Category: Writing goals

10 Take-Away Moments from Mount Hermon Writers Conference 2017

10 Take-Away Moments from Mount Hermon Writers Conference 2017

It’s been ten days since I left the 2017 Mount Hermon Writers Conference. Yesterday morning was the first time I’ve had a chance to write since I was on the airplane.  I could give you excuses, but excuse or not, I needed to allow myself time to decompress. So, before I venture into my world of women’s fiction, I thought I’d share ten take-away moments (I started calling them lessons, but didn’t want to deter anyone from reading).

  1. Preparation Paid Off. Since I’d spent forty days preparing my spirit, mind, and body for the conference, I was prepared for whatever Divine appointments God had in store. From the wild shuttle ride up the mountain on Day One, to the final push that confirmed a difficult, yet needed step I must take to move my writing goals forward on Day Six — I accepted each moment as a part of God’s guiding hand.
  2. MHWRiters2017 Prayer
    Friday Morning Prayer for #MHWriters2017

    Allow for Quiet Time with God. Though I didn’t realize it when I registered, I would have a room to myself until Friday when the main conference began. This led me to an awesome morning prayer time on Friday. I was well rested and ready to take on the following five days. But first, God laid a prayer on my heart for everyone else.

  3. Next-Level Clinic is worth it! At the beginning of the week, I thought that attending pre-conference was only beneficial for returners. But as the main conference came to a close, I realized how alone I felt last year as a first-timer attending and not knowing anyone else, though God did provide companions and encouragers eventually. With that said, I recommend first-timers go if they can! The smaller critique group setting will help you prepare for feedback on your pre-conference submissions, you will begin friendships with other writers that will help keep you connected through the duration, and you will never feel alone!
  4. Unexpected Expectations. Did I have high expectations going into the conference? Absolutely! Though growing relationships with other writers and writing mentors along with valuable feedback on my current writing projects far exceeded my goals – I suspected I’d get something I didn’t expect at all. And I did! When at least five different people sparked a conversation on a topic I hadn’t planned to discuss – and they all gave me the same feedback, I took that as advice I couldn’t ignore. A blessing in disguise for sure and something I had given back to God for his Divine timing, which makes it all the more exciting to see where it takes me!
  5. Nothing Compares to Nature. No matter how tired, I was determined to complete the hike up to the cross on Palm Sunday. On 4 1/2 hours sleep, I made the hike, and froze my fingers and toes to the point of pain, but wouldn’t take it back (or the fact I didn’t get the afternoon nap I’d counted on) for anything. As I hiked and talked with my newest writing friend, the lyrics from Chris Tomlin’s Captured ran through my mind. On the way down the hill, I played the song and am convinced he was inspired to write it on that very mountain. It was an awesome way to connect with our Creator and be in awe of how much he cares for each of us even amidst all the other glorious evidence of his artistic hand.
  6. Nerves are Normal. I confess that last year, I avoided sitting at some tables because I felt intimidated by certain staff, editors, or agents. This year, I decided I would sit at those tables if there was a seat available. For those of you who don’t know, during most meals at the conference, conferees have the opportunity to sit, chat, and eat with agents, editors, published authors and other staff members. It’s an opportunity not offered at most other (if any) writer’s conferences, so nerves aside, I would embrace it! Despite my body reacting in all the ways I hoped it wouldn’t, I mustered up the courage and did it. Regrets? None. And next year, I will make sure I sit at the tables I didn’t have the opportunity to sit at, as well as introduce myself again to those I met this year.
  7. The Key-Note Speakers Brought Confirmation. Mark Batterson reaffirmed the concept of writing to an audience of One. Stacy Hawkins Adams reminded me that giving my first book baby to the Lord also comes with a promise of many more book babies to come. Need I say more?
  8. A Writer Never Arrives. I’ve dedicated over thirteen years to learning the craft of writing, finding my unique author’s voice, and discovering the specific types of stories God has called me to write. Yet, I’m always learning more! I want to encourage all writers out there who aspire to attend Mount Hermon (or who did and perhaps walked away discouraged) — be teachable! There is a way to learn the ropes and the rules and NOT lose your unique writer’s voice. Be creative, write what’s on your heart, and then be willing to adjust it in order to reach your audience. Even if there doesn’t seem to be a place for your story today, that doesn’t mean there won’t be tomorrow. So keep writing, keep learning and keep praying God will guide you to the right agent, publisher, and most important – readers in His Divine and Perfect timing.  As we learn to critique and encourage each other, let’s not forget what it was like to be new at this. Though I’m still learning, I desire to help others tell their story in the best and most effective way possible. So don’t give up!
  9. Eternal Friends and Writing Buddies. I’m thrilled beyond measure to be a part of such an amazing community of writers, editors, agents, and others who have embraced the privilege to reach others through their words!
  10. One final thought.  I’d love to hear about your take-aways from this year or any other year you’ve attended Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference. If you haven’t had a chance to attend yet, would you like to? Why?

40 Days to Mount Hermon – Fasting and Prayer Week 2

DAY 8 – Friday

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12

Somehow, I woke out of a deep dream in time to get my son to school. Another full day ahead and a birthday on Saturday (my youngest turned 13) – I realized writing time would be minimal. Yet, I was feeling better than ever — really good actually! I was excited and felt confident about the changes our household was about to make for the good of us all.

DAY 9 – Saturday

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with him.” -John 14:23

My youngest 13th birthday so I started the morning off making birthday crepes. He had plans that evening so I knew the morning was my best chance to really dive into prayer and worship. I spent over an hour on my knees. Went through my prayer list from National topics to personal prayers for my children, my marriage, our finances, and finally for God to work through me in the stories that I am to tell.

As I went about my day, I felt the hint of a headache coming on, but I ignored it. I figured it had to do with my cleansing fast, so I just kept drinking my tea and water. Tried to nap but nothing helped. I figured it was a sign to just rest… body, mind, and spirit.

DAY 10 – Sunday

“Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear.” Matthew 24:35

Headache had turned into body aches. I felt horrible and opted to stay in bed. Expecting to keep my normal pace while robbing my body of basic food was obviously unrealistic. If I did anything it would be reading in preparation for Mount Hermon Next Level clinic.

DAY 11 – DAY 15

Accepted the fact I was sick… having flu-like symptoms for the first time in a decade. Emphatic about continuing my sugar detox, I couldn’t take my normal remedies since they all contained some type of sugar or alcohol. But I did take some TheraFlu tablets on the 2 days I had to watch my grandson to keep from spreading my illness.

On the bright side, I had no appetite so avoiding taboo foods was easy!

Mount Hermon 2017 and My 40 Day Preparation Fast

In the time since my last post, God’s prompted me with things I need to let go of and change for my writing pursuits to reach their full potential. I’ve been excusing my lack of discipline and focus due to the constant change and chaos in my life.

As a result, I’ve begun efforts to change my normal default tendencies. I’ve eliminated gluten and other foods that increase my bouts of inflammation and irritability. I’ve also started the PiYo 60 day plan (a series of exercise routines that mix pilates and yoga and focus on correct alignment) and can say with 100% certainty, I haven’t felt better in body and mind in years!

All that back story to say that I’ve been mentally and physically preparing for this 40 day fasting and prayer long before I committed myself to the actual fast. It was in my prayer and journal time about 10 days ago that I realized yesterday (Feb 24, 2017) marked exactly 40 days before I boarded the plane for Mount Hermon. Could I really do this? What was God prompting me to fast and pray about?

Watch my Live Facebook Video on my Preparation and Reasons for my Mt Hermon 40 Day Preparation Prayer and Fasting


40-Day Mount Hermon Preparation Fasting and Prayer Goal List

Intercessory Prayer

I can’t be effective in praying for others if I’m struggling from the moment I wake to the minute I attempt to fall asleep. Although intercessory will be the focus of the second part of my 40 days, I will still be praying for others when prompted. I’ve written a list to include both National and Personal intercessory prayers. I’m sure the list will grow as I dive deeper into the routine of prayer, but these are my starting points:

NATIONAL

  • Our President, his cabinet, relations with other countries, and his family
  • That our Christian voice in America would become louder than any other
  • Justifications for sinful lifestyles would cease
  • Selfish Spirit would be quenched
  • Protection from Enemies (spiritual, foreign, and domestic)
  • Youth and Young Adults would see and seek Truth
  • Plagues of Abortion, Divorce, Drug Use, and Mental Illness Would end

FREEDOM comes from

  1. Confession
  2. Repentance
  3. Seeking God with all our Souls, Minds, and Hearts

PERSONAL

In my prayer journal, I have listed names. For the purpose of this post, I am only including the general focus. These are “personal” intercessory prayers because they involve people I know personally.

  • Authentic, life-changing Salvation for every family member and friend in my life who has not experienced the freedom and peace that comes from personally knowing Jesus Christ and seeking to know him through his Word, Holy Spirit, and God’s Divine differences that set him apart from human tendencies and other belief systems.
  • Physical and Mental healing for numerous church and biological family members.
  • For those who believe, but have not fully surrendered to all God has for them if they choose to turn 100% of their hearts and lives toward God.
  • A significant building up of faith among fellow believers. Our own understanding and perspectives are never enough to  experience the fullness of God’s plan. We must be willing to take risks, to step past our comfort zones, to get rid of distractions and hindrances, no matter how trivial or tremendous.

Immediate Family Prayers

These include my daily choices as I interact with and pray for each area. What I pray exactly will vary by day.

  • My marriage
  • My children
  • My grandchildren (present and future)
  • The current and future spouses of my adult children
  • My Christian friendships

40 Day Fasting Focus Areas

My personal fasting goals might be different than you think. Due to my specific dietary needs and fibromyalgia, I cannot go on the type of fast that would keep me from eating anything. For those of you who read this list, though, you can see how hunger will still likely be a part of the process! In addition to fasting certain foods, I will also be fasting things that interfere with my mental and spiritual health.

My new PiYo routine overlaps all areas here. I’ve already felt the benefits of how this form of exercise is purging toxins and increasing my emotional and mental health.

PHYSICAL FAST

Starting with a 21-Day Sugar Detox (based on the book by the same title), I’m eliminating all forms of sugar from food and beverages. This includes fruit (with the exception of 1 granny smith apple OR 1 green-tipped banana) per day. Other taboo foods include all grains, legumes, potatoes, and even high-carb root vegetables such as sweet potatoes. Again, an exception here is that I can have an extra serving of sweet potato or winter squash on the days that I exercise. Not even natural sugars or sugar substitutes are allowed. I’ve been meaning to do this for sometime to kill off any possible Candida overgrowth that could be contributing to my brain fog, pain flare-ups, PMS, IBS, or irritability. After 21 days, I will continue eating according to Paleo standards.

MENTAL FAST

Between evening television watching (which on my bad days can push 3 hours), and scrolling Facebook and Twitter without cause, I waste a lot of mental energy. Sometimes it does feel good to “not think”. And there is a time and place for that. But for me personally, it interferes with my ability to sleep. I stay up later than I should to finish watching a show. Or I get caught up reading some political or health food thread on my social media when all I really meant to do was clear out my notifications.

Meanwhile, I have this stack of novels I’d really love to finish before attending the Mt Hermon conference this year. Some are books I bought at the conference last year and I want to be able tell the authors I read their books this year. Others are for my pure reading enjoyment, but by the time I get to bed after (x)hours of TV time, I’m pressed to read a full chapter before I realize it’s midnight and I must sleep.

This could probably overlap into the category of SPIRITUAL FASTING since I know these things interfere with my spiritual well-being at times.

Essentially my mental fast means:

  • No evening TV show time (possible exception is a family movie night once a week). The point is to curb my daily routine and clear my mind.
  • No social media scrolling, interacting, or reading unless it’s directly related to a positive event of a close family member or friend, or engaging with other writers. Staying positive and not wasting time on senseless discussions or information is my goal.

SPIRITUAL FOCUS ON DAILY PRAYER GOALS

Depending on my other commitments (my life doesn’t stop just because I am fasting!)  —  I may complete these all at once, or in bits and pieces throughout the day.

  • Read the entire chapter associated with the YouVersion Bible Verse of the Day. You may see image quotes of these on my Instagram or Twitter.
  • Read a section of each of the books What Happens When Women Pray and The Daniel Prayer (these are part of the weekly women’s study at our church).
  • Confession. Pouring out is the first step to receiving from the Lord. This may include negative thoughts, straying from my fasting, or my list of worries (with three adult children (my oldest son turns 18 in March), two teenagers, and a grandson, this list is continuous). I firmly believe that worry is a form of sin. When we worry we’re saying we don’t trust God.

WORRY = LACK OF FAITH

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:25-27, NIV

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6, NIV

  • Pure Worship
  • Gratitude
  • Intercessory Prayer
  • Personal Prayer for focus, productivity, physical healing, and WIP breakthroughs

Sharing my 40 Day Fasting and Prayer Journey with You

My goal is to post at least once per week on my progress, answers to prayer, and topics related to the two book projects I will be working on during the conference. I know most of this doesn’t seem to have to do a lot with writing, but trust me — it has everything to do with writing to the Glory of God!

Follow my Live Video on Facebook to be notified whenever I go Live.

Share your own version of preparing for Mt. Hermon Christian Writers Conference 2017.

If you are not a writer, can you still relate? If you are wanting to make major changes to your life, perhaps my journey will inspire you to begin your own version of a 40 Day Fast. I’d love to hear about it!

A New Thing Springs Up: A New Life and a New Story in Preparation for a Return to Mount Hermon

Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV

Last year at this time my life was in a severe upheaval. Since my husband and I had lost our jobs nearly a year earlier, we’d moved twice (locally) and started new jobs. Though we felt more appreciated than at our former employers, the work didn’t pay nearly as well, and the work and commuting demands were taking their toll on us both.

Our living situation wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t ideal either and we honestly didn’t like the little town we had ended up in.

After nearly five years in California (having relocated from Idaho at the end of 2011), my husband was certain he heard God’s call for us to return to Idaho. He had a job offer that, and though it didn’t pay much more, it would be sufficient for bare-minimum Idaho living. Not to mention our oldest daughter was in Idaho and a newlywed. The possibility of grand babies was on the horizon and he knew I wouldn’t last long as a long-distant grandma when the time came.

Even though we’d be scraping by, I wouldn’t need to work away from home, since I’d be transferring my current job into a freelance gig with reduced hours.

I know there are plenty of writers out there who work full-time and write books and have families. During the time we were in California I managed to write two, almost three books, while working full-time. But our family dynamics are different than most people. I have chronic health issues (pain, fatigue, and depression) that make it very difficult to keep going day in and day out, week after week, month after month – without my health suffering.

In this state of mind and in a constant state of pain, it’s really hard to get creative and focus on writing. Top that off with uncertainty about our living situation, how pay our bills or feed our family week after week and I think you get the picture. Even if I felt inspired to write, I felt guilty about doing so since the needs of my family were not being met.

Yet, on the brink of moving back to Idaho there was one thing I had not yet done since moving to California. And that was attending the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference. I had heard of it during my first weeks of becoming a member of the Inspire Christian Writer’s group in Roseville. But for one reason or another, it had not worked out.

So, I asked my husband for his blessing. If I could save from my own income, and get a scholarship, could I stay an extra two weeks and attend the conference before joining him and our boys in Idaho? We would have to move out completely from our current rental, and I would need to stay with my mom, who conveniently lived in Northern California 10 minutes away from my job versus the 30 minutes drive from our house, and about an hour closer to Mount Hermon.

It was hard to explain it to him, but I also felt that this transition time would help release some of the stress that had been building over recent months. And it would help me to focus on writing again. Of course, I would miss him and our three boys, but I would be only taking care of my own needs, getting myself to work, and have down time each evening with my mom and my adult daughter who was living with her at the time.

Honestly, a year later a lot of the details are a blur. I remember having a really bad migraine the day before the conference. I had a final doctor appointment already scheduled, but he prescribed me something different, which in turn made me sick halfway into the night.

Somehow, I got a few hours of sleep, woke up early, and started the drive to Santa Cruz with my crossover packed full of everything that wouldn’t fit into the moving truck. I had my song list ready to play, and I was determined to worship the Lord the entire way. I didn’t know why he allowed me to get sick the day before the conference. But I knew he had something for me there. Because of how exhausted I was, and my lack of appetite from the medicine side-effects, I was in a fully frail state when I arrived.

A tad backstory here – I was born in Santa Cruz. I hadn’t live there very much of my childhood, but I ended up living there a few years as a teenager after my parents divorced. One of my favorite past times was walking through the woods up in the mountains off of Summit Road, making up stories in my mind. Back then I didn’t realize what drew me to those mountains. There was something magical about the trees hovering high above, the scent of dirt and petals and various animals emanating from the sunlight that streamed through branches and breaks in the forest. The mixture of cool earth and shadows with glimmers of warmth and light.

When I drove into the entrance at Mount Hermon, it all came back to me. One of the first books I ever started writing, happened in these mountains. These mountains were where I was first inspired to become a writer at the tender age of 11, and mostly at that time as a means to process the pains and confusion of my parents’ divorce. It was a blend of the old and the new.

I eventually found my cabin and settled in. My roommate wasn’t there yet so I took advantage of being alone and just rested my heart, my mind, my soul, and my body. I wrote in my journal, read through the conference packet, and prayed for God to connect me with those who I needed to be connected with, to allowed me to be honest and to accept whatever words of advice and wisdom I received from those I met during the week.

A little note about that scripture verse at the top of this post – Isaiah 43:18-19. When we’d first moved back to California in 2011, God had given me that verse as a promise. And I’d held onto it for nearly five years, waiting to experience the fulfillment of those words.

So when Mona Hodgson quoted those exact words in the introductory session, I knew without a doubt that God was telling me my new life, that “New Thing” was springing up in that moment. In all the radio broadcasts, Bible studies, and church events I’d sat through, this was the first time anyone had spoken those words since God had back in 2011.

And that’s when the tears came, a different type of tears than I think I’d ever cried before. They weren’t the tears of frustration, anger, or discouragement that had flooded from my eyes numerous times in the months prior. They were tears of cleansing and refreshment and knowing that the palms of my Heavenly Father were beneath me, holding me securely in His plans to prosper and not harm.

The first couple of days were brutal. I cried a lot… A lot! If anyone remembers me from last year, they probably remember that I cried the first couple days. I cried during the General Sessions. I cried at meal time. And I cried in between the workshops.

But it was during these times that I ended up meeting some of the most wonderful people. Marcy and Angela became my surrogates. They told me their stories as struggling writers, mothers, and wives. And they kept checking on me through the week.

I didn’t feel alone and I didn’t feel like a stranger.

There are others as well, but these two stick out to me the most. I’m really hoping that they will be there this year. I’m looking forward to sharing what a crazy time 2016 was, but how God brought me back to experience Mount Hermon in a whole new way.

I wish I could say that I’ve been writing like crazy since the last time I attended. But that’s not the case. I finished and submitted my second book in the No Eye Has Seen Series, but I didn’t do enough marketing of the first one, so I’m in a stand still when it comes to that story. It’s tentatively set to publish in June, so I really won’t know how that turns out until later this year.

2016 was more about getting to a place of stability and health, so that I could really focus on writing without having survival at the helm.

So, with what I hope is a more permanent living situation, plenty of income to cover our needs and some wants, and for the very first time ever… drum roll please… a writing office that has a door! – I am preparing for my return to Mount Hermon. 

I have an entirely new story that I’ve started, not finished, but that’s okay. I’m not in a rush at this point. I believe my story premise is solid, and I’m fairly sure I’ve got the basics of my writing technique and style down, though I know there’s always room for improvement. What I’m looking for is honest critique and one-on-one instruction so that I can take the beginnings of this WIP and be confident I’m on the right track as I work toward completing it through the remainder of this year.

I’ll be attending the pre-conference and the morning mentoring sessions to reach my goal. However, I might be looking forward more to relationship building than I am to building my story. But either way, I know I will get a lot out of the Mount Hermon conference this year. Since I know a little of what to expect this time, I’m sure I will feel more relaxed and comfortable.

For any first-timers out there, feel free to come say hi, get a hug, and share with me if you feel the need. I’m happy to pay forward the love, understanding, and encouragement I received last year.

As a final note, I am a grandma now! My grandson, Kadyn, is an adorable, happy baby and will be almost 7 months old in April. My latest Grammy pic is always on my phone in case you want a glimpse at his cuteness!

[Kadyn @ 4months old with his Grandpa…my supportive second half]

TOP 10 Ways I Use Real Life to Inspire My Fiction Writing

I have lived a relatively profound life. Some things “happened” to me, and were beyond my ability to control. Others were the result of poor choices, ignorance, or a secret desire to create drama when I felt things were a little boring. As I have matured as a woman and in my walk as a Christian, I have realized that each experience–every defeat, hurt, or challenge–has led me to a victory as well. Themes such as divorce, adultery, poverty, teen pregnancy, alcohol abuse, a sick child, financial challenges, etc. emanate from the nearly four decades I have walked this earth.

Some people who have faced similar challenges have decided to create good from them, while others choose to use them as an excuse for why they cannot succeed. Still others deny experiencing such things have affected them at all. As a writer, I have long felt the call to take my own personal experiences and turn them to the page in an effort to help others see and understand the purpose within their own lives. I desire to offer 1) encouragement to the mother lacking sleep because her little baby is sick and the doctors cannot tell her why; 2) hope to the young bride who just discovered she is pregnant in the same month her husband admits that he has been having an affair; 3) peace and rest to the harried stay-at-home mom who has everything the world could offer, yet still seeks happiness beyond a picture perfect life.

Whether you are an author or a reader, I hope you find some inspiration in my Top-10 list of ways I use real life to inspire my fiction stories.

1. ASK “WHAT IF?” I am sure I read this in something written by James Scott Bell, but I used this strategy long before I ever heard his name. What if one person, one choice you made in life was different? How would that influence your life today? Often, when I work through this question, I realize “what if” would ultimately lead to a more negative result, even if at the time it felt like the better option. Or, maybe it would make a much better novel than a real life choice…even if the characters faced tragedy or experienced success in a way that doesn’t seem possible today. One project I will be working on this year is about three sisters.What if each of my two sisters and I had made one single different choice regarding when to become mothers? Between us, we have a single mother, a working woman who married and started her family in her thirties, and one who started motherhood as a teenager. Though our real stories could also prove novel-worthy, this is a way to explore the possibilities. Continue reading “TOP 10 Ways I Use Real Life to Inspire My Fiction Writing”