Author Mentoring: The Art of Paying It Forward

By: Kathleen Pickering


I spent most of this past week at The Myrtles, a haunted plantation in Louisiana, with my mentor, the award winning, New York Times Best Selling author, Heather Graham. Luckily for me, Heather is not only my mentor, but my dear friend. (I don’t even know if she knows she’s mentoring me!)

I accompanied Heather and her family “on location” to shoot the new book trailer for her upcoming “Krewe of Hunters” series with Mira Books. As my mentor, Heather showed me how to set up a script, find a location, hire a videographer and assemble a cast of actors (with costumes) and work within a budget to accomplish in one afternoon what promises to be an exciting and entertaining introduction to her next book series.


Heather Graham on location at The Myrtles, St. Francisville, LA

I enjoyed all of this instruction while having fun. I came away realizing that while mentoring doesn’t always lead to friendship, friendship surely leads to mentoring. Mentoring is an important facet of any role in life, not just writing. Many corporate mentoring programs involve software such as the TogetherApp, an employeee mentoring software that tracks the progress between the mentor and the mentee(s). In writing, mentoring is an organic essence of a writing community. Joining Florida Romance Writers, Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers and Thriller Writers has immersed me in conversations with other authors from which I have come away a better writer—just by sharing information. Many times, I’m lucky to make friends with some of my most favorite authors. In turn, when I meet new writers, I answer their questions, offer them help with works in progress, or point them in whatever direction I can to help further their career.
Mentoring is an author’s way to “pay it forward” or in other words, to do good for someone in advance of good happening for you. When we pay it forward, we take mega-leaps in our own careers, as well. Heather showed me how she uses her skills and years of experience to create media content. In turn, I followed the cast around the plantation, videoing behind the scenes. (With equipment I bought through more mentoring from Fred Rae, a member of Mystery Writers.) To thank Heather for the fun—and the lessons, I plan to create up to 20 (depending on the quality of my photography!) short “behind the scenes” videos for YouTube, Facebook and iTunes to help herald Heather’s upcoming series. (I’ll be sure to post them on my website, as well.)
Why? Because I am delighted to “pay it forward” for my friend—and not just because she’s teaching me. It feels good inside to know I’m building my career on good intentions. Helping create an Internet buzz for Heather works in symbiosis with my learning how to create media. It’s all good. After all, in the author’s world of mentoring, what are friends for?
So, let me ask you. How do you contribute as a mentor in your writing world?
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