Last year, I had the privilege of meeting Jeanette Hanscome, coordinator of the Mount Hermon Buddies. I mentioned I was considering attending the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. After spending one afternoon with her, I couldn’t sign up for the conference or the program fast enough.
Jeannette is the author of three Focus on the Family books for teen girls. She has published over 400 articles, devotionals, and stories. She is a regular contributor to Walk Thru the Bible’s Tapestry, Standard Publishing’s Encounter—the Magazine, and the “Girls, God, and the Good Life” blog. She has a passion for teaching and coaching new writers, as well as the gift of encouragement.
It is my privilege to introduce you to Jeanette Hanscome.
Thank you for joining us on the Inspire Christian Writers blog, Jeanette.
Thank you for inviting me. I’ve heard wonderful things about Inspire Christian Writers.
In your journey as a writer, how has belonging to a writing community helped you?
The friends that I’ve made through the writing community have become like an extended family to me. It has provided me with mentors, friends and prayer partners, and allowed me to make a difference in other writers’ lives as well.
When and how did the Buddy Program begin at Mount Hermon?
Several years ago, my friend Marilyn and I roomed together at Mount Hermon. During the conference, we kept running into overwhelmed first-timers. Some were discouraged, others felt overloaded, others couldn’t understand why they felt like crying or hiding in their room. ALL of them thought they were the only ones having a hard day.
We assured each writer that even those of us who had been attending the conference for years hit low points.
Marilyn mentioned how nice it would be if first-time registrants had some pre-conference mentoring or prep. We bounced the idea off a few faculty members and the Buddy System started the next year.
The program has grown and changed since, but the basic goal is still the same—helping first-timers prepare for an exciting, inspiring, but sometimes overwhelming five days.
In what practical ways does this program serve writers who are attending the conference for the first time?
About a month before the conference, first-timers who sign up for the program are matched with those who have attended at least once before.
Buddies are equipped to answer pre-conference questions, offer prayerful support, help define realistic goals, and advise on choosing workshops. Buddies can also help newbies prepare to pitch ideas to editors (if they plan to), guide in preparing to submit manuscripts, and give advice on practical things, like what to pack.
Some first-timers set themselves up for disappointment by going to Mount Hermon with unrealistic expectations; a pre-conference buddy will often recognize this and offer a gentle reality check, averting an emotional disaster.
Buddies and first-timers attend a Meet & Greet on Friday night and check in with each other partway through the conference, but once the workshops get under way, newbies are encouraged (and usually eager) to make new friends, start accomplishing their goals, and get all they can out of their time.
The Buddy System also serves first-timers who either didn’t know about the program or registered too late to really benefit from pre-conference mentoring. Select buddies are available to answer questions, offer encouragement and prayer, or just help newbies feel settled and welcome.
In the past, I’ve hosted a special table at lunch and dinner, especially for registrants who need a little boost of encouragement. Everyone is welcome at this table, whether it’s their first conference or their twentieth.
After the first day of the conference, I realized Mount Hermon was an emotional and spiritual experience, as well as a learning opportunity for writers. How have you seen the Buddy Program bless writers who participate as newbies to Mount Hermon?
Since each buddy has attended before, they have experienced the emotional ups and downs and know that God meets people in a unique way at Mount Hermon, often in areas that have more to do with our hearts than our writing. Buddies understand the need to pace ourselves and lay our agenda aside for God’s plan. Those who participate in the Buddy System not only come prepared for this, but also have someone to pray them through the journey.
How are Mount Hermon Buddies matched up?
When first-timers sign up, I ask a few simple questions: name, e-mail address, type of writing, their goals for the conference, and this year I also ask first-timers to let me know if they have any special needs that their buddy should know about.
I pray before matching people up and leave the rest up to God. Buddy/first-timer pairs have discovered that they lived in the same town, were struggling with similar health problems or family issues, or had hobbies in common.
It has been fun to watch friendships form through this program, too. I love it when God does that!
How can writers who have already experienced the Mount Hermon Writers Conference benefit from and serve through the program?
Buddies are definitely blessed in the process of serving. This is their chance to “give back”—to pass on the tips and encouragement that they needed during their first year. It’s fun to watch someone go from nervous to excited—from vowing that they won’t talk to any of those scary editors, to not only talking to one, but getting the go-ahead to send a proposal or article. Serving the first-timers is actually one of my favorite parts of this conference.
What would you say to encourage someone who is considering attending Mount Hermon for the first time in 2012?
Don’t let fear hold you back from attending.
I have low vision and was afraid of getting lost on an unfamiliar campus. If I had given in to fear, I would have missed out on a life-changing experience. And I don’t throw around the term life-changing casually.
If you have the desire to go, ask God to help you make it happen. Go to learn, meet other writers, and seek God’s direction for your writing dreams.
Thank you for taking time to visit with us on the Inspire Christian Writers blog, Jeanette.
Thanks again. This was a lot of fun. Please spread the word about the Mount Hermon Conference and about the Buddy System.
You are invited to attend the 2012 Mount Hermon Writers Conference, scheduled for March 30th to April 3rd.
To request a Buddy, or to sign up as a Buddy, please email Jeanette at: email@example.com
After interviewing Jeannette, I signed up to serve as a buddy. I look forward to meeting you there!