The Major Morning Tracks at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference experienced a makeover this year. Each of the six offerings delivered three key components–Instruction, Directed Writing, and Mentoring to students in all stages of their development as a writer.
In No Excuses Nonfiction: A Bootcamp for Serious Writers, taught by Lynn Vincent, the participants worked on narrative nonfiction pieces written in response to their experience at the 2015 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference.
Congratulations to Bethany Macklin! Her post was one of two chosen to appear on the Mount Hermon Writers blog.
Blogger: Bethany Macklin
“This stupid thing, I can’t get it to work,” my husband said swiping back and forth on his iPhone. His recent job loss had been hard on all of us. He glanced at me. “My mom is sending group texts about Easter plans. I hate group messages!”
We sat in the car waiting for my ride to Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference. Going to Mount Hermon this year was a gift from God. In the face of our financial crisis, I had planned to cancel my reservation, but a generous campership had come through at the last minute. Good thing, too. I didn’t know how much more stress I could take and I hadn’t been able to write for a month.
I needed to get away. To regroup. To recharge my writing call. After months of intense work pressure, impossible ministry deadlines, and three weeks of back to back mind-numbing 14 hour days, I was done. Finished. Cooked. My mind a puddle of primordial goo. I just need to get out of town, I thought.
I sat slumped in my seat, my phone askew on my lap, exhaustion oozing from every pore. I ignored my husband’s outbursts. Instead, I stared out the window at the curb, my mind a mush pot of resume outlines, women’s ministry tea ticket sales, and tax prep. I couldn’t absorb another thing.
The energy needed to encourage my husband amidst his job angst was tapped out. To make matters worse, the late night hours I’d spent performing plastic surgery on his resume had depleted my reserves even further. By the morning of the conference, I barely had enough strength or presence of mind to dress and gather my bags.
“I can’t figure this stupid thing out.” Mike jabbed ineffectually for a moment then thrust the phone toward me, “Could you figure it out?”
I took the phone and stared at it, unable to process the simple screen. I needed to get away, but was I ready for Mount Hermon?
My goal for the conference was simple: meet with my target publisher and pitch my project. See what happened. Although editors had requested my proposal in the past, my project hadn’t made it through the final committee–despite the editor’s initial excitement over it. After seven years of incorporating suggested edits, the pressure to return home with good news hung like a yoke around my neck.
I needed a breakthrough. A prayer team had supported my writing for over eight years and my husband had funded it at great cost. And although I’d published articles with leading magazines, I didn’t always feel like a real writer. “Real writers” produced more material. “Real writers” published books.
I could see it now:
“What project are you working on?”
“Well, uh…the same one I was ‘working on’ the first time I came 7 years ago.”
“Wow, you haven’t gotten far have you?” Translation: What a failure…
My ride pulled in and I climbed out of our car. Finally I was on my way. As we hummed along the freeway, I tuned out the happy chatter of my fellow travelers. They were going to a writers’ conference–I was going away. Destination: “Anywhere But Here.”
When we arrived at Mount Hermon I was still in zombie mode. Brain-dead and leaden limbed. A by-product of pressure overload.
My car mates had slated us for a day at the ocean to defragment before the conference began. As I sat on a bench overlooking the beach, the ocean air penetrated the pressure induced coma I’d been functioning in for the last two months. I felt the breeze on my skin. I could see the faces of those walking past me on the sidewalk. I could hear snatches of words–and they made sense. My wine even tasted good at dinner.
After a good night’s sleep, I walked briskly down the narrow cobbled path to my major morning track refreshed by the calm mountain setting. I could feel the writer in me stirring. I didn’t want to talk with anyone. I just wanted to think. To focus. To write. “Bootcamp.” Sounded about right. What my writing needed was a “do over,’” a hard reset and I was ready for it. Hungry for it.
A young woman pulling a small black suitcase, it’s wheels clacking on the rutted walkway drew up beside me, “Is this the way to the class?”
“Yeah, I think it’s up here past the parking lot. I’ve been coming here for several years and have never been back here.”
“I haven’t either,” the young woman walked beside me at a clip to keep up. I slowed my pace to a friendlier stride and we walked in to the first morning workshop. I was awake, engaged, and ready for a breakthrough.
That first day, I felt great. Full of hope. Of cheer. Of benevolence. Then I made the trip to pick up my submission envelope within whose fate-lined seal lay my hopes. I opened it, drew out the blue comment sheet and read the few words scrawled across the bottom, “See me at dinner to make an appointment. Are there more studies than this? What’s next after this?”
Disappointment descended like fog, dense and heavy, obscuring the optimism of the morning. I had hoped for more. I’d heard this before and thought I’d addressed it in my proposal. Obviously not. But it was a familiar question at least, and after eight years I knew how to answer it.
It took an evening of wrestling with God in prayer, rest, and renewed surrender to God’s plan before I broke through the heart fog. By the following day, I was alert, laptop open, fingers poised ready to report for “Bootcamp.”
NOTE From Mona Hodgson, Director of the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference: Thanks for sharing your blog post with us, Bethany! And many thanks to Lynn Vincent for her stellar contribution to the 2015 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference.
For those of you who left Lynn’s classroom wanting more AND for those of you who missed out and need another opportunity, I have great news! Lynn Vincent plans to return to Mount Hermon, March 16-22, 2016, as a nonfiction mentor.