“Keep learning and find some writer friends – through the WriteMentor Hub or on Twitter/Instagram – who will encourage you, commiserate with you, cheer for you as you will for them, and make your whole journey so much richer.”
Writer Aerin Apeltun describes how being part of the WriteMentor community helped her secure publication for her debut young adult novel
Tell us about your writing journey from the start until now
It’s been a very long road, with a number of valleys and the odd mountain. I took my first Children’s Writing Course in 1995 (let’s not dwell on that). I started querying in 1997 when it was all paper queries, manila envelopes, one agent at a time, and a three to four month wait (if you were lucky) for a reply, amounting to maybe querying four agents a year. After a break when life got in the way, I’ve spent the last eight years doing further courses, writing mainly YA Fantasy, with a little MG thrown in for good measure, and completing ten novels. I had a couple of children’s short stories published in The People’s Friend magazine, listings in a few competitions, and a few full manuscript requests from agents and publishers. The big breakthrough came at the end of last year when SmashBear Publishing acquired my debut YA Fantasy trilogy.
Why did you decide to join WriteMentor’s Hub?
I’ve been taking WriteMentor courses since the end of 2020 – the first with the lovely Alex Sheppard on writing YA. Another three courses later, WOWCONs and near misses at the WM Summer Mentoring Programme, I decided it was time to join the Hub. I wish I’d done it sooner, but better late than never!
Can you tell us a little about your debut and how you came to secure publication?
I wrote the first draft of my debut YA Fantasy over two weeks in February 2021. Admittedly, I do write quickly, but, I had spent three months on planning – worldbuilding, map drawing, character studies, plotting – so when it came to the first draft, it was fairly easy, bearing in mind that by then the plot had grown to about 22,000 words! I used it as the WIP for two WM Courses – one with Lindsay Galvin and the other with Aisha Bushby, who both really encouraged me to continue to perfect it and apply to agents/publishers. It’s become more Fantasy Romance (or Romantasy as it is in some quarters), than straight Fantasy, as time’s gone on. My characters really insisted on it as rewrites progressed! I submitted my query to SmashBear Publishing, and a while later heard back that they wanted to read the whole manuscript – cue much jumping up and down. It was a long wait to hear back, but well worth it. They offered me a contract for the complete trilogy – cue even more happy dancing! What I hadn’t realised was that that was when the hard work would really begin.
What is your best piece of writing advice?
For me it’s been about continuing learning and being persistent. This doesn’t work for everyone, but when it comes to writing, I’m stubborn. I have to write, I think it’s in my blood, and so I’ve kept on going despite the rejections (and there have been many, well into three figures). Because of this I’ve taken courses – including four with WriteMentor – signed up to webinars and courses from agents and publishing companies, a lot of which are free. I’ve also built a group of trusted writing friends around me, which is also key. My advice is to keep learning and find some writer friends – through the WriteMentor Hub or on Twitter/Instagram – who will encourage you, commiserate with you, cheer for you as you will for them, and make your whole journey so much richer. So keep honing your craft, keep learning, and keep writing!
Why do you think it’s important to be part of a community like the Hub?
Having others around you who understand the highs and lows of writing, querying, editing, deadlines etc, really helps to pull you through. If you don’t write, it’s hard to understand the stresses and strains – and the wins! When you’re part of a community like the WriteMentor Hub you have experience to draw on which is so important if you want to progress – then you’ll become able to help others by passing on your own knowledge and experience.
Join the WriteMentor Hub
Develop writing craft, receive critique on your work from peers and kid readers, pitch your manuscript to agents, and learn from and network with industry experts through monthly workshops, webinars, and chats. Most importantly, foster life-long friendships with fellow writers.
Read more success stories
Since 2018, over 100 WriteMentor writers have signed with agents or secured publishing deals like Melissa via our summer mentoring programme, novel awards and membership to the Hub. Could you be our next success story?