Previous Writer to Writer Mentees
Spring 2015 Session
Caryn Mohr is a creative nonfiction writer living in the Twin Cities and is currently working on a memoir. She also serves as a social media editor for Literary Mama magazine. Caryn has a BA in journalism and an MA in public affairs from the University of Minnesota and frequently takes classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis.
Caryn worked with writer Candy Schulman.
What were your goals for this program, and how did you communicate them to your mentor?
After more than a year of writing my memoir, I sought guidance in narrowing the focus and feedback on drafts of early chapters. My mentor and I used the discussion questions in Module 1 to discuss goals early on. I wrote out my thoughts to these questions and sent them to her in advance of our initial Skype conversation. With her experience teaching and mentoring students, she was able to take what I had written and offer ideas for how she could support me in the program.
How would you describe the matching process and how well matched you were with your mentor?
I was very impressed with the attention given to the matching process. AWP takes this very seriously, with the program team carefully reading each mentor and mentee application, looking for pairs whose goals and experience are well matched. Mentors ultimately get to choose among a few applications, which helps ensure a close match. The staff also checks in with mentors and mentees during the program to see how matches are proceeding, and is very supportive should any needs arise. The personal attention to mentors and mentees from AWP staff was incredible. I would encourage anyone who doesn’t find a match the initial time they apply to re-apply for a future session when there might be a better-suited mentor available. This is what I did, and I'm so glad I participated when I did because I can’t imagine having had a better-matched mentor!
Was there a specific time you felt that you and your mentor "clicked"?
Candy helped me feel comfortable right away in our initial Skype conversation. I worried I was in too much of a freewriting stage at the program’s onset—still trying different approaches to my material—but her experience enabled her to meet me where I was at and grow from there. I remember a moment during that early call when I realized I was in the hands of an experienced teacher, and I knew I didn't need to have all the answers.
What advice do you have for people entering the program next?
I suggest having an initial Skype call, even if you will mostly communicate through email, to have the opportunity to meet your mentor "face to face." Discussing goals early on is also important to make sure you share expectations for the program and how you will work together.
What is something you learned from your mentor or this process?
She gave me invaluable feedback on my writing, always with the perfect combination of encouragement and constructive advice. I emerged from this program a stronger and more confident writer.
In what ways did this experience differ from, say, taking a creative writing class or workshop?
There is nothing like one-to-one mentorship. Memoir is such a vulnerable endeavor, and there were a few times during the course of the program when fear or self-doubt got the better of me, but Candy encouraged me to continue on the track I was on, writing where I was pulled, trusting in my right and ability to tell my story. Having that personal coach who understands your goals and knows your story is invaluable.
How has this experience helped your writing or work process?
My writing became crisper, clearer, and more inventive as a result of Candy's feedback and encouragement. Most importantly, she helped me find and trust my voice. Her nurturing reflection of my words helped me see when I was writing from the heart with courage and authenticity.