The story below this post, CHEERING FOR OTHERS, leads into this:
How many of you have mentoring stories? Will you share them with us?
Writers tend to be self-focused, and often must be to properly tend to their profession. (MY writing, MY work toward publication, MY book promotion, and so on.) But is this the whole story? Writers know it is not.
Because, as I have become increasingly aware over the years, writers are a community of mentors and helpers.
In meetings, get-togethers, conferences, magazine articles, on the Internet and through various web sites, blogs, groups, and lists, we share ideas on, not only basic writing and promotion, but on how to figure out this web site; how to work out this Internet problem; how to submit to X, Y, or Z; where to find a cover artist, a web designer, an editor.
And we support, we encourage, we mentor.
Did/do you have a special mentor? I sure did and do. Back in the late 1980′s after many of my essays and feature articles had been published, I enrolled in an adult no-credit writing class on book writing and publishing at what was then Tulsa Junior College. The teacher, Peggy Fielding, sat on a stool in front of a room full of true novices and had us laughing in a couple of minutes. “And,” she told us, “I am assuming that every one of you knows how to write a simple, correct sentence in English.” Then she went on to pour information, examples, and rules into our heads. There were a lot of rules: how to prepare a manuscript page, how to address the editor or agent whose name, in Peggy’s example, was always “Ms Poo-Poo.” (And we darn sure better know that name and spell it correctly.) On and on, in bits and pieces we learned the writing business. We heard, over and over, “write every day.” She so firmly believed in this that, at the beginning of each class, every single person present was called on and asked, “Did you write every day?” We soon learned that we had better be ready to answer “yes” honestly, or at least lie about it. Being sick was no excuse. “Fevered brains come up with some magnificent ideas.” (Peggy lived up to this years later when, recovering from a serious illness, she wrote in her hospital bed.)
In her class, she somehow, magically, made us believe we could do it. We could, and would, be published. By the end of that class each member had written a query letter that passed muster with Peggy and the rest of the class. Each member had begun writing his or her book. Each of us finished that class with a firm can-do feeling that (for me at least) lasted through future trials and rejections until–finally–I DID do it! And so did many of my classmates.
Peggy and I became friends and fellow members of Tulsa Nightwriters, a support group for writers at all stages of their careers. I am still a member of that group. And, I ended up taking every single writing class Peggy offered, no matter what the subject. I took the final classes after we had moved to Arkansas, commuting to Tulsa for every class session. Why? Thinking back–beyond the knowledge, she was an almost constant cheer-leader in my writing life. (And, in fact, still is. I even have a photo of her on my desk, a serious, black and white picture of a stern-looking woman I can hear saying “Get busy, you can do it!”)
Okay, that’s my mentoring story. Will you share your’s?