Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Mentors in Writing: Do You Need One?

One of the topics I often hear writers whispering about is finding a writing mentor. And we all are admonished that you can't just grab the arm of someone you'd LIKE to mentor you and say, "Oh, you must! You're a Christian, aren't you?"

Guilting a person into mentoring you doesn't work. (Nor tying her up and throwing her into your car.)Plus, the very person you choose to mentor you is no-doubt a busy person writing her own novels,marketing, etc., or you wouldn't have even noticed her.

So, you pray. "Please, Lord, You know I need someone to mentor me in writing. Send someone today. Make it clear who this person is/persons are."

And let's say someone does want to mentor you! Joy! They offer to read some opening pages, your synopsis or even to sit down and help you plot a course to follow to reach your goals.(They have these "mentor appointments" available this year at the ACFW Conference. And guess what? They are all filled up! Next year!) Maybe this person offers to introduce you to certain people who can help you at conference. (If you are a Christian fiction writer, you must join ACFW. It's the best place to be.)

Check the Conference Details for 2010!

Literary agent Chip MacGregor on The Writers View (You have to request to join this yahoogroup) once set up mentoring groups based on Paul, Barnabas and Timothy in the New Testament. You were labeled either a Paul (mentor,) Barnabas (peer group,) or Timothy (mentee--this doesn't mean your breath was fresh...)Some were in all three categories, and some, just one. He really worked hard on matching people up.The point was to set up a Paul with a Timothy and then put you into a friend group, Barnabas.

I don’t know if any of them worked out because of exactly what Cec Murphey was talking about once, "so many expectations." When you come to a group or a relationship with expectations, because we are human, you can be disappointed. It doesn't always work out, but don't give up hope. I do think it CAN work out and that yes,you may move on, or your mentor may move on, but you will get something out of these liaisons. It's a process. And some day you may become a mentor.

Betty Southard in her book, The Mentor Quest said about mentor myths: “Even the title ‘mentor’ often scares away a potential mentor or seeker. It implies lessons, structure, discipline, accountability, and maybe most discouraging, time…we don’t really want to spend a lot of time working on growth.”

Here’s what she says the “mentee’s” part is:
1. Personal responsibility for own growth
2. Look for mentoring in everyday activities and chance encounters.
3. Recognize the mentors around you.
4. Wherever you are, maintain a teachable spirit.

She says to list people who make a difference in your life: (I adjusted it to writing)
1. Teachers from school/conferences/editors/agents
2. Three writer friends
3. Five people who taught you writing
4. A few people who made you feel appreciated or special in writing
5. Five people (writers) whom you enjoy spending time
6. Heroes (Authors) whose stories (writing journeys, as well as what they write)inspire you

These people mentor you.(Jot these people down right now and think about writing them a thank you note or send them chocolate!)

You can also be any of the above at one point or another.

I've found that in ACFW, we have built-in mentors. There are courses, local writers who help you find your path in the chapters and zones, a conference (this year in Indianapolis--are you going?) and any number of opportunities that come on the forums. There are countless blogs with teaching going on, too. I like to haunt various agent blogs and a couple editor blogs, as well as published writer blogs, because there is always a discussion going on about writing in those places.

So, who will I see at ACFW Conference in ten days??? (And will you be my mentor? I'll be yours!)

Check out the ACFW local chapters in your area once you join ACFW, too. Lots of mentoring going on there.


Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Crystal -

I won't be at ACFW, but I do belong to the organization.

For awhile, I thought I needed a mentor with a capital "M." Over the years, I've discovered mentors come in all shapes and sizes. Each person has a specific area of expertise.

My greatest mentor is the Lord (definately a capital "M"). When I go to Him with a problem or request, He always puts me in the path of those who can help.

Susan :)

Christine Lindsay said...

We sure need people to bounce our thoughts off for sure.

Cara Putman said...

I'll be there! but you knew that :-)

Colleen Coble said...

Fabulous post, Crystal!

Crystal Laine said...

Susan, I keep praying for you. I know you have a teachable spirit and you have mentored so many, as well.

Cara and Colleen--you are on my mentor list! Thank you for stopping by and I can't wait to see you.

Such good writers!

Crystal Laine said...

Christine, love your writing! And I'm glad you've found people to encourage you because I wish for you to stay encouraged and KEEP ON WRITING.

Story and Logic Media Group said...

Thanks for the plug.People from ACFW put their arms around me like angel's wings. It's a wonderful group of Christians who are writers.

ACFW Membership Officer