“Writing is a lonely process. There’s nothing like having someone reading your work to give you purpose and keep you grafting.”
Author Carolyn Ward and her mentee Claudia Gonella chat about their experience of WriteMentor’s Spark mentoring
Carolyn, what made you decide to become a Spark mentor?
I became a Spark mentor about five years ago, because it’s a total honour to be able to read somebody’s brand new writing, and support them in how to polish and elevate their story. I have made so many mentee friends over the years, and love to give back to the delightful and supportive writing community.
Claudia, what made you decide to sign up to the Spark mentoring programme as a mentee?
I was lucky enough to have my last manuscript chosen for the WriteMentor summer mentoring programme. My mentors taught me a lot, and having cheerleaders for my project kept the self-doubt at bay, so I decided to sign up for Spark mentoring to keep my new project on track. You can find crit groups online, but I don’t have the spare time to return the favour right now. I recently discovered I have ADHD, so adding monthly deadlines into the mix has helped me maintain consistency too.
What have you both learned through Spark mentoring?
Carolyn: Spark mentoring has taught me many things, but in a nutshell I suppose it has made me feel like we all share the same fundamental hope – a desire to tell stories in the most beautiful way possible. Everyone’s journeys are different. Some are straight and fast, like arrows hitting their targets. Others meander like old, slow rivers and explore multiple opportunities. Different writers need different mentoring, and Spark really allows for it to be tailored to exactly what people need. Spark mentoring helps me to slow down and appreciate the words, and consider the decisions the author makes to bring the scene and the characters to life. I did a poetry course once and learned to really savour the lines, and it’s the same with the sections I receive to edit. The word choices fascinate me! I’m reading this back and I guess I’m an edit-nerd. I believe the role is an honour and a responsibility, and I edit with care and respect, and above all, hopefully – kindness.
Claudia: I’ve learnt my work is never as bad as I fear! I’m also working on not getting stuck perfecting everything, and the deadline helps with this. The best way to make progress is to keep pushing forward and worry about the small stuff later. I’ve also learnt giving half your characters names beginning with A isn’t ideal, and that the DILF I accidentally conjured up wasn’t entirely appropriate for middle grade (maybe I’m writing in the wrong genre?).
Why should people consider Spark mentoring as a way to develop their writing?
Carolyn: Everybody writes in their own, unique way. Mentoring brings us together to share the ideas, the practice we have developed. If you are open to new things, new things will come. Mentoring is a safe sounding-board, a space where you can send your words and hear back the truth, said with kindness. The aim of Spark mentoring is to encourage and excite people with regards to their writing, to keep them energised and hungry to keep creating. To keep writing fun. The flexibility of different word amounts means it can fit into any lifestyle, and can work as an impetus or encouragement to keep prioritising your own dreams.
Claudia: Writing is a lonely process. There’s nothing like having someone reading your work to give you purpose and keep you grafting. Best of all, your reader is someone with opinions and feedback you can trust. These guys know what they’re doing and you get direct access to their skills, experience and knowledge of the market.
Carolyn, where do you see Claudia as a writer in 10 years’ time?
Claudia is a brilliant writer, and her work is sparky and clever. It’s so much fun to read – I’m very lucky to have her. I don’t think I’ve read anyone who can recreate the feelings of being at school in that maelstrom of early teen years like she can! Her writing is very accessible and perfect for middle grade, and her concept is hooky and unique. I see her published and enjoying her writing and creating.
Claudia, where do you see yourself as a writer in 10 years’ time?
Worldwide acclaim and billions in the bank. Failing that, hopefully I’ll have something published I can be proud of – whether that’s in the children’s section or a Mills and Boon.
Finally, sum up your experience of Spark mentoring in one sentence
Carolyn: A delight – the chance to take a peek into a different imagination and marvel at the stories inside.
Claudia: Supportive, inspiring and encouraging, with a few giggles along the way.
Be mentored by a published author
Working with a children’s author like Carolyn, 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.