“Having seasoned writers generously offering their time and expertise to unknown and struggling writers from anywhere in the world is such a gift to the writing community”
Author Lynn Grace Wong shares her experience of the WriteMentor summer mentoring programme, and how it helped her grow as a writer
Lynn Grace Wong grew up on Philippine mangoes and her great-grandpa Papang’s spooky stories. She won a third-grade writing competition in Guam because her teacher Mrs. G. believed in her.
Lynn earned a Ph.D. in Special Education Administration from the University of Texas at Austin, but her heart never left writing. She joined SCBWI in 2019 and won the Austin SCBWI 2021 Creators of Diverse Worlds Scholarship. Her winning flash fiction, “To Fill or Not to Fill Your Coconut” was published in the WriteMentor Magazine ‘21 issue on perseverance.
When she isn’t helping run a girl’s leadership club, Lynn can be found playing a mean game of Scrabble or belting out goofy karaoke with her husband and five young kids. But the hours before dawn are when diverse stories take flight and sweep her away.
What made you apply for the WriteMentor mentoring programme?
Even at the beginning of my writer’s journey, I’ve always wanted a mentor to not only improve my writing craft but also to shed light on what it really takes to get a book published. WriteMentor was the third mentoring program I submitted to in a span of a couple of months and I was thrilled to be finally chosen. Having seasoned writers generously offering their time and expertise to unknown and struggling writers from anywhere in the world is such a gift to the writing community. I hope one day I’ll be able to give back, too.
What was your experience like?
I’m going to have to warn you that my answer to this question will be gushing about Clare Harlow, my lovely mentor. I read a write-up of her writer’s journey and was immediately attracted to how she handled both the highs and lows. I knew I would benefit from her rich experience as well as from her writing craft expertise. And I did.
For my manuscript, looking back, it was a massive undertaking because of the different threads running through the story. But Clare was able to outline everything and break it into workable chunks, so I never felt overwhelmed. Her suggestions were always prefaced with, ‘Remember, this is your story.’ And I loved that.
To help me grow as a writer, Clare went above and beyond. She gave me tips when I did my first zoom pitch even before the summer program started. And she practically held my hand through the querying process. Every question I had she answered, and she calmed the impostor syndrome that popped up when rejections or lulls happened. Best of all, she was there to share my excitement for every manuscript request. And when the call to offer representation came, Clare helped me navigate that, too, after she danced around in her kitchen and I in my living room.
Tell us about your writing journey from start until now
At the start, I went it alone and I wouldn’t recommend that to anyone. I researched what steps I needed to get a book published then I proceeded to teach myself how not to write. I drafted and queried a fantasy, with no background on craft and no real revisions. That turned out to be a train wreck. But it taught me that much like a child is raised by a village, a writer can’t thrive alone. I joined SCBWI and an amazing critique group and put myself out in the writing community on Twitter. I just soaked in all the knowledge and experience of the writers around me. It paid off when my new work-in-progress won me a Creators of Diverse Worlds Scholarship and Clare noticed my WriteMentor submission.
I’m so grateful to the WriteMentor Showcase for connecting me with my stellar agent Jemiscoe Chambers-Black. Jem and I are both passionate about diverse stories and fingers crossed that A Night at The Lighthouse will be the first of many wonderful collaborations.
Can you tell us a little more about the book you worked on and signed with?
I’m very excited about A NIGHT AT THE LIGHTHOUSE because it features an all-Filipino cast (including Filipino-American and Filipino-Chinese) as heroes and villains, and maybe a bit of both. It also immerses young readers in my culture while showcasing the beautiful islands of the Philippines.
On the surface, it’s a true horror story with monsters from Filipino folklore that used to scare me to bits when I was a child. But at its heart, it’s a story about family, and identity, and coming-of-age, where the monsters we must face within ourselves are far more challenging than any real monster.
What is your best piece of writing advice that you learned on the programme?
Revision is where the magic happens. You sift through each chapter and ask yourself does this move the plot forward or does it deepen or change the characters? There is no room for stragglers here.
Why do you think mentoring is important for writers?
I think most writers would agree that no one understands and gets a writer’s mind and our journey the way a writer does. Having a mentor is having someone in your corner who understands what you are trying to do and what it takes to get it done.
Working with a children’s author, receive ongoing developmental editing, writing advice, publishing insights, and direct feedback on your manuscript to help you elevate your writing craft to the next level