In all my years as a writer, I've had many a mentor and most of them have been fabulous. I've learned from literary geniuses, memoir experts, and poetry whizzes. At some point, I would love to brag about them all, but today we're going to talk about my all-time favorite, Kerry Madden Lunsford.
Kerry has written all kinds of things over her career as a writer and teacher. She's tackled everything from articles to screenplays to middle-grade fiction. So her knowledge alone is admirable. But, I want to share with you why she inspired a fledgling writer like myself so much, and why, ten years later, I'm still talking about what I learned from her.
I studied under Kerry in the middle of my grad school experience. I had just come from working with a poet who had a very stringent style of teaching. He was rigid with the ways we wrote our poems and what we read and, while the style works for some writers, it left me feeling depleted and less than inspired to write anything. Kerry was his exact opposite.
The very first thing she did was ask us what books we should read that semester. After each of us made a suggestion, she jotted it down without question. Our reading list for the semester, along with a couple of her suggested books as well, was complete with what we wanted to read being good enough--no arguments necessary. It was the first time that I had had such a meaningful say in my education and taught me the importance of choice.
After the semester started, every week Kerry would offer a large selection of craft articles and blogs for us to peruse and pick from. The topics ranged from craft things to beautifully written prose. It was served buffet-style, so we could take what we wanted and leave the rest. This taught me how to make use of all aspects of the creative world, and think about ways to implement them not only into my writing but also my teaching.
As we submitted our monthly chapters and got our notes back, Kerry never ceased to be excited about whatever piece of writing I offered up. She cared about my characters as much as I did, and went about making her suggestions in such a way that she felt more like a writing partner than she did a writing teacher. Her edits conveyed not only her expertise but also her joy in writing--a joy that was infectious. She brought the fun that I needed to get back into my love for writing.
Good mentors, and bad ones alike, can be intelligent. They can write best sellers and give fantastic interviews. But my favorite mentor gave me the very thing that had been slowly covered up by my previous mentor--the fun of writing. I hope that whatever writing mentors cross paths with you will inspire you to keep going back to the page; that they will continue to encourage and inspire you because when the writing gets tough it will be those emotions that keep you fussing over a janky sentence or swapping out chapters until the storyline flows.