How to Choose and Use a Mentor

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Guest post by Dr. Dennis E. Hensley

I can personally attest to the value of a mentor. My high school English teacher gave me lists of books to read, edited my manuscripts, and encouraged me to write for the school literary magazine.

My college adviser and teacher pushed me to become a reporter for the college newspaper, helped me select courses that would best prepare me for a career as a freelance writer, and worked elbow to elbow with me to improve my writing by editing my papers line by line.

Today, I have close friends in the field of writing I turn to for advice, encouragement, teaching, and perspective.

Choosing a Mentor

Begin by listing of what you need both in your personal life and your career.

For life skills, you may need help in time management, finances, or health issues. For your career, you may need help in mastering writing skills, improving your public speaking, or marketing yourself and your work.

Sometimes one person can mentor you in all these areas, but, more likely, you will need two or even three mentors. I engage a personal trainer to help me maintain a proper diet, guide my workouts, and advise me on getting proper rest. However, I turn to a different person to copyedit and proofread my manuscripts, maintain my website, and help me secure speaking engagements.

And the Nominees Are…

Because the best advisers are successful themselves, you may have to pay or barter for their guidance.

Approach the person you feel will be of greatest help and be transparent. Tell them you want to develop the skills you see they have mastered. “If you could work with me in whatever time you can spare, I promise not to disappoint you.”

Whether or not they agree take you on, ask for direction in that initial meeting. Are there people you should meet, books you should read, workshops you should attend, connections you should make?

Amaze your potential mentor by following through on every bit of advice. Come back later with written summaries of the recommended books, quotes from a workshop you attended, reports on your meetings with the people they suggested.

Be Reasonable

If you meet resistance in an initial meeting, seek a referral. And don’t ask for too much. I am put off when people invite me for coffee and then try to hand off a 500-page manuscript for a free edit.

I also am put off by people who either brag endlessly or do the opposite: put themselves down and play the part of the victim who has never been given a fair chance.

Foodstuffs Gratefully Accepted

I am eager to hear what you have accomplished, where you’re headed, and why you feel I might be of help. Also, like most mentors, I’m open to bribes.☺As my friend, author and editor Lin Johnson, tells students at my college, “It’s always nice to send a nice thank you letter to editors—and chocolate.”

A mentor can reveal shortcuts, open doors, protect your blind side, keep you focused, hold you accountable, push you to new levels, and channel your energies and talents toward success.

One stick can easily be broken over the knee. Two sticks are sturdier, stronger, and more durable. Don’t go it alone.

Dr. Dennis E. Hensley, a friend and frequent guest of The Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild, is director of the professional writing program at Taylor University. He has written more than 60 books, including his latest, Finding Success with Your Dream Writing Projects (Bold Vision Books). 

In what area of your life do you need a mentor? If you can’t afford to pay one, what service could you trade for someone’s counsel? Tell me in the comments.

  • Kirk Fraser

    I need a mentor to show me how to write in a way that blows away resistance to Jesus’ Truth on rapture instructions. People need to know the pre-trib rapture is Rev. 12:5, not Rev. 4 as a TBN pastor said. People need to realize Paul said in Hebrews 9:27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
    Which contradicts Jesus in John 11:26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? There are many other such errors by Paul when compared to Jesus, the standard of absolute perfection.

    I have lots of great truth to share. My experience on what the Rod of Iron is should be worth help. .I am classified as in poverty by local hospitals so what do you want?

    • You are committed to your beliefs, Kirk. Continue to explore the Bible, test your beliefs, write your findings in journals and notebooks, improve your professional writing skills, and then seek a like-minded audience.

      • Kirk Fraser

        Thanks, I am doing that. Book agent passed saying “I don’t understand your theology – I don’t agree with it and don’t have to time to fully explore. So there’s nothing to be changed for us.” I am writing Truth, not theology. Where is a market or other resources for Bible truth?

  • Rosemarie H

    Thank you Mr. Jenkins and Dr. Hensley for this advice! It’s easy to think, “If I need help, I mustn’t be ‘qualified’ to write.”

    • Good point, and as you know, the opposite is true. Until you realize you need help, you’re not qualified…

      • Rosemarie H

        Great point! Thank you.

  • I’ve written about twenty plus books, all published. The problem is sales are low and the publisher is no longer willing to publish so fast. I get it. She’s not making money with me although I’m the author who writes the most in her stable and she never once gave marketing advice. Now she says I must be on Face Book twice a day to be a presence. Okay, I’ve been doing that plus writing. No mentor to turn to and the hawks are out seeking authors to use with big bucks. What is one to do? I am a former actor now a writer and boy can I bake swell cookies!

    • Your publisher shouldn’t be giving you marketing advice, Charmaine. They should be marketing. And twice a day on FB isn’t much of a strategy.

      I would urge you to get on the notification list at my writers guild (www.JerrysGuild.com), at least, as there’s no obligation, and the team WILL let you know when the registration window opens. The stuff already archived on the Guild site alone will be worth way more than a one-month registration.
      • A Live Online Workshop (with 1 per month already archived since January, 2016)
      • A live Office Hours session (where I answer members’ questions for at least an hour and guarantee an answer in the Forum on our site if yours doesn’t get answered during the session)
      • Manuscript Repair & Rewrite sessions, wherein I have recorded myself editing a member’s first page, along with rationale for every change (the most popular feature we offer)
      • A monthly Master Class, a recording of my interview with a publishing expert, asking all the questions you would ask
      • Free access to two of my courses: Fiction Jumpstart and Nonfiction Jumpstart—each worth $149 alone
      • Lots of Bonus Material (manuscript proposal examples, etc.)
      • A Forum where members interact with each other daily and occasionally with me; already people have found writing partners, formed virtual critique groups, etc.
      My goal is to make it a ridiculous bargain, and as I say, all those things listed above already have archived versions since January, and you would have 24/7 access to dive into those.
      Meanwhile, my blog site (www.JerryJenkins.com) is always free, of course.

    • Maura Alia Badji

      Danielle LaPorte has a book/audio/video called My Big Beautiful Book Project. Not sure if she still sells it. Lots of author marketing ideas. Worth a look. She worked with someone known as The Book Mama.
      http://bookmama.com/

      Best,
      Maura

  • Esther Morrow

    A creative writing mentor would be helpful. I haven’t written much. I’m just getting started. But I would like to work toward publishing.
    I can’t pay for a mentor, or an editor, but I teach math – I can tutor your child or grandchild. And I’m willing to share my chocolate.

    • Ooh, Esther, you almost had me at chocolate. Might you be able to afford about a dollar a day? I would urge you to get on the notification list of my writers guild (www.JerrysGuild.com), at least, as there’s no obligation, and the team WILL let you know when the registration window opens. The stuff already archived on the Guild site alone will be worth way more than a one-month registration.
      • A Live Online Workshop (with 1 per month already archived since January, 2016)
      • A live Office Hours session (where I answer members’ questions for at least an hour and guarantee an answer in the Forum on our site if yours doesn’t get answered during the session)
      • Manuscript Repair & Rewrite sessions, wherein I have recorded myself editing a member’s first page, along with rationale for every change (the most popular feature we offer)
      • A monthly Master Class, a recording of my interview with a publishing expert, asking all the questions you would ask
      • Free access to two of my courses: Fiction Jumpstart and Nonfiction Jumpstart—each worth $149 alone
      • Lots of Bonus Material (manuscript proposal examples, etc.)
      • A Forum where members interact with each other daily and occasionally with me; already people have found writing partners, formed virtual critique groups, etc.
      My goal is to make it a ridiculous bargain, and as I say, all those things listed above already have archived versions since January, and you would have 24/7 access to dive into those.
      Meanwhile, my blog site (www.JerryJenkins.com) is always free, of course.

    • Koos

      ha- I love chocolate, but since I live in the Netherlands, that may not work out too well.

    • There are other bribes you can use, Esther, such as promising to mention your mentor on the acknowledges page of your book when (not if) it gets published. — Doc

      • Esther Morrow

        That I could do!

  • Glenda

    I need help opening doors. Any advice to oil the hinges? That would B. an answer to prayer. :) Happy to serve! (How about a Vajde thin crust pizza?)

    • August at Taylor ought to be good, eh? More exposure to Doc Hensley’s teaching, among many others.

      • Glenda

        Can’t wait! :)

    • Yes, do try to attend our Taylor Professional Writing Conference in Upland, Indiana on August 4 & 5, featuring Jerry B. Jenkins as keynote speaker. We’ll have author and agent panels, workshops, and one-on-one manuscript evaluation sessions. The cost is extremely low (we are totally nonprofit), and the program options are numerous. — Doc

      • Glenda

        Doc Hensley?! Just, wow! I’ve been registered for the TPWC for some time. What kind of chocolate and Starbucks, Sir? :)

        Because you and Jerry are the only speakers I’m acquainted with, I’m calling it a Double Feature! :) Other talented professionals should provide
        outstanding bonuses.

        As a first-time nonfiction memoir writer, what classes would you recommend?

        Just curious…as a mentor, how do you choose who can use you?

        Your Master Classes on the Guild initiate motivation and build confidence.

        Color me grateful in WA state! :)

  • Dr. Hensley, I’m thrilled to (hopefully) tell you just how much your teaching on Jerry Jenkins’s Writers Guild has transformed my writing. I loved your example in the original Masters Class about a baseball pitcher practicing daily.

    So many in my writers’ groups agreed we LOVED when you explained pitching articles in detail. Thanks to all I’ve been learning, I’m pitching every weekday! The days I’m not, I’m warming up the pitch for the next day. Many of those pitches haven’t been answered, but some have!

    In answer to the question, I need a mentor in many areas of life: as a wife, parent, teacher, designer, etc. Through the Writer’s Guild I feel I’d be digging for years to absorb all the great teaching available, so I’m not really looking elsewhere for writing mentors at the moment. Once I finally do assimilate everything, I imagine I’ll need a pretty stellar mentor to beat all the teaching I’m learning from experts like you. I guess maybe then I’ll be ready to pass the baton!

    What services would I trade? Graphic design, marketing, and good ole encouragement!

    God bless you richly, sir!

    • You’re one of the best encouragers we have in the Guild, Rebekah! Thanks!

      • Thank YOU! All the credit goes to the Reason we write! He’s blessed me beyond words through you.

    • Thanks for letting us know that what Jerry and I have been presenting is hitting the mark with you and other writers. Some tips, such as the baseball pitcher analogy you referred to, have come to me with time and experience, so I’m glad to pass them on.
      Blessings, friend! — Doc

      • Thank you! And I’ve already set three alarms on my phone so I don’t miss that workshop tomorrow! :)

    • Big Shirl

      Rebekah, I like your post. Could we connect for a brief conversation?

      • Sounds good! Are you on the Guild? If not, how could I contact you?

        • Big Shirl

          I am not in the Guild. Either Facebook, or should we exchange email?

    • Lori Altebaumer

      Rebekah…you just presented an excellent promo for The Writer’s Guild. Now I’m really curious about the pitching analogy! I will be looking into a membership soon. I also like that one of the services you can offer is plain ol’ encouragement. It’s a gift not everyone has! Best of luck to you in your writing.

      • Well how kind, Lori! I can’t take credit…God has been lavish providing encouragement and encouragers to me! I’m thrilled to recommend the Guild. I can’t endorse it highly enough. May God bless your writing journey too! :)

  • Nicole Richeson

    I’m not ever around any other writers. So just to have a mentor in every aspect of writing would be great. Just to hear the opinions and constructive criticism from someone else. I remember being in English class and our teacher would always have at least one or two other classmates review our papers. Just to have another set of eyes look it over. Maybe suggest a different wording or even removing a sentence or paragraph that wasn’t necessary.

  • Contessa Contessa

    Great information. I can use a mentor to get my second career going. I put of writing because I was am single mother. My children are now grown and I want to fulfill my dream. While I can’t afford the high fees I can barter my technical knowledge. From customizing and setting up blogs, SEO to Social media marketing.

    • Sounds like you had your priorities right, Contessa. I never advise anyone sacrifice their family on the altar of their writing career. Let’s see if you get some bites from seasoned writers here.

    • Don’t forget, Contessa, that you can get a lot of good books on writing at your library. You can join local writers’ clubs and share mentoring duties. You can attend writers’ conferences and network with new friends. Options are open to you. — Doc

  • Karen Crider

    A mentor is something every writer can use, no matter the genre. But they are hard to find. They are often unapproachable or absent. Or both. I have found this to be more the case than not. I have paid, and would pay one to help me if I thought it would be productive. But even when you pay, you have no guarantee it will be to your benefit. After all, they have to be as committed to the endeavor as you are, and that kind of commitment is rare. I have been one who has always believed in my writing, even when those closest to me didn’t. I think that has kept me going. But I still have miles to go before I sleep. (-Frost) And if I am so fortunate to find a mentor, great! If I don’t, that’s okay too, because I know I will continue writing. I have learned through all the courses I have taken, all the teachers I have known, all the work shops I have attended, all the conferences I have paid for, and all the years of hard work I have completed, that sometimes the greatest mentor of all is perseverance.

    • Mary Graham

      Your last sentence said it all, Karen, perseverance!

    • Let me be upfront about my reaction to your post, Karen. First, yes, you can find mentors, but, yes, you will also have to pay sometimes for the help. For example, people who go to my web site and hire me as a proofreader and career mentor have to remember that in helping them, I’m not working on my own material, so that depletes my earning potential. There has to be some kind of compensation. I am a teacher and a writer, so I enjoy discovering hard working writers such as yourself. I’m a very meticulous editor, but people at your stage of a writing career appreciate spot-on learning and pertinent advice. — Doc

      • Karen Crider

        Thanks for your response. I understand all about compensation and sacrifice. Compensation and sacrifice are close relatives of mine. They have followed me around for years. (I ran a writer’s group for ten years, and I tutored before that and I write constantly. ) It’s hard for me to pay for something that I have done free for others, and even now continue to do so. But I understand what you are saying. I find taking a class is also beneficial. Though the last one I took, resulting in almost no feedback. I have acres of manuscripts, and they mutate shamelessly in every corner and crevasse, every drawer and table. Now I’m into plays, and I may have to build onto the house. LOL. What kind of mentor I need is beyond me. But I thank you for your interest.

  • Hey, I’d totally pay a mentor in chocolate! I’d even throw in some tea or coffee (pending on their preference). It would be great to have a professional work with me one on one, not only with my fiction writing, but teaching me how to present my work to agents. In the mean time, I guess I just keep plugging and applying what I learn on the guild.

    • All kidding aside, Melissa, you are right when you say that a good mentor can help with editing and proofreading, but it also is helpful to find someone who can advise you regarding landing an agent, promoting your book, and expanding your platform. — Doc

  • Mary Graham

    I recently built a greenhouse and started filling it with various plants. My friend makes a living selling rock garden succulents . I asked her if she could point me in the right direction. She invited me to several plant sales and we discuss business along the way. She has not requested any payment but I make sure I help with the gas and snacks on our trips. I appreciate her friendship, as well as, her advice.

    She also write a newsletter for a rock garden society and she uses my rookie questions as part of her publication.

    I can appreciate the role of a mentor, especially if they don’t beat around the bush, get to the point and are honest with you. My friend, bless her heart, is very tactful when it comes to information that may not hit me well.

    I consider “The Guild” my mentor for my writing. It has kept me motivated and accountable to myself since I paid good money for membership. The workshops, manuscript editing and Forum are invaluable for a serious writer. Now I have to do the work to consider myself a serious writer!

    Question: Where do I send the chocolate? ;-)

    • Don’t tempt me, Mary. I almost put my address in here for you!

      So you like mentors who don’t beat around the bush? OK: 1)Thrilled to have you as a member of the Guild. 2)You didn’t either comma in the last sentence of your first paragraph. (That ought to be worth an ounce or two of chocolate.)

  • Brice Eppic

    Thanks Jerry! Until now I’ve just been receiving your emails, but they definitely make things easier to understand for me.

    I’m one of those people who just decided to write a book and figured editing comes later….apparently self-editing is just as important, as is marketing…who knew? Haha! I was under the impression that all editing was done by editors, and never even thought to make sure!

    I would definitely love to have a mentor who could teach me how to edit properly. In return I would make some poutine and deliver it with crazy amounts of chocolate.

    I guess in some areas even google can’t beat real people. Thanks again!

    • In Canada for a fishing trip I was introduced to poutine (French fries topped with cheese and gravy). What’s the downside there?

      Check out my writers guild, Brice. http://www.JerrysGuild.com For a little more than a dollar a day, we flood you with features. Meanwhile, my blog site is always free.

  • Kathy Kidder

    Dr. Hensley and Jerry Jenkins, thank you for your wonderful insight and ability to compassionately identify the need for mentoring in our lives and it doesn’t matter where we are in life. As a member of Jerry’s Guild I have enjoyed and been encouraged by your Master Classes there, as well as others. Today’s guest post really touched on an area I struggle with – asking for help and knowing where to start. Bartering! I never dreamed that could be an option, thank you!
    Like many others, I can’t pay for professional services but I do have some skill sets to offer. I’m good at organizing other peoples things, I can design and compile a video greeting for you that combines whiteboard and photo memories with text and music. Here’s a sample: https://vimeo.com/214794664.

    • Kathy Kidder

      I tried to remove the video and just offer a link – not intending to “show off” and I apologize if it appears so.

    • Yes, bartering goes way, way back. Making a fair trade for services and talents and skills is equitable and cost efficient. I’m glad you plan to make use of it. — Doc

  • B. Gladstone

    Certainly in writing. I need to effectively carve out the time daily and with a short and long term vision. Being part of this community and Jerry at the helm, I feel I am receiving top mentorship and I am looking forward to being more disciplined so I can see the result with a complete manuscript by summer. Turning it around, I like to mentor teens. I feel I can encourage and motivate them, especially young girls. We can all be mentors!

    • We sure can! Often someone with mechanical or artistic or electrical or some skills will say to me, “I admire what you do and could never do that.”

      I like to say, “Right back at ya.” My profession happens to bring a little more visibility than theirs perhaps, but it shouldn’t. They could easily mentor me in their fields, and many have.

  • Sharon Cowen

    Dr. Hensley, I enjoyed your post. You are a great mentor, and I know I’ll be owing you more Starbucks in the future. I didn’t know about the chocolate option. :)

    • Yes, coffee, chocolate…there are no end to my vices. Ha! –Doc

  • Sheri Boles

    Jerry or Dr. Hensley, do you ever have a problem while you are writing your story and you just don’t know how it ends? I have my beginning and I’m working on the middle, but I’m just not sure how things are going to wrap up. Have either of you faced this?

    • We’ll talk about this in the session tomorrow, but let me make a few quick suggestions to you now. First, find a couple of writer friends and explain your story concept to them, perhaps even read them your lead, and then ask for “options” of ending it. When I wrote my novel THE GIFT (Harvest House), I had the whole story worked out except the ending. I talked it all out for an hour with Holly G. Miller, and she came up with a fabulous idea for an ending. We wound up coauthoring the novel. Second, talk your story idea into a tape recorder. Play it back as you drive to work or sort laundry or wash dishes. As you repeat the basic thread of the story, new variations and possible endings with occur to you. Jot them down and brainstorm about them. — Doc

      • Being a Pantser I write all my novels only thinking I know how it might end. I’m almost always surprised, which means the reader should be too. I write by process of discovery, putting, as Stephen King suggests, “interesting people in difficult situations and writing to find out what happens.”

        When readers demand to know why I killed off their favorite character, I assure them, “I didn’t kill him off–I found him dead!”

        • Sheri Boles

          Lol! I LOVE that Jerry! I’ve been surprised recently by one of my main characters when she informed me that she had an adopted daughter! That was a real game changer in my story, but a good one! I’m not as concerned about the ending now. It’ll come out eventually. Thanks!

  • John Tucker

    I feel that because of the many events I’ve attended, conferences I’ve taken in, workshops, writers’ groups and other writers’ venues, I should be a professional by now. Yet, I still have trouble focusing on my notes and the excellent teachings I’ve received. My biggest problem is applying it to my writing. I’m kind of disorganized and do not have a great space that encourages me to write everyday. Is this due to lack of a mentor or simply lack of organization and application? What’s missing?

  • Thoroughly enjoyed this post and I believe I heard Doc Hensley speak at a Write to Publish Conference at Wheaton College years ago. I LOVE the idea of a mentor and didn’t really think of the idea of bartering as a possibility. I think pursuing traditional publishing and the steps I need to make would be the area I am interested in. Not as clear on what I could offer as bartering because wouldn’t someone who knew what I need to know already know some of the things I claim to know?

    Like how to self-publish, write articles that get published. I am a poet also, but I don’t see how that would interest a seasoned writer.

  • I would give a great deal for a mentor to help guide my writing path. I have been writing for a while and have published articles in leading markets. I also have a Bible study on God’s attributes that has received strong praise from several editors (no exaggeration, one male editor said it was “some of the most beautiful Bible study material he’d seen”). Not that it mattered. Despite running the entire editorial gauntlet every time, it was killed in the final committee because I lack the platform desired–despite several steady years of blogging and 1800 subscribers. I’m not sure how to break in with a book either, since I’d still not have the platform desired… (I am currently enrolled in Jeff Goins “Intentional Blogging” course to redesign my website and boost things.)

    I am stuck.

    As far as securing a mentor, it’s awkward. I have access to several professional writers and editors, one is even a writing coach, but I’m reluctant to impose upon our personal relationship to ask for professional help beyond asking a question here and there. (J. Denney has been super generous and helpful to me the last couple years with questions about the craft.) Since my husband and I are second generation business owners, I know what it’s like for friends to expect a “deal” on products and services when we are trying to make a living… I am a Women’s Ministry Director and Christian leadership trainer, but that is of no use for trading that I can see…

    I loved when the Writer’s Guild had mentors for their students who were enrolled in the Apprentice and Master courses. Mine was Larry Weeden and he was so great. Any suggestions would be so helpful.

  • Yvonne Bampoe

    Hi Jerry,
    I am not looking for a free ride when it comes to editing. What I am looking for is a mentor to help me with editing, finding an agent, publishing, and to teach me how to market myself and my book.

  • Mark Menne

    Um… Hi! I’m new to this website, so I have a small question. To sign up for the notification list, do you have to pay for it?

  • Mark Menne

    Um… I’m not really sure by what you mean by help in my personal life, but I think in my writing life, I really need help with avoiding copying and making repeats of characters and plots. I can give flute lessons, or I can bake lemon cookies. :) I really don’t have much to offer. :/

    Jessica

  • Dana Robertson Hayes

    I am encouraged by this! I thought no one else has issues like mine! LOL I am truly seeking God’s will in writing it all down! Have had many life challenges that I believe God has allowed in my Journey to help other women maybe avoid some pitfalls. Have tried in the past to write my ‘story’ but have put some things behind me and don’t believe I need to write about myself but use it as I write about others God has put in my life in the form of Fiction. God has set my stage and am a week into diligently trying to be obedient.

  • Reposting the comment I submitted several days ago because even my comment got “stuck” in the discussion. A metaphor?

    …I would give a great deal for a mentor to help guide my writing path. I have been writing for a while and have published articles in leading markets. I also have a Bible study on God’s attributes that has received praise from several senior editors — no exaggeration, one seasoned editor said it was “some of the most beautiful Bible study material he’d seen” — not a brag, a point: It didn’t really matter. Despite running the entire editorial gauntlet every time I’ve submitted it, it’s been killed in the final committee because I lack the platform desired, despite several steady years of blogging and 1800 subscribers. I’m not sure how to break in with a book either, since I’d still lack the platform desired… (I am currently enrolled in Jeff Goins “Intentional Blogging” course to redesign my website and continue to try to boost things.)
    I am stuck.
    As far as securing a mentor, it’s awkward. I have access to several professional writers and editors, but I’m reluctant to impose upon our personal relationship to ask for professional help beyond asking a question here and there. (J. Denney has been super generous and provided his expertise the last couple years to answer my questions about the craft.) Since my husband and I are second generation business owners, I know what it’s like for friends to expect a “deal” on products and services when we are trying to make a living… I am a Women’s Ministry Director and Christian leadership trainer, but that is of no use for trading that I can see…
    I loved when the Writer’s Guild had mentors for their students who were enrolled in the Apprentice and Master courses. Mine was Larry Weeden and he was so great. Any suggestions would be so helpful.

  • Michelle

    I’ve had my book edited but I still don’t feel it’s ready for publishing. It needs work but I am at a place where I could really use some feedback more than what I’ve had. I’m willing to pay a mentor to work with me. What does it take to get someone to read a few pages or even a chapter of my book to see if they are willing or able to help me? I have already taken a lot of constructive criticism so my writing can improve but I know I need more. Thanks in advance for any guidance you can offer!

  • Nancy Magargle

    Thank you so much for this post. I just composed an email to a possible mentor and used many of your suggestions in voicing my need and request. I have listened to several of your presentations made available through Jerry’s website. You have helped me improve my writing. I have completed my first book, A Time to Die, A Time to Live. It is better because of the advice of professional and gifted writers such as you and Jerry. God bless you. Nancy Magargle. Timetolivebook.com.

  • Big Shirl

    My response is probably a bit late. I am good at simplifying things. I have a two-second rule when I send out emails for three lists that I maintain. People have limited time, so I make it super easy for them to find what they need to know.

    I also take notes on conference calls – type as people speak and send the notes out in about 30 minutes while info is still fresh in their minds.

    I have very strong administrative and organizational skills and numerous times I’ve heard these words: “You’re the best.”

  • I can’t believe I didn’t see this sooner. I so needed to read this post. I believe I met you, Dr. Hensley at a Write to Publish conference at Wheaton College, but this was many, many years ago.

    After reading your article I see I have been mentored through my school years and it benefited me greatly. I didn’t know how to successfully pursue a mentor, and maybe it’s because it happened so easily in the school setting and now I need to do the scary stuff. I guess I never thought I’d have anything to barter since those I would like to learn from are so much further down the road, so accomplished.

    I am a poet, speaker, and author of 14 self published books. I have also written and published over 100 articles/blogs/devotions.

    I have been commissioned through the years to write personalized poetry. Would that be something that might be a bartering piece? I so enjoy learning from blogs that Jerry writes and I sop in every well chosen word.

    One of my passions is speaking but after a move years ago, I have yet to establish myself as a speaker here. I was hoping publishing the books would open doors but then we lost a grandchild and all my energy was swallowed up in grief. I feel like I’m at a place now where I can move forward, but I’m needing direction. People have told me I would benefit from an agent. Maybe they’re right, I don’t know. I just know that I’ve been told I am an excellent student because whatever I am instructed to do, I will do to the best of my ability.

    So right now, I cannot afford to pay for a mentor, but I would love some direction. What would you suggest?

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      First, Anne, So sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine losing a grandchild.

      Yes, an agent would be good, and result in no out-of-pocket expenses, but agents are almost as hard to land as book publishing contracts. You’ll want to have something to sell when you approach any, and be sure you’ve put your best foot forward.

      What’s worth bartering is in the eye of the mentor who chooses to be bartered with rather than paid. I fear it would be hard to put a value on personalized poetry.

      We’ll pass this along to Doc Hensley to see if he would like to weigh in on this.

      • Jerry,

        Somehow reading that I even suggested it made me nervous. You don’t have to send that on to him. I do have poetry books as well, but again, poetry isn’t for everyone. Think back to the first person who mentored you. Is that something that you also had to consider when looking for a mentor. I really want to understand this. Maybe I’m just used to getting mentored by teachers who are encouraging all their students.

  • Riley Adkisson

    Thanks for the advice! Great article.