Aspiring Canadian Writers Contests Inc.

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MENTOR ME: Instruction and Advice for Aspiring Writers

By Heidi Stock (editor)

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Unlike other books of this type, MENTOR ME offers advice on the very technique of writing, rather than any commercial strategies for getting paid.

MENTOR ME gathers together those who have been in the writing trenches, and who still, despite getting paid and honored for their work, remember the lonely and frustrating days in getting something, anything, published. All of them address the common pitfall for a writer receiving their first paycheck: the temptation to tailor all subsequent efforts solely to financial gain.  As a result, whatever heart and soul and simple enjoyment was put into previously unpaid articles is wiped out by the writer’s desire to make a buck.

Dashiell Hammett, the American author of hard-boiled detective novels and short stories, wrote in penny-a-word pulp magazine days before Hollywood and riches beckoned, and captured this danger in a letter to the magazine, Black Mask, who recently rejected two of his stories:

“The trouble is that this sleuth of mine has degenerated into a meal ticket. ..I’ve fallen into the habit of bringing him out and around whenever the landlord, or the butcher, or the grocer shows signs of nervousness…I have a liking for honest work, and honest work as I see it is work done for the worker’s enjoyment as much as for the profit it will bring him.”

Harlan Ellison put this in another, loftier way, when he said that writing isn’t about making money—of which he said there isn’t much to be made in the profession—but about leaving something worthwhile and beautiful to say  to future generations. MENTOR ME expresses this same view that writing should first and foremost be about communicating with the reader.

Unlike other “how-to-get-into-print” works, this collection of interviews with accomplished and pedigreed writers and writing coaches, although succumbing to non-literary nuts and bolts advice with the publishing world (which occur, perhaps tellingly, when the subject is the music and movie industry—arguably the highest paid avenues for writers), actually deals with the writing process and not navigating through the world of pitches, sizing up editors, and copyrighting.

As a result, the reader/writer is presented with advice on technique and how to overcome that dread writer’s block.  The reader will get the sense that this advice was hard-earned, and is trustworthy. Ultimately what works for one writer may not work for another; and those interviewed in the book realize that.  To paraphrase Raymond Chandler who was once asked what advice to give budding writers, he stated that a published writer can only show a student what not to do; their imagination has to take it from there.

~Ron Capshaw for IndieReader

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