Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mentors: Do You Need One? Can You Find 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 out this year's ACFW Conference! Come to the booksignings by all of your favorite authors!

Literary agent Chip MacGregor on The Writers View (You have to request to join at 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 concerning mentors, "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.

You can also be any of the above at one point or another.(Take time right now to jot these people down and make a point to send them a thank you note--or even chocolate, ahem--even if it wasn't a formal relationship.

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. 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.

And do come back to Hoosier Ink. We have great writers, published or not, who are willing to share from their experiences. Don't be afraid to ask us questions (individuals or the group, even right here in the comments) and you'll find people who love writing as you do. If you live in Indiana and have joined ACFW, do come check out our state meetings. Lots going on with this group!

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

Crystal Laine Miller


  1. Looking forward to seeing you Crystal. You have been a great writing buddy.

  2. Crystal, can't wait to see you!
    WHAT A WONDERFUL article!!!

    I LOVE having writer soulmates (aka mentor/mentee) Sometimes God switches the roles on us!


  3. Sharon, I haven't seen you for too long. Looking forward, too!

    And Patti, thank you! And yes, to all you said and I can't wait to meet you in person!

    I think my first true mentor in writing was Doc Hensley--and now he's teaching at ACFW this year. I am proud to have first brought him into ACFW because he has a lot to offer everyone in writing.

  4. Crystal, you can run up and grab my arm and say, "Oh, you must!" and I'll be more honored than you can say to mentor you. :-) Far as I'm concerned, though, you'd be getting the raw end of THAT deal!

    See you in Indy!