After being long listed for the WriteMentor Children’s Novel Award, Amy Borg took part in the WriteMentor 2019 summer mentoring programme where she worked on her Young Adult fantasy manuscript with the help of author Amy McCaw.
Since then, she has received representation from Sara O’ Keeffe of Aevitas Creative Management.
Amy shares her writing journey, her experience with WriteMentor, and her thoughts on why mentoring is so valuable for writers.
Tell us about your writing journey from start until now.
I started writing my first novel in high school, and finished it in my second year of uni. It was a gothic fantasy murder mystery (for kids!), and despite my best efforts, I didn’t manage to get it anywhere near publication. In the gap between then and now, I wrote a second novel, travelled Europe teaching English, had a few shorter pieces commissioned and published, and somehow landed on a master’s program for publishing and creative writing in London. On that program, I heavily revised my first novel to use it as a self-publishing experiment. I also started writing the first draft of what would become Shape, though at that point, it was a very different story from what it is now.
What made you apply for the WriteMentor programme?
My route into WriteMentor was comparatively roundabout. I didn’t know anything at all about the programme until I ran into the submissions call for the 2018 Children’s Novel Award… approximately four hours before the deadline. I saw the mentorships and feedback that came with the competition, along with a ton of support and positivity from the community, so I decided to submit. I’ll confess, the novel wasn’t actually even finished at this point, but I never expected to be longlisted. I figured that if I were, I would’ve finished my draft by the time February rolled around.
Spoiler alert: I was longlisted, with 20k words still left unwritten. Cue a week of endless coffee and no sleep, getting up early and staying up late to pour down words around the margins of my shift work, so that I could send the judges an actual manuscript. I distinctly remember apologizing to Stuart about the state of the whole thing when I sent it over with (again) about four hours to spare. But I’m so glad that first, ragged-around-every-edge draft got shortlisted, because my mentorship with Amy was absolutely invaluable.
What was your experience like?
From the very first introduction between Amys, I found the entire thing wonderfully supportive and inspiring. Amy and I did a query package mentorship, where I sent her a draft of my query, synopsis, and first three chapters. Her feedback on my opening helped so much to strengthen the story from the get go, showing me where all the stuff in my head wasn’t quite present on the page yet. Her synopsis and query critique was also spot-on, and Amy’s encouragement did wonders for giving me the confidence to keep pushing that first draft into something I could tempt an agent with.
Still, even after the mentorship, I knew the draft needed a lot more work before it would really be finished. I got a fair amount of interest from the agent showcase, and I will never forget the rejection that I received from one of the agents who requested Shape at that point. It was heartbreaking, but it was also honest, and the manuscript at this point is better for it.
Can you tell us a little more about the book you worked on and signed with?
The Shape of the World is a Young Adult fantasy novel with touches of sci-fi. Part adventure, part mystery, part resistance story, the book delves deeply into themes of power, identity, language, and belonging. Escaping her lonely island in search of her vanished mentor, fifteen-year-old Song joins the last of the Cantors, an ancient order of warriors who defend the universe from monsters beyond the edge of existence. But in the isolated city of Cantors, rebellion is brewing, and the monsters may be closer than anyone could have imagined.
What is your best piece of writing advice that you learned on the programme?
I think the main thing the program taught me is the importance of perseverance when it comes to getting a draft to a place you’re proud of. Completing the first draft of a novel is such a monumental accomplishment, but that work is wasted if we don’t take the time to step back and ask for help to look at what we’ve written with critical eyes. There was so much in my head as I was writing Shape, and it was an eye-opener to find out how much of that was still only in my head.
This is also why I think mentoring is so vital for writers. As people who spend so much time in our own heads, mentorships can be the link between the story we envisage, and the story that makes it onto the page. And that’s why it’s so important to get feedback, not just from peer critique partners and loyal beta readers, but also from a professional perspective.