Furry Writers' Guild Forum

Mentor program feedback and poll

I’m looking for any and all feedback, positive or negative, on the current mentor program (the one with the mentee questionnaire and such), to decide whether it should be continued, changed in some way to improve it, or scrapped. If I’m remembering the discussions correctly, I think the biggest issue has been not having enough mentors available for the number of interested mentees, so if anyone has ideas on how to help with that, or with any other aspect of the program, feel free to make suggestions.

Right now, for simplicity’s sake I’m personally leaning toward the idea of just making a thread or two to help writers connect in small writing groups/partnerships on their own, instead of doing the matchmaking myself – but again, I’m open to all suggestions.

Gonna be blunt here.

The program was a failure. Very few people had the sort of time commitment to be able to work one on one with a writer, and a lot of the few that did have the time, had a “what’s in it for me” attitude. The few that had the time and the right attitude, of course, became mentors.

I highly doubt there’s a way to revive the program as is.

Just to give everyone an idea of the current stats, it looks like there are/were 6 people listed as mentors, and I’m seeing 11 mentees, with of course 5 of the mentees being unmatched.

I’m still feeling that part of the problem, at least from a potential mentor’s perspective, is that there are no set limitations on a mentor’s potential responsibilities and time investment – to be blunt myself, I think most of us who have any writing experience and are on sites like FA have had people glom on to us and expect us to critique and edit their entire body of work plus explain step-by-step how to get their magnum opus published. I think that’s probably what mentors are afraid of, getting themselves into something that’s more work and time than they bargained for, and then feeling guilty for having to back out (even if they have the option to back out).

There may or may not be a way to improve it, but I do still want to leave all the possibilities open for the moment in case someone has a new idea that might help, or a better idea for something to replace it with.

I am much more in favor of a peer writing and critiquing group going forwards. If there are any current mentors who want to keep things the way they are, I’d say let them continue the involvement that they have.

I’ve been enjoying the mentor/mentee programme, although I feel I should be doing more. (What I’ve mostly been doing is going ‘poke poke poke WRITE STUFF poke poke poke’.)

The reason I didn’t volunteer to mentor is because I don’t feel like I have the skills. ^.^;

The program itself seems like a good idea to me and I see no reason why it shouldn’t continue. But, peer-based writing groups also sound good.

Just to throw something else into the discussion – from the perspective of potential mentors, would it be better to be able to see the mentees before committing to being a mentor? Right now, only people who formally express interest in being mentors can even see the waiting mentees’ info. Would it help if that info were viewable, say, to all guild members, or to all forum members? (With contact info hidden, of course.)

My experience as a mentee (hello, Huskyteer!) was very fruitful. It was directly responsible for me expecting my work to appear in print later this year.

I have a great deal of experience with both sides of that sort of relationship; I have been mentored by several individuals in my profession, and I have passed on what they taught me as well as things I’ve discovered myself to both inexperienced peers and the up and coming generation. And I wouldn’t call the program a failure–it certainly did not fail me, but I may have had different expectations about how this would work.

An effective mentor is one who listens, and then instead of trying to teach, encourages. In my own mentor/mentee relationships, I don’t tell students what to do next when they’re stuck; I tell them that getting stuck is normal, and that I remember it being frustrating when it happened to me–and it still happens. But I get through it, and they can too: even if it means turning back, because what they’ve chosen to do isn’t possible or accessible with the approach they’ve chosen. Even if it’s totally obvious to me what they should be doing next, I try (and it isn’t always easy) to not share that with them.

I think that’s even more important when the goal is writing (as opposed to mathematics, which is what I spend most of my time doing). You want the mentee to find their voices, not teach them how to have yours.

A mentor is not a teacher, and should not be asked to look over your shoulder and check your work. That will come later, when you get an editor.

I’m in favor of a program where people in search of a mentor submit samples of their work, and where they eventually want to go with it, and individuals who have stepped up and expressed an interest in mentoring can look at these applications and pick one informally. Having more than one mentor and having more than one mentee shouldn’t be discouraged; either side should be able to terminate the relationship with no hard feelings.

I’m on the fence when it comes to peer based writing groups. That’s what the Thursday Prompts seemed to be about…it worked for me for a long, long while and I met many peers who I still admire through those. But making it “official” would in some way diminish the usefulness it had to me. But that may just be my experience.

I didn’t participate in the program. But I’ve effectively mentored a dozen or so furry writers over the past decade and a half. So I feel I can speak with at least some limited degree of authority.

It needs to be made clear ahead of time to the mentee that the mentor is doing them a favor our of the sheer goodness of their heart. Also, they need to know that Mentors have many different styles. For example, I employ a “filtering” process. Often not having written submissions to look at, what I’ve done in the past is to request 2-3 paragraphs of work. It’s amazing how much can be learned about an author’s grammatical and stylistic skills in 2-3 paragraphs. If the author refuses to send me such a small sample, they’re filtered out for assuming they know more about mentoring/writing than I do (perhaps it’s true), and for being unlikely to accept any critiques I might offer to give even if I tried. If they accept my conditions I go over the paragraphs, focusing on finding what I consider the three biggest problems and the two biggest strengths. (If there’s ten problems there’s no point in hitting the author with all of them at once-- three at a time is usually shocking enough to them.) I praise one of the strengths to open my reply, speak about the three weaknesses at length including when possible referring them to more detailed articles about writing that I and numerous others have web-posted over the years with just this very purpose in mind so that we don’t have to repeat the same three page explanation over and over and over. Then I close the letter praising the other previously-identified strength. (If I can’t find two strengths, very gentle and loving filtering is again applied-- this is not someone I can help.) I also try to socialize in my contacts, as the greatest gain I can possibly make is a new friend and I cherish those enormously. I’ve made several close ones this way.

At any rate, at a certain point when I feel that I’m not being of any further help I back slowly away. If the mentoree hasn’t learned to avoid repeated words in a paragraph or that “they’re” is not the possessive form of “they” after a certain period of time, then I’m clearly not the one who’s going to teach them the lesson and all that’s going result from continuing efforts is pain. I used to mentor people for years at a time. Now I’ve learned how to teach what little I know in a few months, as a rule. Though, as I said, it’s best when the friendships go on forever.

I try never to mentor more than one individual at a time, and I take a couple months off in-between to rebuild my enthusiasm reservoir. Then I’ll take on another. If someone has some sort of an “emergency”, however, I’ll take on a second for a short time. I don’t like it, however. (Example-- former mentee has sold their first story. “Will you help me edit it?” Of course I will, so long as it’s not two hundred pages and I’m not past-due on a deadline of my own! That kind of situation can have me working with two at once. But again, I prefer very much not to.)

So, that’s the process that’s usually worked for me. I feel like a real asshole when I “filter”, but in the long term I’ve learned that it’s best for all involved. You can’t get anywhere if the chemistry isn’t right, and Bad Feelings often ensue when the effort is made regardless. I try very hard not to make it seem personal when I turn someone down, because it’s not.

Hope this blueprint helps in making your decision.

Another thought for the mix:

We could keep things roughly the same and just drop the word “mentor” from the program entirely, and advertise it as a crit partner/writing buddy type program. Everyone would be filling out a questionnaire then and submitting a sample, and there could be a place on there to mark whether you preferred (if possible) to be paired with a writer of more, roughly equal, or less experience. Potentially everyone could browse listings and choose for themselves, without me or someone else doing the matchmaking.

Again, I’m just wondering if the term “mentor” is setting up a lot of expectation/obligations that are potentially a hindrance to people participating or maybe making the whole thing feel too formal…? shrug Just thinking (typing?) out loud here.

That’s a good point. I was thinking along similar lines.

For myself, I have no idea where I’d fit in. I’d love to have some more experienced authors look at my work and give me some tips and tricks for things that would help me improve. At the same time, I’ve always been open to beta reads for anyone wanting, and have given constructive feedback and my thoughts on how one can improve with their writing. Most of this is all done, not with a program, but just having a network of writers and a system of “quid pro quo”

I suppose a mentorship would be more than that though, maybe an aspect of accountability and helping nurture and improve over iterations as foreseen over one or more mentors?

After a lot of thought, I think the best course at the moment is going to be to leave the mentorship program on indefinite hiatus. It’s still not a bad idea, but I think there are going to be other opportunities and resources – now and in the near future – for new writers to learn from more experienced ones, without trying to force it into an assigned partnership.

I’m still open to the possibility of bringing a similar program back, in some form, in the future – but for now, I’ll just direct everyone’s attention to the critique forum for those looking for feedback on their work. :slight_smile:

I think that’s a good idea.

I’ve also found the problem of “I didn’t know my mentor well, but was picked, and I honestly can’t stand the person now that I’ve talked with them but am too nice of a person to tell them so”. So that’s another flaw in the system that would have to be worked out =p

Well, at that point I think the mentee would have to just politely say, “hey, thanks for all your help, but I’m ready to move on now,” and handle that situation themselves. As long as only one side is doing the choosing, or if there’s an element of being assigned to someone, that would be a risk that I think couldn’t really be removed.

Again, though, I think the core goal of the mentorship program was for experienced writers to share knowledge in order to help educate newer writers, and I do expect there to be other ways to do that, that don’t require that kind of rigid matchmaking. I do have a large-ish project in the works now that I hope will further that sort of goal, but I don’t want to make any announcements on it until more of the details are ironed out. :slight_smile:

IMO both sides need to know about the other. I’d suggest a few e-mail exchanges before the pairing is made as well, and a planned end date/achievement target of some kind.

I’m not sure else to ask this, but what would you suggest for amatuerish authors who are struggling on where they should improve? As I imagine this is something that would require a “mentor” or someone to read a few of the latest stories the author has written in order to identify aspects that could targeted for improvement? Just posting a chunk of text for a critique would not not be enough to gather the data needed for this task. I guess this a problem the mentor program would help fix, but what other solutions would there be?

Well, I may not be the best person to ask, because I consider myself essentially self-taught – at least in the sense that I’ve taken a grand total of 2 writing classes over the last 17 years (a correspondence course – yes, actually involving postal mail – on short story writing from Writer’s Digest, and the Odyssey online course I took a couple years ago), never had anyone I’d call a writing mentor, and I’ve basically learned by reading extensively, writing, and reading how-to books and magazines and blogs, with occasional giving and receiving of critique to help with outside opinions. So my advice personally tends to be along the lines of “just keep going, and you’ll learn.” :slight_smile:

A chunk of text probably isn’t enough, no, but over time, getting and giving a variety of critiques on completed stories (from various sources, not necessarily the same group of two or three people) will eventually make your own strengths and weaknesses clearer. At some point, if you analyze those crits, a pattern can develop to help point you toward areas that need improvement, beyond just being specific to one story. The other option, of course, would be some sort of writing class or workshop (in person or online) where you’re getting peer critiques but also guidance from an instructor.

I’m with you on not being certain where I fit in. I recieved so much useful advice from far more established writers at RF this year that it boggles my mind. I would love to have that experience with a personal mentor who has been through all of that, especially since I don’t have any experience beyond the RF anthology. I’ve never had to look for publishers, never written up a cover letter, and only in the past week have started looking at other anthologies I could submit to. It can get overwhelming when it feels like an entirely different world has been opened up, and to have someone’s help to guide me through it and aide my writing and help me make certain I have the pacing down well and the likes would be amazing.

However, I’ve given a lot of writing advice to rp’ers looking not only to break into going into better detail, but to turn rp’s into actual stories. I’ve aided with sentense structure, grammar, pacing, worked with engaging all five senses, becoming detailed without becoming boring, etc. I’ve been a beta reader and I’ve helped friends with their stories, editing and giving feedback. I feel I could be really helpful to writers who are still trying to improve their craft, even though I’d be utterly useless to those whose talents already surpass mine (wouldn’t be hard xp) or who are on the publishing side of things.

On top of that, I have a lot of projects coming up. I was actually personally invited to contribute to two anthologies, and have several more I’d like to look into. I have never before had so many doors open to me, and now I get to figure out just how many I can handle walking through.

Still, I would be thrilled to help a writer out with their works even if I have to fit them in during my ride home in the evening or my day off on Mondays. About as thrilled as I would be to have someone to turn to when I’m clueless or looking to polish a piece and have no idea where to start x.x

Bottom line: definite interest even if I don’t know which end of the stick I’d be best at.

Oops - I thought I’d locked this thread a while back. >_< The mentor program is on hold indefinitely, but these are all good thoughts anyway. :slight_smile:

In the meantime, everyone, and new writers especially – don’t be afraid to start threads for whatever questions you might have about any part of the writing/publishing process, so we can help each other out, and also be sure to check out the various resources listed on our website.