About seven years ago, I took a writing class at the Boston Center for Adult Education. The teacher, Nicole Durante, wrote on the first piece I handed in: “you are a wonderful writer!” With those words, she smoothed over a long-ago phone call from Mr. X, a writer of small renown (who a co-worker had insisted on giving my work-in-progress.) His specific words immediately engendered much-needed amnesia, but the gist was “how dare you set this tripe before my eyes.”
Mr. X silenced me. Nicole offered courage.
Betty Smith, author of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, was my muse.
Jenna Blum, author of Those Who Save Us (and soon, The Storm Chasers) is my mentor.
Mentors, Muses & Monsters edited by Elizabeth Benedict (a writer whose every novel I swallowed whole) is a compilation of essays, subtitled: 30 Writers on the People Who Changed Their Lives.
For Christopher Castellani, it was Bread Loaf that helped him recognize his gifts. For Martha Southgate, it was Harriet the Spy. Carolyn See’s mentors include a father whose life-long yearning to be a writer was only realized at the end of his life, when he wrote seventy-three books of pornography. For editor Elizabeth Benedict, it was Elizabeth Hardwick who told her she could be a writer.
There are many passages I’ve already highlighted in Mentors, Muses & Monsters, among them these final lines from Alexander Chee writing about Annie Dillard.
“Go up to the place in the bookstore where your books will go, she said. Walk right up and find your place on the shelf. Put your finger there, and then go every time . . . As Thoreau, someone she admires very much, once wrote: In the long run, we only every hit what we aim at. She was pointing us there.”
Whatever your dream, Mentors, Muses & Monsters will provide a companion on the way toward realizing it and help you remember those who’ve already helped. Give thanks.
About Randy Susan
Causes Randy Susan Meyers Supports
Women for Women
New England Home for Little Wanderers