There was an advert I remember from when I was much younger. A whole host of celebrities (and by this, I mean the likes of actors, musicians and such, and not reality TV stars) appeared in front of the camera, one at a time. Each one reeled off a person's name, seemingly obscure to the audience, until - at the end of the advert - there's a single placard:
Everyone remembers a good teacher.
I remember my teachers. I remember the bad ones. I won't cite them by name, but I can call out why I'd say they were bad. They were short-tempered. Impatient. Ill-mannered. Don't misunderstand me; I'm sure I was hard work, albeit nowhere near as difficult as my peers would have been (and that's a whole other story). I can remember the good ones. My tutor group teacher; who taught English. Loved his work, cared about us. Was firm but fair. Encouraged us; made class fun - and funny.
There've been other instances where people have taught me or mentored me. My first bass instructor, for example - Jack. Amiable, laidback. Never raised his voice. Blessed with infinite patience. Do you know I actually took up bass several years ago, partly to give myself a break from all the writing I was doing? But Jack was pure cool in human form. Those occasions when I'd become more proficient at a bassline and he'd sit there watching, enrapt. Grinning. My other bass instructor, Devid, who told me more than once, 'little and often'. As in regular practise, even if it was only 10 minutes every night. Devid was also blessed with patience, good humour, and a sense of cool, but would go for other basslines to teach. 'Stuck In The Middle With You', for example. And he made it fly. I digress.
In the realm of writing, this is where I have to cite Ian O'Neill. For those that don't know, Ian O'Neill is an author that I first met as a member of Kelley Armstrong's former discussion forum - years ago on her website. After having written some fanfic based on her work and then catching wind of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I decided to run with the writing thing after I beat my first (and, to date, only) NaNoWriMo challenge. Having written 52,000 words in 29 days convinced me that writing might be worth running with.
See, I knew I could tell a story, but conceded I had yet to master the craft - or at least the basics of it. What Ian had done, unlike some before, was encourage. Hardly an intensive mentorship, but it was encouragement regardless. Plus, he was patient and gave constructive feedback. Pointers on sentence structure. Urging me to 'move the story forward'. Pointing out my penchant for minutiae - which I still struggle with! Story structure and outlining. Believe me when I say that looking back over those earlier stories and Ian's notes has been ...uncomfortable. Again, hardly an intensive mentorship, but what it gave me was feedback on what I was doing and how I was doing. For the most part, I began to learn more by writing more; Ian gave me a gentle nudge in a stronger direction. And not only was I learning my craft, but also developing my approach to the craft.
Sometimes he would sign off with, "now, go write something" - hell, I love him for that alone. This was (and, for me, still is) the catch-all sign-off. The 'you can go now'. Or the 'go kick some ass'. For those who've read There Goes Pretty and remember the dedication at the beginning, hopefully it makes more sense now.
With over a decade of experience writing with professional intent, I don't claim to be a veteran or to have the game on lock. What I am grateful for, is the chance to give something back to those writers who might be less experienced or less confident; not only in terms of writing, but also in terms of the business of writing. Everything from the business of rejections to the business of promotion.
Generally, when I'm between writing stories, I'll offer story critique to other authors. This is something I also do in an official capacity as one of the HWA's mentors: it's a chance to give something back to the genre. Helping others to find their voice - as well as their strength, as Ian had done for me. Even outside the realm of story critique, I'll gladly pass on what knowledge and insight I have, and I'm glad to do that. Hell, I'm honoured to do that. I'd *like* to think I have talent and vision - but, please don't take my word for it. You're welcome to pick up a story or two and judge for yourself.
So go ahead and call it out if I'm wrong. But I'm pretty sure that everyone remembers a good teacher.