Previous Writer to Writer Mentees

Molly Rideout

Molly Rideout

Spring 2015 Session

Molly Rideout ( is a writer and social practice artist whose work often stems from or connects with her community-based art projects as co-director of Grin City Collective Artist & Writers Residency. She writes fiction and memoir that has been published in a handful of journals, but her favorite publications have been in vinyl on the windows of four Iowa libraries (Grinnell, Newton, Toledo, and Cedar Rapids). She lives and works in and writes about rural Iowa.

Molly worked with writer Luke Rolfes.

What were your goals for this program, and how did you communicate them to your mentor?
Entering the W2W program, I had two main goals: 1.) to improve my craft, and 2.) to get advice on the benefits and drawbacks of MFA programs. The second goal I think we met pretty easily through my asking very specific questions. The first goal was harder to work on as it required a lot more time investment from my mentor and didn’t fit well with the modules until the very specific craft module. I do think that we will continue to work toward this first goal as we continue our unofficial literary friendship.

How would you describe the matching process and how well matched you were with your mentor?
The matching process worked really well. Luke Rolfes and I both take very similar approaches to our work and are drawn to the same landscapes, and it was relieving to hear that there are other people thinking about the same kind of things I do. We were close enough in age that we were able to relate on many levels, which helped further our discussions.

What advice do you have for people entering the program next?
Fully recognize the real gift that your mentor is giving you of their time, and don’t squander it. Be as giving in return as you can.

What is something you learned from your mentor or this process? 
Luke told me something that must have been in the back of my head for a while, but which hadn’t quite yet come to the foreground: He commented that in my work, the setting is one of the story’s characters. It is completely true, and thinking on that has allowed me to delve deeper into both setting and character and how both interact.

What is something that happened that you did not expect?
This was my first time ever going to AWP, and I was nervous about finding my way. I hadn’t been in the convention center more than thirty seconds, was still walking toward the registration table, when Luke cut in front of me. We had never met before, but I recognized him instantly. It was a perfect moment.

In what ways did this experience differ from, say, taking a creative writing class or workshop?
Writer to Writer is very different from a class because you’re not in class. You don’t have that support system any more, and opportunities like this are so rare. It’s a real one-on-one feel that starts as the feeling of going into a professor’s office and asking for help, but expands outside of that because you have something to offer this mentor as well. It’s not just a one-way street.

Where do you and your mentor go from here?
Luke and I are both pretty adamant about staying in contact and sending each other stuff. He’s pestered me, like, a million times to let him read a novel draft, and maybe eventually I’ll even let him. We’re planning a meet-up sometime this summer. This has started a literary friendship that we intend to make last!

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