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Monday, May 31, 2010

Writing Mentors


Last week I went to a class on being a mentor teacher. I think we've all heard statistics about teacher retention- after 5 years of teaching, almost half of all teachers will leave their profession. Yowza.

Most jobs have some sort of mentorship program, the idea being that if a master helps out a newbie that newbie will learn more and stay in the position. Teaching kind of exists in a bubble- we go into our classrooms and do our thing, often going the whole day without speaking to another adult. It's important to have another teacher you know you can turn to for advice, someone with a whole lot more experience than you have.

But writing is done in an even tighter bubble. (At least until you give the MS to your agent or editor.) I think most of us have critique groups or beta readers, but having a mentor is a little different. I haven't heard of too many writers having an honest to goodness mentor- Meg Waite Clayton mentioned Brenda Rickman Vantrease as her mentor- both are now successful authors.

So now I'm curious. Do any of you have a mentor writer you can turn to for advice?


Image from Thinklings.

25 comments:

Donna Hole said...

No; the crit group for helpful advice when I turn in a piece. We don't really interact outside of our bi monthly meetings.

But I've had good response whenever I post something on my blog with a request for assistance. So, I guess other bloggers are my mentors.

An interesting concept though.

.......dhole

SAMUEL PARK said...

Fantastic post. Eye opening--I had no idea so many teachers left the profession, and I love the parallels to writing. I'm so glad you're shining a light on mentors--God knows without mine I never would've kept writing. Thanks for this illuminating post. Excellent as always.

Stephanie Thornton said...

Donna- The blogosphere is amazing for helpful folks. I got a lot of help on my query from posting it online.

Samuel- I'm glad you have a mentor! It's important to have someone cheering us on!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

I'd love a mentor. What a concept. I do have crit partners who are great, but that is more like peers helping each other.
I'm sorry to hear so many teachers burn out. That is sad indeed.

Stephanie Thornton said...

Tricia- Peers helping each other is wonderful- I know my writing has greatly improved as a direct result of my crit partners.

Dr. Heckle said...

I do, my grandfather is a great writer and I always turn to him for advice.

VR Barkowski said...

I did have a mentor early on, a wonderful writer, who was tremendously helpful. But then she more or less took over my work and I ended up writing what she wanted me to write rather than telling the story I wanted to tell. I only wish I'd realized what was happening sooner.

Vicki Rocho said...

I didn't know teachers were leaving at rates like that. Interesting.

No mentor here...just muddling my way through as best I can. I like the idea, just don't know how you go about finding someone like that.

Bookewyrme said...

Well, I frequent forums (particularly AW Water Cooler) where a certain amount of mentoring goes on, but I don't have a mentor exactly. I kind of wish I did though. Not so much for general advice, I'd just like to have that sort of relationship with another writer.

Anyway, great post. ^_^
~Lia

J. L. Jackson said...

No, I don't. I wish I had a mentor though. I joined writing groups, but it would be nice to have one person to turn to for advice.

paulgreci said...

Stephanie, I don't have a mentor but I have had a well known writer read some of my work and give me feedback, but not on a regular basis. I have some critique partners that are peers.

Stephanie McGee said...

Consider me fully insulated in the writing bubble.

Christina Lee said...

I guess I'm in the under five year statistic!! I'm much happier now btw! ;-) Yeah I have local writer's I turn to for support! Good topic!

Amalia T. said...

I do! Well, kind of. I try not to pester him with stuff a lot-- but he is definitely my mentor. His name is Gilad Elbom, and he wrote Scream Queens of the Dead Sea. He is incredible, and I was fortunate enough to lead a writing group with him in North Dakota. Even more fortunate to still be in touch with him, and that he's willing to take a look at my stuff for me when I'm struggling. His writing style is totally different from mine, but he has an incredible voice and talent, and even though we write totally different things, he always gives me great feedback and suggestions, and I always come out the other end a better writer!

L. T. Host said...

I used to think of the teacher that taught my critique group as a mentor, but I'm not sure now that I haven't seen her in some time. I think you're right, though, every writer needs a champion-- someone who believes in your work absolutely and gives you the drive to keep going even when you don't feel like it. A champion who carries a flag for you when you are too weary. And a good mentor/ champion will give you the strength to eventually always carry your own flag.

I may have gone too far with that metaphor. Hopefully I'm making sense.

Bane of Anubis said...

No mentors, but I love the idea.

Natalie said...

I don't have a published writer mentor, but I do have friends with book deals who read my stuff, so I guess that's kind of like having a mentor. At least they're more knowledgable than I am when it comes to the publishing process.

Taryn Tyler said...

I sometimes think of authors I admire as mentors --even though half of them are already dead. I don't have any actual interaction with them of course but I learn from (and am inspired by) their work and what I learn about their lives.

Jemi Fraser said...

Interesting question. No, I don't have a mentor - but I'm lucky to have golden crit buddies.

I've been a mentor at school - it's a wonderful experience - you'll love it :)

Caroline Tung Richmond said...

Great question! It'd be awesome to have a mentor, but right now I just rely on my critique group for support. We set up a time each month to talk on Skype too, which is nice to break out of our writer bubbles. :o)

WritingNut said...

Hello - just discovered your blog.

In response to your question - not yet. No one really knows that I am embarking on this journey.

Hopefully one day!

Dominique said...

I don't have a writing mentor, but I do agree with you that it sounds like it would be a most excellent idea.

My 'mentor' I guess is the blogosphere. This community of on-line writers. We all seem to turn to each other for advice and encouragement and to pass on what we've learned along the way. I think it's great.

Lorel Clayton said...

Does following Elizabeth Anne Riley's blog count? She's terrific.

I don't know any novelists in the flesh. It's just never been a part of my ordinary world. I envy people who've grown up in a creative community.
Thank goodness I have the internet!

Kittie Howard said...

Stephanie, this is a really great question. I WISH I had a mentor. I have critiques from friends, but, to be honest, I think people are afraid that if they're honest they're not being nice. And no one wants to be thought of as not nice. Sigh!

Margo Berendsen said...

I have frequently heard of writers being mentored by published authors. I suppose they hook up with authors at conferences or, less likely, by stalking their blogs? wish there was a five step process for finding your perfect mentor, ha ha