In a conversation recently the topic came up about where writers find mentors.
I thought for a while and came up blank. I don't believe I've ever been mentored in my writing. In fact, the idea had never occured to me.
When I write something and feel inspired about it I believe that anything I am writing is the sum of all the other writers I have ever read. As for being mentored I can recall instances where I was "given" a book to read by the mystical whims of "others".
There was the time I was looking for a book to read when Gabriel Garcia Marquez's book, One Hundred Years of Solitude literally fell out of the book rack onto my foot. I subsequently read it twice over the course of a year, reassuring my fascination for magic-realism. Or when Moritz Thomsen's The Saddest Pleasure, was given to me by a friend, the book convinced me to travel to Brazil with no particular plan involved. Later, while researching a novel in Rio I was in the back of a remarkable book store looking for a collection. I had been all over the city and had nearly given up when a man overheard my conversations and grabbed a load of books from the shelves. These rare books would form my research for a novel.
When I first read On the Road I decided to move to San Francisco, where I spent a lot of time at Lawrence Ferlinghetti's bookstore like it was sacred ground. Then at a book reading where only 50 people showed up to listen to Bernard Cornwell read, I asked more than my share of questions, and he answered at length, reaffirming my own quest to write about historical figures. Living in Sonoma, California I met Jack London's daugher once and often visited the site of his Wolf House to gain inspiration, further igniting my search for a voice.
In all of this, and more, I was looking for a story, a source, an inspiration, or I was searching for something beguiling and uniquely mirthful. I never looked for mentors, they found me.