By Thonie Hevron
I wonder how I would’ve ever gotten where I am today without mentors. This includes the mom down the street who took me under her wing when my mother struggled with her own demons. Early in my career, there was a motor officer who introduced me to the concept, “badge-heavy” and changed my adversarial attitude with the public while I issued tickets–I didn’t have to be a jerk. Later, Fred, a patrolman, was another crucial association. He invited me to testify to the county grand jury as part of an investigation of our police administration. Standing up for the integrity of the job was a beautiful burden. These people were life-mentors who taught me valuable lessons that extend through my life today.
But let’s talk about mentors for writers.
In most other industries, colleagues could look upon newbies as competition. While I’ve found that writing teachers aren’t necessarily mentors, I can say I have never seen professional acrimony toward another. My first true writing mentor, Pat Tyler, during her Jumpstart Writing class, encouraged me with provocative prompts. She provided a safe, non-judgmental place to read and hone my stories. Then, she pointed me toward Redwood Writers (a branch of California Writers Club), where I found much more to learn. The motto of the club is “writers helping writers.” It did!
My second mentor is Marilyn Meredith. She’s a board member of the Public Safety Writers Association who I met in 2014 at the club’s annual conference. Marilyn is an experienced author who helped me navigate small press publishing and writing ethics. She’s a prolific author of over 40 books who gets up in the middle of the night (4 AM) to accomplish her myriad goals. Even with huge family demands, she writes and promotes almost every day. A lady in the most refined sense, she’s also a model of Christianity—not the clichéd version—the true-blue follower of Christ. She’s unpretentious, accepts people the way they are and believes in sharing her gifts—as she has with me. I’ll bet she never even considered herself a mentor. But she is. She continually inspires me to be better.
Speaking of not considering yourself a mentor, I want to talk about being a mentor. Why?
- It could change someone’s life—really. Think about words of encouragement you heard that motivated you. Be that person.
- It will take you out of your own world—we create them in our heads, don’t we? Telling another person about your process attaches words to abstract thoughts. Sharing can enlarge thoughts, if you listen. For both of you.
- You’ll be building a writers’ community based on the positive aspects we’re talking about here.
- The life you change may be your own. Sometimes, verbalizing the process gives us a clearer picture. Sharing and giving aren’t unique to humans but we’ve refined it through evolution. Let’s keep working on it.
On August 10th, Deborah Shlian shares her thought on being both a mentor and mentee. Cathy Perkins appears on August 17th, Barbara Bent on the 24th and Edith Maxwell winds up the month with “Paying it Forward” on August 31st.
Be sure to join us on Writer’s Notes, Just the Facts, Ma’am every Friday. Sundays, read the exploits of the men and women behind the badge on the main blog.