Thursday, March 22, 2007

Wanted: Mentor For Children's Book Writer

Lunch with the wonderful Dame Katherine Paterson was ... nothing short of inspirational (no, that's not us in the picture.) She made me feel safe enough to pose some of the questions that have been pestering me for years about this vocation, and responded with the honest, earthy take for which she's renowned.

I've started to take seriously my call to invest in younger writers (and younger people in general; I've even been asked to serve on a panel at Wellesley college -- not officially sponsored by the institution -- called "Can a Wellesley Woman ... Stay At Home?") But driving home from Vermont, I realized my own continuing need for mentors who are a bit further along the path.

What about you? Is there a person a decade or two older to whom you can turn for advice and inspiration in your vocation? What about a person a decade or two younger who seems to be seeking your input?

7 comments:

Pooja said...

Mitali Didi! I think of you as a mentor-sister-figure :).

Jennifer said...

That is so wonderful. I hope that you had a great time.

As far as the question, when I was a new mom in my late 20's there was a neighbor in her late 30's who was such an encouragement to me. She was still "young," and fun, and yet she had raised three kids to the ages of 5, 7, and 9 respectively. It was a pleasure.

I've known my husband's sister since she was 11 years old, since she is 10 years younger than he is. I have had the opportunity to mentor her, to an extent. We are close friends, but I still have that big sisterly need to instruct her and guide her, and she takes it pretty well :)

Roger Sutton said...

Mentors have been very important to me: Zena Sutherland, Hazel Rochman, and Betsy Hearne (listed in the order in which I met them) all taught me a ton about kids and books and writing. Everyone should be fortunate enough to have such teachers.

Sara said...

Yes. Her name is Doris Gwaltney, (author of Homefront, a book that richly deserved the stars it received!) and she is like my second mother. (And she is, by chance, a dear friend of Katherine Paterson's too.)

The best piece of advice she's ever given me is this: "Sara, it's all in the manuscript. It's all in the manuscript."

I love this advice, because somehow, I always go looking outside my work for how to move forward, when what I should be exploring is already on the page. Even if there are only two words on that page, they are there for a reason...why those two words and not others?

We get to be on a book panel together this weekend at the Virginia Festival of the Book, and I'm so excited.

Little Willow said...

Christopher Golden is a dear friend and an extremely talented author, so I always value his expertise.

As for the younger side, kids and teens know they can ask me for book recommendations and advice!

Mitali Perkins said...

Pooja, I'm honored and humbly hope to rise to the task.

Sara, have a great time at the Festival. My agent, Laura Rennert, will be there, so say hi for me.

Roger, what a list of venerable names. They explain a lot about you.

LW, you're well on your way to greatness.

And Jennifer, you raise an interesting point: a mentor must be invited to participate in the formation of a less-experienced person. You can't force your advice on someone.

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