Pub Rants

The Power Of A Mentor

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STATUS: Way too many things on my To Do list!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER by The Beatles

I’m the first to admit, and as I have mentioned several times on my blog before, that I owe a good portion of my success as an agent to several special gals who are my mentors.

These gals have been agents for a lot longer than I have and were incredibly generous to share their wisdom with me. And over the years, we’ve become close friends. And I’m always so tickled when I learn something new from a unique situation/experience that I get to share with them. Doesn’t happen often but when it does…it’s like I’m giving something in return for the hours of time they’ve given me.

That and a six-month subscription to a gourmet cheese-of-the-month-club can go a long way.

You see, I came from an agency that did 98% nonfiction. The reason I went out on my own was because I wanted to represent fiction—and genre stuff at that. Romance, SF, Fantasy—this just wasn’t my former agency’s cup of tea. So, there was a lot to learn regarding contract specifics unique to these genres—stuff I couldn’t learn at my old job and stuff that I could only learn from mentors in the same field.

And mentor me they did. And success I have.

I believe in the power of mentoring and now that I’m far enough in my career to actually have some wisdom to share, I do pay it forward. I do have a couple of “newer” agent friends who feel comfortable ringing me up to get a perspective or feedback.

We are all learning every day in this job—trust me. A situation arises that’s brand new to even the “old timers” I know because the industry is changing and evolving.

And I think it’s a brilliant human being and agent who is willing to ring up (and potentially look stupid) by asking a question they don’t know just so they ensure they do right by their client.

I’ll take that agent any day over someone who thinks they know everything about the biz.

Besides, to me, mentoring is all about karma in the world. About connecting as human beings. About being committed to helping others.

Do I mentor every “new” agent who comes my way? Of course not. I chose to mentor people for whom I feel that spark of human connection. That’s how the decision to mentor happens and I imagine it’s not much different for an unpublished author looking to a published author as a possible mentor.

And it’s what most of the commenters pointed out. Human Connection is the first step in finding that mentor.

13 Responses

  1. Anonymous said:

    I think of all the advice you’ve given, this is perhaps the best. I’m off to find my mentor.

  2. cynjay said:

    I just blogged about this the other day – Paying it Forward. I had a great children’s author who helped me when I was just starting and is the reason I’m being published. A new writer recently asked for advice and I was so happy to be able to share what I had learned from people who came before me. Folks in the kidlit world seem to be particularly adept at this skill.

  3. Dave said:

    Thanks for the feel of friendship I get from your blogsite. Also I like your reference to karma. I finally am coming to feel that I’ve paid off a lot of “bad karma”, and am excited to begin fresh ground.

  4. ORION said:

    I’ve had two authors who have taken the time to mentor me. Not edit. Not give agent information. Not help to get published.
    Writing mentors.
    Many writers think a mentor eases the path.
    They hold a light for you to see by.
    They are priceless.

  5. Kimber An said:

    Beautifully stated, Pat (Orion). Holding the light so we can see the way. This business really is mind-boggling. Just when I think I’ve found my balance, I hit another slick spot and go spinning into the pit of confusion.

  6. Therese said:

    I wish I’d had a mentor when I was getting started–but at least I had Kristin!

    Getting into a grad-school writing program made all the difference for me, but I recognize that’s not the path for everyone.

    Now that I’ve made it over some of the toughest hurdles, I want very much to help others do the same; that’s one of the main reasons I blog.

    I wish I had time to be a full-fledged mentor. In lieu of that, I blog about writing craft and my experiences as a debuting author. The writing-craft posts are available as a reference/resource at the right-hand column of my blog.

    Questions are always welcome. 🙂

  7. Anonymous said:

    Until you find your mentor (and even after you do) here’s an article that will help you–it identifies the “Elements of Excellence” acquired by those wishing to write for publication.
    Offered in the spirit of passing on the knowledge:

  8. Diantha said:

    Anonymous 4:26 a.m., thank you for posting that link. It was a very interesting article. It led me to look at some other things by Hendlin too.

    Therese, you may feel that you don’t have the time to be a “full-fledged mentor,” but you obviously put time and care into your blog. While I haven’t had time myself to make it all the way through the archives, the posts that I have read have been well-done and insightful. I feel like I’ve been able to tag along to some of your MFA classes. Thanks!


  9. Daryl Andrews said:

    Focusing on the middle grades, I spend a lot of my time reading and responding to their work. I am always uncomfortable attemting to take it to the next level with them. In my mind, I see them slammed with tons of request for help or support and I just don’t feel comfortable reaching out.

    I have numerous friends that are writing and are easy to reach out to. However, to find one or two that can lend an ear or direction specific to my genre would be fantastic. I am just worried it will be seen as an attempt to garnish from the authors success when it is in fact a genuine desire for friendship and mentoring.