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.