Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Sunday, February 07, 2010

On Mentoring

by Sariah S. Wilson

Yes, I am aware that there is some sort of sports event happening today. But as I know nothing about either team (other than a vague rumor I heard about a BYU graduate playing for the Colts) I will have nothing to say on the subject. Other than that I DVR'ed it so that I could watch the commercials.

So, I was thinking the other day about how important mentors are in certain fields. We don't expect surgeons to glean all their knowledge from teachers and books - they have to practice with mentors who teach them for a long time before they go off on their own. Master carpenters can teach an apprentice more than he'd ever learn from studying a book.

My thoughts went this direction because I wanted to write a character with a certain personality trait that I do not possess and I thought I should get a book on it. I then thought of all the things I've tried to learn from reading books - how to potty train my kids, how to get them to sleep through the night, how to write a book, how to be a more positive person, etc., etc.

Then I thought that the best teaching methods came not from a book, but from another person. Moms who had already potty/sleep trained their children were far more help than the best book. Reading the work of other authors in my genre taught me more than any instructional book could have. Happy, positive people are better examples and more motivating for me than the written word.

I considered that I hadn't had an actual mentor when I wrote and sold my first book. I didn't belong to a writing group; I didn't have any critique partners.

But then I remembered the help I did have - Rob Wells pushed me toward my current publisher and encouraged me to send my work there; Julie Bellon read my first chapter, made a suggestion that made the first few lines even better, and answered any questions I had about the publishing process; once my work was accepted Jeff Savage became my go-to-guy on questions I had regarding the LDS market. I met these three authors at Latter Day Authors, and in big and small ways they acted as mentors for me.

I've also had the help of many generous authors along the way who did blurbs for my books or sent me kind words regarding my work. I had more help from real people than I'd ever imagined once I stopped to think about it.

What do you think - are mentors necessary to help you succeed? Or do you think you could learn all you need to know from books or websites?


At 2/07/2010 11:56 PM, Blogger UTMomof4 said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 2/08/2010 12:01 AM, Blogger UTMomof4 said...

I agree, I learn things better and value the opinions of other people as well. My favorite cooking website has recipes that have been submitted by real people like me, a lot of them with young kids too. It's not exactly the same as a mentor, but I like that the recipes I am looking at have been tried and tested by others out there. I rarely use my cook-books anymore.
So who won "the game?" I'm with you, the only football I ever follow is BYU.

At 2/08/2010 12:01 AM, Blogger L.T. Elliot said...

Oh, I think a mentor is a priceless thing. I often call my father for advice on a range of subjects. My family, my friends, other writers, and spiritual leaders have often been my saving grace. There is something about people connecting, sharing each other's burdens, and helping us through our own mires that helps us become the best version of ourselves.

At 2/08/2010 1:02 AM, Blogger Ronda Hinrichsen said...

I believe both are important. Other writers who are in the place you want to be are definitely invaluable, but I am also very grateful for my books on writing. They, too, were written by authors who are in places I want to be. And then there are editors. Another HUGE help. For me, anyway.
Great post. :)

At 2/08/2010 1:08 AM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

What Ronda said. I think mentors are a great help, and I also think private study from books and online is vital.

I didn't have writing mentors before my first novel was published--I didn't get involved in the LDS writing community at all before that time. But since getting involved, I'm so grateful for the kind authors who have shared their experience with me, guided me, lifted me when I was down and cheered me on when things were going well.

At 2/08/2010 2:17 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

There are some things you can find out through research and Googling, like facts and figures and ingredients and procedures, but mentors bring in the heart and soul and personal experience. I'm deeply grateful to those who have mentored me.

At 2/08/2010 10:47 PM, Blogger Jennie said...

I too am grateful for the many people who have shared their expertise with me, teachers, friends, other writers, editors, readers. This may surprise some people, but I'm also grateful for people who have disagreed with me causing me to search harder for answers and for the amazing new writers in my field who keep me on my toes. I'm grateful too for the many LDS writers who prove over and over that excellent stories can be written while maintaining Church standards. Perhaps they don't all fall in the definition of mentors, but they have all enriched my life and my writing.


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