Today, we welcome our neighbor Rebecca Miller, on discovering the joys of mentorship from both sides. This summer, Rebecca is leading writing camps for incoming 7th-10th graders, in Bigfork.
Mentorship and Me
I really can’t remember a time when I didn’t write. Whether I was filling Big Chief notebooks with illustrated stories or weaving a romantic saga in a flowered journal, I was a kid who wrote. I had a difficult childhood and stories (read or written) were always one of the ways that I was able to escape into another world.
In college, I met incredible mentors who encouraged me in my writing. I was awfully earnest—and awfully cliché—but they still believed in me. Recently, I dug out some of my old creative writing folders from that time and cringed a little at some of my early stories. First of all, I hadn’t lived much life to speak of. This naturally left my characters and stories one-dimensional. Secondly, I was uncomfortable with the grey areas of life and literature. I felt that everything needed to be tied up neatly with a bow. So, naturally every story seemed to move toward some sort of Christian conversion experience, even though real life isn’t usually so tidy. My teachers didn’t discourage my faith, but they gently pointed out the need for more nuance.
I remember spending hours in my teachers’ offices, being fed by their love of literature and writing. I remember the freedom of someone believing in me and calling forth something from me. By the end of my college experience, I was a much better writer than when I started. I became much more open to the way targeted, specific language could dig our toes down deep into the dirt of earth and even—from a faith perspective—help us experience a God who came near. I have continued to grow in this knowledge and in a knowledge of a grace and power that is bigger than me. No longer do I feel I must hover over the real story of life and control it, patch it up, slap thick coats of make-up on it. Beauty is found in the ordinary.
Mentors changed my life. They moved me from the raw clay of potentiality to a writer who is continually growing, learning more authenticity, learning craft instead of cliché.
This spring, I got a great opportunity to pass on the gifts that have been given to me. I write and edit now, and a mother approached me to ask if I would tutor her daughter in creative writing. Teaching about writing and literature was something I had done a little of in the past, so I was very excited to begin this new journey with an enthusiastic young student. As I spend time with her, my goal is to gently nudge her craft forward through encouraging her strengths and helping her find ways to improve. It is a joy to nurture and encourage the mind of a young artist. It is life-giving for both student and teacher.
This summer I will also be offering three creative writing “camps” for youth going into 7th-10th grades. They are classes in Fiction, Poetry, and Creative Nonfiction. Details can be found on my website and sign-ups need to be in place two weeks prior to each class. In these classes, my goal is to create a hunger for good literature, skills to help young people grow as writers, and lots of encouragement. The journey of creativity can be a lonely one and creative minds need all the encouragement they can get. Classes will be held at Bethany Lutheran Church in Bigfork.
I so am grateful for mentors. I hope I can give to other young writers some portion of all that has been given to me.
Rebecca Florence Miller is a freelance writer, editor, and writing tutor. She lives in the Flathead Valley with her husband and two kids. You can find her on her website: rebeccaflorencemiller.wordpress.com
Leslie, for the MT WW crew.