“A good mentor is someone who will combine constructive criticism with kindness”

Author Sophie Siddall shares her experience of WriteMentor’s summer mentoring programme

Sophie Siddall lives in North West England where, despite the constant rain, she is always hopeful of spotting a kingfisher on her walks along the river. When not outside looking for wildlife, she can usually be found underneath a blanket with a strong mug of tea, daydreaming about slow burn romances and magical worlds – complete with birds, of course! 

Sophie shares her experience of WriteMentor summer mentoring programme.

Tell us about your writing journey from start until now

I’ve loved writing from a young age. A story called ‘Mash potato, yuck!’ is the one that stands out from when I was around eight years old. I wrote a few terrible but enjoyable stories at the start of high school and then stopped. When I started my Duke of Edinburgh award at college in 2013, I used writing as my ‘skill’ and began writing a book about kids on a farm watching kingfishers on their local river, but never ended up finishing it. Years later after I’d graduated university in 2016, being in a full time job gave me some motivation back and I picked up where I left off. I got bit by the writing bug again and haven’t stopped projects since. I found Write Mentor on Twitter and it has helped improve my writing a lot, from generous critiques and competition feedback.

What made you apply for the WriteMentor programme?

I’d been following WriteMentor on Twitter for a while and had previously entered with a Middle Grade fantasy. The manuscript needed a lot of polishing so not surprisingly, I didn’t get in. After, I wrote LOVEBIRDS and entered it into the Children’s Novel Award and received positive feedback, which encouraged me to enter the 2021 summer mentorship.

What was your experience like?

I had a great experience with the mentorship programme. I had two mentor offers which really surprised me, and ultimately decided to go with Anna Britton. Anna made the entire summer both relaxed and exciting. Firstly, we had a video chat to discuss our expectations, and then she sent me a detailed edit letter. I found it really helpful because she listed things that she liked along with those that could be improved, so it didn’t feel overwhelming. By the end of the summer, I had added 10 thousand extra words and felt a lot more prepared to start querying. 

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

I started writing LOVEBIRDS in September 2020. It was my first try at writing a Young Adult book and I found that it flowed out a lot more easily than previous genres. I had drafted three versions by the time of the summer programme, and then it went through another edit with the extra 10k words added. In the summer mentorship showcase, I received three requests for more than didn’t work out, so I started querying in September 2021 and signed with my agent this March 2022. 

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

I would say the best advice is to take a couple of days to sit with an edit letter and let it sink in. At first, you might disagree with some points raised but then you come to realise the suggestion will make your book better. It’s also important to stand by your writing too and to only make the changes that you agree with- don’t rewrite completely to fit another person’s vision if it isn’t the story you want to tell.

Why do you think mentoring is important for writers?

I think mentoring is important as it gives you the opportunity to have another pair of eyes on your work. A good mentor is someone who will combine constructive criticism with kindness. It’s a great way to polish your manuscript to be the best it can be before sending it out to agents, as they may spot something you have missed. I would definitely recommend writers to apply for the WriteMentor summer programme!

Be mentored by a published author

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

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