How Getting My Manuscript Critiqued Helped: A Writer’s Perspective

One of my favorite parts of the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference (and there are MANY!) is meeting promising new writers. As a matter of fact, I sponsor a contest every year, through my Christian Editor Connection, called the Ethel Herr Most Promising Writer of the Year Award. This year’s winner is a gal I met at the conference and immediately felt a connection with. When other faculty members nominated her for this award, I was thrilled. Her name is Adelle Gabrielson, and she graciously sent me a post for my blog about her Mount Hermon experience. I know you’re going to love it!


Adelle GabrielsonFor years I wrote for other people.

Ads, white papers, ghostwriting. I was an excellent mimic of voice and style. I could write technical mumbo jumbo on semi-conductors and routers one day, and the next day ad copy for fine art. I bandied about words like “target audience” and “unique selling point” and “white space.”

But I never identified myself as a writer.

After fifteen years of marketing and advertising, I retired from the corporate life. And now for something completely different: motherhood! I was a parent of two by then, and found that although I no longer wrote daily for and about other things and people, my brain continued to write.

I wrote in my head as I stood at the sink or stuffed envelopes for my church, lying in bed at night and lying in bed in the morning. The words kept coming, forming patterns and ideas, flowing across the inside of my head and swirling there relentlessly until I put them down on paper or screen. I started keeping journals and jotted notes on stray bits of paper and Post-Its that I’d find later at the bottom of my purse.

But I never identified myself as a writer.

I kept writing because I had to—about myself, my family, our experiences, my faith. For five years I wrote. I wrote to process joy and I wrote to process pain. I wrote to survive the death of my mother, and I wrote to chronicle my life as a boy-mom. I started blogging. I even published a few things here and there: articles, guest posts, an anecdote or two. But still … I never identified myself as a writer.

I heard about the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference years ago. It’s right in my backyard, only forty-five minutes from where I live. But why would I go to a writers’ conference? I wasn’t a writer.

Or was I?

In April of 2013 I decided to find out. I enrolled for the conference. Then I gathered up my words, all the gumption I could carry, and the would-be chapters of a would-be manuscript that I had dreamed about while lying in bed at night and standing over the kitchen sink.

As I sat in the critique center at the Mount Hermon conference, I was nervous, intimidated by the lineup of writing coaches just waiting to “critique” my work. (Before the conference, every time I heard the word critique it sounded like “emotionally flay.”) Jan Kern, author of six books, speaker, and highly-regarded life coach, spent five minutes reading my manuscript. To my utter astonishment she looked me dead in the eye and said, “This is great.”

After I climbed back into my chair, I spent another fifteen minutes with Jan. During the remainder of the conference, I spent a great deal of time in the critique center with other faculty members—talking over ideas, reviewing my manuscript, and understanding better how to further my project, structure an outline, drill deeper into the felt needs of my target audience, and create a “story arc.”

Now my would-be manuscript has a future! And I have hope. I am equipped to move forward, knowing in which direction I need to move.

But better than all that counsel and advice was something even more dear, more precious. Tucked under my jacket as I left for home at the end of that conference was validation and encouragement from published authors, editors, experts in their field, who have now empowered me to say, with confidence:

I am a writer.

~ Adelle Gabrielson

Adelle Gabrielson is a writer, speaker, and boy-mom, who tries to live life with a little grace, a little humor, and great shoes. Visit her blog at