At training last weekend, I met a mentor who wants to have coffee in a Paris café with Salman Rushdie, another who had most recently listened to ‘Pony’ by Ginuwine, and a new mentor who gave up on reading Keith Richards’ memoir. This year’s theme of New Worlds seems especially relevant: between a Fatwa, an explicit R&B song, and a retired rock star, our tastes are as diverse as the ways we each use writing. Yet despite this variance, our love of writing and hunger to share the craft was obvious (I’ve always been more of a Mick Jagger fan, anyway).
The 2012-13 season marks my second year as a mentor in Girls Write Now and I’ll continue with my same mentee, Samantha Young Chan. Over the course of the first season together, we worked on sci-fi stories, college essays, and produced videos based on Samantha’s writing. It’s hard to believe that a year ago we were perfect strangers, and as our relationship evolves, I continue to learn new ways to be a resource for her. So, here are a few takeaways from our orientation and my experience in the 2011-2012 season.
Writing is never done. Speaking on the veteran mentor panel, Program Advisory Committee member Andrea Gabbidon-Levene said she explained the process of editing to her mentee with this infinitely useful line. While we may find ourselves cribbing Andrea to explain the process to our own mentees (and personally living with that nagging itch that a piece is never really complete), it applies to our role as mentors. The writing is never done for us, either—at genre workshops we assume the role of student beside our mentees, perhaps trying a new form of writing ourselves. In that vein, the craft doesn’t end with age and experience. And neither does the work of writing; on GWN’s 15th anniversary, these wise words seem more potent than ever, because the need for writing organizations and programming for underserved girls persists.
There is no ‘right’ relationship. Before I met with my mentee, I was anxious about forging the ‘correct’ relationship. Would we be friends, or have a strict editor-writer arrangement? How would we fill an entire hour? In talking to other mentees and watching pairs interact in the Digital Remix Dorkshops last year, I came to understand that there is no right kind of relationship. The relationship you forge with your mentee is uniquely your own.
Let your mentee inspire you. The workshops are as much of a learning experience for mentors as they are for mentees. Writing in unfamiliar genres and watching my own mentee’s process have re-invigorated my own work. In this respect, this year’s Dorkshop series on Gaming is a fitting metaphor. If I had to choose one word to describe my interactions with my mentee in the workshops, it’d be ‘play,’ because of the fun of trying something new. So, here’s to another fabulous year—let’s get playing!