Mentors and mentees mingle at McNally Robinson

Some time ago I was selected to be one of the mentors for the Saskatchewan Writers Guild‘s first Online Youth Mentorship Program. I enjoyed it very much.

I worked with three young writers, Danita Stallard of Estevan, James Waldner of Biggar, and Arnav Jatukaran of Regina. I had at least one face-to-face meeting with all of them, but most of our work was carried out online: they’d send me stuff, I’d critique it and point them to online (and other) resources, I’d answer any questions they might have, etc.

Not surprisingly, I guess, two of my mentees were focused on the SF and fantasy field: Danita is particularly interested in fantasy, while James is focused on military space opera. Arnav, on the other hand, wrote non-fiction, which of course is something else I focus on.

Three other mentors, Lynda Monahan, Alice Kuipers and gillian harding-russell, also had three students each, so in all there were 12 young writers taking part. (Besides my mentees, they were Ella Coulter, Emily Garland, Heather Goertzen, Jessica Harrington, Kyle Kuervers, Tegan Ledding, Jocelyn Lukan, Eric Madland and Kylie Toh.)

Our goal, besides general writing improvement, was to produce pieces for a chapbook and reading. We reached that goal on Monday, when we all (except for Kyle and Danita, who couldn’t make it) gathered in Saskatoon, first for a bookbinding workshop with Jack Pine Press, then for a reading at McNally-Robinson of the pieces from the book. (In between we had pizza. You can’t read on an empty stomach!)

I was late for the bookbinding workshop, but although I missed the part where they sewed the pages together, I was on hand for putting on the covers–and really enjoyed it, too. It awoke my rather dormant maybe-what-I’d-really-like-to-be-is-an-artist inner voice, the one I haven’t heard much from since I quit drawing cartoons for the Weyburn Review back in 1988.

Here I am at my table with my mentees James Waldner (centre) and Arnav Jatukaran.

Every book was different. Each person made three (well, I just made two, but most people made three) which they then got to keep. That’s one of mine.
Afterward, we posed for a group picture, which also shows many more of the resulting books.

The cover art, by the way, “A wandering soul” (which also gave the book its title) is by one of the students, Kyle Kuervers.

Apparently we were quite good at bookbinding, because we were done ahead of schedule. That suited me, since I needed to check into my hotel and then conduct an interview with Carol Gay Bell of Saskatchewan Express for the preview article of their Musical Theatre Studio 10th anniversary recital which will appear in tomorrow’s Leader Post.

After that, it was off to Mano’s for pizza, then to McNally Robinson for the reading. We had a whopping good turnout: they set out every chair they had in the art alcove, and we overflowed it. I haven’t counted precisely, but there are certainly at least 50 people in the photo below, and it doesn’t quite capture everyone:
Robert Currie, the poet laureate of Saskatchewan, got things off to a splendid start with an excellent talk and a few of his own poems:

After that, we simply went through the students in the order they appear in the book, with each mentor introducing his or her students. I read Danita’s story in her place, and Kyle Kuerver’s English teacher read one of his poems, so everyone was represented.

I was most impressed with the quality of the work these young writers turned out. I suspect you’ll be reading much more by many of them in the future.

As for myself, I thoroughly enjoyed being a mentor, and hope I get the opportunity to do it again.

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1 comment

    • Brenda Schmidt on May 18, 2007 at 3:12 pm
    • Reply

    Bravo! Great report.

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