First-Timersâ€™ Packet Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference 2010
By Jeanette Hanscome With FAQs by Marilyn Hilton and Jan Kern
CONTENTS: Once You Arrive
Tips for Choosing Workshops
Things You Wonâ€™t Want to Miss
Where to Go if You Need Help
Places to Keep in Mind
Conference Survival Tips
WELCOME! As a first-time registrant at the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s conference, you are in for an exciting experience. Our hope is that this information will equip you to start the conference off on the right foot, prepared and ready for whatever God has for you. If, after reading this information, you still have questions, please visit the Hospitality Center. Buddy System Coordinator, Jeanette Hanscome, is also available to help you in any way she can.
ONCE YOU ARRIVE On Day 1:
Check in at the Registration desk, where you will get your room key and name tag (your name tag needs to be worn at all times) Unpack as soon as you can, knowing that once workshops begin, it’ll be difficult to find the time for it. Depending on your room assignment, you might also need to make your bed. Attend the opening lunch – this is the official opening of the conference and really helps set the mood. Attend the First-Timers’ Orientation – This is where you’ll receive information that every new registrant needs to know Attend the General Orientation, immediately following Meet your roommate Slow down and get your thoughts together. Review your goals. Make a plan for how to keep God in your conference agenda.
Tips for Choosing Workshops You do not need to sign up for morning tracks (a few exceptions listed below) or workshops ahead of time but it helps to have an idea of what you want to take, as well as some alternate choices in case a faculty member cancels or you change your mind. When choosing your morning track, consider the following: What type of writing interests you most? If you have a variety of interests, what genre do you hope to focus on first?
Your writing level – Some are designed for beginners while others are for intermediate to advanced writers. 3
Recommendations – Listen to the conversations around you, especially from those who have attended Mount Hermon before. Which tracks or leaders do they rave about? Ask for recommendations if you are undecided.
Any special requirements – While most morning tracks are open to anyone, a few are not. These tracks include: Teen Track – Only teens may attend Career Track – Required pre-conference approval Mentoring Groups – Required an extra fee and pre-conference approval
Know that you can change your mind – If you choose a track and find that it isn’t what you expected you can switch to another one. Note though, that instructors ask that you stay put after Saturday.
When choosing afternoon elective workshops: What classes might compliment your morning track? What is missing in your morning track that you might gain from the afternoon workshops? Is your favorite author or editor teaching a class? ALL workshops, including morning tracks (with the exception of the Career Track and mentoring groups) are recorded and available on CD. Keep this in mind if you are torn between 2 classes. Night Owls: Night owls are offered after the keynote session and are more casual. Unlike workshops and tracks, these sessions are not taped. These late night sessions might cover anything from writing for your local paper, to tips from a specific publisher on how to break into their newest magazine. Some are simply gatherings of on-line author networks. Many night owls are discussion or Q&A driven. You can leave whenever you get tired. Night owls are even more optional than afternoon workshops
Things You Won’t Want to Miss You’ll notice that the schedule for this conference is packed. Please know that you do not need to attend everything. Feel free to skip a workshop if you need to rest your brain, or crash early if you’re ready to fall asleep standing up. If you’re craving an extra hour of sleep, slip in at the end of breakfast. There are, however, some things that you’ll want to make a priority. Meals (particularly lunch and dinner) – All meals are included with your registration. Not only is the food amazing but this is also a great time to network and meet people. Important information is often given at the end of breakfast, lunch, or dinner. If you want to talk to an editor, agent, or faculty member, lunch and dinner is your opportunity to sit at his/her table. If you do happen to miss a meal, ask a friend to fill you in on any announcements. Daily “Informer” – Each morning you will receive a newsletter sheet that includes important information about airport shuttles, Night Owls, changes in workshops or locations, and other items that you’ll need to know. Be sure to read this right away so you don’t miss something vital. Editor Panels – There are 2 opportunities to attend editor panels during the five-day conference. Plan to attend these (one at the very least). Panels are divided up by genre (usually). More details will be given during the general orientation. This is when you get to hear from the editors themselves, ask questions, and find out what they are looking for. The Palm Sunday Service – It’s easy to lose perspective at an intense conference like Mount Hermon. Many say that they get their focus back on Palm Sunday morning. It will include Communion, special music, singing, and time for reflection and prayer. Keynote Sessions – Each night we get to hear from our keynote speaker. Don’t miss out! Evening Refreshments – After each keynote session, refreshments are served in one of the dining halls. This is a great time to meet faculty in a casual setting, talk with friends about what you are learning, and relax after an information-packed day. It’s perfectly okay to grab a cookie and head to the soda fountain, your room, a quiet place to talk with a friend, or a night owl session. The Autograph Party – Mount Hermon draws many well-known Christian authors. If you purchase books in the Conference Bookstore, the autograph party is your chance to have them signed. This usually happens on Monday night. BUT THE MOST IMPORTANT” Don’t Miss Time with God – It’s easy to get caught up in the appointments, pitching and connecting and forget Who gave us our gifts. Each day, make God a priority. Here are a few ways that you can stay tuned in to the One who provided a way for you to attend this exciting conference and has wonderful plans for you: Morning Prayer and Praise – Each morning a faculty member leads an optional earlymorning prayer time (usually around 7:30—location TBA) The Mount Hermon Chapel – Feel free to go in anytime to pray and reflect. 5
Go for a walk – Take your Bible and walk along one of the beautiful walking paths. CAUTION: Don’t get lost. Stay on the paths. It might be a good idea to tell someone that you are going and take your cell phone. Escape to your room – If you feel the need to skip a workshop, go to your room and spend time with God.
Where to Go if You Need Help Visit the Hospitality Center (in the lower dining hall) if you . . . Have a question about a workshop location Have a question about manuscripts you submitted Get discouraged Need prayer Need a critique (more details on this, including exact times and guidelines, are noted in conference information and at the conference) Note: Jeanette Hanscome will be available to first-timers in the hospitality center, periodically throughout the conference. Please find her if you want help choosing a workshop, need encouragement or prayer (it doesn’t need to be writing or conferencerelated), or have a question and aren’t sure who to ask. Go to the registration building if you . . . Lose your room key Can’t get into your room, discover that you were not assigned your requested roommate, or have another housing-related problem. Have an emergency
Places to Keep in Mind Need to check e-mail? Wireless access is available in Central Lounge (you’ll find out where that is once you arrive) Craving a mocha? In past years Central Lounge has also offered a coffee cart (hours TBA) Want to just hang out with friend and have a snack? The Soda Fountain is a favorite place for that. They sell ice cream, soda, popcorn and other fun stuff (not that we don’t get enough food at this conference). Need a quiet place to pray? Visit the Chapel. It’s old, beautiful, and has a gorgeous view. Did you forget your toothbrush or run out of shampoo? Visit the Mount Hermon bookstore (not the Conference Bookstore where books are on consignment). They carry toiletries, Mount Hermon sweatshirts and t-shirts, as well as books, cards, and gifts. 6
Want to add to your book collection? Browse the Conference Bookstore. This is where faculty, the keynote speaker, and registrants with published books have their titles on consignments. You will also find books on publishing and the writing craft. *A special meal table! If you walk into lunch or dinner feeling discouraged, confused, overloaded, frustrated, disillusioned, in need of prayer, eager to share good news, or you just don’t feel ready to impress an editor, find the table with Jeanette Hanscome’s name (or marked with a TBA title). This is a place where you can relax and be yourself with no pressure. While conference veterans are welcome too (we still get discouraged and frustrated), it was designed with first-timers in mind. The goal is the have you walk away feeling encouraged, more confident, and ready to enjoy the rest of your day.
FAQs Q: What if there are several major morning tracks and workshops I want to attend? A: You can buy recordings of all major morning tracks (except the Career Track), afternoon workshops, and keynote sessions so you won’t miss anything. Mount Hermon usually offers a special price for anyone who wants recordings of ALL recorded sessions. Order forms are available in the Hospitality Center. You can also order any session after the conference (by accessing a link on the conference website). Q: What kind of clothing should I wear? A: Think comfortably but neat. Jeans are perfectly acceptable. Wear comfortable shoes that can be worn on slopes, uneven pavement, and in water (if it rains). Pack an umbrella and a jacket. Nights are cool, so bring warm nightwear. Days could be cool or warm, wet or dry, so pack accordingly. It’s usually best to dress in layers. Q: What are the best ways for me to connect with editors at the conference? A: While at the conference, you have several ways to speak with an editor or to discover what they are interested in. You can: Attend an editor’s workshop where you can hear more about his interests and ask questions. Attend one of the faculty panels on Saturday and on Monday that are specific to your publishing interests. You will have an opportunity to ask general questions or share your ideas. Most editors are more than happy to answer questions when they are out and about walking to and from events. Be courteous and respectful and check to see if that moment is a good time for your question or if there is a better time and place. Lunch and dinner mealtimes allow opportunity for you to sit at a table with editors or teaching faculty. The faculty may choose to host the conversation or enjoy conversations as they occur. If you sit at an editor’s table, you may like to share your 7
30-second elevator pitch of your project or an overview of what you enjoy writing. You may also ask questions about the publishing house or magazine. Be courteous to allow time for the editor to eat his or her meal and for others at the table to also share their projects or ask questions. If the editor is interested in your project, he may request to see the project. After an editor reviews your manuscript, he may request an appointment with you. Locate the editor at their table during lunch or dinner to set up a time and location that will work for both of you.
Q: How can I make an appointment with an editor? A: A blank appointment schedule is included as part of the conference’s materials available to you ahead of the conference. Print the schedule so you have it to note appointments with editors, agents, freelancers, or members of the critique team. Editors and agents have these schedules available as well. Some may choose to wait until after they have reviewed the manuscripts they have been given. Others may want to schedule appointments from the beginning of the conference. Pitch your project. If they express interest, ask if they’d like to schedule an appointment with you to discuss the possibilities of your project for their publishing house or other projects or ideas you might have. Decide on a time and location and make sure these are written down on both of your appointment calendars. Be on time for the appointment. Sometimes the editor or agent is running behind schedule. Wait patiently! Note: If you're a shy person (and most writers are), it's important to push yourself out of your shyness at this conference, and try to be more outgoing. Being friendly and professional will go a long way. Q: If I missed the deadline for submitting the advanced manuscript critique, is there any chance of someone giving me feedback on my work? A: Members of the critique team will be available in the hospitality center each afternoon, on a first-come, first serve basis. A conversation with a faculty member might lead to an invitation to review your manuscript. Follow instructions on how to get your manuscript to the editor. All manuscripts must go through the Manuscript Retrieval System. Q: What do I do if an editor requests to see one of my manuscripts while I am at the conference? A: All editors of publishing houses or magazines have been given forms for additional manuscript submissions at the conference. This allows each editor an opportunity at the conference to review manuscripts beyond the pre-submitted manuscripts (those 8
manuscripts sent prior to the conference according to the preconference submission guidelines). If the editor would like to see your project, you will be given a half-sheet form they have signed. Check to confirm that they have signed the form. The manuscript retrieval team cannot accept an unsigned form. Also, be aware that though the editor may request to see your manuscript, his or her first priority is to review the pre-submitted manuscripts. Be patient as you check at the Manuscript Retrieval Center for your manuscript. Fill out the top half of the signed form and take the form and your manuscript to Manuscript Retrieval in the Hospitality Center. Work with a Manuscript Retrieval team member to prepare your manuscript for processing. Please do not leave it at the table without completing the process. You may reuse envelopes that have been returned to you through Manuscript Retrieval. The Manuscript Retrieval team will have a few extra 9 x 12 envelopes available, but please plan on having an envelope with you when you turn in your manuscript. Always be certain that you turn in your manuscript to a Manuscript Retrieval team member in the Hospitality Center. Otherwise, we cannot guarantee that your manuscript will be routed as you desire. Q: Can I make copies or print samples of my writing project while at the conference? A: Copying and printing is available at the conference. Listen for details when you arrive or ask at the Hospitality Center. Q: How do I prepare a 30-second pitch for my project? A: Basically, a pitch is what you prepare to say in fifty words or less. You name your project, tell what it is about in an interesting way, and describe the intended audience. You may write it out and memorize it, but the key is to share it naturally and with enthusiasm. Check to see if there is a workshop on this topic offered early in the conference. If not, feel free to stop by Manuscript Retrieval. A member of the team would be happy to provide guidelines to prepare a pitch or listen to your pitch and offer feedback.
Q: Does the conference have a rhythm to it that I should know about? A: This conference is five days and packed with things to do and learn from sun-up to well after sunset. You will arrive with lots of energy, expectations, and plans. By Saturday night, you might find yourself exhausted of energy and ready to throw your plans over one of the cute little footbridges. Almost everyone experiences this, so recognize this is a normal pattern. If you haven’t “clicked” with anyone yet and think everyone else has a best friend, don’t worry. If you suddenly find yourself in tears, you aren’t the only one.
If you need prayer, go to one of the prayer sessions, to the hospitality center for support, or just ask someone to pray with you. Ride out the tiredness and lowered expectations, and ask God to take the helm. WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T GIVE INTO TEMPTATION TO LEAVE. Attend the Palm Sunday service the next morning. Unplanned things tend to start happening around Sunday afternoon/evening, and you will have renewed energy and will be able to “go with the flow.” By Tuesday, you’ll be ready to go home, excited, renewed, and with lists of things to do and people to follow up with. One of the first things to do when you return home is write thank-you notes to all the people who met with you or critiqued your work. Q: What can I do if I feel anxious or confused about anything once at the conference? A: Go to the hospitality center and ask for prayer, a shoulder, or other help. Everyone there is friendly and helpful, and knows how you're feeling. Also, don't be afraid to admit how you're feeling to someone in your workshop, at your meal table, your roommate, or while walking along a path. Great friendships can begin that way! Q: Do I need to have a laptop? A: No. While some writers choose to use their laptop, they are in no way a requirement. The new downloadable “binder” might lead more people to choose laptops but consider details like your battery life, the extra weight etc. Pack a notebook and pens for taking notes. If you do have a laptop and want to take it for e-mail purposes, there is access in a few locations on the conference grounds. Q: What’s the difference between a track, a workshop and a “night owl?” A: Tracks (or Major Morning Tracks) are continuous workshops, divided into 8 hour-long sessions. Each track focuses on a theme or type of writing, such as fiction, writing for children, or publicity. You will choose one to attend each morning of the conference. Workshops (or Elective Workshops) are offered in the afternoon and run one hour each. These usually cover more specific topics, such as writing winning book proposals, writing devotions, or the editor/author relationship. Night Owls are offered after the keynote session and are more casual. These sessions are not taped and are totally optional.
Conference Survival Tips Be a sponge. Make learning your priority, especially if this is your first conference. Take notes and ask questions. Listen to the advice of workshop leaders, critiques and editors, even if their comments are hard to take. Don’t be shy. Relationships are one of the most valuable things that you will take home from Mount Hermon. Talk to other writers, as well as the faculty members. Connect with as many people as possible. Six months after the conference you will be grateful for the friendship, prayer partners, and professional connections. Try not to be a loner. Even if you signed up for “the Buddy System,” find one or two friends to sit with during general sessions, eat with, and share the ups and downs of the week with. If you want to make an appointment with a specific editor, agent or faculty member, make sure that they are interested in your type of manuscript before trying for an appointment. If you aren’t ready for a one-on-one, or find out that an editor’s slots are filled, sit at their table at lunch or dinner. Remember that connecting with editors is not your number one priority, and it is certainly not a requirement. But you don’t want to look back and realize that you didn’t make that desired connection because you were too afraid to speak up. Remember the faculty members are there to help. If you have a question about a workshop, manuscripts that you submitted, how to find a classroom, or anything else, go the Hospitality Center for help or ask a registrant that looks like they know what they are doing. Be polite. Think of how annoying it is when someone won’t stop following you. Multiply that times 400. While you do want to show confidence, try not to be overbearing when approaching editors. Let them eat and go to the bathroom in peace. Be courteous if you spot your favorite editor or agent and he or she is talking to someone else. When you finally get your turn you’ll make a much better impression. Take advantage of what is offered. This conference offers an amazing amount of tools, services, and workshops. Take advantage of the pre-conference manuscript submission opportunity. If you are new to writing or don’t think your work is ready for an editor’s critical eye, send something in for critique. You will learn so much from it! Attend panel discussions and as many workshops as you brain can handle. Pace yourself. You may notice when you arrive that the schedule is jam-packed. If you start to feel overloaded (more like WHEN), skip a workshop, panel discussion, or meal. Go to your room and take a nap. Take a walk. Find a place to be alone with God. Browse the bookstore. If you are discouraged, find someone to talk to. You won’t get what you need out of the conference if your brain explodes.
Be realistic. Connections are often made at writer’s conference, but it is rare to go home with a book contract. You will leave disappointed if your whole reason for attending is to sell a manuscript. You may be surprised by how much God has to teach you which will have nothing to do with your work-in-progress! Also keep in mind that He doesn’t stop working when you leave the conference. Sometimes connections fall into place months later. So stay open to His timing.
REMEMBER THAT IT IS NORMAL TO . . . Get discouraged. Writing is a tough and constantly changing world. You will hear a lot of things at the conference, some of which will leave you thinking that there is no place for your work. Hold on to the knowledge that God is ultimately in control of your future as a writer and that He has you at the conference for a reason. Cry. Even seasoned conference veterans admit to having at least one meltdown during the conference. Face it; we are tired, overwhelmed, discouraged, excited, hopeful, let down, and often all at the same time. On top of that, writers are emotional people. The peak times for open floodgates are Saturday evening and Sunday morning. Don’t stuff it. It really is okay. Nobody will think you are weird or that you are just being a baby. If you need to, find a friend, go to the Hospitality Center, or go to your room for some alone time. You’ll feel much better and will enjoy the conference more once the tears are gone. Get direction that you didn’t expect. You may arrive with one goal for your writing and leave with a completely different one. It happens all the time. Lose perspective. It’s easy to get caught up in the feeding frenzy of meeting with editors, pitching ideas, and comparing accomplishments. Before you know it, a side of you is coming out that you either didn’t know was there, or thoroughly detest. When this happens, take time-out with God. Be sure to attend the Palm Sunday service, which is a perfect time to reconnect with Who you are writing for. Find that God is working in your heart about something that is completely unrelated to writing. With our busy lives at home, often a week like the Mount Hermon Conference is the only place where God can get our attention. Embrace it, thank Him for it, and let Him speak.
Now, prepare yourself for what is sure to be one of the highlights of your year! Enjoy!