Writing Mentors and Meanies

How to Tell a Mentor from a Meanie

Mentors . . .
– are genuine
– discuss craft over drinks
– inspire and motivate
– laugh at themselves
– laud work of their peers
– teach more than what’s in a curriculum
– encourage feedback on their teaching style
– share personal struggles and achievements
– teach without personal bias
– make themselves available outside the classroom
– never make you feel dumb, no matter how inane your question is

Meanies . . .
– read your work and say with a straight face, “To be honest, I thought you might be crazy.”
– hand out lists of writers and then pass judgement on students who haven’t read them
– ask students what kind of stories they write and then respond, “You won’t be writing those in here.”
– talk incessantly about their achievements that have nothing to do with writing
– say they are leaving a program to avoid class feedback forms, and then return the next semester
– expect you to know what you came to learn
– bring in their mentor who is really another meanie (this is when you have that Aha! moment)
– have no interest in your goals
– push their own style and interests on students

I have been lucky to find two mentors since I began studying writing and editing. Along the way I have also met meanies, whose wrath I have escaped or been forced to suck up. What can you add to these definitions?

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