Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Ask the Authors: Tuesday

Welcome back to Ask the Authors Week! If you have a question you'd like to ask, send it to charisconnection@gmail.com. Enjoy!

Have you ever had a mentor? How did that work out for you? (Very helpful. Moderately helpful. Not helpful at all.)

A fine writer approached me after I'd written four books and offered to be a mentor for me. This writer was very helpful with insights about the publishing world, suggesting that I write for a particular reader and advised certain books for me to read about writing, yet we didn't remain in touch. It was not a face to face mentoring, which I think might have sustained it; after a time I felt that I was just "using" this person who gave answers to questions. I felt I couldn't give much back to this author and I think that in good mentoring relationships, both parties have to see that they have something to give. I have mentored other authors since then and always feel like I gain something from the encounter. This author suggested the mentoring as a tithe of the author's skills. Maybe I just needed more practice in receiving. --Jane Kirkpatrick

Only if you can consider the books of great writers--their novels and their books about writing--as mentors. If so, I've had many. -BJ Hoff

I can't say I've had one mentor that has helped me all along the way. But I've had several people in my life who, for different lengths of time, have helped me in different situations. I would love a mentor, though. I've always wanted one. -- Rene Gutteridge

Yes, but it was someone who began writing at the same time I did, so what would she know? She was very opinionated and irritating, constantly nagging me about silly characters with no motivation, or irrational actions. She was also always complaining about purple prose. Imagine my amazement as I grew as a writer, and grudgingly took my mentor's advice, to discover she was right most of the time. It worked quite well. She still finds problems, complains about characters, and is often helpful. --Hannah Alexander

Not only very helpful, inspirational. My answer is not meant to be flippant, please don’t take it as such. But I have had, and continue to have, hundreds of mentors, among them: Milton, Dickens, Hugo, Paul, the Apostle, Shakespeare; and the more contemporary, Lewis, Harper Lee, Wouk, Michener, Koontz, Gerritsen, and King. Though some are no longer breathing, they are still very much alive in my library and in my life. I have learned more about writing and what it is to be a writer through the preserved thoughts on my library shelves than any other source. Where else can you so intimately get inside someone’s mind? Daily my mentors teach me, humble me, inspire me. — Jack Cavanaugh

My early mentor, via the printed page, was Lawrence Block, whose fiction column in Writers Digest was my "sacred page" each month. When I began to wander into the thicket of publication, I benefited greatly from the sage advice and encouragement of our very own Jack Cavanaugh. It's 17 novels now. You can blame him. -- James Scott Bell

I’ve not had the privilege of actually working one on one with an older or more experienced writer who took me under their wing, but there are many talented writers I view as mentors, including several right here on Charis Connection. In addition, my wonderful critique partner, though she hasn’t been writing or published as long as I have, has taught me much about the craft, and is someone whose professional opinion I value as I would any mentor’s. ––Deborah Raney

I've had spiritual mentors but have never had a writing mentor. I got started back in the typewriter days, well before the Internet brought people together so easily. If I was starting over today, perhaps it would be different. -- Robin Lee Hatcher

No. Perhaps I should have. Probably would have kicked less cabinets that way. ~ Brandilyn Collins

I've never approached someone to be my mentor in any formal kind of way, but there are certain respected authors whose work inspires me and to whom I turn occasionally if I have questions. Rather than seeking advice from one person over and over, I've asked several different authors' opinions over the years and have learned so much in the process. -- Liz Curtis Higgs

No, I haven't. I'm still looking for one. Madelaine L'Engle said, "Find yourself a wrinkle and travel on out of here!" Annie Dillard laughed in my face and went back to looking at stuff in her creek. Larry McMurtry told me to take the next horse out of town and Anne Tyler said, "You're kidding, right? Here. Because I'm a nice lady, have some Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant on me." lisa samson

I had a mentor I never met. I don't remember where I read about doing this, but I very much admired Dean Koontz's work and he became a sort of mentor for me. I pored over his How to Write Best-Selling Fiction and then studied his work in depth. Some of it he cited as examples in the Best-Selling Fiction book, but the rest I just went through. I copied out parts of it, sentence by sentence to see what he was doing with each word, comparing his openings or characters with my own. It was extremely helpful and I've written about it on my website in an article called "Mentoring Without Meeting."

What was cool was when The Light of Eidon was published, I marshaled my courage and sent him a copy along with a letter explaining his part in what I had done. I figured he’d never see the book, but it was something I was led to do. In return he sent me a long, very kind, personal letter and two signed hardcover copies of his books. That was an amazing day for me! -- Karen Hancock

I had a mentor who was invaluable in showing me the ropes on magazine features writing. It was great because he not only answered all of the questions that I would have felt sheepish asking editors—he also kicked some doors open for me (one magazine he introduced me to eventually hired me and, after a couple of years, promoted me to editor-in-chief). In fiction writing (and particularly in Christian fiction), I would say that my first editor (who is also still a much better fiction writer than I am) did a great job of getting me oriented. -- Tom Morrisey

Not really, unless you count the editors who patiently explained things and the authors of the many writing books I studied. –Angela Hunt

My editor, Julee Schwarzburg, is the closest I've ever had to a mentor where craftsmanship is concerned. She's helped me greatly in realizing my areas of weakness and where I need to continue to improve in my writing. Francine Rivers has been a mentor on the spiritual side of writing. She's a great encourager and I can always count on her to speak truth to me. Both situations have been immensely helpful, and both people are precious to me. --Karen Ball


At 3:10 PM, Blogger Karen said...

This is interesting. I would have guessed that most of you had steady real-life mentors.

I'd like someone to be my Mr. Miyagi and to teach me how to "wax on and wax off" in the Christian writing industry.


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