A new school year has begun and for Girls Write Now, it began as it always does: with Mentor Training. A day devoted to welcoming back old mentors, introducing new mentors to our curriculum, and, most importantly, helping them all learn about what to expect when working with a female teen writer. As always, this year’s workshop was home to a congregation of writers of all stripes, and journalists, poets, professors, editors, and publicists came together with the same desire: to help mentor a young woman.
But before any of that could happen, curriculum co-chair Maya Frank-Levine had everyone begin training with an exercise that I’m sure all the new mentors will learn to love: Opening Lines! Creative gears began to turn as the quiet tone of the room quickly changed and was instead filled with laughter. Using anonymous “dating profiles” with questions like “What was the last book you didn’t finish?,” “What fictional world would you love to explore, or fictional character are you dying to meet?,” and “The Big Apple is full of it all: What is the most unexpected thing you’ve seen or experienced in NYC?,” everyone then guessed who had completed which profile based on their answers, and soon mentors were bonding over their bizarre New York City experiences and which famous author they’d love to share coffees with.
Many talented teen writers were accepted into the program this year, but for some this may be their first experience in a workshop setting. To have so many well-journeyed writers share what they feel does and doesn’t work in a workshop was sure to be fun as well as informative. It was almost like getting a sneak peek into their individual mentoring styles!
In a nutshell, these are the top four things we learned from our mentors’ experiences:
- The purpose of sharing your work in a workshop is to get some kind of response, so you shouldn’t be afraid to share or critique.
- There are bound to be a plethora of personalities at any given workshop, be prepared to run into some unsavory characters. One may not hear what they want to hear about their work but that’s no reason to get down or blow your top. Beware of psychos and don’t be a psycho.
- When entering a workshop, you’ll be walking into a community of people with shared interests. It’s important to respect these people as well as the community, so don’t be rude.
- You may find that you learn something from a place or person you hadn’t expected to at the start. Be open to knowledge no matter its source. When things are unexpected they stay with you forever.
Finally, one of the most important parts of mentor training was the panel of veteran mentors. While all the mentors this year are beyond skilled in their craft and eager to help a young writer, it was clear that it’s very important to understand that this same writer is a teenage girl, and as we all know, there are things that come up in a teen’s life that will affect their relationship with their mentor. Without further ado, from veteran mentors Amy, Kate, Amanda, and Andrea, here are Tips on How to Coexist with Your Young Teen Writer.
- Communication is key! If you and your mentee are having a hard time getting into a groove and meeting for your pair sessions don’t worry. Keep an open means of contact no matter what it may be: phone calls, texts, email, Facebook, Twitter. Whatever works, right?
- Understand the family dynamic! As adults it’s easy to forget and take for granted the freedom and control over your life that some teenagers just don’t have. Understanding her and her family as well as the rules she is subject to will help you to create a more effective relationship and by extension more productive pair sessions.
- Find common ground! New relationships in general are hard to start, so don’t lose morale if you and your mentee aren’t besties after your first meeting. It’s not uncommon to use the first few pair sessions as meetings where you just talk to get to know each other. You’d be surprised about what ends up connecting you.
- Writing is never done. Editing is an essential part of writing, no matter what level you write on. Your mentee may not be very open to having her work changed, so perhaps start out by having them edit work that’s already been published. You’ll be interested to see the changes they make.
The anticipation in the air is very near suffocating as Orientation creeps closer. All the mentees and mentors will come together, and while they may not know it, by the end of that day, they will have spoken to their partners. I hope that all the information provided at mentor training will aid them in their journeys with these new young writers. The new year is guaranteed to be filled with laughter, knowledge and ground breaking writing. Remember, the Girls Write Now staff is at your disposal so don’t hesitate to ask any questions!