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By Karol Ruth Silverstein, SCBWI-L.A. Contest Coordinator

SCBWI-L.A. PAL member Bethany Barton is the 2019 Mentor! This year’s mentorship contest is for illustrators and author/illustrators and we’ll be accepting applications from February 15 through March 22.

To encourage applicants, we thought we’d check in with last year’s mentees, Monica Mancillas and Jennifer Fitzgerald, to see how their mentorship experience went.

KAROL RUTH SILVERSTEIN: What did you hope to get out of the mentorship when you first applied?

JENNIFER FITZGERALD: I am just starting out writing for children, so initially I was looking for guidance in getting started. My biggest issue is time management. I’m a business owner and a parent, which means time to sit and think can be at a minimum. I needed someone to be accountable to, someone who I could trust to send me an email out of nowhere saying, “How’s it going? What are you working on right now? Send me something.” It made making time to write more real to me and I really needed that.

Wade and Jennifer

Plus, Wade [Bradford] is not only a really inventive writer, he is also a genuinely kind and patient person. He never made me feel like I was asking the dumb questions even when I probably was.

MONICA MANCILLAS: I began 2018 with the goals of polishing my strongest three manuscripts, signing with an agent, and contracting at least one manuscript before the end of the year. My hope was that Andrea [Loney] would be able to help me to first strengthen my craft, and then guide me through the process of querying and securing an agent. Andrea not only taught me a tremendous amount about the revision process, but also introduced me to many resources, both on and offline, that ultimately helped me to attain my goal of signing with an agent before the end of the mentorship.

KRS: What about your mentorship experience surprised you the most?

Andrea and Monica

MM: The thing that surprised me the most was how uniquely insightful Andrea was when it came to uncovering the deeper complexities and meanings within each of my stories. She helped me to shape each story into what it was ultimately meant to be.

JF: I was surprised at how giving Wade was with his time. At first, I didn’t want to bother him, figuring he was so busy. But he was more than willing to help me guide the stories where they needed to go. In fact, everyone I met at the SCBWI conference was so genuinely welcoming and willing to help, it was not only surprising but also sincerely inspiring.

KRS: Applying for a mentorship can be challenging. Some people may think they’re not ready or aren’t advanced enough. Others may not be sure how to present themselves in the best possible light. What advice do you have for people who are considering applying for this year’s mentorship?

JF: I think I look at mentoring in the opposite way of how some folks look at it. If you are not “fully ready” or not “advanced enough” then you should absolutely apply for a mentorship! If you feel all set and like you have things all figured out, you should be a mentor, not get one. Don’t worry about how to present yourself in the best possible light, just focus on just bringing you, in your perfectly not perfect way, to the table. No one has your specific take on things, so let that shine.

MM: My advice for those who are considering applying is to take some time to consider where you are currently, what your goals are, and what you hope to gain by winning a mentorship. Completing the application itself is a great exercise. Be honest in your answers, because you never know what it is the mentor is looking for in a mentee. And don’t be discouraged by the possibility of not winning — every step you take toward publication is a message to the universe that you’re serious and committed to attaining your dreams.

Check the SCBWI-L.A. website for details on how to apply: https://losangeles.scbwi.org/regional-contests/mentor-contest/

For more fantastic content, community, events, and other professional development opportunities, become a member today! Not sure if there is a chapter in your area? Check here.


Monica Mancillas is a music educator who authors picture books, short stories, and novels. Her work has been featured in the online litzine Beautiful Losers and is soon to be featured in theSame. She is repped by Melissa Edwards of the Stonesong Literary Agency.



Jennifer Fitzgerald is a writer and performer living in Los Angels but pretending it is New York City. When she’s not renting set design pieces for TV and film from her prop house in L.A., she’s writing children’s books.



Karol Ruth Silverstein writes screenplays and various genres of children’s books. Her YA debut #CURSEDthenovel is due from Charlesbridge Teen in June 2019. 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 Andrea J. Loney, Monica Mancillas and Jennifer Fitzgerald

Mentor Photo: original Photo by guille pozzi on Unsplash