The Gift of Mentors and Mentoring

Writing feels like a lonely business.

Each day, I sit at my kitchen counter punching away at the keyboard alone, in my own little world.

But when I look around, I realize that while writing is a solitary endeavor in practice, I am never alone, and that my success as a writer takes a team.

Along with my invaluable critique partners, and of course, my agent and editor, others have made a huge difference in whether my book ever saw the light of day.

I’m talking about other writers — mentors, if you will, — who are in my corner, encouraging me and helping me improve as a writer. Published writers who are busy with writing and contracts and marketing and book deals and yet have taken time out of their lives to spur me on and offer endless encouragement.

I’ll never forget the first time I entered and won a writing contest. Two of the judges, published writers, included their name and contact information on the judging form. They have been my champions and supporters ever since. Thanks and love to Joelle Charbonneau and Donnell Bell!

Other busy writers have gone out of their way to help me get published. For instance, Owen Laukkanen and David Corbett both offered to give me blurbs before my book was sold. I am forever in their debt.

On my own writing journey, I’ve sat back and quietly taken notes about how these successful, published writers treat other writers and their readers — (in some cases, these are the same people, right?)

One day, I want to be just like them. My role model is Adriana Trigiani, who is unbelievably kind and extraordinarily accessible to her readers.

A few years back, she called into my book club meeting. I had her on speakerphone and when I picked up, she said, “Hey, baby, how’s it going?”

She talked to us about the book we’d read, asked our advice on what should happen with the characters in the next book in the series, and even invited us to come be extras in the movie being filmed about one of her books.

Recently, I signed my first book deal — a two-book deal with HarperCollins. My excitement knows no bounds, but what has been fascinating to me, is the way the pendulum has shifted.

In the blink of an eye, I’m the writer that others are turning to for help and advice on query letters, on their manuscripts as a whole and on the query process. Now, I’ve done that for years — as an exchange with other writers. But now it is a one-sided proposition. And I’m totally cool with that. If I have time, and I often do, I’m more than willing to lend a helping hand. This is how it works — it is now my turn to give the gift of my time and myself to other writers, the exact same way writers have done so for me.

The reality is people are now looking at me as a mentor. Holy smokes!

This switch, while lovely and flattering, also feels a bit odd since I’m no different than I was a few months ago before I signed that book deal.

While I’m welcoming this new role, I’m also taking it very seriously.

I know how many people took time and effort to help me get where I am and now I see my new role clearly — along with continuing to write, my new role is to be that supporting and encouraging person in other writer’s lives. It is to help them polish that query letter or give them lists of agents to query. It is to say yes to that last minute request to judge a national writing contest and then it means providing thoughtful, constructive feedback to the writers with entries.

In my case, I used my own role models and included my name and contact information on the best entry so that writer can turn to me in the future. It’s exactly how my friendship with the two writers who judged my entry years ago began.

I’m ready to help in any way I can. I have the best role models before me.

So, God willing, I’m going to be the type of author who is accessible to her readers and who takes the time to help other writers along the way.

Hold on, my phone is ringing.

“Hey, baby, how’s it going?”

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Author: kristibelcamino

Kristi Belcamino is a crime writer, photographer, and artist who also bakes a tasty biscotti. Her debut mystery, BLESSED ARE THE DEAD, will be published in June 2014. www.kristibelcamino.com

8 thoughts on “The Gift of Mentors and Mentoring”

  1. Having other writers ready to talk really is a gift. I just had a Twitter exchange last night that helped unblock me on a problem. And I spoke to a young woman at my book signing event a couple weeks ago when she asked for advice. When she left, my husband said, “That was you two years ago. Now you’re the one giving advice.” He’s right. It’s definitely a weird feeling (who am I to give advice?), but nice at the same time.

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  2. Congratulations again on your book deal, Kristi! So very excited for you. Loved hearing about your mentors. And I think it’s absolutely lovely that you are willing to pay it forward for other writers.

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    1. Thanks, Cynthia. Author Cecil Castellucci once wrote about how every rejection along the way to publication also led to a stable of supporters and mentors that propped her up and helped her find success. I believe that, as well. She also said this, so wisely, that there is a 10 year waiting list to become an artist. I know that sounds harsh, but she’s saying, put in the time and effort and it will happen and I believe that so much. : )

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  3. I’m so, so happy for you on the book deal! And I love this post. I’ve only published one piece so far, and it was a super-short. But, I began attending an annual writers’ conference three years ago, and every time I attend I am amazed anew at how kind, humble, and supportive the writing/writer community is. At the last Crime Bake, Hank Phillippi-Ryan stayed after the conference for over an hour, sharing advice and answering questions for a table of us wannabes. It was wonderful and inspiring. Writers seem to really know how to pay it forward and pay it back. I love that you’re relishing your “new” role! Congrats again!

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    1. Thank you so much. I love authors like, Hank, she’s the perfect example of being supportive and encouraging to other writers who are working to get published. A class act! I’m so glad that writers are “my people” because they are wonderful!

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