Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Making Friends, Building Community at Mount Hermon

Our Novel Matters group went to Mount Hermon Christian Writers' Conference, and it was incredible. For all of us it was a wonderful chance to sit with people we didn't know at mealtimes and serve and minister to those who are not as far along in the publishing journey as we are blessed to be.  We attended eye-opening classes about the intricacies of this brave new world of publishing --  a world that has changed radically just in the past year. 
Then, in the evenings, we reveled in each others' company -- what a unique group of women I am privileged to know.  One of the greatest treasures of my life are the women whose writing talent takes my breath away.  And since Katy and Sharon won the Mount Hermon Writer of the Year awards, four of the six of us are award-winning authors now!

And, because I am a total technoidiot and cannot put my picture and post at the end of this blogpost, I have moved myself to the top.  I certainly don't deserve to be here other than to demonstrate that I have not yet learned to post last.  

Greetings from not-so-sunny California. Brr! I'm exhausted and exhilarated at the same time. You'll understand after you read the following round table blog. The six Novel Matters gals just spent five days together for the very first time. Here are our reactions.

So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing. I Thessalonians 5:11

Women get to know each other by telling stories.

Stories about home, hearth, and vocation.
Stories that send us running to empty our bladders.
Stories that crush our hearts.
Stories that tell us we are not alone.

We sacrifice sleep, but not chocolate, to tell our stories, sometimes with threads that weave together and some that embellish with startling clarity.

For the last five days, the Novel Matters girls--all six of us!--have been together at Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, talking, talking, and more talking. Even though I was assigned to the early-to-bed cabin of the two we occupied, getting to know these ladies proved irresistible. Sleep will happen when I arrive home today. Sitting here with bags under my eyes as big as duffel bags, I don't regret a moment.

Before spending this time together, from my point of view, a newcomer, we were a collection of writers working for a common cause--the growth of upmarket and/or literary fiction in the CBA market. Each woman had become dear for what they offered and the talents they so graciously shared.

Now I have sisters.

They know things about me. I know things about them. And I love them. I ache for their company. I can't wait to be with them again.

We are a community.


Sharon here, and Patti's absolutely right. We had the most amazing, amazing time at Mount Hermon this year. There aren't enough superlatives to describe how much fun we had. Since October, when we came together to discuss the possibility of a doing a blog together -- even though some of us had never met -- a friendship has developed, first at the Books & Such retreat in the fall, then through conference calls putting together our ideas for the blog, and then through the fellowship of writing our posts.

But nothing, nothing, could top the 5 days we just spent together. I didn't know it was possible to laugh as much as we laughed -- truly, until it hurt -- and to go from acquaintances to close friends in such a short period of time. Most of us got by on about 5-6 hours sleep a night in order to spend as much time together as possible. There were many highlights at the conference, but nothing topped the sheer pleasure the 6 of us packed into our time together. My favorite part was the evening we spent reading our works in progress to each other. My cohorts are incredibly talented women and I'm honored to be associated with them, no longer just as a colleague, but as a sister-friend. I can't wait till we're together again!

This past week has been pure joy. I've known for some time what great company I've happened into, what intelligent, talented women I've found to be my friends and partners on this blog. But now I know so much more.

Such as:

If we ever get in serious trouble, it will be Bonnie's fault.

If we ever get in serious trouble, Latayne is smart enough to get us out.

Patti can make anybody laugh any time without saying a word.

If you ever want to keep a secret, Debbie is the one to tell. Because she was the only one of us who knew ahead of time that Sharon and I would be co-winners of the Steve Laube Agency Writer of the Year Award at Mount Hermon.

That was my favorite moment.
They say it takes great intelligence to play the clown. If this is true, then the Novel Matters women must be geniuses. Yes we laughed until we nearly lost consciousness. I might have blacked out once or twice - it's hard to say.
Several things hit home for me this week: Writing is not a competition, but a complication. None of us, not one, should believe that writing must be a solitary pursuit. And, when allowed to soar untethered, the imagination has no boundary.

This past week, I've looked into the eyes of my sister writers and saw there the same creative energy burning unhindered that I feel inside of me. And none of us expresses it in the same way. Katy meanders, unhurried, refusing to bend to the madding crowd - she teaches us to insist on the contemplative, to embrace its fragile arms. Sharon sings songs to our souls, offering healing and truth without reservation - she holds our bruised hands and hums the anthems of hope. Latayne pulls us out of time and space and surrounds us with vivid worlds inspiring us toward knowledge while simultaneously enthralling. Debbie weaves the stories of relationships, leads us into a deeper understanding of ourselves and our place in the world because of who we are and how we treat each other. Patti plants seeds of joy, contemplation and restoration in our minds, nudging us toward embracing our whole lives and all it brings - even when we don't understand it all.

And me? Well, I hope to be an arm around the shoulder, a voice that says, "I understand". A friend for a stretch of your journey.

When all six of us gathered together - in unision with all the others who attended Mount Hermon, we found our strengths made stronger, and our weaknesses diminished in light of true community.

It's a joy to know that this wonderful community not only continues on Novel Matters, but expands daily to include you.

All I can say is "Wow!" What a great time at Mount Hermon. If you've never been, I strongly urge you to make it a priority next year and do everything you can to make it happen. I'm a bit sleep deprived, but filled to the brim and sloshing with renewed energy and inspiration. Not only did I get to deepen relationships with my fellow Novel Matters bloggers, I reconnected with other writers and extended my circle of friends and acquaintances within the writing community. It's wonderful to be able to sit down in a casual environment with an author, editor or agent and see who they are when their author/editor/agent hats sit askewed. We all share the same hopes, fears and dreams, and trust the same Savior to work out His perfect plans in us.

Congratulations to Sharon and Katy for winning the "Writer of the Year" award! It was only fitting that these two friends who met at the same Mount Hermon writing clinic and spurred each other toward excellence should win it together.


Michelle Ule said...

Wish I had been there . . . I had to content myself with reading LaTayne's "Latter Day Cipher" instead.

PatriciaW said...

Congratulations Sharon and Katy. Sounds like you ladies had a ball, one of those special lifetime moments.

Judy Gann said...

Congratulations, Katy & Sharon! I was jumping up & down (not easy for this body!), cheering, and crying, all at the same time as I watched you receive your much-deserved awards. It is so fitting and so like God that the two of you share this honor.

To all the Novel Matters Ladies-- thank you for "adopting" me--your nonfiction cabin neighbor. Spending time with your ladies was truly a highlight of my time at Mount Hermon. Thanks for allowing this nonfiction author to crash your tea party! :-) I miss all of you already!

Steve G said...

Thanks for sending my wife back after a week. I now appreciate our "grown-up" chats and conversations more than ever after dialoging with an 8 and 6 year old for most of the time.

And thanks for making her laugh and accepting her into your lives; she loves an audience and having 5 friends like you greatly supports her in this ministry.

I look forward to the mischief you gals will get into over the next few years (What is that about an anthology of short stories from you ladies???).

word verification - vater: a german bad guy in a popular space opera...

Janet said...

I am now going to have to go pray about the sin of jealousy...

Seriously, I don't know if I have ever seen a group of women I wanted so badly to meet. Someday, God willing...

Steve, leaving a husband in charge of the house is one of the most positive things a woman can ever do. I know that whenever I did it, grumbling levels fell drastically for years afterward. ;o) And "Vater" is actually the real German word for father.

Is it OK if I share a little good news of my own? I've been offered representation for my novel. Amazing what that does to your self-perception as a writer.

LeAnne Hardy said...

You make us all jealous of your time. It sounds marvelous.

Latayne C Scott said...

We do love you guys for your supportiveness. Steve, you made it possible for that crazy woman Bonnie to come. Judy, how can we ever thank you for the terrific library presentation you gave? Michelle, you held down the fort for Janet and Wendy. (Hope you weren't too bored reading Cipher...) Patricia, Janet and LeAnne --I proclaim you honorary NM members. Thank you for all the encouragement.

Latayne C Scott

Anonymous said...

Patricia and Judy, thank you for your congratulations. What a surprising and awesome experience. I honestly can't say enough how much I enjoyed the time I spent with the group at Mt. Hermon, and especially the other 5 amazing ladies of Novel Matters. Oh, the secrets we now share!!

Thank you to all who commented here today, for your support of who we are and what we do, and for investing your time in the books we write. Michelle, I know you must be loving Latter Day Cipher.

Judy, I wholly concur with Latayne, your presentation was so, so helpful.

Steve, thanks for sharing Bonnie with us. I know you missed her, but, wow, did we have fun! I never knew I could laugh so much, so heartily; nor that deep friendship could happen so quickly. I believe more than ever that God is in this big time.

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Judy, it was a joy to have you with us! You are a gem. We could fill a book with stories about the weekend, but what happens at Mount Hermon, stays at Mount Hermon!

Anonymous said...

Debbie, you're not kidding.

Patti Hill said...

In case we haven't said this enough, our blog readers and commenters ARE Novel Matters. This would be a boring place without you, so thanks for all you offer. Janet, that means you too.

Judy, I've started a list of must-dos. Researching library contacts is high on the list. For all you writers, never think of the library as the enemy. Not only are they a market but a great marketing tool. Who knew? If you get a chance to hear Judy Gann speak, go for it.

And Janet, congratulations on being found by an agent. You're on your way, girlfriend.

Word verification: impas, a momentary perception that you've reached an impasse.

Bonnie Grove said...

Michelle: Isn't Latter Day Cipher enthralling? Pitch perfect writing.

Patricia: It was wonderful when they won. The rest of us screamed like idiots.

Judy: You are a treasure. It was a joy and honor to get to know you more.

Steve: Mwah!

Janet: We want to meet you too!! We did get to say hello to a couple of Novel Matters readers and it was such a hoot!
Congrats to you and we are cheering you on.

LeAnne: It was fun, but no need to be jealous. The good news is, the community that happens on this blog goes on. We are all so happy you are a part of it.


Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Congratulations to Sharon and Katy for winning the "Writer of the Year" award! It was only fitting that these two friends who met at the same Mount Hermon writing clinic and spurred each other toward excellence should win it together.

Well said, Debbie. I just wish I could have been there to add my standing O when they received the award.

Congratulations, you two!


Anonymous said...

Hey, Becky! Thanks so much. I wish you had been there too. It would have been so good to see you.

Janet said...

Here's to all of you and I hope I do get to meet you personally some day.

Kathleen Popa said...

Janet, what frabjous news! I'm so thrilled for you.

Judy, you are absolutely adopted. It was just a pleasure visiting with you. And the information you shared at the conference about libraries was invaluable.

Michelle and Becky, I missed seeing you there! Patricia, Janet and LeAnne, I promise you would love this conference, and we would love to meet you at Mount Hermon some day. But meantime, I concur with Bonnie: you are most welcome in this community. All this love and joy is extended to you.

Steve, we will be Bonnie's audience anytime. Your wife is a delight. She told us soo much about you, I feel like you are one of us.
Please see that as a good thing.
We all sent our hugs home with her. Be sure to ask for them.

Thank you, everyone, for your congratulations. To share the award with Sharon, and the experience with Bonnie, Patti, Latayne and Debbie, as well as with other dear friends in attendance, was perfect, just perfect.


Judy Gann said...

Note to self: when I leave a comment on someone's blog, I need to check back to see if anyone commented on my comment. :-)

Novel Matters Ladies, can you see me blushing over cyberspace? Thank you for your kind words about my presentation at MH! Career Track attendees (including you lovely ladies) were the most receptive audience ever for that workshop!

Patti, you earn an "A" for putting library contacts on your "to do" list. :-)

Janet said...

Frabjous. I love that word.

I accepted his offer this afternoon. Still trying to wrap my head around that...

Lori Benton said...

I'm just home from Mount Hermon today (I took a little detour to Santa Rosa), but wanted to say how wonderful it was to meet you all in person.

Congratulations Sharon and Katy! I'm so glad I was there for that moment.

Kathleen Popa said...

Lori, you're just as beautiful in person as you are in your photo. It was wonderful seeing you there.

Judy, it's not so surprising, is it, that book people would find libraries interesting? And your information was very helpful.

Janet, congratulations again!