I’ve posted before about The Portico Library, a small private library in Manchester that runs a number of events. Most years they run a Portico Writing Prize, and for the last three or four years they’ve also done one specifically for young writers under 18.
I’m currently studying some MA units in Creative Writing. Each year the university assigns students to mentor the young writers, and this year I was lucky enough to be selected to take part.
We went along a few weeks ago for a session to meet our students and take part in some poetry and prose workshops with Mandy Coe and Sherry Ashworth. I’ve been assigned two students, who I’m really enjoying working with. They both seem enthusiastic and from what I’ve seen, they’re both great writers too.
A little part of me is jealous, as I never got the chance to do this when I was in school. I didn’t start writing until I was sixteen, and not very seriously until I was in my early twenties. Thinking about how much more I could have accomplished by now if I’d put more time and effort into writing is maddening, and I also recognise, ultimately unhelpful.
What I do enjoy is the sense of giving something back. I love to share what I know about writing and help other writers to develop. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have given so much time to CAKE.shortandsweet. I learn a lot about myself and my own writing through helping others, and I think this kind of mentoring should really be required for all writers.
Looking at how talented my students are, at an age when I was taking cringeworthy, purple-prose-laden baby steps into the world of writing, is both depressing and hugely inspiring. If I can give them even a little of my enthusiasm and knowledge to help them improve, I’ll be delighted. And, of course, even better if they win!
I really hope that mentoring less experienced writers is something I can do again. I don’t think writing is something that anyone could – or should – completely master. I believe it’s the kind of thing where you’re always learning, always changing and growing. I’m sure that they’ve got just as much to teach me as I have them.