Mentors

Do you have a mentor? Many people talk about the need for one in fiction and in real life. Before I ever had one, I remember having an idealistic view of what having a mentor would involve—someone who offered sage advice and remained in your life for years. But my experiences with mentors have been mostly brief.

In fiction, the mentor is one of the archetypes in Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey breakdown, which was popularized by Christopher Vogler in The Writer’s Journey. The mentor has one job:

The function of the mentor is to prepare the hero to face the unknown, to accept the adventure.

(The above quote came from this site. I have Vogler’s book, but can’t find it right now. This photo of the book is one I took awhile ago and had in my WordPress library of photos.)

In real life, the mentor has a similar task. As an undergraduate, I had a professor whom I thought of as a mentor: Leon Forrest, who also was a literary novelist, which gave him serious street cred in my book. I wanted to be just like him. But as is the case with many mentors in a hero’s journey story, he died at the start of my writer’s journey. 😢

After that, I had some growing up to do as a writer. As you know, part of the growing up process involves figuring out who you are and who you’re not. After my days as an English lit/writing major, I quickly learned that the literary track—the one paved with GANs (Great American Novels) for adults—was not for me. Instead, I gravitated toward writing for children and young adults. Ironic, huh, that by growing up I would discover a commitment to writing for kids.

In my grad program, which was chosen after I came to the realization of where I belong, I was given four advisors—four mentors if you will. (They’re all still alive by the way. I’m sure they’re relieved on that score. Thankfully, many mentors live.) But each was given only a six-month stretch to help me on the journey to graduation (though I tried to cling to them all after graduation). While in the program, I also had a student mentor—someone who had been in the program for a while and could help me navigate the journey. But she graduated soon after I arrived at the school.

Today I am seemingly mentorless. Seemingly, because I realize I have a Mentor, one whom I meet every day in prayer. He’d been there all along, even in the days when I yearned for significance as a GAN (Great American Novelist).

The fact that I have been mentored gave me the desire to be a mentor to some young writers. Though some preferred only a brief stint as my mentee, I’m glad I had the opportunity to be a mentor, however briefly. And I never once called anyone Padawan.

If you’re not currently a mentor or are without one, do you think you’d like to be one or at least have one? While you think about that, I will move on to the winner of War of Nytefall: Rivalry by Charles Yallowitz, which this post discusses.

 

That winner, according to the random.org generator, is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Lyn Miller-Lachmann!

Congratulations, Lyn! Comment below to confirm.

Henry is torn between two possible mentors: the ever exciting Malik or the always chill Olive. My advice? When in doubt, have ice cream.

Frog-shaped mint ice cream is the best!

Divine Days book cover from Amazon. War of Nytefall: Rivalry book cover and author photo courtesy of Charles Yallowitz. Mentor memes from somewhere on the internet. Other photos by L. Marie.

Make-or-Break Choices

The other day I went with a friend and two of her children (one of whom is the imaginary tea drinker I posted about awhile ago) to see Monsters University. Even if you haven’t seen the movie, you have to see the Monsters University website. Go on. I won’t mind.

The movie trailer informs you that Mike and Sulley from the 2001 Pixar classic, Monsters, Inc., enroll in Monsters University (which makes this movie a prequel). If you’ve read any of the reviews, you know that the highly prized program at the school is the illustrious School of Scaring.

Mike-and-Sully-Monsters-University

I won’t spoil the movie by saying more, but I can’t help being reminded of a day long ago (a few months after Noah built the ark), when I received my college acceptance letter, welcoming me to Northwestern University.

NU_seal

Also, it said, welcome to the Medill School of Journalism, the illustrious program where my journalistic adventures would begin.

Ha. It didn’t say the latter, though I’d hoped it would. Instead, I was told that I had not been accepted into that program. I was welcome to enroll in another program. Perhaps I could transfer into the J School later.

I panicked, because I had everyone that I applied to that program! Getting into the program was my dream! Now I would have to tell everyone that I couldn’t get in! And what guarantee would I have that I would be accepted into the program later, if they wouldn’t take me now???

The fact that I was not accepted into the program meant only one thing: I was a failure, since my essay and journalism experience weren’t good enough to get me into the program.

That, my friend, is a make-or-break choice. I could let this setback break me, or I could adapt and move on.

The fact that I’m writing this post tells you that I eventually moved on. But not for a long while. I let the choice break me instead. I partied like there was no tomorrow, and my grades plummeted. After nearly getting expelled, I wound up in the creative writing program. But I couldn’t embrace creative writing. I looked upon it as the inferior sister to journalism. For me, it was like getting Miss Congeniality instead of being crowned Miss America.

After graduating, I applied to another university for grad school and was accepted in the journalism program. Because I had a strenuous editorial job, I lasted a semester in the program before dropping out.

Failed again.

Let me take you even farther back if I may. When I was eight years old, the school librarian handed me a book she thought I’d like: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. After reading that book, I had a revelation: I could write stories for kids, stories like this. So that’s what I did. Morning, noon, and night. I wrote hundreds of stories.

Wrinkle

So, why was I so set on believing that I was a failure because I didn’t get into the “cool” program? It was like my desire to be popular when I was in middle school and high school. The fact that I was not “in,” meant that I was nothing.

The choice broke me, because I allowed it. Until I embraced the kind of writing I naturally gravitated toward, life seemed hollow.

Seems silly now—all those wasted years I spent believing in my failure. And years after I graduated from Northwestern, I avoided doing the very thing A Wrinkle in Time inspired me to do: writing stories for kids.

Make-or-break choices. Are you facing one? Will you let it make you or break you? The choice really is yours.

Mike and Sulley from geekmundo.net. NU seal from Wikipedia.