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.