Since its founding in 2006, Young Writers Project has championed the idea that feedback and audience are essential components to teaching writing. Mentors provide our writers with the feedback they want and need. Over the years we've seen writers, poets, teachers, teaching artists, students, and YWP alums all contribute amazing -- in some cases life-changing -- feedback to the writers on youngwritersproject.org.

Our mentors are as diverse as our writers, with various skills and interests. If you want to mentor, we want to meet you. Contact Susan Reid: [email protected]; (802) 324-9538.

Why mentor?

The feedback a mentor provides is the most valuable thing young writers can receive. Thoughtful, specific comments help them organize their thoughts, express themselves clearly, develop their ideas and learn the elements of good writing. Most importantly, feedback encourages them to keep writing! It's an affirmation of their work, an opportunity to connect with an engaged reader (you!)

Providing feedback also helps you improve your writing and teaching. It puts you in the writer mindset and gives you a chance to hone your critical thinking skills around specific writing questions. It also gives you valuable practice in delivering written feedback in a clear, concise style that is well received.

 

How to Get Involved

How do I become a mentor?

Get in touch with us!
Contact us!
Send Susan Reid an email letting us know your interest in becoming a mentor, tell us who you are, and what brings you to YWP. (Or call her at 802-324-9538)
OR go ahead and create an account on youngwritersproject.org by clicking LOGIN/JOIN. Put a note in the "author info" section stating that you would like to become a YWP mentor and tell us a bit about yourself. We'll contact you within a day or so.

 
What does mentoring entail?

Your primary job is to read and comment. You will be listed as a mentor on the site, so writers can message you if they have questions or want more feedback.

Students submit their writing as 'blog entries,' which they can choose to submit for publication, or just share with the online community. Submissions for publication are often written in response to weekly challenges provided by YWP. Familiarizing yourself with these challenges will help you understand the motivation behind the work.

You also have the opportunity to mentor as part of YWP Academy. YWP Academy houses a library of workshops and is available to YWP members for FREE. Each workshop is broken down into related, single-action steps centered on a particular topic. Please explore the Academy and look for areas of interest and expertise. Let us know what you think and how you might help YWP build these workshops.

 
What kind of comments should mentors provide?

As a mentor, you are asked to view writing objectively, as a trained reader. When formulating feedback, communicate your experience of reading the piece. What in the piece engaged you? What confused you? Be kind and encouraging, but also be honest and constructive.

It’s important to include details in your comment so that the writer can apply your advice to the piece at hand, and to future pieces. (It is okay to mention spelling or grammar problems, but do not make them the focus of your comment.)

Keep in mind the age of the author. YWP accepts submissions from students in grades 2-12 and expects that mentors will modify their expectations accordingly. (The student's grade level will be listed at the bottom of the piece, in the author info section.) In every case, we aim to elevate the writing to the next level—whatever that next level might be.

Try to leave comments that are specific, but could also be applied to other pieces—in other words, always point out why you made your comment. There is no one correct way to mentor students. It takes time to develop the skill of reading to give feedback. Practice and persistence will ensure success.
 
What tone should a mentor take?

Online comments can sometimes come across differently than intended; without seeing students face-to-face you can’t gauge their reactions. So be truthful, but keep a pleasant, respectful tone. You do not have to be effusive; these kids do want constructive criticism.

Center your comment on the particular piece of work, and your personal reaction to it. Use 'I' statements, ("I had trouble understanding this") rather than 'you' statements ("The way you wrote this is confusing").

It is important to develop your own voice through your comments. It's much easier to engage with a mentor over the web if that mentor has some personality. It's ok to let your humor or emotional connection to a piece show. Sometimes your comments may not seem completely "scholarly," but if it is an honest response to a piece of writing, the writer will appreciate having that feeling shared with them. Think of it as a conversation, writer to writer.

It should always be your goal to encourage the writers to keep writing—or to explore new creative outlets (perhaps their poem would make a great song, or their story could be expanded into a theatrical piece). There are many different ways to do this, and each mentor has a slightly different style. The fun part is finding yours.
 
Should mentors respond to students?

Sometimes students respond directly to mentor feedback. Mentors should keep on top of these responses -- it can be the beginning of a great conversation, but remember to keep on topic and constructive. Some of the best feedback takes place in dialogue, rather than monologue. That said, YWP suggests that you not engage in a prolonged debate, or any conversation not revolving around the craft of writing.
 
Will I have the opportunity to mentor in a more formal instructional environment?

Yes! Young Writers Project is rolling out a new facet of our educational offerings—YWP Academy.

Here, learners will come together to participate in project-based online Workshops (a series of related steps that achieve learning). The content offered will be diverse and will span the spectrum of rigor. We’ll be adding new Workshops all the time. These offerings are FREE but represent a slight departure from the freewheeling youngwritersproject.org that exists now in that these are rigorous formal learning exercises. It’s an exciting new step!

If you’d like to get involved with creating and staffing your own instructional endeavors on youngwritersproject.org, get in touch! We’ll also be looking for mentors to pair up with the different Workshops, based on interest and expertise. This is a great opportunity to engage with our young writers on a deeper level, and flex your instructional design and teaching chops around topics that are important to you.

Keep an eye out for more information, and feel free to reach out with questions or suggestions!
 
Tips for connecting with writers and their pieces

Give them a Nudge
Often, it just takes a small reminder to get a writer to engage with your comment. Try making a note to the effect of, “let me know what you think!” Asking a question in your comment is also a great way to start a dialogue.

Writers are sent an email notification when they receive a comment on their work; most will check in to see what you wrote!
 
Check Back In
You’ll also receive an email if someone replies to your comment. Keep your eyes peeled for these notification emails, and be sure to check back in with writers who’ve responded.

You can also opt to receive emails if a post you commented on is revised. This is handy to see the impact of your feedback. To receive these emails, go to your profile, click the edit tab, scroll down near the bottom -- above the terms and conditions agreement -- and check the box beside the words "Update Notify." Be sure to save.

You can see a comparison of changes that have been made to a revised piece by clicking the "Revisions" tab at the top of the piece. Use this feature to see how - and if - your feedback was incorporated!
 
Be Specific
One thing that we’ve learned from our users is that they want specific and detailed feedback. They get a lot of generalized feedback from peers and teachers in school, but are craving deep, thoughtful feedback on their words and how to improve them.

This doesn’t mean to nitpick small errors like spelling and punctuation, but to provide feedback on specific aspects of the writing. Where did you, as a reader, get confused? Was there a word that threw you off? Was there a sudden change of tone or rhythm? What questions came into your head, and when? These observations give the writer something to connect to, and usually lead to a fruitful exchange.
 
Have fun
The best comments come from mentors who enjoy reading and providing feedback, the ones who remember how valuable and positive it is to have someone affirm your work and help you get better. So have some fun with it! Pick the pieces that interest you, dig into what you enjoy, and share some positive energy!