Monday, January 24, 2011


A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could. – Unknown

January is National Mentoring Month. Though it is something I recently heard of, it’s been an event now for 10 years. Mentors play an important role in every career, but since I write about writing, I thought I’d mention some literary mentors I read about on

Sherwood Anderson encouraged William Faulkner to concentrate on novels rather than poetry and to write about the area where he was raised in Mississippi. Faulkner’s novel Soldier’s Pay was, “…eventually published primarily due to Anderson advocacy, and, as a wry thank you, Faulkner later dedicated his 1931 novel Sanctuary to his mentor for “services rendered.”

Willa Cather was mentored by Sarah Orne Jewett. She persuaded Cather to concentrate on fiction rather than journalism and urged her to not hide behind male narrators when portraying female romantic feelings. “Although Cather struggled to have the kind of transparency in her work that Jewett delighted in, she dedicated her breakthrough 1913 novel O! Pioneers to Jewett’s memory."

Henry James wrote to Edith Wharton, “I applaud, I mean I value, I egg you on in, your study of the American life that surrounds you. Use to the full your ironic and satiric gifts; they form a most valuable…beneficent engine.”

Joyce Carol Oates was Jonathan Safran Foer’s, author of Everything is Illuminated, instructor. He “…stated that Oates’ investment in his work has spurred him to want to become a writing instructor himself. ‘I went into her class with no ambition to become a writer, and I left it wanting to be a writer because of the things she showed me,’ he remarked. ‘Ever since, I always thought it would be nice to do that for someone else.’”

For more details and more literary mentors, you can read the entire article by Kirthana Ramisetti here.

My mentors over the years have been teachers, family, friends and members of the writing groups I belong to. Are you a mentor to another writer? Do you have a mentor who has encouraged you to complete a particular project or go down a certain path?

January 25 is Thank Your Mentor Day™. Mentees are encouraged to take the time to honor an important mentor in their life by posting an online tribute or sending a note. You can find out more here.

Thanks for stopping by today. I hope to see you again next week.

Tags: mentor, National Mentoring Month, literary mentors, Faulkner, Cather, Henry James, Edith Wharton, Joyce Oates, Safran Foer


Jim Murdoch said...

Although the opposite is sadly often the case on the whole I find the Internet a very supportive place, lots of pats on backs and well dones, but every now and then an author needs to be grabbed by the lapels and encouraged with a capital E because after a while they assume that people’s comments are not so much them being insincere but just being nice. I have a friend who was putting up posts and literally deleting them after a couple of days on a continuing basis – he regarded what he was doing as throwaway rubbish – and hardly anyone was getting time to say anything nice because the work was hardly up there long enough. I had to send him an e-mail and try and impress upon him that just because his pieces were slight on their own, en masse they amounted to quite an accomplishment and to stop being so hard on himself. I think he was honestly taken aback that I took him so seriously and I’m glad to say he’s stopped scrapping his work. And do you know the really sad thing? He never even kept hard copies.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

My mentor is author p.m. terrell - she is just such a wonderful, gracious person and embodies all an author should be. I've been fortunate to get to know her and learn from Trish.

Teresa aka JW said...

Mentoring is so important especially for the young. Mentoring helps pass wisdom and knowledge, which we should always be willing to do.

Great post.

Joanne said...

I love the Joyce Carol Oates story. To be able to inspire someone to live a writing life, someone with no inclination to do so at first, is really amazing. I think when we live what we love, that passion is contagious.

Old Kitty said...

I did have one amazing mentor years ago who encouraged and supported and critiqued my work. My output now is a million times better than it was - and trust me my writing then was even more abominable and atrocious and just plain pants than it is now - LOL! I truly believe I'd still be floundering in my own writerly muck if he had not rescued my writing!! LOL!! Oh his name is Guy Saville and his book is out soon - he helped me and so many others when he was struggling to find a publisher - so his support was even more remarkable given that he was fighting his own demons simultaneously.

I love these snippets of literary mentors - I take great comfort reading them!! Thank you, take care

Jan Morrison said...

I love this post! Mentors have been very important in my life. I've been blessed with an abundance of them. I have a writing mentor now and I am her psychotherapy mentor so it is a nice convergence. My mentors have been tough and kind both. They have mentored me without expecting anything back so I could get the best of what they offered without being in a one-down position. I owe them everything and as I have left the umbrella of their mentoring I have worked side by side with them.

The Old Silly said...

I wish more people would be mentors - not just for the arts, although that is certainly wonderful - these examples are great, and I had a couple mentors along the way in my life. But just taking a kid under your wing that might be 'at risk' because of life circumstances and mentoring him or her on how to grow up to be a real man or woman, productive and happy. Great karma.

Enjoyed this post! :)

Marvin D Wilson

N. R. Williams said...

Great post. My biggest mentor is my mother. She is also a writer and believed in me long before I believed in myself.

Thank you for your comments about my post on Helen Ginger's blog today.
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Helen Ginger said...

Although not well known, there is an award for authors who mentor other writers. It's called the Sage Award and it's in honor of Barbara Burnett Smith, a mystery writer, who was known for mentoring and helping other writers. It's given out each year.

Carol Kilgore said...

It's good to have a Mentor Day. This is the first I've heard of it. Thanks.

Karen Walker said...

I've never had a mentor. Love the whole idea of mentoring. I've offered help and support to younger writers over the years, but not on a regular basis. This is inspiring, Jane. Thanks.

Arlee Bird said...

I didn't know these mentoring facts about authors. I've had people who've helped me--I guess you might say mentored me--especially when I was in my show business career. I'd like to have had writing mentors, but now it's hard to find that many people older than I who want to mentor me. I try to offer advice to younger bloggers, but that is currently as far as my mentoring experience goes.

Tossing It Out

DazyDayWriter said...

Mentoring is a true art form, Jane, and so important in our world. Willa Cather, one of my favorite authors, is living proof of the value of mentoring. I think authors find mentors in many ways. Just be reading another book, for instance, or by reading a memoir or biography about someone admired. We all seek wisdom and knowledge via mentors -- known firsthand or only from a distance. Thanks for such a thoughtful post, Jane!

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Jim, I should have mentioned all the blogs I visit as mentors as I learn so much from them. I’m glad your friend took your advice and quit dumping his work. He may wish he had those hard copies one day.

L. Diane, it’s nice to learn from someone who understands what you’re going through.

Well said, Teresa.

Joanne, I liked that story, too. I think your blog is one of those that inspire people to follow their passions.

Old Kitty, you were lucky to meet up with Mr. Saville – he sounds like a special person. I wish him much success with his upcoming book.

Jan, having one mentor can be very special, but having an abundance of them is even better.

Marvin, I think you stated the best reason to be a mentor.

Nancy, mothers can be great mentors in so many ways. I wish you success with your recently released book.

Helen, thanks for the info. That’s an award I haven’t heard of. I’ll check it out as I’d like to know which authors have received it.

It was new to me, too, Carol.

Karen, it’s probably never too late to find a mentor.

Lee, I’m thinking the age of the mentor doesn’t matter as long as they have more experience or other valuable input.

Daisy, what an excellent point. I know I learn something about the art of writing with every book I read.

Hart Johnson said...

I think writing, because so much of it is solitary and the markers of success so few and far between make that mentor thing SO IMPORTANT. This was a great reminder, Jane. We should all be open to the mentors who can make us better, and in turn help out those behind us in process.

Darcia Helle said...

I had no idea that this was Mentoring Month. What an awesome thing to point out, Jane! A good mentor can make such a difference in a person's life. I have been fortunate to develop an amazing group of supportive author-friends. Having that support is priceless.

Life 101 said...

Wow! Good post and good comments here.
I wanted to comment on Jim's comment. You really did your friend a favor in my book.
Here's the order for a good writer to become great, they have to write.
A lot of what I write is not exceptional, but I keep plugging away. When I look back at my work 5 years ago and compare it to what I'm writing today, there is a huge difference.
That's because I write (and read other good writers) every day.
So, didn't mean to write a novellett, but I did want to commend you Jane on the post and Jim on his advice.
Good work.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Hart, another good point – writing can be a lonely process.

Darcia, I’ve learned so much from supportive author friends. It’s true that their support is priceless.

Life 101, thank you. You bring up several good facts. Comments are helpful; writers must write to improve; and looking back on our older works can serve to let us know how far we’ve come. I also found some of my older attempts can be resurrected and improved upon enough to use them for some purpose.

Clarissa Draper said...

What a great idea! I know my son likes to write and I hope I can be a mentor to him. I'm always trying to help the young people I know live their writing dreams.

Paul C said...

This is a wonderful post about mentoring with meaningful quotes and perspectives. Mentoring certainly applies to younger people as well in a variety of settings. It may also encourage inter generational sharing. Thanks for this.

Jayne said...

Jane- What luck that I read this today, but I'll have to rush to send a note to my "mentor". It was only last week in my blog that I lamented the woes of my austerity plan - which leaves me unable to take another course with a teacher who had so inspired me. Not really a mentor, so much as someone who encouraged me to continue with this writerly journey of mine.
I think I may just send him the link...

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Clarissa, how fun to mentor your own son.

Thanks, Paul. I think the mentors as well as the mentees benefit from the arrangement because of inter-generational sharing.

Jayne, I have a feeling your mentor would love to hear from you regardless of the date.

Helen Ginger said...

I do think those who gracefully agree to "read" for me are wonderful mentors. They give me honest feedback, wonderful suggestions, and support.

Stephen Tremp said...

I did not know this was Mentor Month. I'm paying it forward and mentor a lot of people, in part or in whole because I was mentored by someone. I am where I am today because someone decided to be a part of my life and help me when I really needed it. Now I do the same for others. Great post!

Christina Rodriguez said...

Mentoring is wonderful for writers and artists. I've been both a mentee and a mentor, and I wouldn't trade those experiences for anything.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

Not had a mentor per se, but there have been people who miraculously came by at just the right time with the right piece of advice.

Jen Chandler said...

Writing mentors are fabulous, fabulous people. I lost mine four years ago and have yet to find another.

I do hope to one day mentor young writers. I think it's a very selfless and wonderful act to encourage someone else to be the best version of themselves.

Jane's Ride - Novelist Jane Kennedy Sutton's journey through the ups and downs of the writing, publishing and marketing world