Thursday, January 16, 2020

My Best Mentor, by Michele Weber Hurwitz

As we're blogging about National Mentoring Month, I've been thinking about the various mentors I had throughout my life, from teachers to bosses to fellow writers. There was the tough, strict English teacher in junior high who made me cry one day (okay, more than one day) but taught me how to spell and punctuate. There was the boss who somehow at the same time praised my work but also pushed me to do better. And how much I've learned from other authors -- more lessons than I can count.

But one person in particular stands out, and she's an unusual, unlikely mentor. My daughter! She's now an editorial intern at a lifestyle magazine in New York, but it was way back when she was 10 and I was attempting to write a middle grade novel that she became my mentor.

Since I'd had three novel fails before then, I was hesitant to let anyone read my next attempt. But my daughter was the same age as the main character. And she loved to read. Finished a book every few days. Plus, she'd be kind, wouldn't she?

She agreed to read each chapter after I wrote it and took her task seriously. Turned out, she was helpful, insightful, honest, and had spot-on suggestions for plot and characters. And yes, kind, but also surprisingly critical. She pointed out where a 10-year old wouldn't really say a line of dialogue I'd written, or where a plot turn didn't make sense.

About halfway through the novel, I remember she came out of my office with a smile on her face.

"Mom," she said. "I think you really have something here. It's good. Keep going. I need to find out what happens at the end."

I hugged her. Then burst into tears.

She was right. That novel would go on to become my first published book, Calli Be Gold, in 2011.

My daughter has continued to read early drafts of each of my novels and I trust her advice implicitly. As I would with any great mentor.


Michele Weber Hurwitz's fifth middle grade novel, Hello from Renn Lake, publishes in May from Penguin Random House/Wendy Lamb Books. Check it out at micheleweberhurwitz.com

2 comments:

  1. I teared up at the moment when she gave you those welcome words: "I think you really have something here." So lovely.

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