Janet Benrey from Hartline, Janet Kobobel Grant and Wendy Lawton from Books n’ Such, Steve Laube, and Bucky Rosenbaum.
Magazine editors, like Grace Fox from Power for Living, Hal Hostetler from Guideposts, Ginger Kolbaba from Marriage Partnership, Doug Newton from Light & Life, Tonya Stoneman from In Touch, and Connie Willems from Discipleship Journal were present as well.
Bonnie Jensen from DaySpring Cards was also there. DaySpring does not take freelance submissions for their line of greeting cards; however, Bonnie accepted submissions from attendees who spoke with her at the conference.
This year’s keynote speaker was Phil Callaway. This hysterically funny man regaled attendees with uproarious tales, most gleaned from his own childhood or his parenting experiences. Then without warning, he’d throw in a zinger of a life truth. Like “Find out who’s going to cry at your funeral, and hang out with them.” And “Someday your books will go out of print. But your children will still be in circulation.”
The friendly, down-to-earth atmosphere at Mount Hermon makes faculty members approachable. At each lunch and dinner of the four-day conference, every faculty member has an assigned table for eight. Attendees can sit at their table of choice on a first-come, first-served basis. That means numerous opportunities to give a sixty-second pitch of your writing project directly to agents and editors. If any of them are interested, you can ask if they’d like to see a proposal. If they say yes, you can mail in your proposal after the conference, with “Requested Material — Mount Hermon” on the envelope. That gives your manuscript special treatment when it arrives at the publisher’s or agent’s desk — on top of all the envelopes that go into the “slush pile.”
Major Morning Sessions included continuing workshops on fiction and nonfiction writing, article writing, writing for children and teens, speaking, and media marketing. There was also a Career Track for published authors. In addition, 70 elective workshops were offered. A wealth of information and instruction for aspiring writers and established authors, all presented in a lively, fun, and easy-to-understand way.
And if that’s not enough, attendees can send in advance submissions — up to 20 pages of two book manuscripts or articles (or two children’s books or five poems or devotionals), either for critique by a professional author or for an editorial review. At the conference, attendees pick up their manuscripts, read the comments, and meet one on one with the faculty member who did the critique/review. In addition, attendees can visit the Critique Station at any time during the conference to discuss their projects with professional authors and freelance editors.
Dave Talbott, director of the Mount Hermon conference center, is unsurpassed at organizing the event, opening all the sessions with a wonderful blend of humor and inspiration, giving away lots of free books, and leading attendees in worship sessions with his own heart-stirring musical renditions.
All this in the most incredible setting imaginable: Mount Hermon is nestled in the Redwood Forest near Santa Cruz, California. When you’re not taking in a workshop or hobnobbing with authors or singing hymns and praise songs in the auditorium, you can find emotional and spiritual refreshment strolling along the many quiet tree-lined paths alongside gently flowing streams. (All the workshops and general sessions are made available on CD after the conference, so you can skip one or two classes and still get the instruction later.)
Housing options range from rustic cabins to dorms to hotel rooms. Depending on your accommodation of choice, the conference cost ranges from about $600 to about $1,000, including tuition, 13 meals, all workshops and sessions, two manuscript critiques, and a thick three-ring notebook packed with workshop notes and other useful information. If that’s a bit steep for your budget, partial scholarships are available.
An abundance of professional training. A proliferation of opportunities to meet industry professionals face to face. Networking opportunities galore. A bookstore with just about every writing resource you could ask for, along with plenty of fiction and nonfiction books written by staff members and attendees. An autograph party, where you can get your books signed by the authors. Inspiration, encouragement, instruction, and a whole lot of good, clean fun. That’s the Mount Hermon experience.
Many successful authors will tell you that they would not be published today if not for the Mount Hermon Christian writers’ conference. This is where they learned how to write. Where they met their agents and publishers. Where they discovered things about the inner workings of the publishing industry that helped them get beyond the slush pile and the standard form rejection letters and achieve their goal of a flourishing writing career.
Mount Hermon’s writers’ conference is held on Palm Sunday weekend every year (one week before Easter), from midday Friday through midday Tuesday. For details, check out the Mount Hermon Conference website. If you’re serious about getting published in the Christian industry (or if you just need to get away for a few days of refreshment and encouragement), there’s no better place on earth than this.
The only thing that’s more exciting than attending this conference is having the honor and privilege of serving on the staff for it. I had a terrific time, worked with a lot of wonderful people, exchanged warm hugs with all my friends from previous conferences, and got to meet some extremely talented new writers. Maybe I’ll meet you there next year!
Kathy Ide is a published author, professional freelance editor, and writers’ conference speaker. She is the author of Polishing the PUGS: Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling. Check out Kathy Ide’s website.