We’re on a journey together identifying who’s in our Village (of support), and how being part of that Village helps us on our journey to write a book (or a song, or create a picture, or become a photographer…).
Last week I wrote about the Cheerleaders in my Village – those people who helped me get ON the road to writing and have kept me on it when I’d have much preferred to quit. I’ve been blessed with fabulous cheerleaders. I hope you have too.
This week I’m talking about where in the Village we meet the people who help us learn our craft, where we get the information we need to grow and develop in our chosen field. These are our Mentors.
Although this blog focuses on writing (particularly inspirational fiction – stories with a strong thread of faith), it can be applied to anything you’re passionate about. We’re all artists of some sort. Some of us create artwork, some create amazing recipes and fabulous food, others create spaces where relationships form and thrive. So though I focus on writing, let your mind wander as to who your Mentors are (or could be) on your own journey.
Mentors are those people who know more than us in our particular field (in my case, that’s most of the writing world!) AND are willing to share their expertise in one form or another. They water our dreams, so to speak, to help us grow as artists.
Some of my mentors are people I know personally. Some I’ve met in a professional manner. Others have written books or taught classes that I’ve found helpful. All have made an impact on my writing (and on me personally).
A few of my personal mentors include Sharon Hinck (who edits my rough and not-so-rough work with endless words of encouragement), Joe Courtemanche and Valerie Comer (who are wonderful examples of using various forms of social media to the fullest), Michelle Lim (current president of MN-NICE, who has published her first book in non-fiction while continuing to pursue her passion for fiction).
There’s also Susan May Warren (a northern Minnesota gal who spends countless hours mentoring fledgling writers across the country), Julie Klassen (who shares her wisdom in the sweetest way), and Jill Elizabeth Nelson (a western Minnesota author whose Deep POV continues to pester me while I write, not to mention what MRU’s do to me).
These amazing people have taught me how to write better, stronger stories with more complex characters and tension-filled plot lines (okay, so I’m still working on that, Michelle). They’ve encouraged me to try new methods of writing, new ways to connect with readers, new media ideas, and to have fun doing it. I love them all, even though I occasionally bang my head on the desk when what they’ve taught me won’t sink in. 🙂
Professional Mentors are people I’ve met briefly (or just learned from in a workshop) but who have still had a profound impact on my writing, and on me as a professional. Cynthia Ruchti and Roxanne Rustand have spoken to our MN-NICE chapter, sharing presentations that made me look more closely at my faith on this journey. Dave Sheets also visited our group, encouraging us to think outside the box when it comes to publication and distribution. I have a love-hate relationship with new ideas.
And then there are those mentors I’ll probably never meet but from whom spill endless streams of teaching. People like Donald Maas (I filled a whole notebook taking notes at his presentation), and James Scott Bell (likewise). Both have authored amazing books on the writing craft that I have utilized and continue to recommend. There are agents who share fun and informative blogs that are highly regarded (and not just by me!) including Steve Laube and his team, and Rachelle Gardner. I’ve learned about all aspects of writing – from the ABC’s of writing a novel to getting published, marketing, reading contracts, creating a platform, etc.
Where to find mentors? At conferences, workshops, local groups, through friends, etc. Some of the better-known conferences I’ve either attended or heard rave reviews about include the ACFW Conference in September, Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, Mount Hermon, and Colorado Christian Writers Conference. What happens at a writers conference? Meeting other writers, attending workshops and presentations, agent and editor meetings, critiques, eating, writing, etc. Some are big, some smaller. I’ve made wonderful friends at conference.
Mentors, as you can see, come in all shapes and sizes, speaking into our daily life or just stopping by in the pages of a book. There’s so much to learn (and so little time!). I’m humbled and grateful for people like these who are willing to sprinkle their expertise over a novice far behind on the journey in order to help me bloom. Someday I hope I can mentor other writers.
Who are or have been your mentors?