The Life Of A Writer. #3. Mentors.

I have been fortunate over my lifetime as a writer to have attended a number of first class workshops, retreats and courses from the Banff Centre of the Arts to the Humber School for Writers. The facilitators and mentors have been top notch, ranging from Austin Clarke at Glendon College (York University) in the mid 1970s to Alistair McLeod at the Humber School for Writers in 2006.

There were two who stand out as my ongoing mentors, both of whom are unfortunately no longer alive. I didn't meet either of them at workshops or courses, but they were the two who became both mentors and friends for the long haul. The first was William (Bill) Kilbourn whom I met through municipal politics (early 1970s) and the other, Adele Wiseman, when I interviewed her as Writer-in-Residence at the University of Toronto (mid 1970s) for a paper I was writing for the MLS degree on the various resources for writers as they learned their trade. Both of these courageous and talented writers encouraged my writing and I enjoyed their support and friendship over a period of over 20 years before they both died in the early 1990s. 

 I have many friends who are writers, but I don't think at the advanced age I have reached I will have another mentor like either Adele or Bill. Neither of them were alive when my first book, One Day It Happens, was published in 2007, but both of them believed there would be books. Especially about the northern mining community where I grew up and my second book, Ile d'Or, is the book they might have envisaged. Or I hope so. It was their faith that often kept me going. Their humourous responses to my despair at that ever happening. Their insightful comments about it. Now my friends and I encourage each other. Sometimes we read and critique each other's work. We go to each other's launches. We discuss promotion and applaud each other's successes, We carry on, knowing how important that camaraderie around writing is, that understanding of the long hours we slog away in solitude that precede any published article, story or book.

Two friends who have shared this journey over many years since I met them in the early 1980s are Joy Kogawa and Ian Wallace and I have appreciated, and still do, our conversations and mutual support. Now I am also meeting many other writers through my writing group and through the Writers' Union. Having books published gives one access to the work that goes on around the writing itself, including the advocacy of the Writers' Union and access to their resources on a myriad of topics (legal, copyright, etc.). But that's another story (or blog post).  

See also — Lisa Young's blog on writing: 

Posted on December 13, 2011 .