Previous Writer to Writer Mentees
Fall 2014 Session
Olga Livshin (olga-livshin.com) is a bilingual Russian-American poet. Her work has appeared in The Mad Hatters’ Review, Eleven Eleven and other journals, and was included in The Persian Anthology of World Poetry (in translation). Past performance works include a collaboration with the pianist Inna Faliks for Chicago's classical radio station, WFMT, and a one-woman show for the Out North Contemporary Art House in Anchorage, Alaska. Olga teaches Russian at Boston University.
Olga worked with poet Janet Sylvester.
What were your goals for the program?
I was hoping to learn how to be better at creating and sustaining supportive spaces for poetry writing in my life. I also wanted to hear more about revising for a manuscript. This program has been really excellent for both of these goals.
What advice do you have for people entering the program next?
If possible, establish a schedule of deadlines with your mentor early on. This was really helpful: to have some poems revised, discussed and re-revised by a certain date and submitted -- even with the busy lives that many of us in this program lead. The mentor and the mentee can always review and adjust these deadlines, but it's nice to start out with some dates and expectations.
What is something you learned from your mentor or this process?
The biggest benefit I see is in the forms my writing started to assume. My mentor encouraged me to seek out writers whose stylistic features and voices are very different than mine. I loved the experience and the energies I feel it's bringing to my work.
What is something that happened that you did not expect?
Janet Sylvester's mentorship is equal parts profound compassion and substantive critique. I associate this kind of thoughtful investment in mentoring with college or perhaps graduate school, but not necessarily a short-term program. It requires a lot of close looking at someone's poetry, a lot of patience, and a lot of guidance. Writer-to-Writer exceeded all these expectations. Janet is willing to recognize and work with some essential characteristics of her mentees' poetry, helping them amplify their voices. She also helps one revise in some fairly fundamental ways.
Where do you go from here?
I am submitting more work to journals, and I'll be putting together a chapbook manuscript in 2015.