“Spark Mentoring is a great way to gain advice on so many aspects of writing and the publishing industry. You realise you’re not alone, and you receive regular and high-quality feedback on your work.”
Mentee Catherine Cawley and her mentor Kathryn Clark chat about their experience of WriteMentor’s Spark Mentoring service, offering one-to-one mentoring to children’s writers
Kathryn, what made you decide to become a mentor?
Sharing my work with other writers was a revelation to me. It’s so affirming to have someone else read your story and get it to the extent they talk about your characters like they’re real people, who will wrangle plot points with you, and even suggest you might want to shed some darlings. I wanted to help other writers in the same way. When Stuart put out a call for mentors, I applied and started on the Summer Programme in 2018. I was (and still am) particularly interested in supporting writers who find it difficult to put themselves and their words out there. I want to provide constructive criticism, in a kind, confidence-building way, and to help writers develop their craft.
Catherine, what made you decide to sign up to Spark Mentoring as a mentee?
I felt I needed some guidance on my novel writing. I’d got a bit lost in the process somewhere and needed some help. Kathryn has hugely helped me see things from a different perspective and given expert advice on craft such as showing and telling, dialogue, characterization and the dreaded synopsis. I felt Write Mentor provided a good quality service and at an affordable price.
What have you both learned through Spark Mentoring?
Kathryn: So much! People write in different ways, for some setting is foremost, others start with character. Plotters, pantsers, plansters and various in-betweens. There is no one right way and you can learn a lot from people who write differently to you. I’ve learned the value of patience and persistence – required both for the writing of a novel length piece of fiction and traversing the undulations of the publishing industry. More specifically, I’ve learned about magic systems, and time travel, and history, and the natural world. I’ve learned that I love being at the birth of someone else’s story and watching it take shape as the writer’s confidence grows.
Catherine: I can’t quite believe how much my writing has improved, not just my novel writing but my short story writing as well. Areas I’ve become better in include; plot/storyline, description, editing skills and genre – Middle Grade or Young Adult. I’ve realised where my strengths and weaknesses lie, for example I’m good at creating an atmosphere, but I need to work on my characters. In terms of short stories, with Kathryn’s help, I’ve had two stories shortlisted and longlisted for WriteMentor Awards and Searchlight Writing for Children Awards.
Why should people consider Spark Mentoring as a way to develop their writing?
Kathryn: Spark Mentoring is a good first step for writers who feel nervous about sharing their work with a group. Some writers find it helpful to have a deadline/someone to be accountable to. It’s also useful once you have a full manuscript to have fresh eyes on the whole thing. Mentoring is personal to you, focused on your story, and any areas you feel need development. Mentoring about having someone there to remind you that you are a writer on those days when you feel rubbish about it. To give you a pep talk when you need it. I’ve found with several mentees that aspects of writing craft they’ve grappled with for years, become clearer when explained using their own work. e.g. telling and showing.
Catherine: Spark Mentoring is a great way to gain advice on so many aspects of writing and the publishing industry. You realise you’re not alone, and you receive regular and high-quality feedback on your work. And Spark Mentoring is a one-to-one service so it’s tailored to you as an individual and your writing needs.
Kathryn, where do you see Catherine as a writer in 10 years’ time?
Definitely with a published book or three under her belt! Catherine has already had some competition success and short stories published since we’ve been working together, and her confidence has really grown.
Catherine, where do you see yourself as a writer in 10 years’ time?
Well, ideally, I’d like to think I’ll be a traditionally published author of Middle Grade or Young Adult fiction with maybe one or two books on the shelf. If not kidlit then adult historical fiction. As I’ve had some success in short stories, more of those. Perhaps a Master’s degree in Creative Writing. I’m planning to retrain as a proof-reader, so maybe I’ll be a mentor with Spark Mentoring!
Finally, sum up your experience of Spark Mentoring in one sentence
Kathryn: Joyful, educational, fulfilling and fun.
Catherine: Helpful, encouraging, challenging, fun.
Working with a children’s author like Kathryn, 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.