Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Mentors



Books that get writers make me feel such joy. The fourth or fifth thing I did after receiving a Kindle yesterday was log onto my library’s website and check out all the eBooks they have—and the overwhelming number pleasantly surprised me. The titles impressed me, but I ended up picking out a book which I know my sister owns, but I have not read: The Mighty Miss Malone, by Christopher Paul Curtis.

I love his books, so I wasn’t worried that I was making a bad first choice. I am never going to get over Elijah Freedman (from Elijah of Buxton) and his “family breeding contest,” which was such a perfect scenario I made our family read the book on our next road trip.

Good Book. Click it.
I’m still reading Deza’s story, but I did get through a fourth of it during the commercial breaks on our recording of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the old one, not the Johnny Depp one). On the second to last day of school, Deza’s teacher pulls her aside and tells her that she’s been waiting for a student like Deza her entire life, and she wanted to prepare Deza for long term schooling so she might one day be a teacher. And to help her do this, she gave her an A- on her writing.

As someone who writes, I know conciseness is key, and using big vocabulary words all the time does not make you any better than another writer. People like good stories, not big words.

Deza’s moment with her teacher struck a chord with me. There are moments when I think it would be nice for my teachers to pull me aside and tell me, “Heather, you are the greatest student I have ever taught and the only one who will change the world. I have been waiting for you—let me make you better.”

Then I have a reality check and tell myself to get rid of frivolous daydreams. Sure, having people worship the dirt you walk on is great, but at least in my case it would get old very fast.

The A- is what really got me. The assignment was to write a two-page paper about her family, and instead she wrote six. Page constraints get me all the time, and I hate them, but they’re still good for me and important. Deza’s teacher pulled points for that overstep, but promised to help tutor her to improve her writing.

That’s something I can be jealous of. Too many times people have been content to say that my writing is better than theirs, so obviously it doesn’t need help. Having a mentor is a great gift, and you see that in more books than this. Harry Potter had Dumbledore, Will Treaty had Halt, Holly Short had Julius Root, and Luke Skywalker had Obi-Wan Kenobi. A good teacher can make a world of a difference.

I’m excited to see how Deza will grow—because writers don’t stop growing. Plus Christopher Paul Curtis is just fun to read.

(Except now it’s tomorrow after I wrote this and things did not go as planned which is sort of a bummer.)

What do you think of literary mentors? How do they compare to real life?

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