Thursday, May 2, 2013

What Is Mentoring Anyway?

At times and with some pieces, it is best for students to write, admire their work, maybe share it with a parent or a friend, and move to the next one.  Not every piece needs to be polished. But more often, their initial work needs to be revised and refined to move it from good to excellent. This can be a challenge if students aren't accustomed to reworking their drafts or receiving input. Or it may be that they are ready to revise, but their parents don't know how to help them make their papers better.

Writing improves with revision.  Don't believe me?  Look at what these published authors say about it.

Interviewer: How much rewriting do you do?
Hemingway: It depends. I rewrote the ending of Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, 39 times before I was satisfied.
Interviewer: Was there some technical problem there? What was it that had stumped you?
Hemingway: Getting the words right.    
(Ernest Hemingway, "The Art of Fiction," The Paris Review Interview, 1956)
The main thing I try to do is write as clearly as I can. I rewrite a good deal to make it clear.     
    (E.B. White, The New York Times, August 3, 1942)
I have rewritten--often several times--every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasers.
(Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory, Random House, 1966)

In my classes, the students who have grown as writers are the ones who have held their first and second, sometimes even their third drafts, loosely, being willing to cross out, move, reword, and rethink their pieces. To grow in this skill, it helps to have a reader who will ask questions, make suggestions, and give feedback.

That's where I can help. I've done this for many students, helping them tweak and transform their papers until they have a product they can proudly share.  If you want to see how the process looks, I've included excerpts of a student's first and second draft here. 

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