As I was mulling over this month's prompt, I found myself in somewhat of a quandary: although I've attended numerous conferences, workshops and courses, submitted my work to writers-in-residence, and participated in writing groups, I wasn't sure whom to identify as a specific mentor who's given me "insight and encouragement" on my writer's journey.
I decided that the best place to begin answering this question was with a definition of mentoring. I found this description at the National Center for Women and Information Technology:
Mentoring is a process through which an individual offers professional expertise as well as support to a less experienced colleague. A mentor serves as a teacher, counselor, and advocate to a protégée... The intent of mentoring is not to remediate weak performance, but rather to shape a career that shows promise.
I remembered submitting a piece to Wayson Choy when he was the visiting writer-in-residence at my local library. It was he who powerfully spoke the words, "You are a writer," and made me feel that it was really true. Then I remembered previously writing something about that experience here and found this post on affirmation.
But think how crazy my life must have been this year for me to forget the most important mentor-student relationship I've had to date, apart from being a life-long reader who has learned from others by osmosis. And to have forgotten when it only took place over the last twelve months! I was embarrassed when it struck me that the answer lay so near. If you are reading this, Jane Ann, a thousand apologies for not thinking of you immediately.
- "You write very well - keep on going, you'll get this story written and it will be great!"
- "What a gift for words you have."
- "You are a good writer, and you’re here to learn. You have not made a single mistake here that I didn't make in my learning years, many times."
She also provided helpful feedback to improve my writing, pointing out what I couldn't initially see for myself, given my proximity to the story. She helped me identify my particular writing weaknesses and strengths, showing me ways to overcome the former and build on the latter. In my testimonial at the end of the course, I wrote: "Working on my novel-in-progress with Jane Ann over a 9-month mentorship has been a blessing and an encouragement. Although I have had to rethink my story and start over from the beginning, I know it will be a much better work because of her insight and direction. I look forward to working with her again in the future and highly recommend her to anyone who needs a strong set of editorial eyes."
Have I finished my novel? Alas, no; those eldercare issues grew more prominent after the new year and even more so after Covid hit mid-March. My mom fell in June and is scheduled for a pacemaker this month (unrelated issues). It was difficult to fit in the necessary writing time.
But I did finish the story I was working on when I first met Jane Ann and it is good. All I need to do now is decide on whether to self-publish it as an ebook or find a more traditional publisher.
If you haven't worked with a mentor in this formal way, I do suggest it. A mentor "knows things" and is willing to build into your life so that you can succeed as well.
You can find out more about Susan Barclay's writing at www.susan-barclay.blogspot.com