by Karol Ruth Silverstein, Contest Coordinator
It’s common knowledge that having a mentor can impact your writing career in wonderful ways. Sometimes the impact is immediately apparent; other times it takes a while for the coaching a mentee receives to translate into career success.
My own experience falls into both categories. In the early 90s, I was incredibly lucky to have Holly Goldberg Sloan as a screenwriting mentor. (She’s now a children’s book author as well, whose books include the award-winning middle-grade book Counting By 7s.) Holly strongly encouraged me to write about my experience of getting sick as a young teen. Every fiber in my being bristled at the suggestion. I seriously did not want to go there for a variety of reasons. But I wanted to be a good mentee, to be teachable. Why have a mentor if you’re not willing to take the advice she’s so generously giving you, right?
So with her coaching, I tackled the subject in a TV script. She helped me to revise and polish the script, and together, we submitted it to an agent as a writing sample. And then…nothing. We never got a response (which isn’t unusual in the world of screenwriting agents), but I was still very grateful for Holly’s help. I definitely felt my writing had improved through the experience of working with her. The mentorship period ended, but Holly and I have kept in touch through the years.
Flash forward a decade or so, when I found myself in a small writing workshop, doing a writing exercise. The prompt was to imagine yourself at a particular age and free write. I randomly picked 13 (the age I was when diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis). What emerged in that exercise was the angry, hurting, snarky voice of the teen who became the main character in my young adult novel Cursed, which sold to Charlesbridge Teen last year. I honestly don’t think I ever would have considered writing about my experience of getting sick had Holly not suggested it years earlier. So my being mentored ended up having both immediate and long-term value.
In 2018, the SCBWI-L.A. Mentor Contest will be offering two mentorships. This year, the focus will be mainly on picture book writers, with one of the PAL mentors specializing in humor and the other in historical fiction/biography. Our mentors are:
Wade Bradford, author of a handful of picture books including two due in 2018 (There’s a Dinosaur on the Thirteenth Floor from Candlewick and Mr. Complain Takes the Train from Clarion), is excited to “pay forward” the assistance and encouragement he’s received from fellow SCBWI members when he was new to the organization.
ANDREA J. LONEY
Our other 2018 mentor is Andrea J. Loney (author of 2014 Lee & Low Books New Voices Award-winning Take A Picture Of Me, James VanDerZee!, Bunnybear from Albert Whitman & Company, and the upcoming Double Bass Blues from Random House Knopf). Andrea is looking to mentor a writer working on historical fiction or biography, with projects featuring diversity of particular interest.
The submission period for the SCBWI-L.A. 2018 Mentorship Contest is January 10th through February 21st. The six-month mentorship will run May through October. Check the LA Region’s website for submission guidelines and further information: https://losangeles.scbwi.org/regional-contests/mentor-contest/.
From one grateful mentee to all the 2018 Mentor Contest hopefuls – I wish you the best of luck!
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Karol Ruth Silverstein writes various genres of children’s books. 2017 brought Karol’s first book sale— her young adult novel, Cursed, was acquired by Monica Perez at Charlesbridge Teen. She is represented by Jen Linnan of Linnan Literary Management and lives in West Hollywood with her two exceptionally fluffy cats, Ninja and Boo.
Images provided by Karol Ruth Silverstein, Wade Bradford, and Andrea J. Loney