Guide to Being a Storymentor
Welcome to the 2022-2023 Storymentors year! We are so grateful that you’re interested in being a mentor. It can be so rewarding to find a writer at the beginning of their career and guide them to greater heights than they would have been able to achieve on their own. We hope that you’ll find this year a fulfilling one.
The following are guidelines and expectations that we lay out for our mentors at the beginning of the mentoring year to help things go smoothly. If you ever have any questions or concerns about any aspect of the program that aren’t answered here, please contact the program directors at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are here to help you and your mentee have a great experience!
General Expectations for Communication
Once you are paired with your mentee, please reach out to them and set up an initial introduction meeting. This can be over the phone, Zoom, or even a chat program. Use whatever method you and your mentee are most comfortable with! It may even be possible to do introductions solely over email, but some partnerships from last year reported that it was much easier to get to know each other using a live communication format for the initial meeting.
Here are some suggestions for what to establish in that first meeting:
- Frequency of communication (we recommend at least once a month, but every partnership will look different, so decide together what will work best based on your mutual goals and schedules)
- Mentee needs
- What you are willing/able to do to meet those needs
- Schedules (for example, if you have a big life event in September, let your mentee know you’ll be less available then. Or if it’s summer and you’ve got young kids at home from school, let them know it would be better to schedule reading time for the fall.)
- Next planned contact time
We ask that you check in with your mentee at least once a month. This can be a simple check in (How’s writing going? Did you make your goal last month? What help can I offer you this month?), or it can be more involved, depending on what you and your mentee work out.
Three Mentorship Tracks
This year, we’re trying out a new way to sort our mentees based on their goals. Mentors are able to signify on the application which of the three tracks they feel qualified to mentor (we know some of you can do all three!), while mentees will be limited to one track for their application. Here’s a quick overview of the three tracks so you can decide which ones you’d be willing to select a mentee from. Feel free to pick more than one–you’ll still only select one mentee, it just gives you a wider variety of applications to consider.
- Traditional Publishing Track: these are mentees who have decided they want to either sign with a literary agent or small press, and have a specific work in mind that they are getting ready to query. They are looking for mentors who can help them craft a query letter, synopsis, and other submission materials, and give them advice on the submission process.
- Self-publishing Track: these mentees have decided they want to self-publish their books, and are looking for guidance at a variety of steps along the way. Some may have a particular book they are ready to publish that they’d like help with.
- Writer Development Track: this is for mentees who haven’t decided which publishing track they want to take, or may not be interested in publishing their work at this time. This track will focus on craft development, which is a really broad scope! They may be on their very first manuscript, or they may have more writing under their belt. Writers at any experience level can choose this track, and will appreciate your advice and encouragement no matter where they are on their writing journey. The mentor and mentee will decide together which aspects of craft they want to focus on over the course of the mentoring year.
Last year, some mentors indicated that they would like to see a writing sample to help them make the choice of their mentee. Reading a writing sample is not a requirement for mentors, but we wanted to accommodate those who want to. This year, when mentees apply, they’ll submit up to 5 pages of a writing sample of their choice. Mentees applying for the traditional publishing track will submit 5 pages from the work they are looking to have published.
General Mentorship Advice
Obviously, every mentor/mentee pairing is going to be different, with a range of needs and wants, but here are some basics:
- Encouragement is key. For some mentees, their mentor may be the only person besides themselves who takes them seriously as a writer. A good mentor treats their mentee and their writing with respect, even at the beginning stages.
- Not all mentorships will hinge on the mentor reading a manuscript for their mentee. There may be some partnerships where advice, guidance, and encouragement are more important to the mentee than a manuscript critique. This is why it’s important to discuss goals for the program early on.
- Remember that by design, your mentee is not as experienced as you. They may misjudge how long editing or drafting will take them. Try to build some padding into any deadlines the two of you set to accommodate this.
Life happens! We know there may be a situation where someone has to drop out of the program, and we’ve made some tentative plans for how to deal with this.
- If your mentee drops out of the program: If it’s early enough in the program, and you’d still like to mentor someone, we’ll compile a list of people who weren’t chosen that you are welcome to reach out to. This is not a requirement, just an option if you’d like to take it.
- If you need to drop out: Before contacting your mentee, contact us first! (email@example.com) It’s possible that we can work out some kind of schedule where the directors step in to work with your mentee until things in your life calm down. If you need to leave the program completely, you can find a new mentor for your mentee (for example, a member of your writing group with similar skills/knowledge) if you choose, though they will need to be cleared with the directors first, and your mentee will have the option of not working with them. The directors may also take on finding a replacement mentor, depending on how far into the program we are when you need to leave. Do not ghost your mentee.
We always hope for the best, but we know that it’s possible that conflict may arise within the mentor/mentee pairing. The directors are here to help you and your mentee work through any issues that may arise, and you can contact us at any time if you are struggling in your mentor role for any reason.
We had a lot of success with the program last year, with many mentors reporting that they found it incredibly fulfilling to help a new writer who then became their friend. We are excited to offer the program again to help another crop of writers, and hope that you’ll have a great year of working with your mentee! Thanks for making it possible–we couldn’t do it without you!