And by drama, I mean writer hysterics. It won't be pretty and it's likely to continue for the next few months. The cause? I've entered a mentorship agreement with New York Times bestselling author, Caroline Leavitt. When I first heard of mentorships, my brain conjured images of Dorothy and Glenda, Harry and Dumbledore, Frodo and Gandolf. I loved the idea of a sage hand guiding my work. But I knew I had much to learn before I'd understand a mentor's wisdom.
So for three years I continued learning: in critique groups, books, conferences, online classes, and I wrote and wrote and wrote. Last week, Julianna Baggott, the author who led the YA workshops at Eckerd College's 2011 Writer's in Paradise Conference, wrote a post about building your own MFA. She listed several writers who teach, edit and mentor. This seemed like divine intervention. I had been scanning 2012 conferences but none of them felt "right." Was I ready for a mentorship? I tiptoed through the writer's links in Julianna's post and settled on Caroline. Why did I choose her? First, the information available provided a good picture of what to expect from her services. She teaches online classes at UCLA, which offer course descriptions and a syllabus. Then there's her website, featuring a bio, her books and a blog. I was impressed with her writing and her syllabus and I felt I knew a little bit about her after my research.
I drew a deep breath and sent Caroline an email. She promptly responded with an enthusiastic message, thorougly describing her classes and personal mentorships. She feels the writer/editor relationship should feel right to both parties and offered to review three pages for free. I sent the first three pages of my book Sunday afternoon and a couple hours later they returned with Caroline's comments. I was pleased with her balanced blend of encouragement and criticism and it appeared she could stomach my writing. Another deep breath later, I agreed to send the first hundred pages of my book along with a synopsis, followed by the rest of my book in chunks. More deep breaths, or was that hyper-ventilating?
Then self-doubt demons attacked. What was I thinking? I only had one hundred pages of a first draft; how did I know I could write the rest of the novel? Maybe I wasn't cut out to be a novelist. The story probably wasn't worth Caroline's time. Those imps spun a convincing doubt campaign. I pictured my protaganist and a fierce voice rose to her defense, sending the demons back to their dens. The story would be told. Tuesday, I withdrew from my critique groups to clear my schedule for intense writing time. The hardest to leave was PB&J, my picture book group. They're a source of inspiration and they feel like family. For two days, I've been saying temporary good-byes and receiving best wishes for this project. I feel bolstered by these friends, fellow children's writers traveling a well-worn path to publication. Yesterday, I explored my expectations for this mentorship. I'm not Dorothy, searching for home, Harry, battling evil or Frodo, tempted by a cursed ring, and I don't expect magical wisdom from Caroline. I hope this partnership bolsters my drive to finish this book and the guidance to make it the best it can be. Mostly, I hope to be a better writer when its done.
I write middle grade and young adult books with a magical twist. And creatures, always creatures. I'm represented by the fabulous Leslie Zampetti of Dunham Lit.
Baggott, Asher & Bode
Rear in Gear
Kate DiCamillo on Writing