All Mentors, All The Time

"A Helping Hand". 1881 painting by E...
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Much is made of mentors — finding one, keeping one, making sure you have the right one.

Many younger and/or less experienced writers look to me for help. I just got an email from another of the many Caitlin Kellys out there, this one a college sophomore who hopes to become a writer or editor and asked my advice.

I, too, look to my peers and colleagues for their wisdom. I turn in the final manuscript (yay!) of my second book today, and it’s much stronger for the generosity and skill of my four “first readers”, fellow professional writers who made the time to read it and offer their comments and insights.

The secret of mentoring is that we’re all doing it, all the time.

My two most helpful mentors, recently, are women both 10 to 15 years younger than I. In this economy, even the most seasoned of us have to change gears mid-career — ready or not!

Where to find wise and generous help? Maybe not from the equally dislocated people our age, but from those successfully navigating different fields or industries a few steps down the ladder.

It’s counter-intuitive to look down instead of up, but these two women have taught me a lot. One comes from the world of business and corporate life — where people use words like “value-added” and “deliverables” — helping me prepare for a speech this week to some of the nation’s largest retailers.

My other friend is a successful blogger who began her career on-line. When True/Slant, my paid blogging gig for a year, was sold and 95 percent of the contributors who had built its value to 1.5 million uniques a month were tossed away, she consoled me. Print is brutal, but editors have loyalties. Not so in the online world, she explained.

This week, my partner spent an hour on the phone with a young photographer who turned to him for his wisdom — while he, too, is being mentored by several veterans of the new niche he is moving into.

No one succeeds alone.

Who do you mentor? Who mentors you?

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Five More Weeks For Writers To Claim Their Share Of $5.5 Million Award: Step Up!

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She’s my hero — Heather Robertson, a Canadian freelancer, launched her lawsuit in 1996 for Canadian publishers’ unfair use of her work — and that of thousands of others.

She won her case in May 2009, but the deadline for payouts ends March 25, 2o10 after having recently been extended.

The award is $11 million, but about $5.5 million (after legal and other fees) is available to any writers whose work qualifies; you can download the claims forms here and the information you need to know if your work qualifies is also on this site, that of the lawyers handling the settlement.

I spoke yesterday to one of the attorneys on the case and he explained the point system that will be used to determine how much each writer receives; the larger the readership of the publication in question, the more points, with more points added for stories longer than 500 words. The most any one writer can receive is about $55,000. So far 750 have applied, he said.

I plan to see if any of my work fits the bill. If there’s a chance yours does, time to step up!