Saturday, December 04, 2010

NZSA Mentorship Scheme

On Beatties Book blog, I spotted an article about the New Zealand Society of Authors Mentorship scheme. Applications are now open for a programme designed to help new and emerging writers develop skills, by working on specific projects under the guidance of an experienced mentor.

I won't be applying this year but I have a time frame in mind by which I may well apply in future. One paragraph, though, brought me up short. After saying Mentored projects including poetry collections, novels and work for children have been accepted for publication... I find further down the article that
There are 15 full mentorships available in the 2011 programme, as well as two half-mentorships of 10 hours each which are available for work - such as picture book texts or poetry - that is deemed not to require a full mentorship.

What are they saying here? Poetry is somehow less than fiction, and doesn't require so much work? Some might argue this is fair enough, the average poetry collection being considerably shorter than the average novel. On the other hand, it is far more condensed, and each word matters. In a novel, the reader is far less conscious of individual words. Anything clunky will stick out and need attention given to it, but it is less critical that absolutely every word deserves its place. So questions of plot, structure, narrative arc and so on become more to the fore.

Presumably, some things are the responsibility of the author, before mentorship is sought. So I don't have a fixed idea in my head as to whether or not a poetry mentorship should be a full mentorship, with as many hours devoted to it as would be spent on mentoring a novel. But it does leave me wondering..

And raises a second question. Can poets also apply for a full mentorship? Or do all the poets have to compete with the picture book writers for one of two half mentorships, while the novelists can apply for one of fifteen full mentorships? That seems a bit ...uneven. There are dozens and dozens of budding poets around. Not so many novelists. (Or non-fiction writers - I presume biographies, works of history and so on also qualify). I could be entirely wrong on this. I'm just judging by the people I know, and a lot of them are poets. But then, I attend poetry events, so it's reasonable that I would know a lot of poets!

Still, the whole paragraph seems to make poetry something less (and picture books, too!), whereas the first sentence I quoted put poetry ahead of fiction in the list of successful projects.

I think I had better head on over to the Society of Authors website and see if I can find out more.


Zeborah said...

They may be thinking of a single piece or a few pieces of poetry (such as one might submit to a magazine) rather than a whole collection. At least that's what I get from the way they've paired it with "picture book texts" (which is not the same as a whole picture book including images, which would certainly require more work).

Catherine said...

I don't get that impression - the mentorship seems to be for a complete collection, if you read the details on the site. And you are expected to have already published a few stories (or poems), or to have done courses, and to have a substantial portion of a manuscript to submit in your application. So I think it is for a complete book - say 80 pages or so for poetry, which is shorter than a completed novel, but substantially more than a picture book text.