Not to take away from ACFW as the premiere conference for writers of Christian fiction, but if you can attend only one conference next year, or if you’d like a change of pace, give serious consideration to Mount Hermon, a conference held in a gorgeous campground setting near Santa Cruz, California.
As a three-time attendee (1999, 2001, and 2007), I have always come away refreshed, recommitted, and re-inspired. How can you not, amidst the incredible redwoods, the fellowship of other Christian writers, a wealth of first-class instruction, great food, lots of singing, and the peaceful, worshipful atmosphere? Not to mention jeans and sneakers are the standard attire!
The 2009 conference, which runs April 3-7 (it’s always Palm Sunday weekend) marks the 40th anniversary of “a one-of-a-kind laboratory for training writers at every skill level, from unpublished to professional” (from the web site). Slated as keynote speaker is author Bill Butterworth, noted for his humor, wisdom, and practicality.
Mount Hermon offers workshops in all areas of Christian writing: children and teens, devotions, short stories, magazine articles, script writing, speaking, publicity, nonfiction, and novels. For 2009 you can choose from 12 different major morning tracks (you stick with one for in-depth study throughout the weekend) and 70 afternoon elective workshops. Included in the morning track options are intermediate fiction and nonfiction mentoring groups as well as a career track (these are by application only--check deadlines if you’re interested). And for beginning writers there is also a head-start mentoring clinic running April 1-3 (details on the web site). View a sample conference schedule here.
The faculty consists of a wide range of authors, editors, and agents--names you’ll recognize from ACFW plus many, many more. Gayle Roper heads up the fiction mentoring track, assisted by authors such as James Scott Bell, Randy Ingermanson, and Brandilyn Collins. Each mentoring group is limited to 10 participants. Assisting with the career track, directed by Sally Stuart, are Karen Ball, Janet Grant, and Wendy Lawton.
Included with your registration are two FREE manuscript critiques by your choice of industry pros and a one-on-one session to discuss your critique. Or, you can pre-submit a proposal to an editor or agent, who will review it for possible publication. This option does NOT include a critique, and if you want a fifteen-minute meeting with this person, you will have to sign up for an appointment after your arrival. Further details here under "Manuscript Submission Requirements." The submission postmark deadline is March 28, 2009.
The appointment system is very casual. You simply find the person you would like to meet with and arrange with him or her directly for a time and location convenient to you both. Many faculty members fill their available slots quickly, so catch them as early as possible.
Meals are buffet-style, with the chance to sit with faculty members at the noon and evening meals. A conference bookstore will accept books on consignment from both faculty and conferees, and there’s always an evening autograph party.
I strongly recommend adding the extra night option to your registration, which means arriving on Thursday, April 2. You’ll appreciate the chance to settle into your room, explore the grounds, and visit with other early arrivals before the conference kicks into high gear around noon on Friday. There’s also a free Thursday-night workshop on mastering the art of pitching, with a chance to practice yours with a pro.
Unless you’re driving, you’ll fly into the San Jose airport, then catch the Mount Hermon shuttle (must be prearranged--details here under "Shuttle Request"). It’s about an hour’s drive on a scenic (and very winding and hilly) highway, but this is the perfect time to introduce yourself to your fellow passengers and start getting acquainted. Last year I had the pleasure of sharing a shuttle with agent Steve Laube, so you never know who you’ll run into! If you plan to do a little area sightseeing, you’ll need to rent a car; if not, there’s plenty to keep you happily occupied onsite.
The latest information brochure can be downloaded here (click on the "web packet" link). It includes full details about registration, pre-conference manuscript submission, faculty bios, and a list of publishers and publications represented. The online info will continue to be updated over the next several weeks, so check back often.
If you decide to give Mount Hermon a try next spring, I hope you’ll look for me there. I can hardly wait!