Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mentorship Joys

For the past seven months I have been serving as a mentor to two wonderful writers through a mentorship program sponsored by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Individuals apply to be mentored by completing an entire book-length manuscript for young readers and submitting the first chapter, a synopsis, and a letter explaining how they believe they would benefit from a mentor relationship. Prospective mentors - well-established published authors - review the applications and make their selections.

Last year I chose five mentees and adored working with all of them; this year, because of my own writing deadlines, I forced myself to choose only two, although it broke my heart to turn promising writers away. The mentorship is a big time commitment: mentors and mentees pledge to meet together once a month for six months. The mentor has a lot of advising to do. The mentee has a lot of revising to do. I wanted to make sure I could give each of my mentees my very best.

This week I had my final meeting with both of them. Each of them has completed an amazingly extensive revision of an already strong manuscript. One of them worked primarily on situating the reader completely in each riveting scene, not rushing but developing tension between the characters slowly and believably. The other worked primarily on point of view, which had been all over the place in the original manuscript. Now the point of view alternates chapter-by-chapter between the two protagonists, and the reader gets to watch the trajectories of each story inexorably converge. Both writers tried to get away with fairly quick concluding chapters, but now each one is giving the reader a totally satisfying ending with tears and laughs and the sense that the story ended up exactly where the reader most wanted it to go.

I love being a writing mentor almost more than I have loved anything. I am so proud of what these two writers have accomplished since January. I am so proud that I was able to play some small role in helping them to accomplish it.


  1. Claudia - By no means was your role small. You have a kind, sweet way of making suggestions and a skill at explaining why the change needs to happen. You're truly a gifted teacher. You also go out of your way to find positive things to complement the manuscript which makes it easier to accept the problems without feeling defeated. I learned tons and would highly recommend the experience and you particularly as a mentor. You're worth your weight in GOLD!

  2. Aw, shucks, Peggy! I loved every single minute of working with you.