finding a writing mentor

Of course, I know what you’re visualizing: you walk into a workshop or writing class and lo! JamesPattersonStephenKingRKRowling [or author of your choice] is participating in the workshop when a selection of your writing is presented to the group. And JamesPattersonStephenKingRKRowling [or author of your choice] loves your writing sample! And you! They love you! Why, by golly, you two (or three or four) hit it off so darn well that the next thing you know, you’re all having drinks in the bar and JanetReidNathanBransfordJessicaFaust [or agent of your choice] walks up to see what all the fuss is about. Then JamesPattersonStephenKingRKRowling [or author of your choice] tells JanetReidNathanBransfordJessicaFaust [or agent of your choice] how you two just met and what a fabolicious writer you are and . . .

The neighbor’s dog barks and wakes you up from your nap.

But that’s how we all visualize a mentor stepping into our lives, isn’t it? And it’s not so far off the reality scale that it doesn’t actually happen from time to time. Michael Hughes acquired his agent by attending a workshop and gaining a referral. I acquired my first agent by attending creative writing classes taught by a published author and attending a convention where she introduced me to her agent.

However, this time around, my circumstances are a little different. I have family and job related obligations that prevent me from hitting the conference circuit as much as I would like.

I’m also something of an introvert. I’m just fine behind the computer, but the minute you put me around real, breathing people, my brain goes into a seizure and all I can do is blurt horribly interesting phrases like: Ohmygod-it’s-really-you-I-adore-your-books/blog-I’ve-written-a-book-and-when-you’re-done-in-the-bathroom-can-we-talk-I-sound-like-a-total-jackass-right? Am I right?

Oh yeah. Let’s face it, if I was socially adept, I’d be in marketing or sales, not cataloging books in the library basement.

Of course, my hearing (or general lack thereof) also plays a large factor in my adaption to an online life. I can’t interact in a face-to-face conversations the way I can online, because I often miss words or in some cases entire sentences in face-to-face conversations. Traveling alone is a nightmare for me, because PA systems in airports that are semi-intelligible to most people might as well be in Chinese to me.

Because my own circumstances have changed so dramatically since my last adventure in writing and publishing, I thought I’d take a different approach to writing mentors this time. The online atmosphere suits me just fine and allows me to interact with other people in ways I haven’t done in years. In the beginning, I lurked and read blogs without commenting, then I started following this great lady named Kathryn Magendie.

I was enchanted by her enthusiasm, her voice, and the wonder she had of seeing her first novel published. She spoke from her heart, and it was a joy to watch her career take off. She taught me to be grateful for every success, no matter how small, but to always strive for greater achievements. You see, Kathryn was my first online writing mentor, and she has turned into a great online friend.

The same has held true for Lisa Mannetti, who encourages novices to the publishing world with her own brand of enthusiasm and wise guidance. Elizabeth Spann Craig has been kind enough to tweet some of my posts, but she writes a wonderful blog of her own that I’ve followed for some time. Elizabeth’s blog, Mystery Writing is Murder, has been recognized as one of Writers Digest’s 101 Best Websites for Writers.

Other authors who’ve served as mentors to me (whether they know it or not), are: Alex Bledsoe, Erica HayesRobert Dunbar, Hilary Wagner, Corrine De Winter, Jen K. Blom, and Joe McKinney. They have patience with people like me, who are seeking publication, in addition to a great devotion to the craft of writing. They all lead by example and share their knowledge or insights through their blogs and Twitter.

In my turn, I try to support them by buying their books, commenting on their blogs, and following their careers. That’s how I can give back to them for their generosity of spirit to me.

So tell me: do you have a published author that you use as a mentor? How do they encourage you and do you support their work? And if you’re published, did you have mentor and do you try to mentor others?

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About T. Frohock

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25 Responses to finding a writing mentor

  1. joemckinney says:

    Great post! And thanks for the high praise! I’m honored to be mentioned in such distinguished company.

  2. Thanks so much for the mention, Teresa!

    Jim and Joyce Lavene have been and still are my publishing mentors. They write mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime and Midnight Ink and have been really helpful offering advice to me on the publishing industry.

    In turn, I’ve tried to help out others by connecting them with resources or providing some industry information to share. It’s a tough business and we all need a little help!

    • Hi Elizabeth, you do a great job of keeping all of us informed with your tweets, and I really enjoy your blog. Thank you so much for taking time to comment.

  3. Kelly Bryson says:

    Hey Teresa- I consider you a friend, but you’re also that person that I go to when I don’t have an answer. Sort of mentor-y, I think.
    It has amazed me how supportive writers are of each other. We could teach something to the movie stars, I think;) And several of the writers you mentioned- Hilary and Kathryn- would fall in to that same mentor category, although our interaction has been through FB and blogging and not face to face or at conferences.

  4. Glynis Smy says:

    Sadly my online mentor is very ill and cannot communicate with me at the present.
    I love my blog and The Important Ones, they all keep me focused.
    Kathryn and Elizabeth are great support to aspiring writers, and give me encouragement, as do you Teresa. Nadine Laman has been great, as have Emily Bryan and Helen Ginger.
    I am a hermit in Cyprus, so no chance of conferences for me, unless I fly to UK or US.
    My writing ‘group’ is my bloggy world. I share my joys and disasters as you know. I learn from others on theirs. The Internet is a wonderful place for me. I would like to go to one conference in my life I think, just to say I have been. 🙂

    • I’m so sorry to hear that your online mentor is ill, Glynis. I know the relationships we form online can be as wonderful as the friendships we make in our local writers groups. I do hope you get the opportunity to attend a conference someday. They are a wonderful resource for writers, and offer good advice and companionship, in addition to giving us that creative boost we so desperately need sometimes.

  5. erikamarks says:

    Teresa, I am woefully new at all this blogging business but I’ve been so impressed and grateful at how quickly a genuine community can come about. Wish I’d started sooner! I do know how valuable feedback from other authors can be. I remember in the early days of my writing when email was just getting started, I sent a question to the author JoAnn Ross and she sent me back a lovely and thoughtful reply, which I was so grateful for! I think it’s so important for writers to support each other. Especially as we grow and gain experience. It can feel like such a solitary effort so much of the time, no matter how much we love it and can’t imagine doing anything else.

  6. tikiman1962 says:

    I haven’t had any mentors (in the traditional sense) in over twenty-five years since I was last in college. (Wow! that’s a long time.) to a certain degree, my membership in the KWA (Kansas writer’s Association) has put me in the company of B.D Tharp (previous president and author of “Feisty Family Values”) and Erin O’Donnell who is a freelance writer and webmaster for the organization. Those two ladies especially have been as encouraging and helpful as anyone. So perhaps they are mentors. Also a shout-out to Charles salberg who I met at the KWA conference this year and was sooooo amazingly encouraging and supportive in only a one-day conference. Then again, he is a teacher and that showed through intensely.

  7. Lua says:

    OMG! How did you know about my dream??!! 🙂 (but seriously though- wouldn’t it be sooo cool?)
    I attended a workshop four years ago when I first became serious about writing and a famous author was giving lectures and helping us with our stories. For two years, he was my mentor and I have an undying gratitude for him. He made it all so much fun and helped me to get over my fear of reading my work to strangers.

  8. @Erika, isn’t it amazing? And I like what you had to say about community. I think that’s what it’s all about, and I’ve always found writers to be a supportive and wonderful group of artists to hang out with.

    @HB, I don’t believe a mentor is someone who has to shepherd us through our every writing-related issue. Like you, I see a mentor as someone who teaches us in a variety of ways. I’ve learned something new and valuable from all the published authors I’ve had the privilege to know.

    @Lua, regarding the dream: I told you I write fantasy! 😉 I wish I’d been like you and teachable my first time around. A great mentor (of which I had several) is useless if the student is hardheaded and determined to do things her own way. I’m glad to have a second opportunity when I’m more receptive to instruction.

  9. michaelmhughes says:

    Great post, as usual, and thanks for the mention. As my mentor, Tom Monteleone, says whenever I think him: “Do it for someone else.” Remember to be a mentor, too. There’s always someone who could use some guidance or support.

  10. jenniferneri says:

    thanks, /teresa, to the great links here – can’t wait to explore…

    • Hi, Jennifer! I’m sorry I’m taking so long to get around to everyone, but I’ve had some Internet issues at home. We hope they’ll be resolved soon. Thanks for stopping by!

  11. kat magendie says:

    I was behind in my blog walking and came here not knowing you blogged about this – and imagine how stunned I was to see my name – and then the flush of pleasure and delight and shy and HONOR I felt — this made my day shine bright bright bright.

    . . . thank you . . .

  12. I admire so many writers who have been generous enough to spend time and energy answering my questions and encouraging me. I suppose that makes them my mentors…as I look to their work and professional standards and public character as that which I’d like to emulate. The people that come to mind are Randy Susan Meyers, Allison Winn Scotch and Tina Ann Forkner (three names all, how about that!). I’m sure there are more but that’s who pops to mind right away.

    • Thanks for sharing those authors with us, Amy. I think it’s such a great community to be involved with and the outpouring of support and help is marvelous.

  13. Amy Bai says:

    Hah, Teresa, that’s an awesome dream. And a lovely shout-out post. 🙂 Like you, I prefer my human contact online most of the time (not that I’ve been able to swing a conference yet, but I dream… and cringe).

  14. lawrenceez says:

    Hi, Teresa. Personally, I don’t really go in for mentors. I would simply write and keep on writing and market your book to the best of your abilities and keep on persevering in the belief that it will happen.

  15. missdotcom says:

    WOW. I would love a dream like that too 😀 I don’t really have a mentor but I’m following Randy Ingermanson’s snowflake method. I wish I knew where to find a mentor though. I’m such a newbie 🙂

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