Thursday, March 8, 2012

Of Writing and Mentors: No Need to Walk the Writing Path Alone

     Last month, my 13-year-old son earned his Life Scout rank and began work on his Eagle Scout project. Since first grade, he has tackled his merit badges, mastered his knots, and learned to cook over an open fire. He's hiked to the bottom of Grand Canyon, taken a 50-mile bike trip along the Mississippi River, and camped on Isle Royale in the Upper Peninsula.
     These milestones have been accomplished with dedication, patience, and perseverance. His success is also due to the mentors in his group, older scouts and troop leaders, who've encouraged him along the way. Without these 'cheerleaders', my son's path to Eagle would have been rocky at best.
     Like the challenges he's faced, any writer knows the path to publication is best conquered while keeping company with other like-minded people, and ideally, people with experience.
     When I started writing for children, I signed up for a week-long writer's conference. In one of my sessions, the instructor looked to one student in particular for input. Through the course of the week, I learned this woman recently had sold her first picture book. She'd been writing for five years and had sold stories to all the big children's magazines. She had been teaching writer workshops already and her first book wasn't even on the shelves! She oozed confidence.
     If my own self-esteem hadn't been lacking back then, I would have invited her to lunch. I would have asked her for advice. It appeared she had taken all the necessary steps and progressed steadily toward her goal of being an author. I wanted to know her secrets, but my timidness held me back.
     Months later, I found a local critique group made up of children's writers. Each of the six ladies were waaaay more experienced than me. Throughout our twice-monthly, two-hour meetings, we shared our stories, rejections, and acceptances. I listened. I learned. They took me under their wings.
     No matter how long you've been writing, you don't need to go it alone. The SCBWI website has ways to connect with other writers through its Discussion Boards. A similar resource is available at author Verla Kay's website; her forum is called the Message Boards. And I know I've seen fliers hanging at the local bookstore and coffee shops calling for writers to join a group.
    If you're in the beginning stages of writing, I can't encourage you enough to make connections. It can be a solitary path, writing. Don't let your lack of experience hold you back from reaching out to more experienced writers. We all began at the same starting line.
    Did someone guide you at some point during your writing career? How has this person helped you?

7 comments:

  1. Great post. And congrats to your son on going after his Eagle Scout. It's quite an accomplishment.

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  2. Excellent advice. It's possible to become isolated even when you're more experienced, because a group of eager beginners has a way of dwindling as first this one and then that one quits writing and years later you're the only one left. I think we have to continue making connections and meeting new people.

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    1. I totally agree, Marcia, because I've experienced this, too.

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  3. I have grown and learned so much as a writer (and as a person) because of my mentor, Emma Walton Hamilton. She is so enthusiastic and encouraging - and knowledgeable. She knows how to give feedback and help writers over rough spots in a manner that builds the person up. She is a gem. (She's a writer, educator, freelance editor... the list goes on. http://www.emmawaltonhamilton.com )

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  4. She sounds ideal, Beth. You are very lucky to have found a fellow writer who is so generous with her time and talent!

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  5. Wonderful post! Having a mentor or critique partner (s) is so helpful. Blogging and conferences have given me so many people to learn from and to learn with. :)

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  6. I have a wonderful critique group in YAFF.

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