When Lorraine Hawley’s critique partner Dani Camarena joined WriteMentor and loved the summer mentoring program, Lorraine decided to follow along with her journey – and found the community camaraderie so inviting that she wanted to be part of it herself.

With the support of WriteMentor mentor Caroline Murphy, in 2019 Lorraine worked on her Middle Grade novel Curious World of Dandy-lion. In 2020, she secured a publishing deal.

WriteMentor chats to Lorraine about her writing journey, the best piece of writing advice she learned on the programme, and why she believes mentoring is so important for writers.

What was your experience like of the programme? 

Let’s just say, “Amazing!” Seriously, it was. I’ve said this to Caroline Murphy, my fantastic mentor, a few times. The day she chose me to mentor boosted my confidence as a writer. She changed my path from a hobby to a serious endeavor.

Once the WriteMentor match was announced, we got to work. Yes, there was homework. Lots of homework. And the work did not stop until my characters had individual personalities, each chapter had motivation, and the plot followed a storyline arc. 

Tell us about your writing journey from start until now

I’ve done business marketing, blogs, and ads. Until 2014, I wrote Fantasy for myself—it was more a guilty pleasure, and I never let anyone read a word. As I entered the third chapter in my life, I had a bit more time (and maybe a bit more confidence) to venture out and join some writing groups. The Central Phoenix Writing Group and the Armadillo Authors were both very public groups, held in coffee shops/bars. It was quite an eye-opener. I quickly learned (and I did mention publicly, right?) just how much I didn’t know about writing. I needed to learn more.

The writing community is supportive of sharing knowledge. The key is to get involved.

Can you tell us a little more about the book you worked on and signed with?

Curious World of Dandy-lion follows Meredith, a girl who struggles to make friends in an impossible fifth-grade world filled with fantastical creatures only she can see. Her psychologist teaches her coping mechanisms for her high sensitivity traits, but she needs a friend to help her navigate her magical world and reach her goal—to save her widow neighbor from a jinx.

Meredith went through a lot of transitions to become the main character she grew to be. I incorporated my experiences, which were beneficial for her sound and light sensitives. Certain smells and food textures also affect Meredith—as if 5th grade wasn’t hard enough! Most importantly, I exhaustively researched HSP. There is so much confusion on what HSP is that it is often misunderstood. Since this is a limited space interview, the short and simple is that a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) has some form of sensitivity to physical, emotional, or social stimuli. It is present in an estimated 15-20% of the population.

I signed with Lawley Publishing in 2020. I met the dynamic team at an American Night Writers Association conference and loved their mission statement. I queried them and was over-the-moon excited to find out that they wanted to tell Meredith’s story. They understood my vision of creating a magical tale of friendships and including characters where young readers could see their unique struggles and not feel alone. The release date for Curious World of Dandy-lion is set for 2021. 

The writing community is supportive of sharing knowledge. The key is to get involved.

What is your best piece of writing advice that you learned on the programme?

Character background! While it may seem like an extra step, I would never write again without fully fleshing out my characters first. Writing even a few paragraphs on their early memories solidifies a character’s personality in your mind. Once you do that, you know how the character will react in every scene. 

We are a component of our life experiences. The way we react is based on those experiences. For example, if I were bit by fire ants and had an allergic reaction as a young girl, I would never sit on a picnic blanket without checking underneath first. Or I might brush off a leg tickle with vigor, ready to bolt into a cold pond if I thought ants were all over me. Little details like those make your characters feel alive to your readers.  

Why do you think mentoring is important for writers?

A mentor helps you see the best in yourself. A great mentor (like mine) guides you and encourages you to help yourself. We know the world we are writing in our heads, and a mentor helps us build/articulate/describe the world through the words we write. The two are not always the same. When they come together, the months and years of writing a manuscript can pay off.

For those wallowing alongside me in the writing trenches, please find me on social media. I’d love to cheer you on from the sidelines.