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  • Writer's pictureallieyohn

Mentorship in the writing community

I've been writing for decades, with little success.

Turns out that combining imposter syndrome, severe mental illness, and hyper criticality towards one's own work are not the formula to getting an extensive list of publication credits.

(I'm as shocked by that as you are.)

As a writer:

  • I have a website.

  • I've served as a Municipal Liaison for NaNoWriMo and have completed the challenge multiple times in the past.

  • I have done full-blown manuscript swaps multiple times, often with great feedback about my work.

  • I even have a few (very few) publication credits to my name.

So can someone tell me why, when one of my two favorite former English teachers (hi Betsy!) reached out to me to discuss mentorship, I was instantly confused that she wanted me to be the mentor?

I'd like to think I recovered quickly, but my initial response was akin to the confusion a caveman would feel if faced with the frosty interior of a supermarket.

My brain completely glitched and all I could say out loud was "what? Who?"

I mentally looked around for the adult in the room... and then realized it was me.

I'm the adult.

I'm the person with knowledge.

The idea was as laughable as it was terrifying.

I have my own mentors/friends in the writing community and can honestly say that I'm a better writer because of them.

Kristina Grifant gives the best advice about short stories and has numerous website resources to help writers.

Misty Simon and Dave Brosius are the enthusiastic cheerleaders who (try to) help me kick my imposter syndrome to the curb. They're both hysterical and I have a feeling that if they ever met in real life they'd become best friends.

Eunice Magill was the first person to professionally edit something I wrote, which was a great learning experience for me in keeping the story alive (I typically edit my writing until it bleeds and dies).

Jonathan Maberry is everyone's mentor when it comes to the business of publishing. Aside from hosting The Writer's Coffeehouse every month, he supports others on their writing journey by putting a section of "free stuff for writers" on his website. Plus, he rocks a Hawaiian shirt like no one's business.

I think of all of these people, and so many more, as mentors.

They are the adults in the room with all the answers.

Them, not me.

Then I connected with the writer that Betsy wanted me to mentor.

I read their story and thought "what do they need me for?"

Her name is also Allie and she is an extremely gifted writer. Based on their story, I have no doubt that they will become fairly well-known in the writing community, particularly to those in the fantasy genre.

But their story wasn't where they needed help and mentorship.

No, they needed help with the business side of writing. Thanks to the years I've spent gathering resources and information like a squirrel preparing for winter, I was able to assist them.

I sent them resources for proper manuscript formats, groups that they should join (like SFWA), how to write queries, websites with resources from working writers that discussed story structure, groups focused on upcoming story calls, and a website to track their story submissions.

Most of all, I explained that their "short" story was actually a novelette, which helped them to understand the markets they needed to pursue for publication.

It makes me wonder if this is why so many programs (like SinC and HWA) sometimes have trouble finding enough mentors for the people who want to be a mentee.

Too many writers still see themselves as being at the beginning of their writing journey, even when they've taken a few laps around the track.

I believe it's possible that most writers feel they have nothing to offer newer writers.

And they're wrong.

I was wrong.

No matter where we are in our writing journey, we can still be mentors to each other. We can jump over that initial "who, me?" reaction and share the knowledge we do have.

We can take a look in the mirror (or the shiny surface of our computer screen) and realize that we are the adults in the room, even if we sometimes need adultier adults to help us too.

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