Mentoring Women Writers

May 2, 2016 | By | 2 Replies More

12540984_512595145568761_9207546084356341496_n(1)I think one of the things I’ve most appreciated since becoming a published writer is the support I’ve had from other writers. Writing can be a lonely business. Don’t get me wrong, it can also be a rewarding and hugely satisfying business too, but occasionally it can feel isolating.

The voice of self-doubt that plagues a writer can seem unbearably loud and whilst the highs can be intoxicating, the lows can be debilitating. This is when having another writer to talk to can be invaluable. I have a number of writers I keep on speed-dial for the times when I feel like throwing my laptop out of the window.

They know just what to say (“Yes, it’s a bugger this writing malarkey, but we’re all facing the same demons, you’re not alone…”). Humour and rationality coming from somebody you trust is the best medicine.

I’ve also found writers to be an incredibly generous bunch. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve nervously asked a writer if they might read my latest proof and then been blown away by the support that comes back, either in words of endorsement for book covers or in tweets or Facebook recommendations or bolstering emails.

It’s heartening to see authors championing the books they love, and especially when those books are written by authors just starting out. Something that links the majority of writers is determination.

Publishing is fraught with rejection and the early days can be dark. Hopes might be lifted by a spark of agent or editor interest, then dashed when a rejection email drops into the inbox you’ve been staring at non-stop since submission.

It’s important for published writers to remember what it was like before they stepped through the gateway. I believe it’s right that those who’ve managed to clamber aboard the ship, reach back to help another writer out.

This is why I love being involved in mentoring schemes. The WoMentoring Project is one such scheme. It was set up by author Kerry Hudson to offer free mentoring by professional literary women to talented female writers who would otherwise find it difficult to access similar opportunities. It works very simply.

Writers select a mentor from the list and submit a sample of writing and a personal statement to them. Then from those applications the mentor selects the writer they think they can offer the most to.

One of the authors I worked with went on to sign a contract, and though I won’t take any credit for this as I believe she was always destined for publication, I know that the meetings we had, and the advice I was able to give her, did at the very least provide encouragement and reassurance.

In Her Wake HBcover copy 2Another thing established writers can do is to encourage young writers. I’ve been a judge for the Henley Youth Festival for a number of years.

Every year I am blown away by the talent on display. It’s a privilege to work with children and watch how they respond to encouragement and praise, which will hopefully stay with them and inspire them to continue creative writing.

Children have such rich and unfettered imaginations, and they respond so well to positive criticism, and you can see how keen they are to learn and improve their writing.

From an early age we can teach a child to look at their creative writing on different levels, show them how to introduce emotion and texture into their stories, give them hints on how to develop characters alongside the imaginative plots, which seem to come easily to them.

The wonderful thing about writing, about all creative arts, is that there’s room for everybody. We don’t need to compete for readers. Though it might feel that we are up against each other, in real terms we aren’t. No one book is identical to another, just like no one reader is identical to another. Reading is subjective and what is a must-read for one person might well be a no-no for another.

You only have to look at the Amazon star ratings for your favourite all-time book to see that. (No, Amy J, The Book Thief isn’t naff and unsophisticated or clumsy, it’s wonderful!). Just like anything where choice, personal experience, personality and taste are involved, there’s no One Consumer, and for this reason pulling up the drawbridge just isn’t necessary.

Instead, we should reach out to other writers in whom we recognise determination, talent and passion and give them all the help we can. I will always remember those people who reached out to me, and, indeed, those who continue do so, and I am eternally grateful.

It’s a tough old world out there and we can all do with a little bit of help now and then. As The WoMentoring Project website says: ‘Many of us received unofficial or official mentoring ourselves which helped us get ahead and the emphasis is on ‘paying forward’ some of the support we’ve been given.’

Hear, hear.


Amanda Jennings writes psychological suspense. She is the author of three novels. Her debut, Sworn Secret, was a Kindle bestseller in the UK, US and Italy, and her second book, The Judas Scar, was optioned by a television production company.
Her third, In Her Wake, is set in Cornwall and  was published in at the beginning of April. She is a regular guest on BBC Berkshire’s Book Club, writes a blog and is active on social media. She lives just outside Henley-on-Thames with her husband, three daughters and a menagerie of pets.
Twitter:  @mandajjennings

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Category: Contemporary Women Writers, On Writing

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  1. Mentoring Women Writers | WordHarbour | May 3, 2016
  1. Cindy Tremblay says:

    How inspired her article was. I have tried many times and threw things I’d written away. After reading her article I realized there are others who feel the same. Thanks for your push!

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