George Jreije is the Lebanese-American author of SHAD HADID AND THE ALCHEMISTS OF ALEXANDRIA (HarperCollins, 2022) as well as short stories published in collaboration with UNICEF. George also works as a professional editor with Angelella Editorial. When not working, he can be found doing yoga or reading.
A mentee on WriteMentor’s 2020 summer program, this year George is now mentoring a writer aspiring to publication, as well as taking on a committee role as workshops and talks co-ordinator.
He shares his experience of the program and why he thinks mentoring is important for writers.
What made you apply for the WriteMentor programme?
I applied to the WriteMentor program out of a personal philosophy to seize every available writing opportunity. At the time, I’d recently exchanged critiques with a couple of writers for my young adult fantasy novel. It seemed ready for the next step, whether querying or otherwise, and I knew a mentor could help me grow not only with this novel but as a writer in general. At the worst, it might result in a rejection, but I was okay with that.
What was your experience like?
My experience was phenomenal. Sabrina Prestes selected my novel and we worked through two rounds of revisions. In each, I learned as much as I could from her line edits and broader comments. By the end, not only was I a stronger writer, but a more keen editor, which is probably more important when it comes to polishing my work.
Tell us about your writing journey from start until now.
My journey began late in college (around 2016) after I’d read a novel I really enjoyed (Red Rising by Pierce Brown) and was inspired to give writing a try. Having grown up working really tough blue-collar jobs, the discipline was there, and that helped me write quickly and efficiently. The first few novels will never see the light of day. They were bad with a capital B.
Slowly, the words started to fit together more naturally, my stories becoming more cohesive. After writing three novels, my fourth got me into WriteMentor. Yet before I even started querying that novel, I played around with middle grade fiction and fell in love. I wrote two middle grade novels, one of them being SHAD HADID AND THE ALCHEMISTS OF ALEXANDRIA. Writing The End for that book coincided with the submission window for Pitch Wars, another mentoring opportunity. Coincidently, I got in for my middle grade project, being mentored by traditionally published authors Adrianna Cuevas and Sarah Kapit.
After more revisions of that middle grade fantasy project, I went out to agents and received several authors, ultimately signing with my literary agent – Jennifer Azantian. We went on submission a couple of months after, and my novel sold at auction!
Since, I’ve been commissioned to write a science fiction short story for UNICEF, and am working through the second book in my SHAD HADID series.
Can you tell us a little more about the book you worked on and signed with?
The book I worked on with WriteMentor wasn’t the book I signed with. Sabrina and I worked on a young adult fantasy that I still love, but never queried due to my sudden interest in the middle grade age category. It was in that age range that I wrote SHAD HADID AND THE ALCHEMISTS OF ALEXANDRIA series, with whom I signed.
This novel regards a Lebanese-American immigrant who loves to bake but discovers he comes from a long line of alchemists. He must apply his baking skills to craft elixirs and charms, but also to learn enough alchemy to stop a nefarious force trying to seize control of his school.
What is your best piece of writing advice that you learned on the programme?
The best piece of writing advice I learned was to be flexible. Even if there was a scene I enjoyed, I grew to be content with re-imagining those scenes and others, effectively strengthening my trust between me and my mentors.
Why do you think mentoring is important for writers?
Mentoring is critical for writers from both the perspective of the mentor and mentee. As a mentee, having the chance to partner with a writer with not only writing experience, but also industry experience is critical for navigating a tricky business. These mentors typically know how to better diagnose a story’s weaknesses and studying their process will help the mentee tremendously.
Likewise, mentoring is helpful for mentors because the process of helping other writers often leads to insights about our own works. Simply going through and offering feedback on manuscripts has certainly made me a better writer, and more attune to how to edit my own work. It is also a huge amount of fun, and a great way to put our skills to good use by helping others.