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Children's Writers:
Who Mentors Them Today?

"Musings" for December 2004

by Margot Finke

Part one of three

Margot Finke's Musings is hosted by:

The Purple Crayon

Find more resources for writers in the Articles section.

See the Musings index to find other installments.

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This December's column is the first in a three-part series, beginning with my thoughts on the reality of mentoring for writers in the 21st century. My January column deals with Finding the Perfect Critique Group. And in February, I wind up the series with Starting Your Own Critique Group. Please join the "Musings" gang, and enjoy my next two columns in this series on writing for children.

When Editors Mentored:

Once upon a time, many editors took promising new writers under their wing. Trained professionals, these editors spotted emerging talent, nurturing it until the writer was ready for publication. This was known as mentoring. These days, due to computers access, sky-high slush piles, and changing publisher economics, fewer editors have time to spend mentoring prospective authors. Editors who mentor may not be as extinct as the dodo, the typewriter, or the five-cent ice cream cone, but they are certainly hard to find. Nowadays, budding writers surf the Internet for guidance, join critique groups, and receive enough rejection slips to paper a small room.

Find Helpful Online Writing Lists

Writers today must discover new ways of learning the secrets of writing for children. Your Internet connection can hook you up to a host of helpful writing lists. These message boards encourage writers, from beginners to the highly experienced. Members post questions and offer their own valuable experiences. Answers flow, and often lead to informative debates on many aspects of writing for children. Not mentoring one-on-one, I agree, but a great way to tap into a valuable resource. Look for online lists that specialize in writing for children. Surf around until you identify message boards that have published and advanced writers – people that know the children's writing game. After you sign up, and become a valid member, lurk awhile. Absorb the helpful writing and publishing information flying back and forth on a daily basis. When you feel comfortable and at home, ask your writing questions. Below are three helpful message boards:

Critique Groups Inherit the Mentoring Crown (Sort of)

The best online writing boards usually have a badly kept secret: critique groups that flourish among their members. Ask these lists if there are vacancies, and mention the type of books you write. No, critique groups do not mentor in the traditional way. There is no one-on-one – more like a rotation of five or six "critters" helping one. A critique group offers a chance to work with, and seek guidance and information from, writers who are more experienced. Each member receives helpful feedback on their plot and characters, voice, and much more. Encouragement and support is the backbone of these groups. Today, picky editors demand an almost perfect manuscript. Working with a trusted group of peers encourages you to look deeper, weed out what is weak, or rework that troublesome chapter one more time.

Mentoring – 21st Century Style – The Self-Help Approach

This is the age of the search engine and self-help! If genuine mentors are hard to come by, be independent. Think out of the box! Most published writers, and many who are not yet published, have websites. Think octopus! The many-tentacled links snaking from these websites can divert a flow of "how-to" information onto your computer screen. The wisdom of experienced writers is only a mouse click away. With help from Google, or other search engines, you can explore sites that offer current information about publishers, agents, or any aspect of writing for children. A few clicks will put you in the magical world of writing for children.

Listed Below Are Some of the Best Children's Websites Owned by Writers:

The Purple Crayon Website -- Harold Underdown's website for children's writers. Great articles and links. Harold's book, The Complete Idiot's Guide To Publishing Children's Books, plus his vast experience & writing wisdom, makes this a must visit site.

Greg Fishbone's Writing Links--A one of a kind cornucopia of writing resources are listed here -- plus much more. Scroll down Greg's writing links page to find what you need.

Roxyanne Young's SmartWriters Webpage --Bursting with information every children's writer needs. Don't miss her monthly Smart Writers Journal, or how to easily design your own website for a reasonable price.

Margot Finke's Website offers Critique Help at reasonable fees, plus additional writing help on her website. Pages. Read her "Musings" column in the Purple Crayon, and WR&C for Smart Writers Journal. Her book, "Kangaroo Clues," is now available. Visit "Down Under" Fun

Jan Field's Website--"Nuts & Bolts & Magic Wands." covers children's writing from A to Z Well published, with talent to burn, Jan's website, writing advice and great links, is most helpful.

Aaron Shepard's Kid Writing Page
--Excellent writing advice and information. Check the links page. A must visit.

Verla Kay's Website --This multi published author offers a website full of excellent resources. Don't miss this one.


Due to the influence of modern technology, mentoring today has changed. It did not expire with the dodo bird, or when many editors threw up their hands and cried, "No more time!" Mentoring dove into the 21st century, and evolved via the Internet. Mix a little do-it-yourself research on writer's websites, with membership in a message board or two, plus some experienced critique group input. Hey-presto, your manuscript is ready for a publisher.

Happy Writing Mates.

Next month: Second in this 3 part series: Writer's Critique Groups

IN February: Third article in the series: Starting Your Own Critique Group

Margot Finke's biography and index to Musings.

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