Monday 15 July 2013


Over the past 30 years as an author, I have mentored many new writers, some of whom have gone on to publication; others have lacked the persistence needed and dropped by the wayside. I have never been paid to mentor; I choose those I mentor if I see they are contributing to their industry, for example someone who volunteers with the Children’s Book Council (CBCA) or helps to organise a writers’ festival.

What I have stressed in my article “Getting Past Publishers’ Locked Doors” is that one of your best assets in getting published as a new writer is to get to know other authors. Perhaps one (or more) of them will agree to mentor you, if you ask.

Finding authors is relatively easy. Meet them at writers’ conferences or festivals. Go to writing courses they offer. Read their books – and then write and let them know what you like about their books. Interview them for your blog or a magazine. Review their books. Keep in touch with them.

Don’t think authors don’t want to know you. Some (not many) can be distant, but most are only too happy to meet their readers and to talk about their books and themselves. When I meet a new writer, I am always interested in what they are writing and how they are progressing in their quest to become published. I always ask for their business card – but guess what? Usually the new writer has so little confidence in him/herself that he/she doesn’t have one.

Get a card – have the word ‘writer’ under your name and your contact details. Include your website, if you have one.

The author who ‘adopts’ you can hug you loosely or tightly. That is to say, they might just send you an occasional email to find out how you’re going. Or they might agree to read, edit and/or comment on your work-in-progress – or more.

When I mentor a new writer, I try to give them contacts, such as other authors who live close by or the name of their local CBCA sub-branch. Or tell them about a festival they ought to attend, or a competition which they might like to enter. I certainly give them lots of valuable advice. In some cases I do read, edit and comment on their manuscripts. Often I will suggest a publisher to whom I think their completed manuscript ought to be sent. A few times I have facilitated a meeting between the new writer and a publisher, and a couple of times I’ve written an email or letter of recommendation. Only this week I talked a new writer through how to create a series proposal for a publisher.

Mentorships, though, should be two-sided. Quite a few of those writers I’ve mentored have gone on to publication and I’ve never heard of them afterwards (sad but true). However, some (and of course these are the ones I especially value) have helped me along the line.

Take Georgie Donaghey, for example: Georgie runs a brilliant website for new children’s writers called Creative Kids Tales (which gets 57,000+ hits a month). Georgie has reviewed several of my books on her site and interviewed me when my novel, The Girl in the Basement (Morris Publishing Australia) was released in June 2013. Not only that, but she has kindly showed me how to raise my author profile through social media. All of this makes me want to give more to her than she might otherwise expect. My aim for Georgie is to see her through to publication and then help celebrate her first book! After that, she ought to be applying for a Literature Board grant...

Another writer (now with her own book series) sent me a gift card for a bookshop as a thank you; another undertook some research for me; another took me out to lunch; another gave me a gift of flowers. A few writers have offered to read my work in progress and/or bought my latest book. All appreciated, I can tell you!

If an author offers to mentor you, do remember that he/she, however well-published or even famous, is a person just like you who appreciates thoughtfulness, so think about how you might repay him/her. That might just mean buying the author’s book and sending comments about how much you enjoy it!

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