My name is Emily and that's me in on the far left in the picture next to Lauraine Snelling, author of the Red River series. I started writing... really writing... in eighth grade. By 9th and 10th grade, I was obsessive and so my parents decided that we needed to do something about my obsession with writing. I spent most of the day after I got home from school sitting in front of an old mac computer working on a series of stories that were actually inspired by Lauraine Snelling's books. She wrote about her Norwegian heritage, so I decided to write about my Swedish heritage. I used to spend hours on those stories. And that's where my story begins.
My mom found a Christian writers conference online and wanted to send me, but we found the conference a little late. By the next year... my Junior year, my mom jumped on it. That spring, i found myself at the Mt. Hermon Christian Writer's Conference with my dad and surrounded by authors I knew only by their books. I flipped. I'd never been so excited. These authors felt like celebrities to me. They were rather human idols though... I got to know them over the course of the conference. They were a lot like me. Being writers, I'm sure you understand... we're a strange breed of people... we eavesdrop, talk to ourselves, make up stories in our heads, stare into space, and take note of weird details. Trust me... you are not alone. Meeting other authors was amazing. It made me realize that I really was apart of this group of people.
I got a lot of advice about my writing that year. Mary DeMuth mentored me and helped me weed out my excessive "was's" and "had's" and "ly adverbs." I also did a TON of "head-hopping." She fixed that right away. My writing took a giant leap. I will never forget that year.
After such a great year... of course I had to go back my Senior year of high school. By then, I had almost finished working on a new manuscript with all of the previous year's advise worked in. I mailed it in ahead of time to be critiqued. I was totally 17 and nervous about what the critic would think, but then she approached me and wanted to meet with me in the ice cream parlor. Believe me when I say I was elated. But I'd jsut hit midconference crash and decided to skip my last seminar and go for a walk. I forgot what time it was. I missed my meeting.
This is my story though... that was my "black moment." I felt crushed inside for missing my appointment. But my dad showed up (he'd been staying with my great-grandma rather than attending the conference with me again) and we ate dinner together before the awards ceremony the night before the end of the conference. That made me feel better... at least a little. He sat with me as they began announcing the different awards. Mt. Hermon has an amazing awards ceremony for the different published authors and the writers who submit manuscripts for critique. My friend Esther and I were most anxious about the "Most promising teen writer" award. I don't think I really expected anything. Sure I think I hoped for it, but I don't think I expected anything. But that's what makes me smile as I think back. When they did call my name, I finally understood why my dad came early. I was rather overwhelmed.
They handed me the framed certificate and my hand was shaken several times. They read out some information about me... which colleges had accepted me, where I was from and how long I'd been writing. But when I sat down with me, my dad shared something with me that I'd never forget. It was Lauraine Snelling who critiqued my manuscript. And according to a relative who happens to be an agent and on the board choosing the recipients for the awards, Lauraine Snelling didn't know I was a teen author when she read my manuscript. Hearing that changed writing for me. It gave me the strength I needed to feel confident about pushing forward to getting that story published. I suddenly wanted that more than anything.
So... that's my story... and I don't want you to walk away thinking, "she must be a really good writer" because I'm obviously only 18. I still have a lot of work to do. I want you to walk away and start pressing forward... doing what you need to do to get the resources you need to someday realize your dreams.
God has given you a talent and when he gives you a talent he wants you to use it. "In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." (Matt. 5:16) This isn't about pride here or humility. This is about giving glory to God. When we do things, we do things for God's glory so that others can see and believe. So don't let your God given talents slip aside. Use them for this glory.
Mt. Hermon Writers' Conference is coming up again this spring. I'm planning on being there again. Even if you don't live in California... I HIGHLY recommend you find a similar conference in your area. Something about conferences... they're the chance of a lifetime to kick-start your journey into doing something about your God-given talent.