The Tor-Mentor

Patty and I sat across the room from each other at a party ablaze with talk and laughter. I sat near the Christmas tree, satisfied to quietly observe the activities. I looked over at her and realized she was doing the same. Then I realized why. We were writers and were busy taking in the scene and thinking about how to bring it to life.

For several years, Patty and I have gone back and forth about writing; she wasn’t sure she was one or even wanted to be one. She hadn’t written a word but said there were thoughts and ideas in her head all the time and was curious what she could do with them.

Whenever we saw each other, she always had a tentative question. How do I get started? How do I know if it’s what I want to do? I tried to be helpful and kept my responses low key. Told her about my website. Recommended an on-line writing class. I stressed that even though hard work, it should also be enjoyable. I was unsure our talks would ever amount to anything tangible.

Then without warning, a week later, she sent me something she’d written and asked for my comments. It was written in the point of view of a fictional character Patty called “a soap opera diva.” Her piece was short, pithy and well done. The narrator bitterly complained about the entitlement attitude of her friends and neighbors while revealing salacious tidbits of her own life. Very funny.

I checked with her to make sure she really wanted critique. She said yes and so I made a few minor suggestions including that she had some interesting plot points that could make this the start of a book. Chick-lit or a beach read. Or her character could be the author of a blog and those plot points could be individual posts providing back story for her character.

Patty’s response was giddy and led to our talk about how critique really helps a writer improve their work. That began a whole different discussion.  I recall when we talked at that party how we both agreed that no one else in the room understood what we were really talking about. And I wasn’t saying that in a judgmental way. It’s just a fact.

Writers talk to other writers in a way that non-writers don’t understand.  We laughed a lot when she jokingly called me her mentor; that swiftly evolved into her saying that maybe I was also her tor-mentor. And there is some wisdom in that; though critique is helpful it can also be tormenting.

Since then Patty has submitted a second piece for my critique. This time I told her I thought she’d written a prose poem and sent her a link so she could see what thast was. Patty says she feels like a new born baby and still isn’t sure where all this is going. All I know is, I’m enjoying our writing talks and looking forward to the classic role reversal when she’s my tor-mentor and I’m her tor-mentee.

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