The Path Forward
Nicole Kuruszko | December 2020
At the beginning of the Spring 2020 season of Writer to Writer, Jennifer Steil and I instantly bonded, and we happily agreed to meet via Skype every weekend. No sooner had we introduced ourselves than the entire world fell beneath our feet with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Jennifer had been originally based in Kazakhstan and needed to quickly relocate with her family to London. I, too, had been adjusting to working remotely in New York City and navigating this newfound uncertainty. Nevertheless, Jennifer and I busied ourselves in time of crisis, and writing soon become our escape from the world.
Together, we embarked on thought-provoking conversations centering on both the writing process and the historical fiction genre. We both shared a similar interest in Holocaust history and found ourselves talking endlessly about gripping survivor testimonials and related novels. Jennifer introduced me to her own works such as Exile Music, which she wrote after meeting the descendants of Jewish refugees from Austria. It just so happened that my manuscript was also based in the same era and about the life of Irena Sendler, who rescued Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto. Jennifer graciously offered to review the manuscript in its entirety and offered many insights.
Writing can often be a lonely process, especially for an emerging writer. I had longed for a mentor’s loving care and attention to help elevate my manuscript to the next level. Jennifer did just that and more. She zeroed in on my strengths as a writer and showed me how I could improve the sense of timing, setting, and structural inconsistencies that hampered the flow. Better still, she offered edits and suggestions for alternative solutions to move the plot forward and enhance the characters. Whether we were discussing the subtext in dialogue or self-editing resources, I learned so much from a seasoned writer like Jennifer.
The AWP Writer to Writer Program not only changed my life but also the trajectory of my manuscript. I have a new momentum that I did not have before in getting my manuscript off the ground. My story continues to blossom into its full potential, which would not be made possible without my mentor’s careful eye. Most of all, I am honored that Jennifer selected me to be her mentee as it reaffirmed my confidence in writing again. Her unwavering support and belief in me have made all the difference.