It was by a strange chain of events that I came to be mentored by a Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist.
Earlier this year, I came upon a writing contest called “The Coffee Shop Chronicles” while looking for writing gigs on Craigslist. My story could be featured in anthology the publishers were assembling and the winner could earn a gift card to their favorite coffee shop. The rules were simple: be creative, keep it short, and the story should have something to do with coffee.
I sat down at my computer and started writing. I didn’t stop for several hours and came up with a story that wasn’t short enough to be eligible for the contest. I posted it to my blog, considered the entire writing experience an inspiration and then put the whole thing to bed.
The very next day I woke up to a comment from a man named Thorn Sully of A Word With You Press, Publishers and Purveyors of Fine Stories. He was thrilled that his contest was able to inspire me, agreed that my story was a bit long, but posted it to his blog, anyway. It turns out that Thorn is a very kind human being who has a lot of passion for words. As I am always inspired by people who love what they do, We stayed in touch via email and I kept up with his blog.
Some months later, I found out that the creative team had decided to be bend the rules a little bit and publish my story in the anthology “The Coffee Shop Chronicles Vol. 1: Oh The Places I Have Bean” anyway. I was thrilled, as I have never been published before.
A Word With You Press isn’t just a publishing house, however. They also offer workshops and seminars. And I recently attended one of these workshops.
I drove out to their headquarters in Oceanside, California, which is about an hour and a half outside of Los Angeles to attend a workshop put on by Jonathan Freedman. Freedman won a Pulitzer Prize in 1987 for his series of editorials that urged the passage of the first major immigration reform act in 34 years. (These were published in The Tribune in San Diego, Calif.) I was pretty excited to attend as I had first read his work during college and it struck a cord with me. It’s one of those pieces of writing that every time you pick it up, doesn’t matter how many times you’ve read it, you have to read it all the way through. That’s how good it is.
Freedman’s career hasn’t been rooted exclusively in editorial writing, however. He has also worked as a foreign correspondent, written novels, books meant to inspire social change and children’s books.
I have been trying to will my pen to write fiction for some time, but because the world of journalism and fiction exist on opposite ends of the universe, this is something that doesn’t necessarily come easy to me. I saw this as the most perfect venue to bridge my passions– with someone who is an expert in both media.
At first I was very intimidated by Jonathan, but he was actually very warm and receptive to what I had to say. I ended up picking his brain, asking him questions about his voice and how he had come to develop his eye for detail. We ended up talking about my own journalism project, Perfect Stranger L.A. and he seemed genuinely impressed. Later, he offered to be my mentor to help guide me toward success. I, of course, was speechless.
I have never before had any professional in the field take an interest in my work.
I’ve always felt very jealous upon hearing friends and colleagues talk about the great contacts that they have made in their designated fields. Networking is something that I have never excelled at. I can wander up to any stranger and ask them about their day in the life, but I have a very difficult time putting myself up on a pedestal and explaining to people why I am worth their time.
I’m just happy that I can now say that I have at least made some beginning steps in the right direction.