When You Stand to Teach & Sit Back Down Taught: Unexpected Lessons in the Trees
Have you ever returned from a conference re-energized, motivated, and encouraged? Wide-eyed, focused, and ready to make some big changes? And then reality sets in and you hit a wall?
The Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference always does that for me. Could be any type of conference though.
Day 1: I’m going to be way nicer to him now. I don’t care anymore if he leaves clothes all over the floor and forgets to put his dishes in the dishwasher. I’m just grateful to be married.
Day 2: Again? I can’t even get to the dishwasher to clean up after him without walking on clothes. I am not your maid, buddy!
Trade Show / Expo:
Day 1: A million people! A million business cards! Networking opportunities! Freebies! Connections! Chocolate!
Day 2: Why am I here? This is overwhelming. Nobody seems interested in what I have to offer. Who am I kidding? I shouldn’t have spent the money.
It’s firehose learning for sure, and you have to pace yourself.
After volunteering to teach a seminar at Mount Hermon in 2019, I was named official faculty for the March 2020 conference. We all know how that ended though—in a ball of fire before it ever started. *sigh*
In 2021 Mount Hermon permanently canceled the writer’s conference and we all wondered if it would ever be revived. And then along came a veteran attendee who picked up the pieces and volunteered to lead us all back to the trees.
So I applied again through this new private conference, got accepted, and was asked which two seminars I wanted to teach. I immediately knew one would involve newbies. Rookies. First-timers.
I’ve always had a heart for the brave ones who show up and wing it. And we all remember how it feels to be new, right?
Besides providing me with dozens of valuable connections and unexpected friendships, my vested interest in this conference dates back to the 70s. From eating free meals in the dining room as a toddler to reading Frog and Toad books while standing on the piano bench, it feels beyond familiar.
Having my dad as the host felt fun when I was young, but when I became a writer I secretly wondered if I could get a book published because of him. Nope.
As opposed to becoming an actor just because your uncle’s the producer, turns out you actually have to be a good enough writer to get in.
So I researched the craft, wrote children’s stories, started a blog, went to conferences, learned tips and tricks, started a writers’ group, wrote some more, listened to podcasts, and edited the heck out of everything. Then I wrote some more.
And somewhere in the midst of it all, years passed. I grew discouraged about my timeline and wondered if I should just put everything in a drawer and go get a job that paid. My husband likes my writing but agreed a paying job sounded great.
When’s the last time you got discouraged? Discouraged enough to quit?
Writing is a solitary practice. And though it’s usually a perfect fit for introverts and usually lonely for extroverts, we all agree it’s fun to gather. For five days every spring I always hear the same thing:
“I found my people!”
“It’s so good to be together!”
Have you found your people?
So there I stood: behind a podium with an overactive heart, shuffling papers that didn’t need shuffling, and waiting for conferees to wander in.
After hours of preparing and practicing, I hoped at least ten people would show. I also hoped my helpful hints and tricks would resonate in both seminars. My gracious classes said they did, but I learned a few things that day.
I can prepare like a crazy person and things can still derail. Class length switched from one hour to 45 minutes without me knowing, and I didn’t have enough time to finish.
Once I was in the middle of teaching when the fire alarm went off. So we all moved outside and I finished with the screeching in the background.
I also learned new attendees and faculty had no idea who Dave Talbott was. That fact partly makes my heart hurt and partly doesn’t matter. After leading the conference for four decades, there has been a changing of the guard.
I know… eras end, people move on, everyone’s replaceable. But it’s still sad.
The new director is not new to writing—just new to being the leader. She emailed and also said to me more than once, “I want to keep the integrity of the conference. I want to continue your dad’s legacy of service to writers.”
And at the end of our five-day intensive, I can say she did just that.
Are you a writer? Do you know a writer who would love to publish a book? The first piece of advice almost every author, editor, and agent will give is this: attend a writer’s conference.
It’s no secret they’re expensive. Bringing in professional authors and editors from publishing houses like Tyndale, Zondervan, Revell, and Baker, along with literary agents, bloggers, and marketing experts from all over the country takes dinero.
I’ve met writers who saved for years to attend, and those who have been dying to attend but still can’t afford it. If you have some extra income and want to sponsor a writer, I guarantee they’ll be eternally grateful.
I’ve been the recipient of countless pieces of writing advice. Dozens of tips and tricks have come my way over the years. And finally last week I got two green lights to send in stories for possible publication.
Between being on faculty and receiving “it’s a possibility” offers, I’m still grinning. But I also did and said a couple of dumb things that slapped me harder than Will Smith and brought me right back to earth.
So I’m keeping my head out of the clouds and getting back to work.
Speaking of clouds, have you heard of Thunderstorm Artis? He’s a gifted singer and songwriter who placed in the top three on The Voice in 2020. And he was our worship leader for the conference!
Thunder loves Jesus and is married to an adorable Australian girl named Faith. Can you imagine how nerve-racking it would be to sing on The Voice though?
What about you? Are you working on something that makes you nervous? Has your dream taken way longer than you expected?
You could be the encouraging voice another person needs when you share below in the comments. Don’t be shy. I know some of you readers and writers are oozing with valuable lessons. Be brave!
I just love you, Carrie! Every time I read your words I feel like we’re walking together on a favorite Mount Hermon trail catching up on life and being encouraged to live more like Christ. You truly are a blessing to those who read your words and I am excited to buy that book when published! You go, Girl!
Aww… thanks, Melissa. I am always up for walking on Mount Hermon trails! Thanks for your kind words; I appreciate you! You’re the one who always exudes joy and kindness. Thanks for being such a great example of showing God’s love to those around you.
Carrie, I’m so happy for you to have these opportunities coming your way! I know for sure that your classes were entertaining and full of great information — although I wasn’t there. You always do quality.
The writer journey is very new to me — I don’t have a community around what I am doing, but I am trusting God as I slowly watch it form. What you shared encourages me.
Seems we both were inspired among the redwoods recently. I’m thankful for you that your dad was such a force in the writers’ world and that he is still a part of all the good that goes on at Mt. Hermon. Welcome back to the chaparral! Looking forward to connecting soon.
Thank you, Jen. It would be fun to have you at the conference next year! Aren’t redwoods incredible? Yes, being a part of my dad’s journey for all those years was great. Sad that he’s moving on, but fun to be ramping up and joining the movement he loves.
Judy Gordon Morrow
Carrie, your Canva session was awesome–just sorry the sessions were on the shorter side, which makes it hard to squeeze in all that goodness. Thanks for all you did! It was so fun to reconnect, yet the time always goes by too quickly.
I will always remember your dad and his leadership with so much gratitude and with a smile on my face. His wit and humor made many a conference for me–and his amazing artistry at the piano and organ! His contributions were always such an incredible blessing each year.
(And how fun to see the pic of our mini reunion–thanks!)
Thank you, Judy. Yes, I needed at least an hour! 🙂 Don’t be shy about taking me up on my offer to send you any Canva slides you missed or want clarification on. I truly don’t mind.
Thanks for your kind words about my dad. It’s hard not to have him be a part of it anymore!
Thanks for this encouragement. I was at the conference, and I’m still mulling… “Am I supposed to write a book? God, what would you have me do?” A lot of great information at the conference and grist for the mill. I attended both your “rookie” session and the canva session. Well done. Thank you so much!
Hi there, Kate! So glad you made it to Mount Hermon. Pretty spectacular backdrop for a writer’s conference, huh? I hear ya with the questions–it’s very easy to feel overwhelmed here and there… even years into it. One piece of advice I got when I first started and wanted a book was to write for magazines first. An accomplished author said, “Remember, nobody knows that they need your book yet. But every magazine needs new stories every month.” That was a real eye-opener for me, especially when she reminded me having articles adds credits to your name. Looks good when publishers ask what you’ve written.
Thanks for coming to my two seminars and for your kind words. Feel free to email me if you’d like any of my slides or have any questions. Keep writing!
Wow Carrie! You just amaze me. Keep persevering. Your work brings a smile to my face. And I know every writer loves to hear that something resonated with the reader!!!
The kindest words I’ve heard all day. Thanks, Vanessa. 🙂 You’re right about hearing that our words resonated with someone. I’m always pleasantly surprised when I find out there are others besides my mom. Haha.