Pandemic Cancels Conference
Like so many other states, our governor here in West Virginia issued a mandatory mask order a month ago for anyone venturing out into public.
It was yet another sign that no matter how tired we are of the coronavirus, this bug isn’t going away any time soon.
Yet, while few will relate to my disappointment, this year’s pandemic brought me more unsettling news than the need to wear a mask. There may no longer be a Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.
Fortunately, all is not lost. Two weeks after the news that it would be COVID-ed out of existence, the director revealed a literary agent has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds to sponsor it in 2021.
Cadillac of Conferences
Given the cost of airfare, conference fees, meals, and incidentals, I have only attended Mount Hermon twice.
But as the nation’s largest Christian writers conference, it has a reputation that far exceeds the attendance of several hundred.
Given the steep expense of getting there, when a severe cash crunch eased and allowed me to think about going, I called two editors I worked with regularly to ask their opinion of going.
Both said exactly the same thing: “Mount Hermon is the Cadillac of Christian writers’ conferences.”
Immediately I thought of the first verse in 2 Corinthians 13: “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” (MEV).
Another reason I decided to attend was the keynote speaker, Jerry Jenkins. At the time, he had written a number of New York Times’ best sellers (this was before the multi-million-selling “Left Behind” series).
In addition to his keynote speeches, I also had the chance to attend a professional track. These small-group workshops were designed for those earning their living as a full-time freelancer.
Not only did Jenkins share valuable insights there, at one session a participant suggested enlisting a prayer team to support your ministry.
I did that when I returned, and my work quickly exploded. I knew it had to be because of prayer, because I hadn’t suddenly become brilliant (and I still have a prayer team).
Jenkins also downplayed the value of seeking fame as a writer, joking one time, “I’m the most famous writer you never heard of.”
Ironically, after I returned, a church member asked how the writers’ conference had gone.
“It was great,” I replied. “The keynote speaker was Jerry Jenkins.”
With a quizzical look, the guy asked, “Who’s Jerry Jenkins?”
Those who think writing or editing books is a chance to get rich and famous don’t realize most of us toil in obscurity.
That has never bothered me. But the truth of the often-lonely freelance existence is that not many outside the industry “get us.”
So on my first visit to the breathtaking Mount Hermon retreat facility in Northern California 25 years ago, I felt almost like I had died and gone to heaven.
There were people who understood writing’s challenges and uncertainties. In a word, it was wonderful.
My first trip there was also special because that’s where I met the editors who were willing to look at the book I had coauthored.
Eighteen months later, that book appeared on bookshelves across the nation. Two months before its release, I flew to Denver to help publicize it at the Christian Booksellers Association’s annual convention.
Last year, CBA collapsed too, a sign of the flagging book business.
However, the one thing we know is that our industry will survive, regardless of pandemics or other forces. As 2 Corinthians 5:7 says, we walk by faith, not by sight.