Day Two, Thursday, April 2

Marion and I are up before the frogs, readying ourselves for our free day. Karen and Julee, who are staying off campus, arrive to pick us up. The weather is crisp and clear, quite chilly in the early hours, but we’ve been warned to pack layers. Hey, I’m from Oregon. It’s all about layers in Oregon.

We head into Santa Cruz (or maybe a little town near it? I’m neither driving nor navigating on this trip, so I’m paying little heed). Stop off at Gayle’s Deli & Bakery to face a sprawling counter of choices. It’s all good. I purchase enough for lunch, dinner and breakfast next morning, too. We drive to a high overlook with a picnic table and watch surfers try to surf in tiny swells choked with seaweed. It doesn’t look appealing. People with dogs keep coming by. Karen makes a bee-line to meet them. It’s great for us introverted types, having Karen Ball nearby. The woman is off-the-scale outgoing.

On to the Santa Cruz (I think) pier, where it’s windy and sunny, busy with tourists above and sea lions below, taking a siesta on the water, napping in sprawling, interlocked piles. I’ve never seen them this close, or knew they created what amounts to a sea lion raft. Watching them float together and drift apart is a little like watching those groups of sky divers that grasp hands to create formations, then break apart and come together to create a new pattern. We shop, Karen takes photos, which I’ll post later if I get copies. Then we head back to Mount Hermon so Marion and Karen can spend time preparing for their teaching duties. Karen is teaching the Mentoring Track.

I settle into my room in Pine Lodge, and meet my roommate for the week, Pamela, a beautiful young woman from Kenya.

My corner of Mount Hermon for the week

Day Three, Friday April 3

The Conference begins! My hope today is to speak briefly to all four agents I’ve come to pitch Kindred to, so I can make appointments and stop stressing about it. Mount Hermon is different from conferences I’ve attended previously, regarding setting up appointments with editors and agents. The writer has to approach each of them and make the appointment privately (instead of using a sign up sheet with fifteen minute blocks of time set aside for meetings with each agent). I’m praying for opportunities, even though I don’t know what two of the agents look like as yet.

Registration starts at 10am. By then I’m wandering the grounds, looking at faces and name tags, ducking in and out of the two books stores, wandering through Hospitality. There’s lots of writers I’ve known on line that I’m anxious to meet in person. I find Patti Hill, one of the awesome Novel Matters bloggers. She is delightful and funny and greets me with a big hug. And as we are talking, up comes Agent #1. We meet and speak briefly, and it’s not even lunch yet.

One of the paths I walk each day, many times. It’s steeper than it looks. Yes, I will have dessert!

After the opening lunch, I spot Agent #2 near the Dining Hall door, so I gird up the loins and make my approach. We set up a meeting for Sunday afternoon. I submit my one sheet, synopsis and chapters through the system Mount Hermon has set up for that, which the agent will pick up to read before our meeting.

The first afternoon Workshop I choose to attend, How To Know When You Are Ready For An Agent, is led by an agent I hadn’t heard of before. I wonder should I pitch Kindred to her? I’ll wait and see. There will be agent panels tomorrow. Maybe I’ll learn what sort of projects interest her. She’s funny and informative, and halfway through the class Agent #3 slips into the back of the room. After class, I wait my turn and approach Agent #3, introduce myself, chat for a bit, and leave with another appointment to pitch Kindred on Saturday afternoon.

Outside the Dining Hall I find Karen, who asks how the day is going for me. I tell her I’ve found three of the agents I’d hoped to talk to, but Agent #4 has eluded me. Karen, it turns out, is standing in line next to Agent #4’s assistant, so she promptly introduces me. I like this woman right off, and we fall into conversation. When the Dining Hall doors open, she takes me right to Agent #4’s table and I spend part of dinner pitching Kindred to her, as well as talking about writing and story structure in general. She wants to see the word count come down but is interested in Kindred. She suggests a book for me to read to help in finding the core premise of the story, which will help me see what can still be cut. I feel I make an inarticulate bungle of this, my first serious pitch, but at least she wants to see some chapters after the conference.

A note about the food at Mount Hermon. I’d heard it was good. It is fabulous. And with all the hills I have to walk each day, I decide not give another thought to calorie counting on this trip.

After dinner, we attend our first General Session with Bill Butterworth, our keynote speaker. This man is a hoot, as well as one of the most skilled speakers I’ve heard in years. I’d call him an inspirational stand-up comic. Check out his website, if you are at all interested in learning about public speaking and communication. Bill spoke to us about Being Courageous, and Taking the Initiative.

9pm. There’s more stuff afoot for night owls (frogs, too, I reckon), but it’s bedtime for me. I wander back to my room in Pine Lodge, excited about starting my Morning Track class after breakfast tomorrow, and nervous about my two agent appointments yet to come.

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