“Beyond the mentee-mentor relationship, I…was fortunate to connect with fellow mentees, building a broader support system in the writing community”

Author Noelle Strader shares her experience of being selected for the WriteMentor summer mentoring programme two years in a row, and the confidence boost it gave her to pursue her writing ambitions

What made you apply for the WriteMentor mentoring programme?

One of the many reasons I applied is because I’m first to admit that I don’t know what I don’t know. It’s extremely generous to have more experienced writers donate their time and support in any capacity, but having an entire summer of mentorship is next level.

What was your experience like?

I was lucky enough to be chosen as a WriteMentor mentee twice for two different manuscripts. The wonderful Kimberly Wisnewski was my 2020 mentor on a YA Contemporary with speculative elements. I didn’t wade too deeply into the querying trenches on that one, deciding I wanted to finish my second manuscript and submit for another mentorship opportunity. In 2021, Jennifer Griswell and Heather Powell chose my YA Contemporary Romance, giving me two mentors! The pair encouraged me to dig deeper with my humor and revise the book into a YA RomCom. Both mentorship experiences were very positive, and I suspect that’s the case for most mentees. You’re connecting with another writer who is drawn to your voice and story, which is a huge confidence boost. My mentors had various insights ranging from character to plot to theme. Beyond the mentee-mentor relationship, I also was fortunate to connect with fellow mentees, building a broader support system in the writing community. 

Tell us about your writing journey from start until now.

During my academic years, I avoided Language Arts courses, mortified to share my writing or take part in group discussions. Young writers are brave! Given that science and math were far less personal and subjective, I veered down the path leading me to become an orthodontist. Once I paid off my hefty student loans and stabilized my career, I had more time to read—stuff beyond randomized clinical control trials. The more I read, the more I had the itch to put pen to paper. Being a student for so many years gave me some serious study habits, and I was feeling unexpected withdrawal. Is it dorky to admit enjoying the solitude and deep focus involved in writing? It’s been about five years since I began this journey. The first year, I’d put on a nice outfit, sit down at my dining room table, and chase my story all over the page. Since then, I’ve realized writing is not as independent as I suspected. Much of my knowledge of this craft has accumulated from podcasts, conferences, and online workshops. Two of my favorite courses have been Nina LaCour’s Slow Novel Lab and Heather Demetrios’s Writing Bingeable Characters. I’m so very appreciative of remote learning.

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

Absolutely! The Pros and Cons of Dating Grey is a YA RomCom set at a summer camp on the outskirts of Orlando. Arden is a seventeen-year-old girl hiding her alopecia. Her love interest, Grey, is hiding his own secret. In the end, it boils down to Arden feeling secure enough to believe she’s worthy of love. Having grappled with alopecia as an adult, I was surprised not to see many YA protagonists depicted with this condition. It would be a dream to see Arden’s story earn a voice.

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

For me, it’s that every action in the story needs a character reaction. Often what I think I’m getting across on the page isn’t translating because I’m holding back or being subtle. Also, each side character should help highlight the main storyline.

Why do you think mentoring is important for writers?

Having a mentor was like having a teacher and friend rolled into one. This summer was a very personal one for me, heavy with loss. To know my mentors believed in my story gave me strength and hope to continue with my querying plans. Mentorship programs are wonderful, but they’re not necessary to move forward with your writing. There are often quieter mentorships happening all the time, whether in writing groups, between critique partners, or in a traditional classroom. If you’re open to suggestions, deadline motivated, and enjoy connecting with peers, I would highly recommend applying to WriteMentor

Twitter: @noelle_strade

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