FF: Paying It Forward as a Mentor

There are a number of people I look up to.

Yeah, I know. Since I’m a whopping five feet two inches tall, I look up to lots of people.

My hubby has a whole foot on me. At our wedding, I stepped on a footstool lovingly crafted by my father-in-law and a dear friend of his when the pastor told Gwynly he could kiss his bride.




Obviously, though, I’m talking about experienced and trusted authors I admire who have taught me a great deal. And there are many.

Has anyone officially offered to be my mentor? Nope! But that doesn’t stop me from thinking of some talented writers as my experienced and trusted advisers.


One of my unofficial mentors . . .

I could share the names of numerous authors who have filled the role of mentor, unbeknownst to them, but since you have more important things to do with your day than read another of my novellas disguised as a blog post, I’ll limit myself to one: Deeanne Gist.

I’ve been a fan of Dee’s work since her debut novel, A Bride Most Begrudging, which I read back in 2005. As I savored her story and marveled at her writing skill, a lifelong dream I’d relegated to Someday Status reemerged.

In January of the following year, I began writing my first novel-length romance. Well, saga-length is more like it. That baby filled two 1-1/2 inch binders. While I aspired to use words as well as Dee, my prose at that point was pathetic.

Two and a half years into my writing journey, I was privileged to meet Dee in person when I attended RWA® Nationals in San Francisco the summer of 2008. I hightailed it to her table at the Literacy Autographing, and she spent a good twenty minutes talking with me and imparting words of wisdom.



Dee told me that after receiving a few rejections, she knew she didn’t like it and vowed to learn to write well. Having an aversion to rejections myself and knowing my writing wasn’t up to publishable standards, I took her advice to heart.

I spent a year studying craft and the better part of two more revising one of the stories I’d written during my first two years before I knew what I was doing. The result was a story my awesome agent sent out on submission last month.

At RWA Nationals in Orlando this past July, I volunteered to moderate Dee’s workshop, “Not in Front of the Servants: the Low-Down on Life Below Stairs.” We talked at the Autographing, where she gave me some more pointers, and she stopped by to offer me encouragement after the Awards Ceremony as well. Dee Gist knows me by name, and I think that’s pretty awesome!



I treasure my times with Dee and value the information she’s imparted. She’s one of many who have showered me with blessings.


And now it’s my turn . . .

This past summer, I learned that my sister is writing romance, which is way cool. She recently moved to a city about an hour away, and we’ve met halfway a couple of times for marathon lunches. We talked writing so long last time, we had to change restaurants. 🙂



My sister writes in a different sub-genre, but I’m delighted to be serving as her mentor and count it an honor. She’s working to complete her first story, and I look forward to helping her as she embarks on her journey.

• • • • •

I wanna know . . .

Do you have official (or unofficial) mentors?

What are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned from your mentors?

If you could choose any writer(s) you want to mentor you, who would you pick?

Are you currently serving as a mentor? If so, how did the relationship come about?

• • • • •

This is Frabjous Friday, a day to have some fun and celebrate our successes. If you have good news, I invite you to share it in a comment so I can join in your happy dance. ~ Keli


About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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8 Responses to FF: Paying It Forward as a Mentor

  1. I haven’t had any official mentors, but I look closely at the writing methods of some of the authors I read. They are very different writers and each has traits I admire: Sue Grafton is witty and her characters are very real; Robert Parker (recently deceased) also writes with a sense of humor and uses almost entirely dialog to tell the story. Both of these authors write in the mystery genre. Dean Koontz is a master of suspense, and I try to take apart and study the techniques that make his novels page turners.

    Thank you for asking. You made me think. Blessings to you…

  2. As always a wonderful and inspiring post, Keli. Well you already know from my post today about my friend, poet, teacher. I am also fortunate to have two very blund and constructive BETA readers.

    My first love in modern lit has always been JD Salinger, although I admit he would have been a tough nut to crack.

    In genre fiction, romance, mystery and just plain fun, there is actually only one … Nora Roberts. Not only because she crosses genres and does it well, but more because of her work ethic. She one of the hardest working writers of our time and it shows in the work she brings to her readers.

  3. territiffany says:

    I loved this post and it caught my eye on Facebook. There have been people along the way who have mentored me without knowing it. I read their books and learn from the way they have put together good story. I know recently that Patty Lacey helped me with a few chapters without me asking. What a huge blessing that was to me!
    I don’t knwo if I mentor anyone but I hope someday if I get it right, I could:)

  4. I’ve been blessed with so many mentors who helped me on the road to publication, and still help me today. Here are just a few of them:

    1-2) NYT-bestselling author Nancy Holder and critically acclaimed suspense author Michael Kimball are my mentors at the Stonecoast MFA program at University of Southern Maine–one of 2 MFA programs I know of that lets you earn your degree writing romance

    3) Multiple RITA and RT Reviewers Choice nominee Leigh Michaels, who teaches romance online at Gotham Writers Workshop, and also runs a stellar critique service through her website

    4) Historical romance author Gerri Russell, who read chapters from my very first manuscript and told me I had talent and a very strong voice. She has subsequently reviewed my books and offered valuable career advice–she always comes through for me.

    5.) The late great Ann Peach, who used to teach the beginning writers’ workshop at RT. She was the first industry professional ever to read my work, and sent me a beautiful and encouraging email shortly before her passing that I’ll always treasure.

    6.) And, of course, I can’t forget my very first mentor, non-fiction author and English instructor Steven Denlinger–who later became my adored fiance. 🙂

    As for mentoring that I do, I focus on writing detailed and (I hope) thoughtful margin and overall comments on contests I judge, exchange work with a critique partner, and critique fellow students’ work at Stonecoast.

    Thanks for such an uplifting article!

  5. Susan Mason says:

    Hi Keli,

    Interesting topic! And I just discovered Dee Gist’s writing – LOVE it!

    I don’t have an official mentor, but I follow the ladies at Seekerville and consider them all my unofficial mentors. I’m learning so much from all their advice and the guests they have on their blog!


  6. Cathy West says:

    Wow. There have been so many people who’ve helped me along the way, and still do! I have to say joining ACFW was probably the best thing I ever did to boost my writing to a whole new level. I’m still amazed at the answers to questions I get, and who those answers come from! I don’t have a specific mentor, but I’ve learned so much from so many amazing authors that I would be here all day if I attempted to make a list! Because I know what a long and often difficult journey it is to publication, I look forward to helping other writers find their way. We can stumble along together.

  7. I’ve met so many writers in the last year or so that continuously help me. I’m so blessed by each and every one of them and don’t think I could stick with this without them.

  8. Hi Keli – I’m behind on my blog reading. :)This title caught my eye because you’ve been an unofficial mentor to me the past few weeks, and I’m so grateful! 🙂

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