Thursday, July 7, 2016

Mentor Wanted: No Benefits, No Salary, Lots of Gratitude.

I recently attended Publishers Row Literary Fest in Chicago, held every June, and although I always enjoyed it the other years I went, this time I came away feeling nauseous. My head was spinning Exorcist style with questions.

How did all these writers get published?

How many are still writing today?

Is their work any good?

Who decides?

The immensity of this literary world, filled with writers, agents, editors, publishers and cut rate book dealers is absolutely overwhelming to this emerging writer, Where do I begin? Pick one genre or expand into several? Focus on small local magazines or shoot for the stars? Submit only to publications that pay or be damn happy to have my name in print on a Farmers Market Brochure in exchange for free Kelp?

In nursing, when a new grad was hired she/he was assigned  a mentor, usually an older nurse with several years experience under her scrubs and a special relationship with the dietary crew so that she got the fresh cake made today and not the runny pudding made two day prior. While in school, for example, you learned which meds were best for pain control in the terminally ill, but this older, wiser,  nurse would teach you how to get Dr. I. M. Arrogant to give you the order for that narcotic when you wanted it, when the patient needed it,  rather than on his next rounds.  She guided you from air-headed theory into nuts and bolts practicum. She taught you the tricks for survival.

But I am without such a wizened leader in this new field I've chosen. While in school this last go round, sitting in classes taught by some amazing well-published and well-respected professors, I was too caught up in deadlines and MLA formatting to ask about aftercare.

So, I've developed a plan. I like plans and lists and tables. They serve as great procrastination tools, for while I am filling in grafts and putting my to-do list in alphabetical order,  I can avoid the obvious task that must be taken, to reach out and contact someone. Anyone.

I will start with my most recent professors at The University Of Illinois and extend my call for help to a couple more I met at National University Ireland Galway. I'll go from there and let you know how it evolves. If you have ideas on how to break down some of these barriers for new writers,  how to meet more people in the know,  please throw me a bone. If you are vegetarian,  just leave a comment.

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