“One day, I hope to pass along the wisdom that I have learned from this stellar program to somebody else. Paying it forward is very important to me as a human being”
Middle Grade and Young Adult author Richard B. Knight describes his experience of WriteMentor’s summer programme, and how his mentor’s guidance helped him secure the agent of his dreams
Teacher by day, writer by night, Richard B. Knight has wanted to be a novelist ever since the fourth grade when his teacher asked the class what they wanted to be when they grew up. Rich happened to write “Be a novelist” on his paper, which still bewilders him to this day. Back then, “Professional Nintendo Player” would have been a more likely response from him, but hey, novelist it is.
He writes Middle Grade and Young Adult and tries to create the kinds of books he would have loved reading back when he was growing up, namely adventure stories with lots of action and snappy dialogue. When he’s not writing, he’s usually playing video games with his children or running around with them while he still has the energy.
Rich was a 2021 WriteMentor mentee, mentored by Ravena Guron. Her expertise in creating stakes and consequences made him totally reevaluate his story, making it all the better in the long run. Her guidance helped him secure the agent of his dreams, and set him on his path to publishing.
What made you apply for the WriteMentor summer mentoring programme?
It’s actually been a pretty long journey. After crawling on my belly through the query trenches for months on end and receiving several partial and full requests, I kept coming up short. Many of the agents said that the concept was interesting, but that the overall story was just missing something. Well, one of my published writer friends advised that I join an online writer’s group on Twitter, which is where I came across the #MGMiracles. This group is amazing, let me tell you, and we always share information on any upcoming workshops and competitions. One day, one of the group’s members mentioned how WriteMentor was coming up, which I was unfamiliar with at the time. I checked it out and thought, hey, this sounds perfect for me. I signed up, crossing my fingers that I would get chosen, and I did! I was so, so happy, and I’m still happy to this very day. WriteMentor changed my life!
What was your experience like?
Grueling, but worth it. My mentor said that she loved my writing, but came up with several possible revisions for my story. I ended up rewriting almost the entire novel in about two months. But in doing so, the book was really, truly coming together with real stakes and everything. I learned more in about two months than I’ve likely learned in 15 years in going at it alone. That’s how amazing my mentor was in my journey.
Tell us about your writing journey from start until now.
I’ve been writing seriously for well over 15 years now. I self-published a few books, and I’m proud of them, but looking back, there was a lot I could have done to make them even better. If I had known then what I know now, I likely would have acquired an agent many moons ago. I also freelance entertainment articles in my spare time. I’ve written for a number of publications, including The Source, Complex Magazine, and Cinemablend.com, which I still write for to this day.
Can you tell us a little more about the book you worked on and signed with?
Certainly! Thanks for asking. Second Skin is a Middle Grade Superhero story about a boy who thinks he has terrible skin, but soon finds out that his skin has hidden powers. The story is about family, acceptance, and loving yourself. It’s fun, and it also has a lot of heart. I like it, and I hope other people like it, too!
What is your best piece of writing advice that you learned on the programme?
Every chapter has to have growth and stakes. If your character doesn’t grow throughout the story, then your reader will feel cheated. So, make sure your character is constantly learning something new along the way. Oh, and let your protagonist create a lot of their own problems. Life is messy, so why shouldn’t fiction be messy, too?
Why do you think mentoring is important for writers?
Mentoring is crucial for writers. Crucial! Reading craft books and attending seminars is great. I highly recommend doing both. But having a mentor can help you focus on your weaknesses, but also heighten your strengths as well. And again, I think WriteMentor has shown me how to be a better writer. One day, I hope to pass along the wisdom that I have learned from this stellar program to somebody else. Paying it forward is very important to me as a human being.