2008 Mt. Hermon Writers Conference redux

I am glad to be back in Chicago again after nearly a week in California.
I discovered Jesus in some of the unlikeliest places at the Mt. Hermon writers conference:
– I felt Him embracing so many who’d come with high hopes, only to be told by an acquisitions editor or agent that their idea wasn’t marketable.
– I saw Him celebrating two childhood friends who’d come to the conference from different places in the world – hoping to connect with an editor, and knowing they’d connect with one another.
– I heard Him sharing conversations with those who were strugglng (literally, in some cases) to find their place at the table.
– I noticed Him in the eyes of a middle-aged workshop presenter who talked about his wife as if he was a 20-year-old newlywed.
– I saw Him in the celebration of some of those who’d received a green light on their project from someone.
– I experienced Him in the thoughtfulness of the Mt. Hermon staff – always smiling, always eager to serve, always anticipating the needs and wants of those at the conference before the conferees had an opportunity to express them.
This was definitely an old-school event – from the organ music (I’m not kidding; some of the worship accompaniment was done on an organ) to the folksy emcee to the emphasis of most of the speakers. This was for the most part an older crowd, and the programming was safely traditional.
It was also a business event. Christian publishing is an industry, and all of the rules of institutionalism and commerce apply. It is hard to watch and feel the shock of new writers who come to events like this thinking solely in terms of ministry, because, though ministry happens (books have changed our lives!), the financial/platform/marketing talk drives the lion’s share of the decisions publishers make. Sure, talent matters, but so does this other stuff. And this other stuff matters A LOT.
I got some nice feedback and a couple of green lights on things I’d brought to the conference. Met a lot of people. Got some fantastic information. And fought some discouragement and loneliness.
I frequently migrated to the coffee shop because they had wi-fi, and I have a bit of a deadline on a small project due next week. One night, the place was mostly empty. It was me and about 4 or 5 other people, all sitting there working on our laptops. The only sound was organ music drifting up the hill, followed thoroughout the rest of the evening by sporadic laughter of the crowd in the redwood auditorium, gathered to hear one of the keynote speakers. No one in the coffee house spoke, but it was a peaceful, companionable silence.
Those moments actually brought me the sense of community I’d hoped to find at Mt. Hermon. Weird, isn’t it? A few people who ditched the conference’s evening session, sitting in a coffee house, gave me a sense of community. Maybe because I was there doing what I love. And those other people were there, doing the same thing. Seeking God and trying to communicate that journey to others.
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12 thoughts on “2008 Mt. Hermon Writers Conference redux”

  1. A wonderful summary. I’m sorry you were feeling a bit lonely… had no idea. But I’m glad you found a little peace in the coffee shop.

    What a pleasure it was to meet you!

  2. I think the conference was worth a few growing pains. 🙂

    And it was good to meet you, too. I’m really looking forward to reading your book.

  3. Thank you for the conference update. I am praying and planning on attending for the first time next year.

    Warmly, Joanne

  4. Hey Joanne – Thanks for stopping by!

    I think most of my conference learning will come in the next few weeks as I apply what I heard in the sessions I attended. 🙂

  5. It was a bit overwhelming, wasn’t it? I’m so glad to be home and back in my mundane routine (isn’t that were God usually speaks to us anyway?) I enjoyed connecting with you and it seems we were always bumping into each other. May God bless you as you walk with him.

    Michelle Gregory

  6. Glad you’re home and fully loaded with learnin’ and such. Your time there was covered in prayer.

  7. Thanks for the prayers, Julie. I think the learnin’ will be leaking out of my pores for weeks.

    And Michelle – I sure was glad to meet you, too. ‘Overwhelming’ is a perfect adjective. 🙂

  8. May God’s richest blessings be yours as you reflect on the extent of His love demonstrated through the death His Son on the cross and the awesomeness of His power exhibited through the resurrection.

    To God be the glory!

    a spiritual oasis

  9. Michelle,

    I wasn’t able to attend Mt Hermon this year but last year I was a first timer and there were times I escaped to the coffee shop myself! I can totally relate. It’s hard to put that many introverts in one place and make them play nice for a whole week!

    (not all, but the majority of writers would categorize themselves as more comfortable alone than in a crowd of people)

    Anyway, maybe we can meet up there some day!

  10. Thanks Bill, for the words of blessing.

    And Madison – you are right about the introvert thing. I am pretty outgoing, but I think I hit the social fatigue wall a few times throughout the 6 days I was there.

    I’m glad I went – it was a good stretch, and I fell in love with those redwoods. I have been telling my husband we have to go back to the area to do a wine country circuit and sit in the forest.

  11. Thanks for the recap on Mt. Hermon, Michelle! I attended a few years ago so I know how overwhelming it can be. I can certainly remember the highs and lows – they sometimes seemed to come at the same time. It was nice to revisit the experience through your eyes.

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