A quick note to say our kids readers haven't finished reading yet, but we will update you all as soon as they have, via Twitter, so do follow our account and check if you're keen to keep up-to-date.
We are doing everything within our power, and all the adult reading finished last week, on schedule, however we know you'll understand why we are not pushing our kid readers at this stage, with everything else that is happening in their worlds, and ours.
We've also had a lot of people asking where their feedback is? We will send out the feedback once we announce the longlist, and we can't do it any earlier, simply because all the feedback has not been written, because all entries have not yet been read.
Thanks for your patience, understanding and kindness regarding this.
Calendar of upcoming events
4th March: Book Club with Louie Stowell (for hub members) 10th March: #WMChat with Louise Gooding
24th March: #WMChat with Bethan Evans 12-14th April: Mentor chats on Twitter
15-16th April: Mentee application window open
19th April: 12 week courses with Maz Evans and Lauren James begin
19th April: Preparing for Submission with Aisha Bushby begins
27th April: WriteWords with Lindsay Galvin begins 30th April: Mentor-Mentee announcement
1st May: #WMPitch
May 16th: Novel-in-Development Award closes for entries
Clare Harlow first heard about WriteMentor in 2018 as she was preparing to send her Young Adult fantasy out into the world. She was in an okay place with the story and had taken a course taught by Catherine Johnson, found some critique partners, had been longlisted for a competition, and even received some agent requests.
But she just had this feeling that the manuscript wasn’t ready so, for Clare, the WriteMentor summer mentoring programme sounded like the perfect chance to do another round of revisions, but with structured support and accountability.
Clare shares her experience of the programme and how it gave her the resilience and taught her the importance of community.
What was your experience of the programme?
I should start by saying that I’m so glad I applied, because I wasn’t nearly as ready as I thought! My mentor in 2018 was the awesome Marisa Noelle. She helped me hone my cover letter, pitch and synopsis, and reminded me to always make the more interesting choice when I reached a fork in my narrative road. Marisa took on three mentees that year and we were like her little ducklings, paddling around in our group chat and exchanging ideas. I was so inspired I ended up doing a much bigger revision than I’d planned. I loved that story so much. It was pacy and fun and packed with all my favourite Young Adult fantasy tropes…
But it wasn’t the one. WriteMentor puts the focus firmly on the process rather than the showcase, but I’ll admit I got my hopes up a little when the requests came in. My shiny new submission package also won me a lot of full requests from cold querying and put me on the longlists of a couple more competitions. But despite some near misses and another round of edits, none of the agents offered.
WriteMentor, though, had taught me more than just craft. The honesty with which the mentors and other mentees shared their experiences of signing with agents and/or publishers (or indeed, to *not* signing) gave me the resilience to dust myself off and write something new. I poured my heart and soul into it, had a decent draft within months and was shortlisted for a competition, which led to more agent requests, and interest from some editors. I let myself hope again, just a little.
But while I’d pitched the story as a Young Adult thriller, it was also about mental health and grief and redemption. Essentially, it was trying to be too many things at once. As the feedback came in, the R&Rs piled up. I realised I’d need to rewrite, but I felt too close to the story to see it clearly.
Fortunately, WriteMentor mentee applications were open again! I was overjoyed when Cynthia Murphy said she thought she could help me. Cynthia, as well as being a generally wonderful human, is a plotting genius (as you’ll see if you read her phenomenal debut Last One to Die, which came out with Scholastic this year). Together, we transformed the structure of my story without losing its heart, and then I went away and rewrote the whole thing.
And I mean rewrote. Only one short chapter from the previous draft survived. The new version was exactly what I wanted the story to be though, and after the showcase I had a list of great agents who wanted to see it.
Tell us about your writing journey from start until now.
As a teenager, I was constantly making up stories based the worlds and characters of my favourite SFF novels, but I never thought writing could be more than a hobby, and at some point during my English degree I gave up writing altogether. Fast-forward to 2014, and I had a pretty horrible year health-wise, during which I spent a lot of time unable to leave my flat. Between the painkillers and the box sets and the endless banging from the building work going on upstairs, an idea for a story crept up on me. I hadn’t written for years and I really didn’t have a clue what I was doing, but something just clicked. Soon I was writing in every spare second I had.
The second video in our new From WriteMentor to Publication series on YouTube.
Community Learning Hub
We are now officially open! We are already getting stuck into wonderful craft videos from our Writers in Residence, Clare Helen Welsh and Vashti Hardy, set up our online critique groups (which you can join any time), have booked Louise Stowell in to chat at our first book club and live analysis workshops coming up later this month.
There's so much to be gained from the Learning Hub (and we haven't even mentioned our extensive library of Hub Modules!)
Come join us; writing can be lonely, but it doesn't need to be.
Read more about the award and it's eligibility criteria and rules here.
WriteMentor Magazine Issue 5 is on sale!
Featuring: Elle McNicoll Genevieve Herr Nizrana Farook C.G. Moore Hannah Gold
…Why critique groups are important for writers
…The witticisms of our Honest Writer
…The winning entries for our flash fiction and short story competitions under the theme of New Beginnings
…Your recent writing achievements.
WriteMentor Spark is a monthly, online one-to-one mentoring service. Working with a children’s author, you will receive ongoing developmental editing, writing advice, publishing insights, and direct feedback on your manuscript to help you elevate your writing craft to the next level.
Spark Mentoring is always available if you need extra help or support each month.
Spark mentor Emma Read has offered to give ongoing free critiques to BAME writers - one free package per month of synopsis and 1st page.
Sign up here and she will work through the list, at a rate of 1 a month, so the quicker you sign up, the quicker you'll get some feedback. https://forms.gle/g9fWLovv7oGxozYV9
Quick Spark editing is available for all ms from PB to YA.
Check out this superb post from Emma Finlayson-Palmer and Carolyn Ward on what to expect from Quick Spark here.
A fantastic opportunity with this long running novel competition run by Chicken House Books. They are looking for completed manuscripts and it's £18 to enter.
The competition will close for entries on 14 May 2021 at 11.59pm GMT.
We also have a whole page on our website with links to competitions and mentorship programmes. Click here.
Final word from...
Big Magic by Chrissy Sturt
Creativity curls round you like a cat, then scratches your eyes out.
It’s scared off by national lockdown. But slinks back at night, calling wildly.
Creativity lifts you high, high, high – higher than drugs, I reckon. Not that I’d know (honest!).
Then drags you down, down, down – worse than a hangover. And that I have tried.
Sound familiar? We writers – crikey – we’re one hell of breed.
Might there be a different way of handling our crazy creativity? A better way of thinking about this strange force?
Big Magic, it’s called.
Big Magic is a book by Elizabeth Gilbert.
Now Gilbert’s got some pretty woo woo things to say. They are decidedly unscientific.
But maybe this Monday morning, you need to hear them?
I will do my best to convey her thesis even though … oops, nearly wrote something disparaging … Who am I to summarise this great goddess? I am just a lowly worm! – but pulled myself up just in time. Because, as you will see, that is not a Big Magic thing to say.
We need courage to live a creative life. Fear goes hand in hand with our creativity – they are “conjoined twins”. Fear doesn’t like unknown outcomes. Like, what if my #wip doesn’t work out? And there’s no guarantee it will. “Creativity cannot take a single step forward without fear marching right alongside it.” What’s the solution to this? Gilbert says we must make space for our fear. Invite it along, let it stretch out its legs. “If you can’t learn to travel comfortably alongside your fear, you’ll never be able to go anywhere interesting.”
Gilbert believes ideas are enchanted magical life forms. They float about, hoping to find human collaborators. They try to get your attention with messages, chills, tingles, buzzy thoughts. They are choosing YOU! You can say YES, or NO. Maybe it’s not the right time, and so the idea zips off to someone else. And that other damn person writes YOUR book/play/film. But … if you say YES, then go with the flow. Cooperate fully, humbly and joyfully. “Receive your ideas with respect and curiosity, not with drama or dread.” We can’t expect this level of inspiration to be around all the time. It comes and goes. But when it comes, and you feel the sidewalk moving beneath your feet, enjoy the ride.
You do not need anyone’s permission slip to live a creative life. Decide it yourself. That’s enough. In order to create and explore, you must possess a fierce sense of personal entitlement. Create your own “arrogance of belonging.” Stand up tall and say, I AM A WRITER. Shout it out to the universe. Say, “I have a right to my own voice and right to my own vision. I have a right to collaborate with my creativity.” You can accomplish anything by yourself, you are not as weak and hobbled as you may think. Even better, you’re not required to save the world with your creativity – just do it because you like doing it. Follow your own obsessions, fascinations and compulsions. That’s enough!
Keep working, keep writing, keep not getting published. That’s ok, because you are being EDUCATED. Learning how to endure frustration and disappointment is part of the job. Every job has its lousy side, and this is ours. “You don’t just get to leap from bright moment to bright moment. How you manage yourself between these bright moments, when things aren’t so great … is where the real work lies.” Success might come, but not in the way you want it. So, redefine your notion of success. Focus on your devotion to the work above all. That’s how to measure your worth. And just, KEEP TRYING. Keep calling out in those dark woods for your own BIG MAGIC.
Your writing loves you. It wants to play with you. Love it back. Don’t be all dark and twisted about your writing. Don’t be addicted to suffering. The modern language of creativity is steeped in pain, desolation and dysfunction. It’s all about wrestling and bleeding and torture. Step away! We don’t have to be TORMENTED ARTISTS. Instead, go towards light, play and a more trusting pact with creativity. Trust that creativity is always trying to find you, even when you’ve lost sight of it.
You write something and it fails. Yeah. Let it go. Forgive yourself. We are all just beginners. Even if you’ve been writing for 50 years.
“You are worthy regardless of the outcome. Keep making your work. You were born to create.”