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WWTS Mentee Update: Joan Maher

Joan won a mentorship with author Laura Gehl. Here are a few words from Joan about the experience.

I had the incredible honor of being selected by Laura Gehl for the WWTS mentorship.

I applied to Laura because she clearly knows the craft of picture books; she’s got an impressive number of published books to her name, with more on the way, and all of them have a great voice, a clear vision, wonderful humor, and a compelling hook. I was hoping to absorb as much as I could from her about the art of storytelling, and that some of her skills might rub off on me!

Laura was a dream. Right off the bat, she critiqued the stories I had sent her, and then a number of additional ones. She has an uncanny knack for getting right to the heart of the issue for each story — what’s working, and what’s holding it back. After a while, I started to hear her voice as I revised or drafted anything new, and I felt I was able to better direct my stories from the start. She made herself super accessible; no matter how many questions I had or manuscripts I sent her, she never made me wait for a reply. I truly felt like she was in my corner.

About midway through the mentorship, Laura encouraged me to start querying agents and helped me craft my pitches and query letters. She has a phenomenal gift when it comes to crafting a pitch, and after a while, again with her voice in my head, I felt I started to get the hang of it, too.

One of my queries found its way to Natascha Morris at BookEnds Literary Agency, and shortly after my mentorship with Laura ended, I signed with Natascha. It was a dream come true and it wouldn’t have happened if not for Laura’s guidance.

Working with Laura propelled me to the next level in my writing career. It turbo-charged my revision process, and while I may have gotten to the same point with my stories eventually, it would have taken who-knows-how-many more months (or years!) to get there. I ended the mentorship feeling like I had a better grasp on the craft of writing, which is exactly what I had hoped for going into it.

I am so grateful to have had this opportunity. I want to give a heartfelt thanks to Tara for creating this invaluable program, and to Laura for believing in me. You are both incredible and the kidlit community is much indebted to you!