September 11, 2020

Shadow Mentors and Tangled Roots - Carol Harrison


Shadow Mentors and Tangled Roots

Books have been a pleasure and an escape since I learned to read my first words. Libraries in the community, school, and church became my favourite hangout spots. But to be truthful, I never though much about the authors who wrote those wonderful books I read in my formative years and into early adulthood. I knew someone had worked to make a story available to readers. Authors inspired, encouraged, and gave me hours of time-filling adventures. But who were they and did they become shadow mentors?

My love-affair with stories and books continued into my adult years and I married someone who devoured stories too. We gathered books to read to our children as soon as the first one joined our family. But I stuffed that writing dream inside, told no one about my, once upon a time, enjoyment of the craft and never bothered to learn about any of the authors I enjoyed reading. By the time I took note of how often authors impacted my thinking by the words they crafted, I read stories to my grandchildren. I marveled at the nuggets of wisdom and spiritual truth writers wove throughout their stories.

But who inspired me enough to be my shadow mentor and help to reawaken the long-buried writing dream of my own? During this time of attempting to write at the request of my husband, I faced health issues and had energy to read some Christian fiction but not to learn to write or to study. Some of my favourite authors during this time and since included Karen Kingsbury who wrote about our raw, broken world and issues faced by those living in it. Her characters came alive and I felt like they lived just down the block. Often, I wondered how she picked up pieces of my own struggles and portrayed them in her fictional characters.

Lauraine Snelling, with her historical novels, fictionalized a family as she explored her own roots. I loved this idea for it brought history and family roots together the way I envisioned my own writing might become.

Jeanette Oke wrote about characters to fall in love with and what to know more about what happened to them. They were down to earth and believable. I wondered how to be able to write like that.

Robin Jones Gunn in her Sisterchicks series had main characters who were women in their 40’s, and 50’s, women I could relate to and wish I could join them on their adventures.

When I began to write, decades after I put the dream away, questions nagged me and negative thoughts fought to be heard. “I’m too old.” “I can’t do this.” To silence them, I began to investigate the story behind the books I enjoyed and the authors I read. What affirmations to read about such a variety of journeys they had walked. Some published earlier than others. Some, like Laura Ingalls Wilder, never published until age 65. There was hope for me. Some wrote prolifically and others only a few books.  

But those who I consider to have impacted my own writing journey, helped encourage me the most, and been instrumental in what I have and am still learning are writers much closer at hand. I attended my first Christian writers’ conference in Saskatoon with much fear and trembling until I met writers like Janice Dick and Marcia Laycock.

Marcia’s devotional writing on-line workshop taught me the importance of writing tight, no matter what story, book, or genre you write. I admire her ability to write in multiple genres and give generously of her time to encourage, teach, and mentor other writers along the way.

Jan welcomed me to the local community of writers, helped me believe I could write, and tell stories others might want to read. She has given excellent feedback, as well as edits and endorsements. I also learn from reading her books.

Glynis Belec has challenged, prompted, and encouraged me so much. Her sense of humor and her wise words from her own experience that she shares willingly have prodded me to try new things.

I could continue to list many more writers from Inscribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship and other writers I have come into contact with that have played a role in helping me with my writing. Some know the impact they have on me, while others are further in the shadows. Even my own family are part of those who are mentoring me by challenging me to continue to try new things, use what I already have learned, and be brave enough to put my words out for others to read.

As I worked on this blog post, I kept envisioning trees growing in less than hospitable locations. Their roots need to dig deep for support and nourishment but they also often intertwine to give more stability. Every writer I’ve enjoyed reading, those that I have come to know personally, and everyone who has challenged me have become part of the tangled roots of support and shadow mentors. It’s hard to focus on where each one begins and ends because they tie together and form a solid part of my writing journey. Sometimes, even I don’t fully understand where lessons learned and implanted have come from but I am grateful for each shadow mentor.

Carol Harrison writes from her home in Saskatoon. She loves telling stories, writes many of them down, and has some of them published. 


  1. I love that you included InScribe members in your list of mentors, Carol. I also feel like this organization and it's people have impacted my life greatly. Many of the Christian authors you mention and the image of the tangled roots also resonated with me.

  2. Inscribe writers are such a blessing. So glad you didn't put your dream away forever.

  3. Carol, what a lovely post of your shadow mentors that have been a part of your writing journey. I agree with Vickie when she says, so glad you didn't put your dream away forever.

  4. Thank you Carol, this post has inspired me to delve more deeply into the lives, the backstories of authors that have surrounded me. More importantly, I love that you highlight our Inscribe writers!

  5. Thanks, Carol, for not putting your dream away. I'm so grateful that some InScribe writers have been your mentors. And I, too, love your metaphor of the tangled roots!


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