Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ask O: Did Ya Learn Anything? Lessons from Mount Hermon

“More happens at Mount Hermon than just writing.”

I heard that a lot—from conferees, teachers, even the keynoter (Liz Curtis Higgs, love her!). Boy, were they right. I’ll tell you one of the non-writing lessons I learned, but first (since this is a writing blog), let me share three of the awesome practical tips I was reminded of.

Conferences are all about connecting with people. I met authors who are in the same early published stage as I am. We bonded, understood each other. I also hung with talented newbies, and of course, the biggies! It’s always encouraging to meet those publishing “celebrities” and realize they’re just ordinary folk who love the Lord and others. Connecting helped me in three ways.

First, it sharpened skills. Whether helping newbies or gleaning from professionals, I constantly thought about how to be a better writer.

Second, critiquers. I love my McCritters (hi Dawn, Net, and V!), but it’s always good to nab feedback from fresh blood (i.e., someone who hasn’t read my first chapter thirty-eight times).

Third, the power of face to face. I owe much of my editing and writing career to the friendship I made with Tricia Goyer eleven years ago at my first Mount Hermon. Most of my professional relationships were formed or deepened at conferences.

I was reminded to value, nurture, and foster relationships with other writers. How can you do this in your writing life?

Another writing-related lesson had to do with passion. Several of the workshop teachers (who are editors and agents) talked about seeking manuscripts that exude passion. What a great reminder. Sometimes I get so bogged down with the technicalities of authoring a novel—explode the opening, story question, setting, strong verbs and nouns, limit adverbs, emotional intensity, etc.—I forget that I love my story. I love my characters and I can’t wait to introduce them to everyone. Do your pages exude your passion?

One of the gals who critiqued my pages was confused about why my characters did a certain thing. The layout of a room also confused her. “Uh, where’s the chair?” What a great catch! It reminded me how easy it is to lose perspective when immersed in the world I’ve created. It’s clear to me! My job is to make it clear to you!

Okay, I’ve given you three tips I gleaned from the conference. Time for the non-writing lesson.

A Christian conference overflows with, well, Christians. A melee of spiritual growth occurs: idols crash, pride topples, success humbles. And our tender Lord walks with us, leading and guiding.

For me, I was given an amazing gift. A person was there who I didn’t expect to see. A friend I’ve known and loved for years. I happen to know she’s going through an incredibly difficult time. When I saw her, I thought, Wow, Lord! I’m going to be able to minister to her.

But instead, God ministered to me. I’d been feeling a heavy burden for this person. I wanted to help her, show her the love of Christ. But she was closed to any type of spiritual conversation. In fact, there came a moment when I sensed the Lord closing the door.

Sad. Because I love her. But the gift He gave me was the release of the burden. I didn’t notice how heavy it was until it lifted. His peace calmed seas I didn’t realize were stormy. How awesome is our Lord? Now I can rest that she’s in His care. I’m content with that.

A heart lesson learned at a writers’ conference. It happens.

You’ll improve your skills, make lifelong friends and, perhaps, a spiritual lesson will take you by surprise—because more happens at a conference than just writing.

What writing or non-writing nuggets have you learned at writers conferences? I’d love to hear.

Happy writing and God bless,



  1. Amen, Ocieanna! What great lessons - I love this blog and I love learning from you! It was wonderful to meet you at Mount Hermon. You are a great writer and a terrific person! :0)

    1. Thanks, Robbie! I loved meeting you too. You're awesome. I'm glad you're enjoying our blog.

  2. Wow, O! I'd never thought of God closing a door as a gift. What a wonderful way to look at it!

    I love, love, love writers' conferences! I've met so many wonderful people there and signed with my agent after meeting her at a conference. The fellowship just can't be beat and I come back with brain overload!

    1. Yeah, it was such a relief. I definitely had brain overload, but also a refreshed joy in writing. Yay!

  3. Thanks for sharing your experiences, O! I agree that conferences are so much more than just attending workshops and picking up writing tips. The time spent with other writers and developing relationships that will last a lifetime is incredibly valuable.


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