Updated: Dec 21, 2021
I don't know how much I fit into the "young writer's" group anymore. I certainly did when I was twelve and started to write (with the intent to publish) and I did when I wrote my first full-sized novel. Now, at 20, I think I am beginning to reach the edge of the line for being a "young writer."
Nevertheless, I was within the limit to apply for a summer mentorship with my favorite author (Marissa Meyer) hosted by an organization I had never heard of before. The mentorship is open to writers aged 13-20. This year was the second year the organization ran it (though I suspect it will be annual). Applications closed at the end of April and the mentorship began at the beginning of this month (and will last until August).
I should correct that sentence: The mentorship began for the person who won it at the beginning of this month. I did not win a mentorship with Marissa Meyer. There were thousands of people who applied for the mentorship program across the age range.
I can not know why I did not win the mentorship but I am choosing not to believe that it was because of (or at least solely because of) my writing. I have had plenty of people compliment my writing and my current work in progress. I am confident it will make it. But there are plenty of writers out there who are better than me (I can admit that) and one of them could have applied. Or perhaps, the winner was someone who needed the mentorship more than me. Or even, someone who would be a better match for Marissa Meyer than me. I may never know.
I didn't choose to sit down and write this post as a blog post of defeat though. I do believe that honesty (even when it is about losses) can be helpful to those who have not yet gone through the events being discussed. But I do think there is something more important than losing a mentorship with Marissa Meyer to be discussed.
The organization that hosts the mentorship: The Young Writer's Initiative (or TYWI).
You guys, before Marissa Meyer posted about the mentorship she was offering to one lucky writer, I had never heard of this organization. I wish I had because after scrolling through the rest of their website, I realize the mentorship is not the only service they offer to young writers. Best of all, they offer services for free.
You read that right: FOR FREE.
The Young Writer's Initiative has a goal of supporting young writers so that they can get further in their dreams of writing (and getting published) than they could ever get on their own. Aside from the yearly mentorship program, The Young Writer's Initiative also offers an intensive summer camp program, beta and alpha reading, editing, reviewing cover design, and more for free (there may be some charge involved in some of these services). They sell artwork on redbubble and accept donations to cover costs and have many volunteers that work to ensure that young writers have the support they need.
Let's break down some of those things a little bit more shall we?
Summer Camp: TYWI's summer camp is more like their mentorship than anything else. In fact, mentees are expected to be a part of summer camp during the summer they have a mentor. TYWI's summer camp involves participating in Camp NaNoWriMo (very similar to normal NaNoWriMo). Speakers include agents and published authors and there are workshops, daily activities/challenges, and write-ins. From what I can tell, it is an intensive process (though you can commit to it all or only attend some).
Editing: Yes, TYWI does editing. And they do it for free. You can find the lists of types of books (or writing) that TYWI will edit for you and the types of editing that they provide at the link here. To be entirely honest, I did my editing myself. Because I didn't know about the services TYWI provided until I was almost ready to query, I was unable to make use of any of their services. I, therefore couldn't tell you the difference between "copyediting" and "developmental editing" but I wish you all the best as you enter into that journey.
Alpha and Beta Reading: Perhaps others would disagree but I think this is the best thing that TYWI offers. You may have read my post about beta readers (here) and if so, you would know how much I value beta readers. I truly think it is a step that is priceless for any writer wanting to be published. But not everyone has family or friends willing to read their book. So an organization willing to contribute beta readers to people like this is amazing. To clarify (and because I didn't know it before seeing it on the site), beta reading is different than alpha reading. I had not heard of alpha reading before but apparently, an alpha reader checks the overarching themes and big picture stuff before you consider sending your novel to a beta reader.
Book Reviewing: This is one service I was able to use with TYWI. TYWI offers book reviews for writers with published or unpublished books (though I think those with unpublished books are supposed to be working towards publishing them). They even review Wattpad books. The reviews go on their blog. The reviews are free (all you have to do is send them a PDF or physical copy of your book) and they will review it honestly for you. Make sure you are ok with this because you cannot guarantee they will say nice things about your book but even a nasty review might get attention (just the wrong kind).
Cover Design: I really wish I had known about this option when I was self-publishing "Imagine This: From Pain to Possibility." I wasted time and money trying to find a Fiverr cover designer before finally designing it myself (which took a long while). TYWI offers cover design for free though there may be some charge depending on the artist and picture you use on your cover. If you intend to use the cover on a platform (like Wattpad) only, there is no charge but for commercially publishing your book, there may be a charge. It might be a great option to explore, though, if you are looking to self-publish your book and need a good cover.
TYWI does other great work for young writers and I highly suggest looking around their site and checking out what resources may be helpful to you as you write and look to publish your books. My only hope is that this resource for young writers does not go ignored or lie under the radar any longer. I don't want any other young authors like myself to miss opportunities to make use of such a great resource.