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3 Things I Wish I’d Realized Before My 1st Mount Hermon Writers Conference

3 Things I Wish I’d Realized Before My 1st Mount Hermon Writers Conference


Children’s Author; Serving on the Critique Team, March 2016; Teaching an Afternoon Workshop


In 2010, I stepped onto the Mount Hermon campus for my first ever Christian Writers Conference. It was one of the best weeks of my life. The valuable skills I learned, the encouraging people I met, and the spiritual guidance I received shaped me into the author I am today. I love Mount Hermon, and, God willing, I plan to come back every year.

But, when I replay the movie of that first week in my mind, I can’t help but wish I could hit the pause button at a few of the more awkward moments and yell out to my newbie self,

“Cut! Can we try that again?”

There’s the scene where I almost went home the first night, because I couldn’t pitch anything—much less an elevator.

There were scenes in the dining room where I kept stuffing my mouth with salad so I wouldn’t have to converse with “scary” agents and editors. (Stomach alert! Don’t ever eat that much salad in one week.)

And then, there was the mid-conference dark moment, when, tired and overwhelmed, I crawled back to my cabin, fished out my eyebrow pencil, scribbled a giant unibrow on my face and pronounced, “I am not a real writer.”

Friends, don’t let this become your movie!

Here are three things I wish I had realized before my first Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. I offer this advice as a gift to you, the first time attendee. Memorize these points. Write them on your forehead if necessary. (It’s a better use for the eyebrow pencil.) Recite them to yourself throughout your time at Mount Hermon.

  1. You Belong Here

If you find yourself doubting this, consider the facts:

  1. You’ve been writing, or you’ve been thinking of starting for some time.
  2. God spoke to your heart and led you to sign up. And then he provided the funds!
  3. Every published writer began somewhere, and a writers conference was one of their first important steps. Congratulations, this is your first step!
  1. You Have Something to Offer

It doesn’t matter if you don’t know the lingo—like what an elevator pitch is (I found out it has nothing to do with pitching an elevator). The people sitting next to you in the dining hall may wear the title of literary agent, editor, or best-selling author of over one-million books, but they’re real people. They struggle with family issues, job stress, and health challenges, just like you do. They might have a killer headache when you arrive on the scene. You can offer a smile, an encouraging word, or even an extra-strength Tylenol. People who have worked in a profession for a long time are energized by those who are just starting out. They need you! So be bold. Speak up. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know much about this writing business.” You never know where that conversation will lead.

  1. Your Journey Is Unique

 You will hear plenty of helpful advice about next steps to take in your writing career. Some of that advice will work for you, some of it won’t. That’s okay. God’s got your story in the palm of his hand, and thankfully, it doesn’t read like anyone else’s. A short, straight path to a desired destination is not necessarily the most scenic. If your next chapter involves trudging uphill, you’ll build the muscles you need for the next long haul. God will never short-change you in the character-building department. So, stride into that next step, breathe, and enjoy the journey. Remember what it says in Philippians 1:6:

And I am certain that God, who began a good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Welcome to your first Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. This week will be life-changing for you—in a good way! Embrace both the beauty and the chaos in each moment. Don’t forget to laugh. Find a banana slug on the redwood trail. Meet new people and invite them to join you for ice cream or coffee. Be still, and listen for God’s voice.

And come say hello to me during one of the meals! I’ll be the one not eating salad.

If this your first writers conference, what are you most concerned about?


Come meet Jill Osborne at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Click here to Register!

View Comments (17)
  • Such great advice Jill. I’ve been praying for those first timers. That they’d take a breath and enjoy the experience of Mt. Hermon.

    • Those prayers are valuable, Jane! I shudder to think what I would have done that first year if people hadn’t been praying for me! Worse than a unibrow, for sure. See you soon, writer friend!

  • Thank you both for this. The uni brow comment made me laugh and I needed it. I’m a first time and honestly a knot of nervous anticipation right now. Glad to know I’m not alone. Thanks for the prayers. Hope to meet you both next week. 🙂

  • Ok. Big sigh. Thank you for posting this. Really. The unibrow!! I can only imagine. I really needed to hear it. I’m tagging along with a friend just for the fun of it-but have been struggling with anxiety and uncertainty for the past few weeks. Kind of like first day of high school dread. So thank you for being open and honest. Keep praying for us newbs Ms. Jane!! We don’t want to miss out on what God has for us.

    • Oooh, Leslie, I wonder what God has in story for you this week? Tag-alongs end up with the best stories! See you soon. I’d say don’t be nervous, but we can’t help it, right? Like I can tell my hands to stop shaking and they just listen to me. HA! Just know that we’ve all been there, and we’re rooting for you!

  • This is such good advice, Jill! I especially appreciate “Your journey is unique.” In the end, God is in control of our careers. We do the hard work, but He maps out the plan in His timing.

    I also remind first timers that their writing life doesn’t begin and end at the conference. If things don’t fall into place during those eventful five days, they might six months later. Never underestimate the value of relationships, learning, and even moments of discouragement and frustration. It’s all part of the process.

    I can’t wait to see you next week!

    • Jeannette, that’s exactly right! I remember a specific life-changing email I received from an editor six months after I arrived home from Mount Hermon. And Congratulations to you on your book release! Can’t wait to hold it in my hands and sniff the pages.

  • The one thing I am most concerned about is missing out on something that is important! This will be my first time at Mt Herman and I am excited to learn and grow as a writer. Thank you for the encouragement to relax and enjoy all that God has for me at the conference and beyond!

    • The way I look at it is this: Go ahead and make your plans, but then pray tons. Then if you do miss something, you can be confident that it wasn’t important to your journey at that moment! I repeat Proverbs 3:5-6 all the time to myself, and it helps me remember who’s in control.

  • I love the way you look at life Jill! You have inpacted my family through your books and I can’t wait to meet you in real person one of these days! These are great tips for all of us newbies!

  • Thank you for your delightful words of encouragement and advice. I am packing up my clothes and writing stuff for my fourth Mount Hermon Writers Conference in a row. It feels like I am heading to one grand family reunion in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I am always blessed with special times with old friends, new friends, and fabulous teachers. I am now not so shy to talk with the wonderful agents, editors, and publishers. God is the orchestra leader of it all.

  • Jill, I loved seeing your name and lively face pop up on this entry. Well done! I hope every newbie reads this. And Jill, Jeanette, Jane, Carrie do you see the comments from Andrea and Leslie? Meet them! They are two of my women — two Maui girls coming for the first time. Jill, your words are already welcoming them and that makes me very happy. I’m sending all my aloha with them.

  • Before my first conference I thought editors (we didn’t have agents back then) were superior beings who glowed in the dark. It was great to discover they were real human beings like the rest of us.

  • Yep, I’m a newbie. I’ve been so sick this past week I’ve jostled between “Oh my gosh, I’m too sick to even print my manuscript. I’m just going to pray no one asks to see it after all” to “OH MY GOSH. IVE got to print my manuscript! I’m never going to be ready.” All that with a steady stream of the enemy trying to tell me who I am. But I know that one. I’m really not anyone special, but I’ve said yes to God. He thinks I’m rad.
    I’ll come say hello if I can find you. We could coffee or tea together.
    Thank you for the advice. I’ve been in the middle of this process for way too long. God said its time to cross this Jordan. See you on the other side!

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