Thursday, July 12, 2007


I've been mulling over a concept (which may already be available) for a few days and wanted to see what readers thought... how about an "Adopt-a-Writer" program where seasoned writers (preferably those who are garlicky or spicy) help out novices?

I'm thinking about a 30-day mentoring relationship whereby newbies can ask questions, get advice, obtain realistic (but not constantly pessimistic) feedback, and generally receive support ("You can do it, Junior! Rejections are part of the business! Use 'em to paper your walls!")

Of course, I realize there are always problems with such coaching programs:

A. Mentors are nasty or consistently unavailable.
B. Mentees are demanding and unreasonable.
C. Mentors and mentees don't "mesh".
D. Everyone becomes disgruntled (instead of "gruntled".) The whole project fizzles into a cloud of dust and an angry mob (carrying torches) turns on the program's founder a la Frankenstein.

And then there are more conundrums:

1. Would "matchmakers" be needed or could mentors/mentees choose each other without assistance?
2. Would mentors pick mentees... or would it be the other way around?
3. Would someone have to oversee each relationship to make sure it was working for both parties?

Geesh. There are plenty of kinks to work out. And, quite frankly, I don't think I'm the one to organize such an undertaking. (Right now, I can barely match socks, fold them, and get them into the proper dresser drawers.) But I still think the program has value.

I know (as someone who is about mid-career in terms of freelance writing) that it's very satisfying to help others just breaking into my specific field. Consequently, I'm happy to give feedback on query letters or pay rates. Sure, I don't know it all. Who does? But what I do know, I freely share because I think it's important to help others achieve their aspirations.

It still seems to me that an Adopt-a-Writer program would be a low-key way for knowledgeable writers to help novice novelists, fiction/nonfiction authors, and/or poets in a one-on-one environment.

Blogs are awesome... so are writer development/advice sites and books... but there's just something magical about being able to turn to a specific someone for advice (with no strings attached.)

So... do I live in the real world? Is this type of mentoring program even possible? Or am I just a crazed author looking for a way to avoid writing this morning?


Anonymous said...

I've thought about similar kind of program of trying to match similarly staged writers with similar styles and interests to be critique partners. I'm not a huge fan of writing groups. I fear that a wide range of opinions can be confusing and potentially damaging, especially when people who really aren't a fan of a certain genre or style are giving feedback.

Your idea is good, but I think there would be a lot more mentees than mentors. Putting on my cynical hat, I think there would have to be some bump for the mentor, like articles or a PR splash that they get for doing it.

The Quoibler said...


I can share your cynicism, though it really is kind of disheartening to think that people wouldn't want to help others.

Unfortunately, that exact same attitude is rife in the corporate world (from whence I came, once upon a cubicle).

Supposedly, people who "make it" up the ladder are inclined to help others "make it", too. But the reality is that they don't because they are too insecure.

(After all... what if they mentor someone and that person turns out to be BETTER than they? Egads!)

Personally, I would HOPE that someone I mentored would make more money, get more publicity, whatever. To me, that's more important than stroking my own ego. (Although I'm no saint - a little ego rubbing does feel quite lovely now and then!)

That being said, I'll bet you're right when you suggest that there would have to be some payoff for mentors. Maybe they could be given candy or high doses of caffeine. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm just saying that many writers would probably feel good helping out a new writer now and then. Especially if the new writer behaves (doesn't get pouty or defensive). I'm not sure a seasoned writer could afford to devote the time to mentor again and again, however, unless the mentor got something in return. I do think that fair, BTW. The relationship should be mutually beneficial.

The Quoibler said...

Ah, I see what you're saying. I misunderstood.

That does make sense about being mutually beneficial. Let me give this idea some more thought...