The Awful Truth About Being a Mentor

I never sleep well the night before Pitch Wars reveals.  Will my mentee be happy with me? Will the people I didn’t pick be devastated?

giphy (45)

I toss and turn because I can’t stop thinking of all the very kind people who trusted me with their words, who sent me their hopes along with their hearts, and who are going to feel the crushing blow of rejection because I can’t take everyone on. I don’t know how many times I can make the point that it’s like being asked to name a favorite color, but I have too many things to say for Twitter, so I’m going to bloviate blog-style.

Here are the random thoughts ping-ponging around my head at 2 a.m.

  • I read all of your queries and first pages multiple times, to make sure I wasn’t being affected by time of day or mood (which I am susceptible to). I approached them each as if they were my own — always looking at them with the highest optimism and overlooking things that could easily be fixed.
  • The reason you weren’t picked by me is — because you’re not the person I picked. Period. There wasn’t an entry I couldn’t have picked (except those subbed to a genre I explicitly didn’t want).  As I sorted through the entries, I never thought, “This really sucks.” Some of the entries were further along in some aspects of craft — but craft can be learned. Any problems I encountered are fixable — maybe not by me — but with the help of the right CP.
  • If I could have picked three entries, I would have. The decision making would still be a nightmare, but getting down to just one is agonizing and there are so many authors I’d love to work with.
  • There were MS in my top pile with high quality writing and great concepts that I didn’t request more pages from. Why not? *shrugs* No specific reason — it just wasn’t my thing. Some of these were picked up by other mentors, others weren’t. Not getting a request is not an indication of the quality of the writing.
  • The vast majority of entries that didn’t make it into my maybe pile were simply a matter of taste. Nobody could possibly know what appeals to me from a wish list alone.
  • With every entry I read, I always looked for what I personally could bring to the table. I knew I needed a passion for the story, for the characters, for the voice, for the writing. But I also needed to identify something that I could help with — something I had experience with and knew I wouldn’t muck up. My worst fear is taking a sparkly novel and ruining it. I read several fulls trying to find the one that I connected to in that way. It’s a very precarious balance between almost there, but not quite there in a very specific way that resonates only with me.

My worst fear.

  • If I end up sending feedback, it will be of two flavors.
    1. I simply didn’t connect with this the way I wanted. You can read that as: I can’t pinpoint anything you’re doing wrong. I just connected to another MS more.
    2. Or I will tell you something I think you could fix, but don’t read that as “why you weren’t picked” because believe it or not, whatever I tell you, you can bet that my mentee will hear it, too.
  • I want to stay friends with all the wonderful people I’ve met. I hope there will be no hard feelings. If anyone is feeling down after the results are revealed, please reach out to me or any other mentor you feel comfortable talking to. I’m happy to offer a shoulder and tell you all about the many times I didn’t make it into contests with even better odds.
  • You should all hold your chins up and feel good about submitting and making the most of this contest. Congratulations to all of you who sought out a CP, interacted with other potential mentees and mentors, who heeded writing advice, and who will walk away from this experience with an arsenal of tools.
  • And remember, a mentor is nothing but a glorified CP. Yes, we’re dedicated to YOU and we aren’t making you return the favor. And yes, there is an agent round at the end of this. But you have the power to find someone to help you with your work. You have the power to form the community you need to power you through. Pitch Wars is just a beginning.

Keep on writing. Keep on learning. And KEEP ON TRYING.

Love you guys!


13 Responses

  1. cjlehi
    cjlehi August 31, 2015 at 1:59 pm | | Reply

    Mary Ann, this is well said. I don’t know how you could have put this any better, honestly. Sometime Friday or Saturday this week, it will probably be very helpful to the hordes of us that won’t be chosen.

    I didn’t submit to you, but I’d have been proud to. You (and honestly everyone) have been gracious and have gone out of your way a hundred times to make sure we understand how this actually works and what we can, and cannot, read into it. There’s nothing more you can do.

    And Wednesday will still suck. It’s how things work.

  2. Ava Quinn
    Ava Quinn August 31, 2015 at 8:58 pm | | Reply

    I know the mentors have been wringing their hearts out over this decision. You all are a fantastic, passionate, generous group of individuals. I’m sure you didn’t pick my ms, but I don’t care. It’s been awesome to interact with you through #pitchwars, and I hope to continue to.

    Good luck with your mentee!! I know you’ll be fabulous! 🙂

  3. Courtney
    Courtney August 31, 2015 at 10:51 pm | | Reply

    This is such a nice post. I love your Worst Fear image, and it just shows how important this is to you, and why you are going to be a great mentor. I appreciate your offer to be there for someone feeling down if not chosen. You are great!

  4. Patricia Yager Delagrange
    Patricia Yager Delagrange September 2, 2015 at 7:40 pm | | Reply

    I wasn’t selected by you but this sure helps me understand “why” and I deeply appreciate that. Thank you.

  5. Haydee Mar
    Haydee Mar September 3, 2015 at 12:41 am | | Reply

    Thank you for writing this post and for giving me an outlet to express how I feel after being rejected. I’m truly devastated. However, it isn’t just the rejection that hurts. It’s the very discouraging feedback I received from one of the mentors. I really appreciate this person taking the time to actually write me a personalized note. However, to learn that in this person’s opinion, the only good thing about my MS was a hint of a good premise, was heartbreaking. I’m not a newbie. I’ve been working on this MS for a long time. I’m not saying it’s perfect because it’s not, but I don’t think it’s that bad, either.
    I do admit my query letter was below par. I only learned about the PitchWars a couple of days before the deadline and I’m really not good with queries. Unlike a lot of people I come across, I don’t have a critic partner or a beta reader to help me out. But it’s not for lack of trying. I’m a member of many on-line and face-to-face writing/critique groups; I’ve also taken courses and done workshops etc. Unfortunately, the writers I meet either have their critique partners already or they’re not as serious about writing as I am.

  6. Haydee Mar
    Haydee Mar September 3, 2015 at 10:24 pm | | Reply

    Thank you so very much for your kind words. I don’t believe the mentor meant to hurt me HIs/her feedback wasn’t scathing. It’s his/her opinion. I actually like my MS and stand by it. I guess it’s a matter of growing a thick skin and all that.
    Thank you again for replying. I wish you all the best with your mentoring. Your mentee is a lucky person. You have a great heart.

  7. Kelly Duran
    Kelly Duran August 24, 2017 at 6:46 pm | | Reply

    Thanks so much for this Mary Ann – it really helped me to read how this process was for you. I only just finished my first novel and found out about Pitch Wars late so missed all the lead up. None of my mentors asked to read my full and that was certainly discouraging but it also made me re-read both my query and my first 10 pages and find ways to make them stronger. This whole process has been a true eye opener and I am so grateful for all the mentors. Best of luck with your mentee. See you in 2018!

Leave a Reply