I don’t know where to begin.
For starters, I’ve been to several writers conferences. All of them were inspiring and beneficial. All of them taught me something valuable and allowed me to meet other writers, but Mount Hermon is different.
Never have I been at a conference that is so incredibly organized, yet feels so laid back and unscripted. The familial, intimate atmosphere permeated every single workshop, worship service and the times in between. The entire conference was Christ-centered and deeply moving.
In short, I was changed…for the better.
Thanks to the incredible generosity of Kathy Ide and her “Promising Beginnings” contest, my registration was completely paid for. I can never thank her enough. Not only were my writing skills sharpened by leaps and bounds, God spoke to my heart in profound ways and I was able to form friendships with some of the most talented and humble people on earth.
This year’s theme was “Unquenchable” and the keynote speaker was Carol Kent, a dynamic woman with a heart-rending story. Carol reminded us that we will be tested on the words we write, oftentimes feeling like a firestorm of authenticity. Trials are a certainty and will be varied in their look and intensity, but God always delivers—sometimes from the fire and sometimes through the fire.
I learned the basics of writing nonfiction from Alice Crider, how to write fight scenes from Ben Wolf, writing to pierce the heart by Bill Giovanetti, creative marketing from Marci Seither, starting a podcast with Kathi Lipp and how to plan a book launch with my amazing agent Janet Grant (pictured on the left), Kathi Lipp and Lisa Wingate. One of my favorite workshops was “Creating Conflict” with Love Inspired editor Elizabeth Mazer.
And the friendships forged—what a delight! From sitting at the dining table with Francine Rivers, chatting with Lisa Wingate and Robin Lee Hatcher, meeting the adorable Nancy Rue (who I want to be when I grow up) and my amazing roommate Eli Rose (right) , who has the most inspiring life story I’ve heard, I was laughing with delight at their fun-loving personalities and kindness. (When Kathi Lipp offers to drive you to San Jose to buy clothes because the airline lost your luggage, you know you’re among God’s people.) I found my sister-separated-at-birth. Sarah Bennett (pictured left) and I clicked, perhaps because we both like to laugh, or maybe because we are both the most sarcastic people on the planet.
Did I mention Sarah Sundin, Tim Shoemaker, Vicki Crumpton, Linda Howard, Sherri Langton or a hundred others who made the conference so incredibly special? I can’t even list them all here, but the friends I carried home in my heart are deeply loved. An extra special thank you to Robin Lee Hatcher, who so kindly sat down with me and looked over my current manuscript, encouraging, correcting and guiding to help me write the best story possible. Robin, you are a treasure!
The skits were hilarious, the music and worship powerful, the camp beyond beautiful, but perhaps the single defining moment for me occurred while Mick Silva was speaking.
He made the statement, “Our failures only matter when we allow them to prevent us from embracing Christ’s sufficiency—or from allowing Him to embrace us.” Mick reminded us that in order to write to change lives, we must be brutally honest. He also addressed the danger of being so passionate about writing it becomes our idol. Idols, no matter who or what they are, only give weak doses of love. Books improve life but they shouldn’t replace life.
When Mick finished speaking, I walked outside and wept.
Perhaps I was exhausted. Maybe I was overwhelmed with all I was taking in. Perhaps I cried because his words stirred something deep inside me. Or maybe it was the realization that in my own writing, I’m still not being as honest as I should be.
As I lay in my bed that night, I scribbled down these words: “The things I am desperate to hide are the very things God can use to set someone free.”
These words have now become my life song.
Thank you, Mick. Thank you, Mona Hodgson. Thank you, Kathy Ide. Thank you, Janet Grant. Thank you to the amazing people I met at Mount Hermon. I pray our friendships continue to blossom and flourish.
Most of all, I thank You, Jesus. May the words of my mouth, the words of my pen, and the meditation of my heart be ever pleasing to You.