What writers want: a mentor

I am incredibly excited to have won, after a fierce bidding battle, six months of mentoring with the lovely YA writer Susie Day, in the Authors for Japan auction.  On the way to meet a friend last night, I literally jumped off a tube train half-way there before I lost the signal on my iphone, so that I could stay in the running! 

Working with Susie is an amazing opportunity – the kind that becomes increasingly harder to find once you wave good-bye to your 20s.   When I started my first job, as a History teacher in a girls boarding school, I had a wonderful Head of Department called Julie who took me under her wing.  Having written numerous text books, spoken at education forums, and inspired thousands of students with her wonderful teaching, it was an honour to be supported and encouraged by her – especially in that first year on the job when I spent many a lunch break crying in the staff room!  I left that position many years ago, and I’ve been a ‘newbie’ in a number of other industries since, but I’ve never again had the support of anyone quite like her.

A quick google of ‘mentoring for writers’ reveals a lot of professional services for writers, but not so many personal ones, which is what mentoring needs to be to be truly meaningful.  The Literary Consultancy’s Chapter and Verse Mentoring Service at the Free Word Centre is worth checking out.  It has the backing of the Arts Council, and offers mentoring over a one-year period.  Each writer who applies is matched with the most suitable mentor, and there is a full TLC editorial assessment upon completion of the course.

Mentoring can take many forms though.  As well as being a commitment between two people at very different stages in their careers, it can also be a partnership between two people working in very different spheres.  This morning, there was a lovely surprise in my inbox.  A friend of a friend is a musician working on her first album, and she’s asked me to form a creative friendship with her that involves the two of us meeting regularly to share our work: she – her lyrics and music; me – my latest chapter.  The two of us usually stick to our own spheres (her hubby is a pianist and I meet my little group of girly writers every week) so we’re keen to see what blossoms when two very different creative endeavours intersect!

2 Responses to “What writers want: a mentor”
  1. Judith says:

    Hi Michelle, I’ve applied for mentorships and been turned down. Obviously they don’t have time to explain to every applicant why applications are unsuccessful. Do you have any tips on how to succeed? At what stage of your writing career were you when you applied for a mentor? Thanks!

    • Michelle says:

      Hi Judith, I’m sorry to hear you haven’t found a mentorship yet! I know the mentoring services like to match you up with someone who is best suited to your genre / writing style / etc. I was very lucky to ‘win’ Susie Day in an online auction. I’m only 20 000 words into my novel (about 1/4 way there), and I’ve found it really useful in this early stage. I’m already introducing another character – something I’m glad I’m not doing at the end of the novel! One of my critique group partners has a mentorship too, and she’s 40 000 words into her novel. I’ve heard great things about Bubble Cow, who offer mentorships as well as an editing service: http://bubblecow.co.uk/mentoring/ Good luck!

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