So, when I went full-time earlier this year, I realized I might have a little more time to pay it forward and mentor younger/newer writers. I knew immediately I wanted to focus my efforts on writers of color, because I say I’m committed to increasing diversity, so I should put my extra time there, right? Right. Put your time where your mouth is, as it were. And we all know that young writers of color often have a harder time breaking in; I can help with manuscripts, I can help with business advice, I can be a person in someone’s corner.
An opportunity to help out a guy who was having trouble tackling a revision presented itself almost as soon as I came to this realization. Unfortunately, on Friday I learned that the person I’d been helping has been behaving very badly and hurting many women writers and that until the talking started people had been too afraid to speak up, now there was a flood. I believe them. To say I am livid and dismayed is to understate things. But I still believe in my realization earlier this year too. So I tweeted this on Friday night, almost as soon as I learned about the situation:
So I’m going to need a new writer to mentor. I’m especially interested in helping WoC with novel manuscripts in need of revision. Write me!
— Gwenda BOOnd ☠️🕸🗝 (@Gwenda) October 15, 2016
As you can see, it took on a life of its own. I have, at last count, about 35 or so emails from women of color looking for mentors. I’m on deadline this week, so it will probably be next week before I can sit and truly go through them. I don’t want to turn anyone away. But I can only take on one or two of these writers at most. Do I have time to coordinate this project? Well, I’m going to make time. Because this is important. This was a tweet on a weekend; this is a need.
So this is where you come in, writer friends. Are you a writer who’s further along? Who feels like you could mentor someone? Let me know (comments or email). If I’ve already heard from you–and bless you, six or so volunteers I already have–you don’t need to contact again. I’ve got you. You may wonder, what kind of time commitment are we talking about–I think that’s up to you and the writer you work with. I’ll sort through emails in an attempt to identify who will be a good fit, then work with you to pick who you want to work with out of a few people. Everyone is going to need something slightly different. I look for people who at least have a manuscript complete (and I assume that’s mostly who I’ve heard from), because those are people who are serious enough to have finished a project and who I can help push forward.
For me, mentoring is about providing manuscript feedback and career advice, it can be about helping a person wrap their head around a revision and set deadlines for themselves with outside accountability (aka me). That sort of thing. Your strengths may vary a little, so you may focus on different things. There’s no one way to mentor someone.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also plug a program several people have let me know about: Writing in the Margins. I don’t know all the details, but it’s certainly something I’ll be sharing with these writers (and I know one at least I’ve heard from has been through it already).