Afternoon Workshops

The program includes 42 one-hour workshops, taught by well-respected industry professionals, in the areas of Fiction, Nonfiction, The Writer’s Life, Marketing, Publishing, Business, and more.

Workshop 1

Friday 4:30–5:30pm

Fiction: Authors Don’t Preach—But Their Characters Might

Kelly Harrel

Kelly Harrel see bio

Writing inspirational fiction is a balancing act between sharing the gospel and not leaving your readers feeling like they’re being preached at. This workshop will explore the various ways you can move your reader into a deeper faith without beating them over the head with Scripture. Learn how to create a natural spiritual development for your character as well how to use Scripture in a natural way that creates a hunger in your readers and influences their own faith journey.

Nonfiction: How Do I Get My Personal Story Published?

Wendy LawtonJanet Kobobel Grant

Wendy Lawton see bio | Janet Kobobel Grant see bio

Friends have told you that you need to write the story of your experience. You’ve come to Mount Hermon to figure out how to do that. Or maybe you’ve already proposed a memoir and are here to present it to agents and editors. Before you take another step let’s explore exactly what it takes to write memoir or if your story actually lends itself to narrative nonfiction. Is your story unique enough to find a place at a publishing house or is it actually the stuff from which you will draw several books over your professional writing career?

Specialty: Writing for Children—TOO FUN!

Christine Tangvald

Christine Tangvald see bio

This general, all-inclusive overview on writing for children first covers the basics: age groups, word counts, format/layout, structure, techniques (how to pace, space, and place each word to best dramatize your wonderful story or text), markets … and a zillion other things you must know to write a super-duper picture book, board book, or novelty book for children. Then a word or two about contracts, editors, agents, and writers conferences. We’ll have plenty of Q&A time, so bring your questions … and be prepared to have a TON OF FUN! (Bubble gum, gumdrops, or chocolate will be provided.)  

The Writer’s Life: From Idea to Print

Kathy Carlton Willis

Kathy Carlton Willis see bio

Have you ever been stymied by the idea brainstorming process? Some writers get stuck thinking up ideas and others have plenty of ideas but no clue how to take them from idea to print. In this workshop you’ll learn concrete ways to dream up and work up concepts. Learn Kathy's brain tsunami technique for conceptualizing ideas and developing them into writing projects and speaking programs.

Marketing: The Art of the Query Letter

Adria Goetz

Adria Goetz see bio

Writing a great query letter is an art and a science. This workshop examines the core elements every strong query letter has, and how to add that extra pizzazz that will capture the attention of an agent or editor. Real examples from the instructor’s inbox, both good and bad, will be shared.

Publishing: Choosing a Small Press

Renae Brumbaugh Green

Renae Brumbaugh Green see bio

Tired of waiting for that phone call from Random House? Afraid your beard will grow to Rumpelstiltskin length while you hope for that contract with HarperCollins? Or maybe you’re toying with the idea of self-publishing, but you’re not sure if that’s the route you want to take.

Perhaps there’s another option … an alternate path to publication that’s better suited for your current place in the publishing journey. Join Renae Brumbaugh Green, owner of Armonia Publishing, as she details the pros and cons of working with a small traditional publisher.

Business: Unpacking Your Busy Life to Free Up Your Writing Mind

Christy Hoss

Christy Hoss see bio

For writers who have to keep their day job, it’s a struggle to balance life’s necessities, social activities, and extracurricular fun and still squeeze in time to write. Because most writers are naturally creative, it is hard to say no to taking on things other than writing. Learn how to unpack life’s packed-until-it-pops luggage, and free up your mind to write focused, as God intended you to do.

Workshop 2

Saturday 1:45–2:45pm

Fiction: Back Story that Works

Linda Clare

Linda Clare see bio 

Back story (aka flashback) can kill story pace and bore readers—but it can also maximize depth of character and ignite reader sympathy. In this workshop, learn strategic ways to insert back story without overloading a scene. Workshop includes a handout with before-and-after examples.

Nonfiction: Turning Personal Experience into a Devotional Message

Susan King

Susan King see bio 

Every Christian writer should be writing devotionals, either as a main focus or in addition to other writing projects. After all, connecting God's Word to the experiences of our lives is what Christians do every day. So why not learn how to write about this connection and then submit your devotional to The Upper Room—and in so doing reach millions of readers in more than 100 countries worldwide?

Specialty: Writing Middle Grade

Sherry Kyle

Sherry Kyle see bio

When was the last time you heard someone talk about his or her wonderful years in middle school? Probably NEVER! The middle-school years are filled with awkward moments, embarrassing exchanges, school crushes, and social hierarchy—the perfect angst for a compelling book! But if you want to write for a middle-grade audience, you’ll need to know the specific parameters required of that genre; otherwise, you may end up with a swift rejection. In this workshop, we’ll tap into our inner tween and explore the parameters that will make an agent or acquisitions editor take notice of your work.

The Writer's Life: Brainstorming Basics

Lisa BogartMarci Seither

Lisa Bogart see bio | Marci Seither see bio

Need to develop ideas for your writing? Learn how to unlock the part of your brain where some of your best thoughts are held captive. Whether you’re looking for topics for your blog, chapter concepts for a book, or marketing ideas that will make an impact, there is something to be said for the power of creative brainstorming. After going over the basics, we will use students’ WIPs to do some actual brainstorming sessions. Those whose projects are brainstormed will leave with a list of ideas to take home as part of a road map for what to do next.

Marketing: God’s Marketing Plan

Kathy Carlton Willis

Kathy Carlton Willis see bio

It goes against the grain of Christ-followers, who have learned to live sacrificial lives through the face of humility, to promote ourselves. We finally figured out how to deny self and now we are asked to promote self? It just doesn’t make sense. In this session we’ll study the biblical view of promotion. Discover your call to spread the word through God’s marketing plan so you aren’t sucked in to ego-feeding high-pressure techniques.

Publishing: How to Create a One-Sheet

Joanne Bischof

Joanne Bischof see bio

This workshop is an introduction to one-sheets as a handy conference tool for you to introduce yourself and your book ideas to editors, agents, and industry professionals. Learn practical methods and tips for creating a clean and organized one-sheet with both a professional and a personal touch.

Business: Writing Can Be So “Taxing”

Chris Morris

Chris Morris see bio

Most writers don’t exactly get excited about taxes or accounting. Actually, it probably stresses you out! But it doesn’t have to. This workshop will cover the following topics:

  • What you can and cannot write off on your income taxes
  • When you have a business, not just a hobby
  • Why you might be flagged for an audit, and how to avoid it
  • When it makes sense to hire a CPA

There will also be time for questions. When is the last time a CPA gave you an open forum to help you out, at no cost?

Workshop 3

Saturday 3:15–4:15pm

Fiction: Writing Life Experience Fiction

Ginny Yttrup

Ginny Yttrup see bio 

What stories have your life experiences created? Have you considered fictionalizing one or more of those stories? Fiction based on the author’s own past can result in a novel that not only engages and entertains the reader, but one that touches the soul of readers who may have lived a similar experience. This workshop explores both the benefits and the challenges of fictionalizing an experience from the writer’s own life.

Nonfiction: Book, Blog, or Article?

Diana Flegal

Diana Flegal see bio 

What criteria does your idea have to meet in order to qualify for a full-length book? Is your idea useless if it cannot pass the book test? Is writing articles worth your time? As an author, do you have to have a blog? Learn the answers to these questions and more from the perspective of an experienced literary agent.

Specialty: Writing with Your Reader in Mind

Joanne Reese

Joanne Reese see bio 

When a reader considers a new book, she must decide whether to invest her time, as well as her hard-earned money, in it. Once she sits down to read, a commitment is required on her part to stay invested. After all, there are numerous distractions trying to keep her nose out of that book. Similarly, when we writers sit and face a blank sheet of paper, or the blinking cursor on the computer screen, we are making an investment—not just of creativity and ideas, but of heart. To serve our readers well, we must first know ourselves well so we can transfer that deep understanding onto the page. In this workshop you will learn tangible ways to stay balanced in each of five key areas (Inner Life, Intellectual Life, Emotional Life, Physical Life, and Relational Life) so you can write from a place of vulnerability and integrity. Writing well demands everything we have to give. And a reader who has invested her precious time, attention, and money deserves nothing less.

The Writer’s Life: When Life Gets in the Way of Your Writing

Jeanette Hanscome

Jeanette Hanscome see bio

Life doesn’t stop to make room for our writing. Just when you’ve figured out how to write around your day job, you find out you have to move or you need surgery. Kids get sick, friends need us, and life-altering events turn our world (and our schedule) upside down, with no thought for our deadlines. This workshop will equip you to recognize what is keeping you from being as productive as you’d like to be and know what to do about it. We will cover:

  • The difference between circumstances that put your writing on hold and everyday distractions and interruptions that can derail you (and strategies for dealing with both)
  • How to write during stressful seasons
  • When it’s okay to take a break
  • How the worst thing that could happen to you can benefit your writing (and your readers)
  • How to meet deadlines when you can barely keep up
  • The difference between getting interrupted and being interruptible
  • Tips for recognizing what is really keeping you from writing, and what to do about it.

Marketing: Facebook Marketing Strategies

Janice Thompson

Janice Thompson see bio

Whether you're launching a new book or marketing an indie collection, Facebook can be an author's best friend. In this fast-paced class, participants will be given dozens of ideas to enhance their Facebook marketing experience. Strategies to reach readers will be taught, and the imagination will be stirred as we discuss all that Facebook has to offer authors and readers.

Publishing: What Does an Agent Do Anyway?

Janet Kobobel Grant

Janet Kobobel Grant see bio

This workshop showcases the multiple tasks a good agent performs for his or her clients. In addition to looking for a publisher that’s a good fit for the author and the manuscript, agents can play “Bad Cop” with publishing houses, give feedback on covers and titles, maybe even get a movie deal! Come find out just what an agent can do for you.

Business: Working with a Freelance Editor

Christi McGuire

Christi McGuire see bio

Writers can polish and submit their best possible manuscripts to agents and publishers by first teaming up with professional freelance editors. A freelance editor can determine whether the book concept is marketable to traditional publishers, point out the manuscript’s overall strengths and weaknesses, figure out how to capitalize on the strengths and fix the weak areas, get rid of typos and other errors; format the manuscript using industry-standard guidelines, and even polish the punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling to make the manuscript shine! This workshop will explain the process of working with an editor: how to find one, choosing the right one for you, knowing what to expect, determining what type of editing to request, working with track changes, understanding costs, contracts, and agreements, and getting the most out of the experience.

Workshop 4

Sunday 1:45–2:45pm

Fiction: Writing Acoustically

Cynthia Ruchti

Cynthia Ruchti see bio 

Did you know that readers’ minds and souls can hear what you write? That an internal sound and rhythm pattern plays within them as they read your novels? Writing acoustically includes writing for the ear; crafting words, sentences, and scenes that reverberate; staying alert for opportunities to make the internal sound swell or recede; writing small things that can be heard from far distances because of the acoustic structure we’ve created; and other elements that enhance the musicality of our stories or articles.

Nonfiction: A Fresh Perspective on Devotional Writing

Lindsay Franklin

Lindsay Franklin see bio 

Learn how novelist Lindsay Franklin “accidentally” became the author of 730 published devotions. From her perspective as a “devo rebel,” she’ll discuss what makes devotional writing unique, and how the best devotionals minister to the writer before the reader even sees them. This ministry matters too much to retread the same old spiritual clichés and worn-out Christianese sentiments in our writing. You'll leave this workshop with a new perspective and fresh energy to write devotions that will inspire and challenge hearts—starting with your own.

Specialty: Pizzazz-Factor Checklist

Christine Tangvald

Christine Tangvald see bio 

Never bore an editor—or a reader! Learn more than 100 ways to energize and dramatize everything you write. You can prevent the “yawn factor” by proper use of pacing, spacing, eye-candy formats, character clues, dialogue drama, crescendo/decrescendo, sidebars, pull-outs, the method of predictability and the element of surprise, alliteration, personalization, and more. Add an extra “pizzazz factor” to your manuscript, cover letter, query letter, or book proposal right in this workshop.

The Writer's Life: What to Do While Waiting

Pat Sikora

Pat Sikora see bio

Just when you think you have life figured out, God places you on the shelf. Perhaps life circumstances prevent you from continuing the writing ministry you thought you were to do. Perhaps you need a time for healing. What's a committed Christian to do when they are suddenly removed from the front line? This workshop explores ways to make the most of the fallow time.

Marketing: Practical Blogs for Writers

Susan K Stewart

Susan K. Stewart see bio

You’ve heard that you should have a blog. Writing some articles seems easy enough, but how do you set up a blog? If that part baffles you, this workshop is for you. Susan K. Stewart, blog coordinator for the Mount Hermon Writers Conference, gives non-technical advice on how to start a blog using WordPress. From purchasing a URL to setting up a simple-to-use blog platform to writing the first post, Susan will give step-by-step instructions to get started. (Having a computer with you will be helpful but not necessary for this session.)

Publishing: Book Proposals from an Agent’s Perspective

Steve Laube

Steve Laube see bio

Learn tips on preparing a book proposal that will catch the attention of a literary agent and whet his or her appetite to ask for more.

Business: Use MS Word like a Pro

Julie DeEtte Williams

Julie Williams see bio

Whether you’re sending your manuscript to an editor or preparing to self-publish, a clean document is essential. In this class, you’ll discover:

  • how to optimize your settings to catch spelling and grammar errors
  • how to organize and rearrange your scenes in the navigation pane
  • how to make Microsoft Word read your story aloud
  • how to get rid of that unwanted horizontal line that keeps appearing in your document (No, your program isn’t possessed. You have hidden formatting lurking below the surface.)
  • lots of shortcuts to speed up your writing process.

Need personalized help with a specific formatting problem? Julie Williams will be available for one-on-one appointments with anyone who wants assistance with a manuscript in a hands-on session. Bring your laptop or a flash drive.

Workshop 5

Monday 1:45–2:45pm

Fiction: Plotting Methods and Structures

Jill WilliamsonShannon Dittemore

Jill Williamson see bio | Shannon Dittemore see bio

There’s more than one way to plot a novel. Shannon uses a seat-of-the-pants process based on escalating conflict and upping the stakes through try/fail cycles, while Jill starts by outlining a three-act structure, storyboards her plan, then modifies it as she writes her first draft. In this workshop you’ll discover what makes the three-act structure so successful. Then you’ll learn some alternative plot structures, like The Hero’s Journey, Following the Map, the Chainlink Plot, and List Weaving. You’ll also find out how to manage multiple plot lines and how to fix plot holes.

Nonfiction: How to Write Engaging Bible Studies

Janet Thompson

Janet Thompson see bio 

When God called Janet Thompson to write Bible studies, she felt inadequate, with no idea where to start. By asking questions, learning how to do productive research, and arriving at an effective format, she has written eight Bible studies and now finds it pleasurable and rewarding. In this workshop, you’ll learn how to create a format, conduct and organize research, and develop questions that encourage readers to arrive at their own answers, as well as how to write effective leaders’ guides.

Specialty: Self-Publish Your Audio Book

Sherry Kyle

Sherry Kyle see bio 

According to the June 7, 2017, report from Audio Publishers Association, more than 67 million Americans listen to audiobooks each year. In fact, there was a 33.9% increase in audiobooks sold in 2016. That's a huge market for our books! In this workshop we'll discuss the nitty gritty of Amazon’s ACX division to facilitate the production of your audio book. We'll talk about distribution, narration options, the process, as well as royalties and how you get paid.

The Writer’s Life: When the Itinerary You’re On Isn’t the One You Signed Up For

Pat Sikora

Pat Sikora see bio

Are you in a spiritual, personal, or professional wilderness? Did your life suddenly take a sharp left turn and leave you gasping for breath? Has your writing ministry been sidetracked as you struggle to simply hang on? If so, come to this workshop to hear stories of people who have faced the wilderness and not only survived but thrived. Using the example of Moses' wilderness trek, we will examine derailed plans and learn ten tips for surviving when life takes a sudden turn and dumps you in the desert.

Marketing: On the Air

Inger J. Logelin

Inger Logelin see bio

Learn to be a dream guest on someone else’s radio show, and gain tips to repurpose the audio file interview to make the most of your time on the air. If you love being a featured guest, you may be a candidate for hosting a weekly show of your own. Learn the ins and outs of creating, producing, and hosting a show and the myriad ways to utilize the airwaves to expand your reach and build the kingdom of God.

Publishing: Self-publishing 101

Tamara Clymer

Tamara Clymer see bio

Have you decided to skip the whole submission and agent scene and dive into the publishing world on your own? While self-publishing is easier than ever, there are several things you should pay close attention to while preparing your book for publication. From cover design to ISBNs, we’ll talk about the possibilities and pitfalls of self-publishing.

Business: How to Successfully Employ Multiple Income Streams

Chris Morris

Chris Morris see bio

Being an author is tough sledding nowadays. Gone are the six-figure advances, and the competition is steeper than ever before with the rise of self-publishing, independent publishing, and small-press publishing. Even established authors are finding it difficult to earn enough from their writing to support themselves. But it doesn't have to be this way. Many writers find success as full-time independent business owners by creating several avenues for income. This course walks you through how to identify new income opportunities, the best way to initiate an expansion of your brand, and when it’s best to close up shop on a new idea.

Workshop 6

Monday 3:15–4:15pm

Fiction: Pandora’s Box Characterization

Janice Thompson

Janice Thompson see bio 

Creating believable and memorable characters is key to writing awesome novels and short stories. Like an onion, a realistic character has many layers. What readers see on the outside isn’t necessarily what they get. In this workshop we’ll consider various approaches to characterization, including Pandora’s Box, which is actually four boxes, one inside the other. The outer box represents the exterior of your character—things that are obvious at a glance. Box #2 represents things about your character that are simmering just beneath the surface. Box #3 represents the motives of the character—what drives him/her to do the things he/she does. Box #4 contains the key—something that happened to your character (usually in childhood) that has given him/her the motivations he/she has. Discover how to use Pandora’s Box to create memorable characters with endearing qualities that readers can relate to.

Nonfiction: The Organized Writer

Wendy Lawton

Wendy Lawton see bio 

Take a quick test and discover your own personal Organize IQ. Then we'll talk about systems that will make you more productive as a writer.

Specialty: How to Turn Your First Draft into a Published Book

Jill WilliamsonShannon Dittemore

Jill Williamson see bio | Shannon Dittemore see bio

Finished your first draft and don’t know what to do next? In this class, you will learn how to tackle two types of edits. We’ll start by discussing the macro edit, which looks at overall story, plot, character development, setting, theme, and whether or not you might need to do more research. Then we’ll move on to the micro edit, which looks at point of view slips; info dumping; descriptions; pacing; tightening up firsts and lasts of the book, chapters, scenes, and paragraphs; character voice in dialogue; punctuation, grammar, weasel words, and formatting.

The Writer’s Life: What to Do When You Get Home

Nick Harrison

Nick Harrison see bio

You're about to leave the mountaintop experience of Mount Hermon and return to the valley of daily writing, putting into action all you've learned here. In this workshop, applicable for both fiction and nonfiction writers, we'll discuss motivation, planning, and setting specific goals for yourself.

Marketing: Making Your Dreams Come True … Without Quitting Your Day Job

Kelly Harrel

Kelly Harrel see bio

We can’t all quit our day jobs to become authors. Some of us still can’t leave them behind even after we’re published. Come receive encouragement and practical tips on how you can continue to move forward with your writing career and market yourself with limited time in your day. Kelly speaks from experience as an author who publishes multiple books a year while retaining her teaching job, homeschooling her kids, and speaking at various events. The practical tips she shares will get you on track to achieving your writing goals.

Publishing: Preparing and Formatting E-books

Susan K. Stewart

Susan K. Stewart see bio

Whether you are publishing through traditional companies or self-publishing, you may need to create your e-book. Even if your publisher is going to do that for you, you may want to know about the process of creating an e-book so you’ll have more knowledge about how your product should look. This session will cover basics of formatting, file conversion, various publishing options, and more details about creating your e-book.

Business: Becoming a Freelance Editor/Proofreader

Christy McGuire

Christi McGuire see bio

How to start a freelance editing business. Includes the advantages and disadvantages of freelancing, how to decide if this is a good fit for you, preparation for success, marketing your services, and networking with other freelancers.


The General Sessions, Major Morning Tracks, and Afternoon Workshops are professionally recorded and available to conference registrants for purchase at the conference. Thanks to OT Studios of Whittier California. Six or more CDs are $7.00 each, including a free CD case and free shipping. One to five CDs are $8.00 each plus $3.00 shipping per order. A full set of all sessions recorded on MP3 discs or flash drive is $99.00.