Gold Dust Mentoring

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I officially started my “writing journey” in 2013 when I attended the Writers Workshop’s Getting Published Day. After my first one-to-one session I was informed that my writing looked like I’d never taken a creative writing class in my life.

I was very disappointed, but I knew that I had been writing for too long to let one person’s comment keep me from becoming a better writer. Simply going to university and attaining a BA and MA (and teaching secondary English) don’t necessarily make one suited to fictional prose. Since 2013, I had taken online writing courses, attended writing retreats, writing conferences, paid for manuscript assessments, everything I could afford to do in order to advance my career as an author.

The real turning point took place in 2016 when I took Faber Academy’s Short Story course with Shelley Weiner. The week long course concentrated on all aspects of the short story (with delightful recommended reading). It was exactly what I had needed. I had longed to write short stories, I had written many very badly, but I also had a tendency to write very long novels without knowing exactly where or how to cut them. This course helped to build my confidence level in crucial editing skills, but it also introduced me to my mentor, Shelley Weiner.

For awhile I had wanted to apply for a mentorship programme, but was afraid of paying even more money for instruction that might be repetitive. After taking the course with Shelley, I knew I needed to further the skills I’d gained in a short time. Gold Dust mentoring was a good fit because of its excellent structure and Shelley was aware of my penchant for writing science-fiction, which made her a better fit than blindly applying to a variety of schemes.

Now that I’ve just finished my last session with Shelley, a year later, I can honestly say that Gold Dust mentoring is worth every penny. In fact, every cent I’ve spent on writing mentoring, tutoring, classes, workshops, seminars, etc…has been worth it. But, I feel that the most important part of my writing journey has been through the one-on-one instruction Gold Dust provides for an entire year (or whatever timeline mentors and mentees determine). Before being accepted into Gold Dust’s mentorship I did not have the following skills:

  1. A regular writing habit that was built into my daily schedule as a full-time teacher
  2. deadlines that I had to meet because I would not just disappoint myself, but the mentor who was expecting the next section of my novel
  3. a drive to bring down my excessive first draft word counts
  4. daily assessment and planning of the novel’s next steps and the world of the novel
  5. building meaningful reflection time into my daily writing/editing so that the next drafts of the novel were built on what I’d learned from a previous editing session

Anyone who is serious about their craft needs mentoring because manuscript revision can only get you so far. Shelley’s careful eye and kind but firm guidance of my prose and writing process has helped me to grow in ways I never expected. I highly recommend her and the Gold Dust programme! Thank you Shelley and Gold Dust!

 

The Key to Success? Grit (Angela Lee Duckworth at TED)

For years I have struggled with the emphasis, in ages 12-18 education, on the teacher’s role, teacher development and the variety of ways that teachers must motivate students. Very little pressure is applied to families to teach children the power of consequences and changing ones mindset to use failure as a teaching tool, to acknowledge and understand disappointment as a transitory state.

Thus, I was reasonably excited this morning to find actual research to support my hypothesis that hard-work, determination, and treating life, as Duckworth states “as a marathon, instead of a sprint” ensures that certain students meet their goals whilst others– better off in terms of IQ, socioeconomic status and other factors– fall behind.

A writing colleague and I recently discussed how this phenomenon in teaching translates to unrealistic expectations by adult learners. We both attended a writers conference three months ago. She and I are working hard to turn our first novels into something worthy of agent representation. We were sorely disappointed to encounter other writers not taking full advantage of advice given to them by publishing editors and agents at this conference.

I noticed that many of our fellow participants fell into four categories:
1) The Socializers: they had already determined that they weren’t going to get published so they might as well take advantage of the social opportunities and were often seen lingering in the hallways chatting up fellow writers and gazing out the long glass windows in the meet and greet rooms. There was nothing wrong with this attitude, as I gleaned a lot of great information from these friendly participants, but it was obvious they had talent and had thrown in the towel too early by choosing to skip out on workshops in favour of socializing and telling jokes.
2) The Overconfident: their only mission in coming to the writing conference was to receive kudos for their novel, novella or film script. They weren’t terribly interested in learning anything, they just wanted to hear that they were a genius and were ready to be published. When such praise wasn’t forthcoming (especially considering most of their lack of literary knowledge, background, or education) they tended to grumble very loudly, proclaim that the agents and editors were wrong, and that they were determined to do things their own way, sharing their discontent with anyone who would listen.
3) The Dejected: they thought for sure that their work had some merit. To hear that it is riddled with errors has put them off publishing altogether and they have decided to give up forever, determined that their dream of becoming a published author or screenwriter is doomed to failure.
4) The Gritty-ones: they took the advice and critiques of agents and editors on-board, jotted down notes, listened, consulted with colleagues, and let the critiques they received settle in slowly, to see what was workable and what might change their work in a way that they were uncomfortable with. They were determined to continue the quest and networked with other writers to create a support group of fellow “gritty-ones” to join them on their quest.

Having just returned from London where I was able to meet with three of my gritty-friends from the writing conference, I was inspired to keep going on a path that many believe might be doomed to failure. Nevetheless, like Duckworth, I don’t believe failure is a permanent state of being: it is a waypoint on the road to success.