Saturday, September 19, 2015

Do You Want a Children's Book Writing Mentor?

One of the most satisfying experiences of my long and varied writing career has been participating in the Michelle Begley Mentor Program of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Editors. Michelle created the program a number of years ago to foster interaction between established and aspiring children's book authors. She died in a tragic car accident last year, and the program now bears her name.

Here's how the program works. It's for serious writers who have already completed a full-length book manuscript and now want to revise it into publishable form with one-on-one guidance from a professional in the field. If accepted, you work for several months closely with your mentor, who reads your work and gives extensive supportive but critical commentary on it, working with you through multiple drafts until it's as good as you can make it right now.

I've lost track of how many people I've worked with over the past four or five years: maybe a dozen? I've loved each one so much. I just spent four hours one day this past week giving extremely detailed comments on fifty pages of the second draft of one's hilarious middle-grade novel, commenting on everything from lack of clarity in the character arc to implausibilities in details of the classroom setting to comma errors - with tons of comments on every page like "Ha!"and "So great!" and "OMG!!"

I don't consider myself to be a great writing teacher. I don't really know how to tell someone how to write a book. But if someone has already written a book, and hands it to me, then I'm on fire to offer all I can, distilled from thirty-five years of experience, to make it better. I feel that I can instantly see what a book needs to move it to that next level of greatness. Well, sometimes instantly. Sometimes I need to ponder for a while. But, oh, the joy of seeing the stronger, clearer structure of the story emerge - to add missing scenes that were needed to give emotional depth - to cut superfluous scenes that were mere distraction - to fix up those commas!!

The application window for this year's program is NOW: September 15-October 15. Information on how to apply is available here. I know most of the other mentors: they're all wonderful.

So if you want a mentor to move forward in your writing, and you're an SCBWI member, apply! (And if you're not an SCBWI member, join and then apply!) Magic can happen.

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