The Magic of Mentors

My Sunday morning post-coffee consciousness is starting to kick in, and I’m very happy to say that my latest story came out last week. It’s called A Brigand’s Lament and is published in The Battered Suitcase magazine, which is a classy little collection of pages, I must say (not because my story is in it, but because it really is classy).

This story is especially meaningful to me because it actually first came to my head over five years ago. Here’s a little story about the story. In December of 2005, one day I sat down write a science fiction / action-adventure novel. I didn’t know at the time it would be a novel, nor did I know how much agony, suffering, and torture writing a book would be. After about three months of banging away at the keyboard, it occurred to me that I might need to get a little professional help. No, not of the psychological kind (though that can’t be totally ruled out), but of the creative writing kind. You see, I’d hit a wall—the wall referred to as writer’s block.

I couldn’t believe it. I thought writer’s block was a myth or some kind of excuse. But it was very real and tangible. So, I did some research and found a great online writing class taught through The Writer’s Studio. My instructor was Bill Eville, an amazing and talented person who helped me grow as a writer in leaps and bounds. If you ever need a writing class, I absolutely recommend the Writer’s Studio. Their format and design are superb and so much fun.

Anyway, each week Bill had the class doing exercises where we’d read a short piece by a professional author and attempt to emulate their voice within a page or two of our own writing. It was through this exercise that A Brigand’s Lament was born. It was one of the first things I had written where I brushed all inhibition aside and went wild. And it was an incredible experience! Writing that little snippet was such a joy, and it helped my confidence immensely that the rest of the class (we critiqued each other’s work) liked it too.

The class went on and many exercises followed. The story went into the on-hold file of my computer (that was three laptops ago, wow!) and languished with the rest of my mental orphans. Then about five months ago I decided to brush it off and see what I could do with it. Lo and behold, it still tickled me, and after a few drafts, turned into a wicked little tale. And though I really like the story, I never expected to be able to find a home for it. Imagine my excitement when The Battered Suitcase liked it!

It’s experiences like this one that make it clear how much good it can do an author to have someone in their court who is encouraging and knows how to help you find your own voice. Bill Eville did that for me. He had the ability to drill right to the element that wasn’t working in a story and show you exactly why, and his comments were always so focused and concise that you couldn’t help but become a better writer. What a gift.

As an epilogue, Bill and the help of the class did what I didn’t think was possible: evaporate the writer’s block. Now, two and half novels later, I’ve never experienced that kind of writer’s block again and love the craft of writing more every day.

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All content copyright unless otherwise specified © 2013 by Tammy Salyer, writer. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to use short quotes provided proper attribution is given.