Earlier today, I had an hour-long phone call with my mentor/editor for my project during which we covered the first 27 pages of my novel. Aside from giving me feedback and edits for those 27 pages, my mentor also helped me think out my characters and the world in which they live. All in all, it was an extremely productive and thought-provoking phone call (I typically hate phone calls, so this is high praise coming from me) and I’ll take everything my mentor said to heart.
That explanation requires a little bit of backstory, and as a writer, there’s nothing I relish more than backstory.
When I was first asked to find a mentor for the writing of my novel, I thought that maybe a Westtown teacher who had a similar taste in literature would suffice. However, when I proposed to have this teacher mentor me, I was told that I would have to find a mentor outside of school that had some experience in the world of writing. This criterion gave me pause for a short while. I wasn’t sure I knew anyone out in the greater world who had ever written much of anything. And I surely didn’t want to share my novel with some stranger who happened to be a Westtown graduate. But then I remembered my crazy uncle Eddie who actually was a writer. I should explain that he’s not actually crazy and not actually my uncle. He’s a good mix of adventurous and humorous (oftentimes mistaken for crazy) and is one of my fathers informally adopted brothers, thus “uncle” Eddie. Eddie (officially Edward Conlon) has written one memoir and one novel, and has also written for The New Yorker and other magazines for many years. He was introduced to my family by rooming with my father’s younger brother during college, and soon became just another member of the Driscoll family. Eddie, the son of an FBI agent, grew up in the Bronx and always had a natural affinity for law enforcement. Soon after he graduated from Harvard, he joined the New York City Housing Police (shortly before it was merged with the NYPD) to patrol housing projects in the Bronx. His time as a patrolman and then detective in the NYPD was the basis for both his highly praised memoir, Blue Blood, and his lesser known novel, Red on Red.
Having read both of Eddie’s books as well as some of his other work in different magazines, I’ve become familiar with his writing style and the high standard to which he holds literature. So, I thought, who better to learn from than a man who writes everything like a master’s thesis? I was both thrilled and intimidated when he agreed to work with me on my novel. Thrilled because I knew he could push my writing to newer and better places. Intimidated because I thought my writing might not meet his standards.
Now, having worked with him for a couple of weeks on my novel and another piece of writing, I couldn’t be happier that I asked for his help. I honestly think I could write a decent novel without him. But with his help, I can make my novel something even better.
Eddie earned my respect long ago with his accomplishments, and he recently earned my trust thanks to what we’ve worked on together so far. That trust and that respect are why I will always heed every single word of advice he gives me on my writing. It’s why I actually enjoyed an hour-long phone call for once.
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