“I started mentoring with Kathryn with nothing more than a flimsy first draft. Her attention to every word, rhythm, and motivation made me accountable and that, more than any course or book, turned me into a writer. Less than a year later, I had a powerful manuscript, an agent and a three book deal.”
– Paula Tierney, author of Jamie Reign, Spirit Warrior ( HarperCollins)
After many years mentoring writers in the UK, Kathryn Heyman founded the Australian Writers Mentoring Program in 2009 to help new and emerging writers develop their full potential.
In an article explaining her passion for mentoring, in Vogue (Australia) Kathryn wrote:
“The Greek philosopher Aristotle observed three forms of knowledge: techne, practical skill; episteme, intellectual knowledge; and phronesis, perhaps most closely described as practical wisdom. It is a balance of craft or technical skills with deep knowledge that leads to this deepest form of wisdom. That’s what mentoring aims for. Let’s say you’re trying to write your first novel, or a memoir. You tap away at at the keyboard, with only the sound of your own breath to keep you company, and every so often you read the words out to your writing group over cups of tea. They adore it. You’re brilliant, they glow. Yet, you know the book isn’t ready, that something is missing. You can almost imagine it, can almost see yourself standing with the published book in your hands. If only you could get from here to there. But how? You can sense it isn’t quite enough merely to practice these skills in isolation. You know there is something more to becoming a true artist, but what? A mentor takes on the role of practised guide, passing on the practical wisdom that they’ve acquired through thousands of hours of flying time.
Mentors don’t necessarily offer intellectual knowledge of critical work, though they may. Nor do they instruct in the detailed technical capabilities of craftwork, though they may. What mentorship offers, above all, is this practical wisdom, this phronesis, which may well be unavailable by other means. Mentoring assumes that there is a gap between where you are and where you want to be. In that way, it’s similar to therapy, or teaching. Unlike therapy, though, in mentoring there is an assumption that the mentee can see what’s on the other side of the gap. I want to be a successful screenwriter. I want to publish a novel. I want to run my own company. Mentoring is aspirational, in that it acknowledges a desire to move forward. It’s a model of learning which works for teenagers and octogenarians, for creatives and corporates alike.”
“I would not have published my short story collection, nor won my BAFTA, without her influence. I owe her big time.”
– Raymond Soltysek, BAFTA winner and author of Occasional Demons