It’s not just lip service, WriteNow back up their words. One of the first things offered to mentees is membership to The Society of Authors, basically the trade union of writers. I mean, what says you belong more than being a member of something? With a badge and everything (okay you don’t actually get a badge but you get my point.)
The scheme also actively encourages mentees to build relationships, part of the programme includes a coffee with an agent and I have been offered opportunities to speak to press; essentially Penguin Random House is ready to be your big sister, looking out for you on the first day of school. Actually, better than a big sister because they’re not gonna ignore you in the playground.
After I accepted the mentorship there were a couple of weeks before I was told who my mentor was. Obviously, I interpreted this as the dark silence of regret on PRH’s part but when I got in touch with Siena, our contact for the scheme, I was told that they were just taking the time to find the most appropriate mentor for me. And they really did, my mentor Francesca Best is a senior commissioning editor at Transworld and she has worked on tonnes of authors, authors I have stuffed into my suitcase before a holiday. More simply put, she’s kind of a big deal. At our introduction, she spent a lot of time telling me who she is and why she could support me and I was like, you work in publishing, that’s enough. The point is, it was and is important to PRH that I understood I was wanted; I had a right to be in the position I was in.
There are things you do when you think you have a right to be somewhere, that I would like to encourage you to do. When you feel you have a right to be somewhere you believe you can ask questions. There is so much knowledge on offer in this room and throughout this journey. When you have your one to one ask whatever you need, the time is for you. I feel I can ask my mentor anything from a niggle over a Character name to the overall structure and I am never made to feel like my questions aren’t valid. When you think you have a right to be somewhere you offer your opinions because you understand that they’re just as worthy as anyone else’s. Our experiences are important and unique to our position, please don’t be afraid to share them. When you know you have a right to be somewhere you build real connections. I have made many relationships throughout this process but one of the most significant is the ones that I’ve made with fellow writers. I’m in a Whatsapp group with the other mentees where we remind each other that we can actually write and I’m also part of a wonderful Facebook group with most of the finalists from last year and in it we share opportunities and successes and ask each other’s opinions. It’s a truth that there’s strength in numbers and from all the people I have encountered since I pressed send on the first chapter of my novel, I have gained strength.
So, finally, I just want to say that I wish you all every success in the world. Please bleed this process dry. Eat all the little sandwiches, introduce yourself to as many people as you can, share your ideas, live your passion. You have something to say and your voice has been heard. Get your feet under the table.