By Marcelle Greene, SCBWI-L.A. Contest Coordinator
Having a published mentor who helps you improve your work could be the greatest gift you receive on your path to publication. Through its Mentor Program, SCBWI-L.A. has offered this gift to three members in the past two years, and is now running a contest for a 2017 illustration mentorship. (Entry deadline is 2-14-17.)
Winning the 2015 mentorship changed illustrator Matthew Rivera’s goals. “Writing my own stories to illustrate wasn’t something I considered before the mentorship,” Rivera says. But mentor Deborah Norse Lattimore encouraged him to do both. “I’m becoming a better writer and I’ve seen improvements in my artwork thanks to Deborah’s advice,” Rivera says. For example: “She suggested adding more movement to my scenes and to make the motion from left to right, so as to drive a page turn.”
Since the mentorship, Rivera’s scenes have become more animated and lively, as has his career. He has captured the attention of industry people and won several other SCBWI regional contests. He’s currently looking for an agent.
Rivera and Melanie Dearman (winner of a 2016 writing mentorship) agree that one key to making the most of the mentorship is to have a plan. “Have a very specific understanding of what you hope to gain and set your deadlines accordingly,” Dearman says.
The other key is to ask as many questions as possible. What blogs and websites does your mentor recommend? Rivera’s mentor pointed him to online industry resources he’d never heard of. Dearman also received tons of invaluable industry tips. “Your mentor has been where you are and where you want to be, and has specific advice about what you can do to get there,” she says.
Dearman has been working on revisions of her young adult novel since completing her mentorship in October with author E. Katherine Kottaras. “I’m about ready to start querying agents with the letter Kathy helped me draft, and I couldn’t be more nervous,” she says. “But I have a firmer grasp of what could be in store and I can’t wait for what’s next!”
Cheryl Manning, who won a 2016 writing mentorship with Catherine Linka, calls her experience a “six-month master class in writing.” Before working with Linka, she knew parts of her novel were “boring” and didn’t move the story forward. Through detailed feedback and line notes, Linka was honest about Manning’s “writing tics” and what needed to be revised or deleted. “I’ve reworked the muddy middle chapters with an outline that now sparkles with action and tension,” Manning says. She continues to revise with the eventual goal of submission.
Manning’s advice to anyone working with a mentor is to remember this: “Your mentor chooses your work because she loves it and has only one goal in mind – to make it better.” Knowing that, Manning suggests, “Relax and enjoy the process.”
Illustrations by Matthew Rivera
Photos by Matthew Rivera/Melanie Dearman/Cheryl Manning