Freelancing,  Journalism,  Mentoring,  News,  Writing

Mentoring Cher Tan via Writers Victoria She writes better than I do so it is a tad bit strange for me

I am now a mentor with Writers Victoria.

It is pretty cool.

Let me explain. I am trying to become a mentor on the IPEd/CSE mentoring program which caters to just editors but at the moment, I am also now a mentor for Writers Victoria.

Writers Victoria is a writing centre for the state of Victoria in Australia. They hold events, run workshops and so on but one of the services they offer is mentoring.

The Writers Victoria mentoring scheme operates like this: you apply for mentoring and Writers Victoria assess your application. You also nominate someone you want to mentor you from the list of mentors on their website. This is my mentor profile on the website.

You then meet up for an initial chat and if you want to proceed then you do so in six hour blocks. You can organise the six hours however you like with your mentor but it is generally set up in a six hour block format.

But you pay Writers Victoria for both the initial chat and the six hour block. And then they pay the mentor.

This is where it gets a bit tricky: it costs $300 for the initial chat (after which you can decide your mentoring session is over) and $475 for the six hour block. Out of this, the mentor gets about $100 odd (I believe) for the initial chat and $390 for the six hour block which comes out at about $65 per hour.

If you want to take advantage of this mentoring scheme, you can find out more and apply here.


Who am I mentoring?

But what I really wanted to tell you about is my mentee Cher Tan.

Cher Tan is an amazing writer. She writes wonderful lyrical essays and criticism – sort of narrative non fiction – and she wanted to know how she could improve with her writing. So she decided to apply for Copyright Agency grant to undertake a short course and find a mentor through Writers Victoria. She was successful and the money will help pay for the course and for the mentoring.

But in true Cher Tan fashion she has also decided to start a newsletter with free updates to document this entire improving her writing project – both the mentoring and the short course. She is hoping to share what she learns along the way as well. You can sign up for the newsletter here.

I believe both mentor and mentee learn from each other during the entire mentoring process. I don’t think I will be as rigorous as she will be in documenting the entire process but I am more than happy to share anything I learn from it and to support her documentation and her work.


So what have we done so far with the mentoring?

I have shown her a few things and I am slowly going through a lot of her pieces to see how she can improve and she is compiling a massive list of authors who have also written essays and similar work to read. You can find out more by subscribing to her free newsletter: https://mxcreant.substack.com/


What have I learnt so far about mentoring?

What I really admire about younger writers like Cher Tan is that they were less afraid to try than I was at their age. Or perhaps I had more things on, I don’t know. But I do feel very encouraged by their persistence and faith in trying. And I also like her willingness to look at writing that is actually really good and not take it for granted and that she continues to believe that there is more to learn and that she can continue to improve.

About myself – well I have learnt so far that I can be bloody horrendous at trying to explain certain things in certain contexts. And that sometimes it easier for me to point at a part of a piece of writing and say “This is this bit, that is that bit.” and then explain things that way. But that I will muddle through somehow. And that what I like about mentoring is that my mentees don’t have to agree with me – they ask for some guidance or assistance and I can give that to them. But it is always up to the mentee and that sometimes, the information doesn’t change their practice but is nevertheless useful for them to know.

And I have learnt that I like mentoring because it challenges me. I am presented with this request for guidance or assistance or feedback etc and I have to then use it to figure out what mentees need and what I can do to help. And sometimes I am afraid that I cannot help but then I do end up thinking of things I can do. But often it involves me thinking on the whole issue for a few days.

And Cher’s big question right now is: How does she improve at writing lyrical criticism and essays (which sort of falls under narrative non-fiction)? Sometimes, and I am sure this happens to others too, sometimes I know the answers to these sort of questions but only in a very nebulous kind of way and until the question is asked of me, I find it hard to pin the answers down and articulate them. Right now I am experiencing it and Cher is articulating the question and by the end of this process, I hope I can better articulate the answer and that she has learnt a lot of the answers not from me parrotting it off at her but by experiencing what works for her and what doesn’t.

I hope that made sense. But now I want to write this sort of work more often too. I feel I used to do this a lot when I wrote my Perth Diary pieces.


Cher Tan has written for:

The Lifted Brow: https://www.theliftedbrow.com/liftedbrow/2017/12/12/wordly-placelessness-by-cher-tan

Meanjin: https://meanjin.com.au/blog/the-limits-of-compassion/

You can subscribe to the newsletter Cher Tan is using to document the mentoring process here: https://mxcreant.substack.com/

Marisa is a globetrotting freelance writer, journalist and editor with cat for hire (her, not the cat). She is usually based in Melbourne but is currently flouncing around in Perth for a week for the Inaugural 2018 KSP - Varuna Foundation Fellowship. She will be at Melbourne's Continuum and online running a Writers' Bloc course in the coming weeks.

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