“I spent years struggling on my own without asking for guidance, until it dawned on me that there were people out there ready to share their expertise and experience to help someone like me develop my craft. That’s when I found the Spark mentoring programme.”
Author Cat Weldon and her mentee Richard Berry chat about their experience of WriteMentor’s Spark mentoring
Cat, what made you decide to become a Spark mentor?
I was pretty clueless when I wrote my first novel. In fact, I think if I had known how hard it is to become a published author it might have put me off from even trying! I knew no one who worked in the industry and felt very much on my own. I would have loved to have an organisation like WriteMentor offering me support and pairing me up with a friendly mentor to help guide me through the process. Now that I have a bit more knowledge and experience I am keen to pass that on to people who feel like I did, a bit lost, but convinced that they have a good idea for a book and the determination to get it down on paper.
Richard, what made you decide to sign up to the Spark mentoring programme as a mentee?
Coming from a working class background, it is daunting to consider how to make it in the literary world. Growing up, I didn’t know anyone who’d written a book, or anyone who worked in publishing. I believed I had a talent for writing because of encouragement from some brilliant teachers, and I knew I had things I wanted to say. I spent years struggling on my own without asking for guidance, until it dawned on me that there were people out there ready to share their expertise and experience to help someone like me develop my craft. That’s when I found the Spark mentoring programme.
What have you both learned through Spark mentoring?
Cat: Every month I am astounded at the creativity, imagination and craft which arrives in my inbox. I have learnt that there is no one right way to tell a story and that the process of writing is totally individual. I also really enjoy the relationships I develop with my mentees and seeing their ideas develop.
Richard: When I started reading books to my son Kurt, it was a revelation. Firstly because I rediscovered my love for children’s literature, which is where we all begin as readers. Secondly because I started to think about what makes books work for readers, as I wanted him to have the best experience and to be as enthralled in books as I was growing up. Being mentored by Cat has helped me develop a better understanding of how to engage readers and take them with me in a story. Cat has inspired me to be bolder as a writer, and really follow through on ideas, as well as helping me identify the weaknesses I need to work on.
Why should people consider Spark mentoring as a way to develop their writing?
Cat: Writing is essentially a solitary occupation and I think every writer has had moments when they are staring at a computer screen not sure if what they have written is brilliant or totally rubbish. With a mentor you have a sounding board there to help fine tune your ideas, a cheerleader to motivate you through the sticky bits, and a fresh pair of eyes to help you see the wood for the trees.
Richard: Mentoring may not be for everyone but it’s definitely worth considering. It is very helpful to have your work seen from another perspective. Having discovered Cat’s books, I know she’s a fantastic writer, so I can have confidence that I am getting advice from someone who really knows what they are talking about.
Cat, where do you see Richard as a writer in 10 years’ time?
I am sure I will be seeing Richard’s name on the shelves of bookshops! I know his writing will only continue to get better and better and I have no doubt that he will be snapped up by a publisher.
Richard, where do you see yourself as a writer in 10 years’ time?
I don’t think that far ahead, but I have some stories I’d like to tell, about where I come from, the experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve known. I want to write these stories in the most effective way and find an audience for them.
Finally, sum up your experience of Spark mentoring in one sentence
Cat: Spark mentoring continues to be a fantastic experience, and I have learnt as much from being a mentor as I hope my mentees have learnt from me!
Richard: Being mentored by Cat has improved the quality of my writing.
Cat Weldon is a children’s author who writes funny, Middle Grade fantasy stories with a particular interest in off beat fairy tales and world mythology. Her hilarious Viking Series, How To Be A Hero is published by Macmillan Children’s Books. With a master’s degree in Scriptwriting and a background in Children’s Theatre, Cat now splits her time between teaching, writing and trying to round up her collection of delinquent chickens.
Richard Berry is a writer, originally from Greater Manchester, now living in London. His fiction for adults has appeared in DreamCatcher, The Letters Page, Cafe Irreal and elsewhere, and his first novel will be published by SpellBound in 2024 (as Rick Berry). In his day job he works for the Mayor of London. He is currently being mentored by Cat Weldon while working on his first book for children, about a pair of socially conscious Mancunian twins.
Working with a children’s author like Cat, 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.