The WoMentoring Project aims to introduce successful literary women to other women writers at the beginning of their careers who would benefit from some insight, knowledge and support. The hope is that we’ll see new, talented and diverse female voices emerging as a result of time and guidance received from the mentors. I’m one of those mentors who are offering free advice to up and coming female writers who would otherwise find it difficult to access similar opportunities.
Like many great ideas the WoMentoring Project came about via a conversation on Twitter. While discussing the current lack of peer mentoring and the prohibitive expense for many of professional mentoring various writers, editors and agents were asked who would be willing to donate a few hours of their time to another woman just starting out. The response was overwhelming – within two hours over sixty volunteer mentors (including me!) had signed up.
The WoMentoring Project is run on an entirely voluntary basis and all the mentors are professional writers, editors or literary agents.
This is how it works
In an ideal world we would offer a mentor to every writer who needed and wanted one. Of course this isn’t possible so instead we’ve tried to ensure the application process is accessible while also ensuring that out mentors have enough information with which to make their selection.
Applicant mentees will submit a 1000 word writing sample and a 500 word statement about how they would benefit from free mentoring. All applications will be for a specific mentor and mentees can only apply for one mentor at a time. Selections will be at the mentor’s discretion.
I’m looking for a title. I did have one, but my publisher doesn’t think it works. It doesn’t matter what it was because it doesn’t exist any more but it was one I’ve been living with since I began writing at the beginning of the year when it defined the story for me. However when she described the negative reactions of her colleagues to it and their reasons, I began to see what she meant. There was little point in fighting for it when the people taking it into the world didn’t think it would work.
So how important is it to get the right title for your novel? I’d say very. The title is a vital selling tool. It’s the first thing to make an impression on any potential reader. It needs to pique their interest, make them want to know more. So it’s got to be arresting or intriguing, and make your book stand out of the crowd. The Madness of a Seduced Woman, A Woman’s Guide to Adultery, I Don’t Know How She Does It,Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle-Stop Café – they all did it. But so does Stoner, The Poisonwood Bible or Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship. At least, I think so.
The title should convey something of the content of the book – whether you use a phrase, an object, a name, an event, whatever. Although I have once been told that this isn’t true, that if the title’s good enough it doesn’t matter about how much it reflects the content. I don’t think this was a joke.
But how do you find the right one, the crowd pleaser? Sometimes they just float unbidden out of the ether. Sometimes they’re to be found hiding in the text. Sometimes someone else suggests one. And sometimes they’re the result of weeks of thought, argument, slog and despair.
The problem I’m finding is that all this is very subjective. As with everything else in life, we bring our own baggage to interpreting what’s put in front of us. Different words and phrases have different connotations for different people. It’s hard sometimes to explain or justify one’s preference for one title over another. You just respond differently. And that’s why deciding a title by committee can never please everyone.
My list of new possibilities is growing. Some are better than others. But somewhere in there must be the one that will please me, reflect the book, and appeal to the publishers. All I have to do is find it.
*Italians don their winter wardrobe according to the time of year, not the weather. While we tourists were still in our summer kit, the Italians were wrapped up in scarves and the ubiquitous puffa jacket.
Welcome to my first blog!
I’ve been putting off writing this for months. Why? I’ve been apprehensive because writing the first one commits me to writing a regular blog and I haven’t been at all sure what I would write about. Or who would read it if I did. I could write about writing – but plenty of people do that extremely well already. So I’m just going to write about what interests me, as it comes up. So here goes …
Ten years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was fantastically well looked after by Barts Hospital and, thanks to them, I became more aware of the extremely worthwhile work done by the charity Breast Cancer Care. As the books editor of Woman & Home, I commission a story every month for the magazine. (The link is coming – be patient!) After my treatment I was wondering who to commission next and looking at a list of those writers who had already appeared in the magazine. And what a list it was. It struck me that with those writers’ help we could put together an anthology, find a publisher and raise money for a charity. For obvious reasons I was keen it should be Breast Cancer Care. Fortunately that is one of the charities that Woman & Home support too. And so our first anthology was born that raised thousands of pounds.
In September this year, our fourth anthology of short stories was published by Orion – The Coffee Shop Book Club. The collection contains so many fantastic writers – Fern Britton, Elizabeth Buchan, Tracy Chevalier, Jenny Colgan, RJ Ellory, Julia Gregson, Tessa Hadley, Maeve Haran, Veronica Henry, Victoria Hislop, Eowyn Ivey, Cathy Kelly, Erin Kelly, Deborah Lawrenson, Kathy Lette, Lesley Lokko, jill Mansell, Val McDermid, Kate Mosse, Jojo Moyes, Adele Parks, Nicky Pellegrino, Ian Rankin, Cara Ross, Penny Vincenzi, Katherine Webb and me.
There’s something in it for everyone’s taste and £1 from every copy sold goes to Breast Cancer Care. It’s a perfect bedside companion.
A number of us celebrated the book with a virtual coffee morning on Twitter, when a number of the authors were there to talk to anyone who came to join the party. This was a bit of an experiment and, to begin with, it took a bit of getting used to as the questions poured in and we had to get used to the delays on the feed and remember to add the hashtag. But an hour and a half went by quickly and everyone enjoyed themselves with plenty of questions being answered.
On October 18th at 10.30am, Elizabeth Buchan, Cathy Kelly, Peny Vincenzi and I will be at the Bar des Arts at the Guildford Book Festival to talk about The Coffee Shop Book Club, writing short stories and anything else that comes up.
I hope we might see you there! And if not, do buy the book – it’s for such a good cause.