“Mentoring is such a great way to get feedback and encouragement, and to learn more about the industry”
Author Clare Thompson shares her experience of WriteMentor’s summer mentoring programme
What made you apply for the WriteMentor programme?
I discovered the WriteMentor summer mentoring programme at exactly the right time. Like a lot of people, lockdown made me assess my life and priorities, and I decided that writing was something that I wanted to really focus on and take seriously. I did a couple of online courses and workshops, but just felt like I needed a little more guidance, which I hoped the programme would offer, and it certainly did.
Enjoying the collaborative process
The experience was fantastic! Not only did I meet a wonderful mentor, Louise Gooding, but I also met lots of other brilliant writers in my fellow mentees. We exchanged words of wisdom, highs and lows, and general encouragement. One of the mentees, Nadine Holland, also went on to become my invaluable critique partner. Finding the writing community has been so helpful to me. Everyone is so supportive and it is a great network to be part of.
Tell us about your writing journey from start until now.
I have always written stories and poems, right from when I was a child. I fell in love with writing picture books, so I sent off some terrible drafts to a couple of publishers and agents, not really knowing what I was doing and then life got in the way and it fizzled out. When I had my own children the spark reignited, I loved reading to them, so I dusted off some old manuscripts, and tweaked and polished them to try again. Patience was not one of my qualities at this point, something you definitely need to learn as a writer, so I set off on a self-publishing journey and published two picture books. I absolutely loved the collaborative process but it made me realise just how much was involved in publishing, and that I didn’t have the expertise, the time or the money to do it well enough. However, it also made me more determined to pursue my dream. So, one mentorship, being part of the Penguin WriteNow programme as a shortlistee, a GEA course and countless workshops later, I was absolutely thrilled to sign with Katie Blagden at the Bright Agency, and am so excited for the next steps in my writing journey.
Can you tell us a little more about the book you worked on and signed with?
I started the mentorship with a couple of picture book manuscripts and mentioned to Louise that I had been working on a chapter book, inspired by one of them. She kindly had a read of what I had so far and her enthusiasm for it really spurred me on. It is about a girl with OCD who feels ‘alien’ and wants to feel ‘normal.’ It is about friendship and acceptance, and it is the book of my heart, so I am happy to say that it is also the book that I signed with my agent with, and that it is now out on submission.
What is your best piece of writing advice that you learned on the programme?
I got so much great advice from Louise, but the game-changer was her suggesting that my main character become female. I had automatically written a boy protagonist without really thinking about it, but after some research I realised that young female representation of OCD in children’s books was even less than that of male, plus I wanted to use my own experiences as much as possible. When I made the main character a girl something really clicked; I suddenly knew why I was writing this book and why it was my story to tell.
Why do you think mentoring is important for writers?
Mentoring is such a great way to get feedback and encouragement, to learn more about the industry, and in my case to meet a wonderful human with so much passion and enthusiasm!
Clare is a children’s author based in Northamptonshire. After studying Film at university, she worked as a production co-ordinator in the television industry for several years, where she organised crews and made countless cups of tea for presenters. She now co-ordinates two young children, organises school bags and occasionally gets to drink a hot cup of tea herself! Clare is an alumni of the Golden Egg Academy, a Penguin WriteNow programme shortlistee and former WriteMentor summer mentoring programme mentee. She takes inspiration from her OCD and anxiety, and hopes to improve representation for young people in these areas through her writing.
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