It’s said that writing can’t be taught. But why not? Tobias Wolff taught George Saunders at Syracuse University, and look where that got George. All the way to the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 2017.
Saunders speaks admiringly of Tobias, who once warned him: “Don’t lose the magic.” Early in his career, George’s fiction did wander off track. But Wolff and other mentors brought him back.
People study law, accountancy or medicine. So why not writing? We all need at least one mentor in our lives. My friend Barry found his mentor as he sought to submit his manuscript for publication. She proved to be just right for him at the time.
In 201I, I applied for a memoir-writing workshop at the Norman Mailer Centre.. It happened that my US teacher was the daughter of an ex-serviceman, like me. Unlike mine, her father was a well-known war novelist.. She’d spent her teen years by his side learning the ropes of writing.
She encouraged stories in me that might have been lost had I had another mentor. She challenged me to find the particulars of my father’s life that might have rung true for other veterans of war. I began learning to show his injury, his PTSD and his rages, while all the while honoring his honesty and breathtaking capacity for love and fairness.
They say that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. When we are ready, we will unashamedly & sometimes unwittingly, seek our mentor. That person, who for one part of our journey at least, is right for us.