• ACFW,  conferences,  guest blogger,  writing

    Conference Season – Part 6 – Mount Hermon

    Today we’re joining Karen Barnett for an insider’s view of the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.


    After the evening session, I hurried to my room and grabbed my laptop, making a beeline for the lounge—I wanted to check my e-mail before turning in for the night. I sank down into a soft chair by a crackling fire. Within moments, the room began to fill. Before I knew what was happening, authors Mary DeMuth and Randy Ingermanson sat on either side of me, talking about their journeys to publication and offering me hope and encouragement. Other published writers joined the circle, aspiring writers ambled in, an agent sat down, an editor pulled up a chair. My laptop lapsed into screensaver mode, long forgotten. Jokes flew, stories were shared, and laughter ruled the evening.

    Why is the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference special? Where else can you kick up your feet and feel at home while surrounded by the best in the business?


    Here are the top ten things I love about Mount Hermon.


    1.  Beautiful Location—The Conference Center is situated in the California redwoods, not far from Santa Cruz. When you step out of a stressful appointment or an intense workshop, you walk out into beauty that refreshes the spirit. God uses those moments to remind me He is in control.

    2.  Casual atmosphere­—Casual dress rules the day. You can leave your high heels and business suits at home. Most registrants wear jeans and slacks, layered t-shirts and sweaters. I like to pack scarves and fun jewelry pieces to dress up the casual look.

    3.  Unparalleled access to editors/agents—Lunch and dinner tables are hosted by faculty members, including agents, publishers, magazine editors, and published authors. It’s like a back door into the publisher’s office. The host keeps the conversation flowing around the table, speaking to each person and asking about their writing. If they’re interested in your project, they might request an appointment or ask to see your proposal. Good-bye slush pile!

    4.  Speaking of meals—Mount Hermon’s are the BEST. Ask anyone.

    5.  Pre-conference submissions—You are encouraged to send two copies of your proposal ahead to the conference, either to published writers for critique or to editors/agents for review. There are also opportunities during the conference to have your work critiqued on the spot by a member of the critique team. This is all included in the cost of registration.

    6.  Major morning tracks—Morning tracks are classes that you follow for the entire conference to receive in-depth instruction on the subject of your choice. The tracks vary, but they generally include classes for fiction, non-fiction, public speaking, magazine writing, and social media.  Specialized tracks are offered for teens interested in writing, for beginners (Head-Start, actually held before the conference), and for published writers (career track—by application).  Personally, I love the intermediate mentoring tracks. You pay a few dollars extra, but the class size is limited and you get personalized teaching based on your needs.

    7.  Afternoon workshops—With forty workshops to attend, how do you choose? (I decided not to stress out about it and bought the CD recordings for the ones I missed).

    8.  Trend-spotting—One of my favorite parts of the conference are the panel discussions. This is a fantastic time to find out what is selling, where publishing is heading in the future and which of these individuals you would most like to work with.

    9. Casual conversations—From the moment you board the airport shuttle to the moment you leave, God arranges divine appointments. An editor might not hand you the rich-and-famous contract, but you might meet a favorite author and become friends. You might have a casual discussion at a table that leads to a magazine article (true story). You might catch someone’s airplane during an ice-breaker  or get lost with someone on the hike to the cross… and make a friend for the long writer’s journey ahead. And like I said earlier, some of the best conversations happen after hours.

    10.  Confirmation of the Call—The first time I went to Mount Hermon, I hesitated calling myself a writer. Attending this conference taught me is that YES, I AM a writer—without question. God has a call on my life. Each year I go back, I feel it anew. The conference at Mount Hermon gives me the energy I need to make it through another year.

    The Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference is held every year over Palm Sunday weekend, so add it to your calendar for next year: March 22-26, 2013.


    Karen Barnett writes historical romance for the Christian market and has been published in Guideposts, Ladybug and Babybug magazines. She lives in Albany, Oregon with her husband, two kids and a houseful of pets including a dachshund who loves to chew up her daughter’s dance slippers. When she is not writing, Karen enjoys hiking, photography, leading worship with her church’s children’s ministry and decorating outlandish birthday cakes for her kids. She blogs at “Cannot Be Shaken” found at http://www.cannotbeshaken.blogspot.com.



    Don’t miss next week. It’s our final installment with Jodie Bailey sharing about Blue Ridge


    Conference Season – Part 1

    Conference Season – Part 2 – Lisa Buffaloe – ACFW

    Conference Season – Part 3 – Angela Breidenbach – INCWC

    Conference Season – Part 4 – Kimberly Buckner – My Book Therapy retreats

    Conference Season – Part 5 – Christina Tarabochia – OCW


  • conferences,  guest blogger,  writing

    Conference Season – Part 5 – OCW Summer Coaching Conference

    I’m excited about today’s guest post. Christina Berry Tarabochia was one of the first writers I met when I began my publishing journey. She’s a joy! Not only do I think Christina is amazing, but so is the OCW Summer Conference. Read on…


    May the 4th, be with you …

    A long time ago at a conference far, far away—

    Wait, it was actually not so long ago and very near to me, but Oregon Christian Writers summer conferences have truly been an epic adventure in my life.

    At what other conference have all the editors and agents—even female ones—sprouted mustaches overnight? It happened at OCW! (Must have been something in the water.)

    Where else has an editor honestly been in danger from an alligator attack? It happened at OCW when Andy McGuire, then with Moody Publishers, came out a side door of the lodge and unknowingly stepped into a wildlife show for foster children on campus as part of an outreach. A mere yard from a chained up alligator, he thought the kids were pranking him as they yelled their warnings until he turned around and came face to face with a scary reptile.

    Where else could I have sat down at a breakfast table with Francine Rivers and been prayed over and ministered to regarding my then-husband’s unfaithfulness? God’s presence at OCW is amazing!

    Where else could Angela Hunt come to keynote and actually change her planned speech after seeing the spirit of unity and encouragement that pervades the entire conference?

    I could tell story after story about the fun I’ve had at OCW—a banana instrument prank, a crazy dress-up night, the year we all melted in the heat, the celebrity stalkings—but that’s not really what captures the heart of OCW, and I’d be doing a disservice to the wonderful organization not to go deeper.

    My first year, back in 2004, my mother and I arrived with high expectations and lower-than-we-thought-we-had skills. The OCW community welcomed us right in. Within two years, we were both on the summer conference staff, committed to making sure every conferee and editor and agent has the best experience possible. Without OCW’s bringing in the best of the best, I would not have learned the skills to write and contract an award-winning novel.

    Here are a few of the highlights and examples of what sets OCW apart from other conferences:

    ~small town, forested settings. In our new setting of Aldersgate in Turner, Oregon, there are rich-smelling pines, meandering trails, possible deer sightings, and even a water slide!

    ~coaching classes. These continuing education classes are usually capped at 12 people. Each morning, you’ll spend a few hours interacting with one of the best writing professionals in the word.  I’ve had the privilege of studying under Eva Marie Everson, Bonnie Leon, Lisa Samson, Bette Nordberg, Chip MacGregor, Karen Ball (twice!), Wendy Lawton, and Alice Crider.

    ~a focus on fiction AND non-fiction. You can learn about poetry, screen-writing, devotionals, magazine articles, memoirs, marketing, social media, and more, as well as novel writing.

    ~the afternoons are spent in a few workshops—with way too many good ones to pick from, so all the sessions are recorded and available for purchase on CDs—followed by agent or editor panels or the autograph party. (I’ll be teaching All I Really Needed to Know about Writing I Learned Editing this year!)

    ~giveaways. After each keynote, the winner of the drawing gets either a gift certificate to the book store or a HUGE basket of how-to books or FREE TUITION for next year’s conference.

    ~quality. The first time I went to a large national conference, I realized I had met nearly every one of the editors and agents at OCW. Truthfully, the editors and agents were a lot more likely to remember me from the smaller conference compared to the national conference.

    ~tables. Since OCW is more intimate, you can develop true relationship with other writers, editors, and agents. It’s much easier to find the table of one you’d like to talk to during lunch or dinner in a smaller venue! I would count many top editors, several agents, and a few best-selling authors as true friends because of the time we’ve spent connecting at OCW.

    ~food. Served buffet-style, which allows for repeat visits, the food is amazing. Many conferees, myself included, went crazy over the stuffed meatloaf last year and the chef was kind enough to share the recipe in the next OCW newsletter.

    ~manuscript critique. Some conferences don’t let you send manuscripts ahead. Some conferences make you pay to send manuscripts ahead. Some conferences only let you send to pro-writers. OCW offers the amazing chance to submit a mini proposal to THREE editors and agents of your choice and you are guaranteed some kind of feedback. Plus, this year, one can also submit magazine articles!

    ~prayer team. Every single person who sets a foot on campus has been covered by prayer first by our prayer team. They are always on hand to encourage and comfort.

    There are so many other amazing things, like the fantastic bookstore, the staff, the volunteers who shuttle people from the airport, and the music, but I think the best thing someone reading this blog can do is come experience it for him or herself.


    Christina Berry writes about the heart and soul of life with a twist of intrigue. She holds a bachelor’s in Literature, yet loves a good Calculus problem as well. Captain of a winning Family Feud team, Christina is also a purple belt in tae kwondo and would love to own a de-scented skunk.

    Her debut novel, The Familiar Stranger, was a 2010 Christy Finalist and Carol Award winner. Released from Moody, it deals with lies, secrets, and themes of forgiveness in a troubled marriage. Christina is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, the Redeemed Writers critique group, and has served on Oregon Christian Writers Summer Conference staff for the past six years. A newlywed who found her prince on eHarmony, she runs a thriving editing business and manages a household of five children and one cat.

    A moving speaker and dynamic teacher, Christina strives to Live Transparently–Forgive Extravagantly!

    Her work has also appeared in The Secret Place, The Oregonian, The Christian Communicator, and Daily Devotions for Writers.


    Conference Season – Part 1

    Conference Season – Part 2

    Conference Season – Part 3

    Conference Season – Part 4


    And still to come…

    May 11 – Karen Barnett – Mount Hermon

    May 18 – Jodie Bailey – Blue Ridge

  • conferences,  guest blogger,  writing

    Conference Season – Part 4 – My Book Therapy Retreats

    Kimberly Buckner is here to share her experiences with the My Book Therapy Retreats. She’s not only an amazing writer and critique partner, she’s also a dear friend.

    I was in my third year of writing with purpose when I found the edge of my ability. I’d been to conferences, local chapter meetings, read blogs. I’d heard the rules.
    Show don’t tell.

    Use deep point of view.

    Don’t head hop.

    I had a pretty good idea of what to do, but couldn’t figure out how.

    Then I joined My Book Therapy.

    I arrived at Storycrafters, leaning on the guarantee that if I came with an idea, I would leave with a story.

    Fourteen of us gathered in a quiet retreat center north of Minneapolis as Susan May Warren handed us the pieces of plot. I think we all know that a good plot has many layers. But Susie was able to show me what those layers actually are and how to build them. Over the two-day
    period, she broke out character development, story structure, and scene structure.

    Susie taught each topic, dissembling the how into digestible portions. Then, there was time to actually try it as she came around and guided us forward individually. She helped with all
    those things that everyone else seemed to get, but I just couldn’t sort out. I left a little overwhelmed, but with more tools and the knowledge to use them, right in time for NaNoWriMo.

    Over the next few months, my story grew.  It was incredible to watch the plot emerge and
    the characters changed as they were meant to.

    In February, I had my new story ready in time for Deep Thinkers, the second retreat in the MBT series.  My writing had hit a new level, and I wanted to continue to improve. Deep Thinkers focused on the emotional development of the characters through the plot. This retreat definitely went through more technique than I could implement all at once, but slowly as I digested the knowledge, it sank in. Once again, the one-on-one time to talk about my specific strengths and weaknesses, to brainstorm, and to look at my personal work, was so

    I came home with yet another roadmap, this time to write the second plane of my novel, and to take the plot points and make them impact my character, and hopefully my reader, to their core.
    Now, the non-technical assets I gained? Aside from a few extra pounds from great food…cohorts. I’d call them friends but they’re more than that. In this solitary endeavor, it is refreshing to spend time with those who share a passion for story. I have gained brainstorming
    buddies, encouragers, really a community of co-laborers. We keep in touch, spur each other on, and celebrate the milestones as they come.
    So, am I there yet? Not by a long shot. But the MBT retreats showed me the how-to of good novel-writing. The small group and intense focus on craft have been the greatest assets I’ve found yet for my writing journey.


    Kimberly Buckner is the charter president of ACFW – Arkansas chapter and continues to serve in this roll. She’s been a member of the Association of Christian Fiction Writers for four years and has had the wonderful opportunity to attend this conference each year, where she enjoys not being the only person who hears voices in her head, and tries valliantly not to gawk at her favorite novelists. She’s also a member of My Book Therapy, an educational forum for writers, and it was following a retreat with MBT that her second manuscript semi-finaled in the national ACFW Genesis contest and won the national Touched By Love contest. She has written several articles for her company’s newsletter, and the ARMM newsletter, and the MBT E-zine.



    Conference Season – Part 1

    Conference Season – Part 2 – ACFW

    Conference Season – Part 3 – Inland Northwest Christian Writers Conference

    And still to come…


    May 4 – Christina Tarabochia – Oregon Christian Writers Summer Coaching Conference

    May 11 – Karen Barnett – Mount Hermon

    May 18 – Jodie Bailey – Blue Ridge

  • conferences,  guest blogger,  writing

    Conference Season – Part 3 – INCWC

    Angela Breidenbach joins us with insights into the Inland Northwest Christian Writers Conference. Thank you, Angela!

    Christian career conferences for authors often focus on craft and pitching. Important and crucial elements in building a writing career. Many conferences are known for being tipped toward fiction or non-fiction. Some are small local, others regional, and a few are large national events.

    The Inland Northwest Christian Writers Conference is a newer regional opportunity offering fiction, non-fiction, children’s, and freelance. It’s held in Spokane, Wa. allowing writers around the Pacific Northwest shorter and less expensive travel options. (A big deal since the airlines consider this region “remote” and charge higher flight rates.)

    INCWC offers a smaller venue. Wonderful for building friendships in the industry. The classes are taught by seasoned professionals like Blythe Daniel, Jim Rubart, and Clint Kelly. (Do I get to tell you I’m on faculty too?) Classes include options for writing craft, marketing, career, and speaking. Is that all? No. But then again, how can one describe anything to its ultimate?

    Pitching, sure there are opportunities, but some of the best pitching chances are at the meal tables where the faculty hosts a chat time while breaking bread together.

    The conference director, Jan Cline, put together an excellent CD package of the classes and general sessions from INCWC. They’re very affordable and available on the website: http://www.inlandnwchristianwriters.com/conference

    The conference has a new facebook page:
    Upcoming 2013, the keynote speaker will be Doc Hensley.

    My favorite part of INCWC is the super well organized schedule. Jan, the director, is always on the look out for better, more effective ways to run the event. She’s gifted and shares that gift generously.

    I also like the holistic view of writing that this regional gem displays. Writers write. In order to make a living as a writer, Solomon’s wisdom of seven income streams must come into play. Fiction, non-fiction, freelance, speaking, editing, teaching, and coaching are some options. But it’s possible to break down fiction into genres, non-fiction into genres, freelance into types…you get the picture. Designing book covers, websites, virtual assisting, can also be avenues to use writing talent as an income stream. The INCWC offers the opportunity to learn and grow in many of these areas to help a writer earn money and grow their career.

    Come join us in March in Spokane. You’ll be blessed as I am by the Inland Northwest Christian Writers Conference.

    (I’ll be on faculty again and would welcome feedback on what attendees would like to learn from me too.)



    Angela Breidenbach’s family tradition is to make photo memory quilts for each child as they graduate high school. Each unique quilt displays memorable moments of family life spanning birth to graduation. Angela is Mrs. Montana International 2009, a multi-award winning inspirational speaker, and author. Her works include Gems of Wisdom: For a Treasure-filled Life, Creative Cooking for Simple Elegance, and on Kindle Creative Cooking for Colitis. Other works by Angela include compilation books and devotionals from Guidepost, Group, and articles in magazines, ezines, and newspapers. Angela also coaches courageous confidence, personal growth, and powerful living. She’s certified in mentor/peer counseling as a Stephen Minister and life coach. Angela serves as an assisting minister for her congregation in Missoula, MT. Not only did she walk the hard line of deciding to donate her mom’s brain for the study of schizophrenia, but she’s also on the brain donation list at the Brain Bank-Harvard McLean Hospital. Angela is married with a combined family of six grown children and now several grand children. Look for her next book, A Healing Heart, from Abingdon Press April 2013.

    Angela Breidenbach, Speaker/Author
    http://www.AngelaBreidenbach.com website

    Conference Season – Part 1

    Conference Season – Part 2 – ACFW

    April 27 – Kimberly Buckner – My Book Therapy

    May 4 – Christina Tarabochia – Oregon Christian Writers Summer Coaching Conference

    May 11 – Karen Barnett – Mount Hermon

    May 18 – Jodie Bailey – Blue Ridge