I never imagined I would become a published author. Not only because I doubted my own ability and because I'd read of the staggering odds against winning that publishing deal lottery but also because I came from a background where being a published author was unthinkable. I had no contacts in the industry and I'd never had the spare money for anything more than the occasional night class in creative writing.
I was one of the lucky ones though - my amazing Blake Friedmann agent, Juliet Pickering, saw some potential in some short stories I'd written and championed my first novel (the neatly titled Tony Hogan Bought Me and Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma) all the way to publishing deals in the UK, US, France and Italy.
But I've never stopped being aware of how hard it can be for many other writers to get their first step on the ladder and how much poorer our literary culture possibly is for that. So I'd been thinking for a while about how I might be able to make some sort of difference to that...
Today sees the launch of The WoMentoring Project. The WoMentoring Project exists to offer free mentoring by professional literary women to up and coming female writers who would otherwise find it difficult to access similar opportunities - just like me four years ago.
The mission of The WoMentoring Project is simply to introduce successful literary women to other women writers at the beginning of their careers who would benefit from some insight, knowledge and support. The hope is that we’ll see new, talented and diverse female voices emerging as a result of time and guidance received from our mentors.
Each mentor selects their own mentee and it is at their discretion how little or much time they donate. We have no budget, it’s a completely free initiative and every aspect of the project - from the project management to the website design to the PR support - is being volunteered by a collective of female literary professionals. Quite simply this is about exceptional women supporting exceptional women.
Like many great ideas The WoMentoring Project came about via a conversation on Twitter. While discussing the current lack of peer mentoring and the prohibitive expense for many of professional mentoring I asked my followers - largely writers, editors and agents - who would be willing to donate a few hours of their time to another woman just starting out. The response was overwhelming – within two hours we had over sixty mentors.
To return my own good fortune I am managing the project for the next twelve months. As all of our mentors are professional writers, editors or literary agents many also received unofficial or official mentoring which helped them get ahead and the emphasis is on ‘paying forward’ some of the support they've been given.
In an industry where male writers are still reviewed and paid more than their female counterparts in the UK, we wanted to balance the playing field. Likewise, we want to give female voices that would otherwise find it hard to be heard, a greater opportunity of reaching their true potential.
Interested in getting a mentor? Obviously in an ideal world we would offer a mentor to every writer who needed and wanted one. Of course this isn't possible so instead we've tried to ensure the application process is accessible while also ensuring that out mentors have enough information with which to make their selection.
Applicant mentees will submit a 1000 word writing sample and a 500 word statement about why they would benefit from free mentoring. All applications will be to a specific mentor.
If you'd like to find out more then visit www.womentoringproject.co.uk and if this sounds like the sort of project that you'd like to support then please spread the word. You can find us on Twitter @WoMentoringP and use the hashtag #WoMentoring
Here's to exceptional women supporting exceptional women!
Kerry Hudson is the author of TONY HOGAN BOUGHT ME AN ICE-CREAM FLOAT BEFORE HE STOLE MY MA (Chatto, 2012) and THIRST (Chatto, July 2014).
Bespoke illustrations by Sally Jane Thompson for WoMentoring.