“I wrote another novel, Glow Up, Lara Bloom, and managed to get a 2-book publishing deal for it. It’s out now, and that wouldn’t have happened without WriteMentor connecting me with my agent.”
Dee Benson, who found her agent through WriteMentor’s summer mentoring programme and whose novel, ‘Glow Up, Lara Bloom’, is out now , shares how the experience developed her writing and gave her insights into the publishing world
What made you apply for the WriteMentor mentoring programme?
I’d heard that some of the books I loved had been through mentoring programmes such as Pitch Wars, so I applied to a US-based mentorship programme and didn’t get in. Around that time, I happened to see people talking about WriteMentor on Twitter. I Googled it right away and couldn’t believe a programme like this was running in the UK and I didn’t know. I read the mentor profiles and was impressed at how accomplished they were and I knew that if I could get in, I would be in good hands. My book was far too long and I had a lot of insecurities about it since it had just been rejected by another programme but I decided I had nothing to lose and just applied.
What was your experience of mentoring like?
It was wonderful. My mentor was Holly Race and she had really good ideas that helped me improve my novel. We had Zoom chats, and I really liked that she also had another mentee as the three of us sometimes all ‘met’ on Zoom together. Apart from the improvements made to my novel, one of the major values of the programme was the opportunity to speak to and get to know Holly, who was a published author and had her second book coming out. I had never met a published author before and Holly demystified so many things for me, telling me about how she got her agent and book deal, and making these things feel like they were within reach for me too.
Tell us about your writing journey from start until now.
I’ve always loved books and remember, as a child, feeling green with envy whenever I read a really good description in a book and wondering how the author came up with it. I tried to write many times growing up but wasn’t very good at it and never wrote more than a few chapters of anything. I finally managed to write my first full-length novel when I was 19, and it wasn’t great, but I’d proved to myself that I could complete a book, plus my best friend was obsessed with it, demanding more chapters as I wrote, so that was a huge boost. I’ve written many novels since then and have also done ghostwriting.
Can you tell us about the book you worked on and signed with?
The book my mentor and I worked on during the WriteMentor Programme is called The Switchers, and is a YA, near-future dystopian novel set in my home city of Liverpool. It’s the book that got me my agent, who signed me as a result of the agent showcase that was held at the end of the WriteMentor programme. My agent and I are still working on The Switchers. In the meantime, I wrote another novel, Glow Up, Lara Bloom, and managed to get a 2-book publishing deal for it. It’s out now, and that wouldn’t have happened without WriteMentor connecting me with my agent.
What is your best piece of writing advice that you learned on the WriteMentor programme?
I think just learning about how the industry works was a huge eye-opener for me. Holly told me all about her journey to publication and I found that invaluable.
Why do you think mentoring is important for writers?
A good mentor can see the blind spots you might have about your work and give you critical insights that help you improve it. Also, just watching them live the writer life and achieve the things you’re still hoping for can make your dreams feel less impossible.
Read more from Dee…
Read the secret diary of a teenage catastrophe…
Dee Benson has been obsessed with books since childhood. She finds it surreal that she now gets to create her own worlds and characters in books of her own. When she isn’t writing, Dee enjoys long walks, good food and music that makes her wish she could sing. She lives in Liverpool with her husband and two daughters.
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