Saturday, June 1, 2013


Today registration opens for the North/Central California SCBWI Novel-Writing Mentorship Program (gosh, say that five times fast!).  This is a program designed to pair writers of middle grade and young adult novels with authors working and publishing in those genres.  And I am thrilled (and terrified) to have been chosen as a mentor.

You see, back in 2009, I was selected to be a mentee in the Nevada SCBWI Mentorship Program.  It changed my writing and how I approach it.  It made my books better.  When I wrote about it in August of 2010 on the YA Muses blog, I wrote this:

I was placed in a critique group with the calmest, most incisive and straight-talking critiquer I have ever met:  Susan Hart Lindquist.  Susan took my book apart and told me to put it back together.  In a nice, calm, incisive, straight-talking way.  I quietly freaked out, went home and did exactly as she said.

In the course of six months, I learned about arcs and archetypes.  I learned about the transformational quality of story.  I demanded too much from my 10-year-old character and he became twelve.  He gained another friend, a girl.  I learned about alchemy and time-travel.  I read masterful stories by brilliant authors of whom I'd never heard.  I struggled.  And Susan was always there.  She never sugar-coated, she never let me slide, but she always, always told me I could do it.

Unfortunately, the book I was working on had a frighteningly similar premise to one that his the New York Times bestseller list in October 2009.  Susan told me not to give up hope.  She berated me on Facebook when I posted that I felt dejected.  She told me my book was different.  She told me everything I needed to know to keep going.

But I didn't.  I set it aside.  I returned to the book I'd begun when she was reading my ill-fated middle-grade novel.  And I applied all that she'd taught me.  I thought through, in advance, character arc and story arc and archetypes.  I heard her whispers as I struggled to get my character to internalize emotionally as well as react.  This book has Susan's whispers all the way through it.

That book was GILT.  I have now written five novels, and to all of them I apply what I learned in that program.  I only hope that I can pass that knowledge on to my own mentees with the same calm, incisive, straight-talking way.  I know I will do my best, and I am beyond excited to meet and work with new writers.

I finished my blog in 2010 with this:  That is the mark of a good mentor.  Like Obi-Wan Kenobi, muttering about the Force in the dark, a good mentor remains in a person's psyche, bound to that person's work and future.

I can't guarantee I'll be a Yoda.  But I work bloody hard on my own books, and will apply the same drive and determination to whoever my mentee may be.  And I'm not the only one!  The North/Central SCBWI has an amazing list of mentors including Talia Vance, Kate Messner, Amy Goldman Koss...These people really know what they're talking about.  Sometimes, I wish I could apply.


  1. Thanks for posting this Katherine! Been thinking about signing up, but wondering if the cost would be worth the value. Sounds like for you it was! My hubby has agreed that it might make a nice early birthday and Hanukkah shopping for him, more help for my Yay!

    1. Sounds like the deal I made with my husband before the Nevada mentorship! I found it so worthwhile--best of luck with your decision!