My WriteMentor journey starts with Spider-Man: Far From Home at the ODEON Metrocentre in Gateshead. I’d gone to the cinema to distract myself from the announcements of the WriteMentor mentor/mentee pairings. With the witchy power of predictions the women in my family swear to have, I thought I hadn’t got in for a second time. But when the film finished and I switched my phone back on, I’d been tagged on Twitter. Tagged alongside P.M. Freestone, my new mentor. Turns out the future-telling gene had skipped me.
The summer mentoring programme was a massive step forward in my writing. The agent showcase came and went – no success there. Maybe that was life striking a balance. All I had to do was wait patiently for a couple more months for a different type of success to spring on me.
Twitter again, and this time Stuart posts a job advert searching for his first WriteMentor employee. I’m a freelancer of words – social media, marketing, journalism, copywriting, copyediting. I’m also an aspiring author – two Young Adult novels and one and a half Middle Grades. WriteMentor perfectly paired my current career and my (I hope, really hope) future career interests.
I applied, I crossed my fingers, I got the job. My first task: approach a design company to create a new logo, contributing my own ideas based on WriteMentor’s core ethos of Writing, Community, and Inclusion. I knew I’d stumbled upon my ideal job. Stuart gives me creative freedom and ownership over everything I do. I don’t like working for companies where I’m constantly micromanaged (I can hear Stuart panic-thinking do I micromanage her? Do I?), my ideas aren’t valued, and I’m not trusted to make my own decisions. Working for WriteMentor is the complete opposite. Stuart is still the captain of this Stars Wars ship (if Stuart was only hiring Star Wars fans, I wouldn’t be writing this), but I feel like his co-pilot, and not a lackey scrubbing the deck.
Things I learned very quickly about WriteMentor: Stuart loves spreadsheets, Comic Sans, and Star Wars. People also love WriteMentor. And I started to love the people who love WriteMentor too. For a group of people who damn their characters to narrative hellfire, writers are very kind. And kindness is a defining trait at WriteMentor. Stuart, as you all know, is one of the kindness people out there. But so are the authors, agents, and other industry professionals we work with, and everyone else who makes up WriteMentor. It has certainly made the real-life hellfire of these recent months easier. With this kindness comes a strong community that defies the remoteness of the internet. I feel like I’ve met you all in real life, even though I only know you by Twitter handles and profile pictures.
Job-wise, initially this kindness and community was tricky to navigate. I was hired to help Stuart expand WriteMentor. My skillset is marketing for companies selling services and products for profit. But with WriteMentor, you can’t use these manipulation techniques favoured by companies like A****n. It’s all wrong. Honesty, transparency, trust – that’s what Stuart stands by. Yes, it can cause some friction between us – money needs to be made for WriteMentor to grow and continue. But I stand by Stuart. WriteMentor’s success comes from wearing a human face and not a giant bank note. So, I have to strike a balance. I have a marketing strategy to sell our courses, to push the award entries higher, to squeeze some profit out of WOWCON. But I also have to remember why people love WriteMentor. Why they turn to us and not another writing service. Kindness and community.
Over a year later and it’s strange to call Stuart my employer or my boss. There’s a word beginning in F and ending in D that’s more apt, but I won’t come over all soppy. It’s great that we’re both writers, that we have a shared understanding of the gut-wrenching, head-ache inducing, but adrenaline-pumping rollercoaster that is the journey to becoming an author. As a writer, I still have to pinch myself when I get an email from an editor about WriteMentor. Moderating the WOWCON agent panel was a surreal experience (and a conflicting one: external professionalism meets internal fangirling). Getting compliments from published authors about the magazine puts a huge smile on my face.
As a writer, I also understand what you’re all going through. I’m happy that, thanks to WriteMentor, we can go through it all together. As Stuart says: Writing can be lonely, but it doesn’t need to be, and that’s certainly a lesson I’ve learnt in this job.
So, a massive good luck to everyone chasing those writing dreams and, to end on the only Star Wars quote I know: May the force be with you (or something like that).