Sheldon Oberman Emerging Writers Mentor Program

Hello all.

Last evening was the wrap up to the 2011 Sheldon Oberman Emerging Writers Mentor Program. It was a packed room in the upstairs of Aqua Books, as the six of apprentices shared work that we’d gone over with our mentors.

Before I say a few words about the Program, let me state here that I am so grateful to my mentor, Chandra Mayor, for all the hours she spent working with me.  She has provided me not only with fresh insight into my own work (a new pair of eyes, so to speak), but has also sharpened my ability to match plot and internal meaning.  My writing has benefited tremendously.  Chandra is also just plain great to work with.

And onto the Program.  There’s not much I could write about the technical and logistical aspects of the Program that isn’t written about more thoroughly elsewhere (here, in particular).  However, what I can write about are my own experiences in the Program:

We began by meeting as a group (writers, mentors, and Guild hosts) in mid-January.  There were 6 of us–3 fiction writers, and 3 poets (I don’t know if the 50-50 split was intentional or coincidental).  At the kick-off get-together, I provided Chandra with a copy of the manuscript I’d been working on (intermittently) for about 2 years.

Apprentices meet with their mentors for 20 hours over the course of the program.  In my case, we met for 2 hours or so at a time. Chandra read my manuscript before our first meeting, and we chatted first about overall impressions and feel.  It was incredibly helpful to get an outside perspective.  It was also nice, on a somewhat self-centred level, to hear that she liked it.  (I mean, who doesn’t wonder, from time to time, whether the piece they’re working on appeals only to them?)

Our conversations moved all across the “Talking about Writing” landscape.  Sometimes we talked about plot, sometimes we talked about character development, sometimes we talked about how these two aspects of novel writing are inseparable.  In particular, we talked a lot about “the stakes”–that is, what it is that is driving the characters (and consequently, the story itself).  What makes them willing to step out on those shaky limbs and to risk so much?  In what ways does that make them vulnerable?  What do they hope to get out of it?  These are the kind of questions Chandra encouraged me to ask, and when I did, I found that I discovered my characters.  Writing was no longer a process of moulding the plot to deliver the desired result to the reader.  Rather, it was a process of portraying the characters so accurately that they told my story for me.

Our conversations were not all “craft”-related.  We also discussed some of the nuts and bolts of operating as a writer in the world.  For example, we talked about how to stay connected to the writing community, even if you happen to live outside the city or away from the places where writers tend to congregate.  (I’m rural at heart…)  We also talked about how to give a good reading.

Meeting for 20 hours provides plenty of time to talk, and I won’t be able to sum up all of our conversations here.  We made it fun, kept it interesting, and covered a lot of ground.

That pretty much sums it up, but if anyone reading this (especially a hopeful applicant to the Program) wants to contact me directly for more info, please feel free to do so.  (See the Contact bar at the top of the webpage).

Finally, for anyone who is interested, here is a link to a video of my reading at Aqua Books.



About jackfrey
Jack Frey lives somewhere in Northeast Asia with his wife and two young boys. He finds the letter K to be the most aesthetically pleasing of all the consonants, in both its upper and lowercase forms. Like many of us, he is currently seeking publication of his first novel.

One Response to Sheldon Oberman Emerging Writers Mentor Program

  1. Pingback: Sheldon Oberman Mentorship Program: A Call for Applications | Jack Frey

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