Monday, May 30, 2016

Being a Mentor

When I was working, I was blessed to have had several mentors who taught, advised, and guided my career. I’ve always been grateful to them. Larry had also had wonderful mentoring, so we both knew the value of someone to show the way.

Last summer, our daughter’s best friend from high school contacted us. Her high school-aged daughter, Brooke, would start her senior year in the fall. For her senior project, she was required to find a mentor to work with her throughout the year. Since her subject was writing, her mom asked us if we would be her mentors.
 Brooke attends a college preparatory high school located on the campus of California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Larry's alma mater). The requirements are high, and expectations exceed most other public schools.

We began meeting with her during the summer. She described her intention for approaching her project and told us what she expected from us.

During our initial meetings, in addition to answering questions, we loaned her several of our favorite books on writing. As the project progressed, we suggested others. When she completed each of them, we discussed what she had learned and why she had found it valuable.
Early on, we suggested she consider writing a novel during the year, culminating with publication before graduation. We challenged her to start with NaNoWriMoNational Novel Writing Month, during which writers are challenged to write every day in November, completing a book by the end of the month.

In early December, we got together with Brooke and asked about her book. Although she finished the book, she decided she didn’t like the story and didn’t think it was something she wanted to publish. In fact, she never shared it with us. However, she started another book, and we talked quite a bit about what she had learned from the one she wasn’t happy with. We told her nearly every writer we knew had at least one or two early works they would never complete. (I have a couple myself.)

Since I also edit, I discussed the process and my approach. In the spring, a client asked me to help him self-publish his book. With his permission, Brooke spent the daywith the client on the phonewhile I uploaded the manuscript and covers (one for the ebook and a second for the print one). She sat next to me, watched each step on the screen, took notes, and asked questions. At the end of the day, she understood the entire self-publishing process.

While we were working with Brooke, Larry completed one of his sci-fi books in the McGregor Chronicles series. We always use beta readers to review each finished book. We asked Brooke to read this one and give us detailed comments. She did, and we appreciated her contributions.

Near the end of the school year, we began discussing the marketing and publicity necessary in order to promote the work. We covered the use of social media, including Facebook, Twitter, website, and blog.  

Throughout the process, Brooke asked thoughtful and considered questions. Many were about identifying and locating a reader base, creating memorable characters and unique plot lines, and writing series books.

We thoroughly enjoyed spending time with her. Her interest and enthusiasm made the whole process a pleasure for us. I certainly hope she felt the same way.

Last week, she prepared and presented a PowerPoint of her project. She told us she got an outstanding grade. Judging from the time and effort she had put in, we weren’t surprised.

In two weeks, we plan to attend her graduation. We’ll feel nearly as proud of her as her folks as we hear her name announced.

Have you ever had the opportunity to be a mentor? Did you enjoy the process? Would you do it again? (We would.)

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