WriteMentor 2020 By Stuart White

Well, we have arrived at that exciting time of the year again where preparations have begun for this years edition of our flagship programme (voluntary mentoring which is free in an attempt to make it accessible to writers from all backgrounds).

We do a lot at WriteMentor now (I say ‘we’ because while I’m running things, I do have a brilliant assistant and a whole army of brilliant authors and agents who associates themselves with us – for which I’ll say now, and never tire of saying, a massive thank you for all that you do now and will do!).

And I hope that all we do is planned with you as our first thought. I spent 10 years learning how to write (and most days I’m still crap at it! 😂) a little better, through a plethora of online course, a Master Degree in Creative Writing, and working with other very talented authors, who have since gone onto great and wonderful things, like publication and prizes!

But I am a teacher at heart, and I’m the deepest core of my very soul, is an unquenching and unrelenting desire to help people learn. I’ve never been able to ditch that, even when it comes at great personal expense (both metaphorically and literally). And that’s me, and I’ve realised I can’t fight that.

It was at the heart of my decision to begin WriteMentor in 2017 and it’s still very much beating strongly today.

It has been one of the greatest honours of my writing life, far exceeding any writing merits or achievements I’ve been lucky enough to have received personally, to lead this programme, which has since developed into a writing organisation which punches well above it’s weight.

I had a drink with my 2019 mentee and 2019 Children’s Novel Award winner, Alex Page, on a flying visit to London yesterday. She spoke passionately to me about the importance of WriteMentor, how the novel award has made an immeasurable difference in her writing career, how my patient (read slow! 😂) mentoring last summer really helped her to get that rewrite done, and how it important it is for me to continue running WriteMentor when I am, and have been for a while, on the verge of burnout.

She was saying, as have many recently, including the wonderful Florianne Humphrey (who is helping me with social media and getting the word out about what we do, as well as launching our wonderful magazine) that it’s more important that WM has longevity rather than doing a lot in a short-time, then potentially disappearing.

If you’ve ever seen the wonderful film Highlander, you’ll remember the famous line from the antagonist: ‘It’s better to burn out, than to fade away.’

Unfortunately, I only have 1 speed – full throttle. I do not do half-measures, and much like a binary code, I am 1 or 0. I am all or nothing.

But that must and will change. Our main programme in the summer, which I discuss below will always be around. As will our Novel Award – wow what a talented bunch of entries we have this year, there’s been much raving behind the scenes about particular entries – and our online courses, which you all love.

We have also had much praise and positive feedback from our writing weekends, so these must also continue, albeit in perhaps a less numerous basis – I am utterly exhausted from running these. And I suppose at this point, it’s worth me pointing out I am 100% volunteer and actually put my own money into helping fund WM, as well as the wonderful support we get from Arts Council, but we do not make any money, and if we did, it will simply be recycled into our fund for scholarships and free places.

I’ve been asked by so many of you (and the sentiment is true and kind) to help out behind the scenes. I truly appreciate all of those, but I simply could not ask anyone to go for free, what I do. It’s sometimes 40 or 50 hours a week, including every moment at lunch and break in my teaching job, and weekends, and so the solution lies in not working harder but smarter.

We will get there, but rest assured that we will always continue our main programmes.

So onto WriteMentor 2020.

We are currently looking for agented and/or published authors to help mentor writers who are talented but need a little extra help to elevate their writing to the level to help them get to the next step. If that is you, do consider applying – it’s been so rewarding and you truly make writing friends for life through this programme.

We will also soon be inviting agents to participate in our agent showcase in September. Last year we had more than 30 agents looking at our mentees work and we hope we can have a similar number of (and more importantly, actively looking) agents again.

In the lead up to mentee applications in April (15-17), we will be holding some online Twitter chats with the mentors for you to ask them questions and decide which 3 you will apply to. Each of them will also do a short blog post, outlining their relative skills and the kind of writer they’d like to work with, to help with this compatibility process. Like internet dating, but for writers…

We are making the window shorter again, simply because I want to make things easier for our volunteer mentors and give them more time with all the manuscripts to decide upon who they’d like to work with.

We’ll announce all pairings at the end of April to help reduce the anxious wait that I we all face after submitting. If selected, you’ll work with your mentor over the summer, from May to August, before submitting your agent showcase piece (opening and pitch – more details closer to the time).

We get a lot of questions about this programme every year, so here’s a few FAQs to help.

Do it cost anything to apply?
There is no money involved in this programme, for anyone. It is completely voluntary on the mentors part and free for the writers to apply to become a mentee.

Can we only submit to 3 mentors?
Yes – the number of applications we get, per mentor, is already very large, and this also means you have to be very targeted in your decision and really read their bios to see who is best suited and compatible, similar to what you should do when submitting to agents. It’s about best fit rather than applying widely and hoping for the best.

Do I need a completed manuscript?
Simply put – YES. We’ve had mentees in the past who’ve been selected, then admitted the ms isn’t finished. This isn’t ideal for anyone involved, from you, the mentee, to the mentor, and any agents who may request work later. Even if you manage to finish it during the mentoring period, time is limited to polish to the standard you should have it before sending to agents. So, this year we are asking that it is complete. It may even be requested by a mentor during the selection process, so have this, a synopsis and letter ready.

How are mentees selected?
This is a subjective call. As it is with everything in our industry. They have full autonomy over who they work with and the basis upon which they choose is entirely theirs.

Will I get feedback if I am not selected?
Sometimes mentors will choose to send some notes to those who applied to them, or those who they requested more materials from. But this is not a compulsory element and should not be expected or asked for, only very gratefully appreciated if received. We do other programmes and our novel award, where you get feedback on your work.

How do I apply?
A form will appear (this will be shared in this newsletter just prior to it opening) and via Twitter and other socials on our website. It will be a google form and will ask for the opening chapter of your work (up to 2,500 words) and a synopsis. We will also a couple of other questions, like why you are applying, what you hope to gain and we also like to know a little about you and your writing journey too.

I’ve no doubt missed your question – if so, do just @writementor – we’re always happy to help clarify if people aren’t sure, though, and I do love this, I know our biggest WM followers often help out with answers, too!

Our application form for mentors for our summer mentoring programme is NOW OPEN, and will remain so until the end of the day on Monday 10th February.

If you want to pay it forward, complete a few details on the form here.

If you want to read about previous years, check out the posts below:

#WriteMentor Success Stories

#WriteMentor 2019

#WriteMentor 2019 PAIRINGS

#WriteMentor 2019 Agent Showcase

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