Mount Hermon Report 2008, Part 5

Debbie MacomberThat official opening night of the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference, we heard from the first of our keynote speakers, Debbie Macomber. As she mentions in her blog post about the conference, she neglected to pack clothes. Books, yes; knitting projects, yes. But clothes? Well, not a sufficient number for a four-day conference. Pictured here, she’s wearing a borrowed outfit, from agent Janet Grant, if my memory is correct.

Debbie’s three talks centered largely on her venture into publishing. She had grit and determination and desire. Above all, desire, it seems to me. She mentioned that she never went to college and had not been a good student in high school. But she loved stories.

The most memorable part of her experience for me was the culmination of her first writers conference. She had attended with high hopes, as so many of us do, then had her manuscript shredded by a reputable editor, one with whom she had so hoped to publish.

With that dream dashed, she managed to ask what she could do to fix her manuscript, one she had labored over for five years. This editor put a hand on her shoulder and said something to the effect that all she could do was go home, take that cherished story, and throw it in the trash.

I don’t recall that she got any encouragement in that conference, or any direction. Maybe someone else who was at Mount Hermon can correct me on that. The point I got from the story, however, was that no one can know ahead of time just where God will take us. Debbie pursued her passion, certainly, but without any assurance that she would ever publish or ever make money publishing. (She related how her writing claimed a chunk of the family budget, and she and her husband made a lot of sacrifices to allow her to continue. By the way, her first sale earned her $10.)

Gayle Roper, Mount Hermon 2008So the next morning, after breakfast, we met with our Major Morning Track, mine being the Mentoring Clinic, as I mentioned before. Gayle Roper, seen here at the book signing with one of last year’s Mentoring Clinic menbers, Valerie Fentress , was our instructor. She puts in so much work to help each of us. And she did a good job of keeping us on task. It’s easy for writers to get carried away sometimes, and Gayle minimized those occasions.

First, we, who have read and critiqued and commented on each other’s manuscript before the conference, go around the table and give our comments. Then the author gets to explain points, ask or answer questions. Finally, Gayle tells us what she thinks, and she has good instincts and a great deal of expertise from which to share.

She then hands out to each of us sheets she’s prepared to illustrate particular points of instruction. She took the time to re-write sections of each manuscript. I know some writers cringe at that idea, but Gayle isn’t trying to take over our story. She’s merely showing what she means by POV shift, or whatever. So if her point is to cut adverbs or give details or make dialogue more believable or have a character react appropriately, her examples make the instruction clearer.

Valuable, valuable time! A great way to improve as a writer.

Published in: on April 2, 2008 at 11:51 am  Comments (4)  
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4 Comments

  1. I’ve heard Debbie Macomber speak a couple different times at the OWFI conference (Oklahoma Writers Federation) in OKC. She kept the audience smiling.

    As for the mentor who re-wrote portions of manuscripts to help illustrate her points, that’s something I’ve done (still do) for writers who ask me to edit or critique their work. Sometimes, telling just doesn’t do it; ya gotta show what you mean. Some editors aren’t teachers, so they’ll just tell you there’s a problem and won’t help you fix it.

    On the other hand, in the interest of keeping the story the author’s instead of taking over the work themselves, editors/mentors will point out problem areas but then step back and ask, “Now, how do you propose to fix that?” And that, too, is teaching.

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  2. Another great post on Mount Hermon. I agree with you about how helpful Gayle’s rewritten portions were. What a lot of work for her to do that for ten people, but, man, it really made it clear how much better a scene could be when handled by a pro!

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  3. Oh, and Debbie Macomber was a hoot.

    I don’t remember that jacket being Janet Grant’s. For some reason it doesn’t look like Janet to me. Too bright or something.I was thinking she borrowed it from Christine Tangvald or something. heh heh what a mystery.

    The funny thing is that a women would go to a conference and pack nine books and two knitting projects and no clothes. How does one do that?

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  4. Sally, I think you might be right—Christine Tangvald. I truly thought she was kidding when she said she hadn’t brought any clothes. And as it turns out, it was an exaggeration. On her blog she said she’d brought one change of clothing.

    Keanan, she has a self-depracating wit that’s very endearing. It says she doesn’t take herself too seriously and isn’t afraid to let people see her struggles. Not the spiritual depth to her talks like Liz Curtis Higgs, but certainly entertaining.

    Becky

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