For my inaugural re-invigoration, I virtually sat down with the amazing Anastasia Suen. Her interview follows after two short mentorship promo bits below:
- Of course I'm partial to the great state of Michigan and our SCBWI-sponsored mentorship program http://michigan.scbwi.org/mentorship-program-2/. However, there are other programs in the SCBWI world. I worked with SCBWI to create a resource page for these programs. The page resides on the main website https://www.scbwi.org/scbwi-mentorship-programs/. (You can only access it if you are a member.) If you wish to be mentored or mentor another, you can start your research here. We will add more programs as they become available.
- You can find another SCBWI-member only resource about mentorship in THE BOOK: The Essential Guide to Publishing for Children 2014 (p.37) called Mentoring Matters by moi. This describes the benefits of mentorship for both mentees and mentors.
Now, on to the important part of this post!!!
Anastasia Suen is the author of 190 books for children and adults, a LibrarySparks and Booklist's Quick Tips for Schools & Libraries columnist, a literacy blogger, a children's literature consultant for several publishers, a freelance editor, a former K,1,5, & 6 teacher who visits schools to teach the six traits of writing, and a former Staff Development for Educators, UNT and SMU instructor who teaches writing workshops online.
Have you been a part of a formal mentoring program through SCBWI or any other organization?
I have never been formally mentored, but that hasn’t stopped me. I actively seek out opportunities to keep growing as a writer by attending professional events, such as SCBWI conferences. I also read in the field every day. I read children’s books as well as books and blog posts about craft, the children’s book market, and freelancing.
Do you agree or disagree with distinguished author Margaret Atwood’s statement about writing: “Other people can help you a bit, but essentially you’re on your own?”
I agree and disagree. If you never ask for help, it can take a very long time to learn your craft. However, at some point, you need find your own voice, and that means not listening to what other people say.
In what ways have you been “helped a bit?”
The SCBWI conferences I have attended over the years have helped quite a bit. Everyone there is actively working on their craft, making it a wonderful day of immersion in the writing life.
If you were a mentor, what strengths would you bring to a struggling author?
I have been teaching the craft of writing to children’s book authors since 1999 and my strength is my focus on reading and structure. From the beginning I have insisted that all of my students read books like the ones they are writing. I teach this way because long ago I heard Judy Blume speak at an SCBWI conference about taking books apart to see how they worked. I followed her advice and it worked for me, too.
If you could be mentored by any writer throughout time, who would it be and why?
When I start writing a new book, I read, read, read, so I always have several mentors for each project. And because I write fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, my writing mentors change with each book. There are so many books and blogs to read, so much to learn and explore. One encounter leads to another in a continuous journey of discovery.
Thank you for your insights, Anastasia!