The Importance of Mentors

Pat Conroy

As many of you know, writing is not my first career. My first career began just after my graduation from MUSC in Charleston in 1990 as a Neonatal ICU nurse. After 7 years of working full time in the hospital, I took a break to stay home with my kids. In both of those roles, I sought out mentors. Yes, even the full time mom job! It is fairly easy to find a person who does their job well. If you are fortunate, that person is willing to mentor new people–to share what works for them, and what to avoid. But not everyone is willing. Some people want to keep all of their “secrets to success” to themselves and hoard it like a hamster. Even after I earned my Master’s Degree in Education and began teaching, there were experienced teachers who were gracious with their advice and support, and those who wouldn’t offer any help at all.

Over the years, I have tried serve as a mentor for others, and I hope that I’ve been successful in their eyes. I certainly attempt to be supportive to younger (or less experienced) people in any job that I have. Writing isn’t that different from other jobs, in that mentors can be invaluable. To have someone who has already been through the process of writing, querying agents, evaluating contracts, promoting a new book, and interacting with readers is a huge asset in the publishing trenches.

Recently, my husband and I were lucky enough to meet Pat Conroy at the Savannah Book Festival. This man is a great supporter of new authors, and I’m ashamed to admit that I “chickened out” and didn’t hand him a copy of Burning Prospects. I’m considering mailing him a copy, because he will read books by unknown authors, and if he likes the book he will tell people. Some of you who know me might find it hard to believe that I am a chicken about promoting my books. But I really am! If I group invites me to speak about my books, I will gladly do it! It’s exciting and I really enjoy it. But to just approach a person and tell them about my books, ranks up there with a root canal for me.

Publishing is a tough field to break into, but it can be done. Now that I’ve discovered how much I love writing, I have no plans to quit. But a mentor to guide me through the process would be tremendous!

If you are good at your job, please take some extra time to serve as a mentor for the young ones coming along. We were all new at something once, and remember how nice it was to have someone more experienced to save us from making mistakes. If anyone knows of authors who are willing to mentor new ones, please let me know!