Each developing writer chosen to participate in the blogging showcase “We Are Not Numbers” is assigned an experienced mentor to coach and critique his or her work, both in terms of the use of the English language to reach a Western audience and the art of storytelling/personal narrative. In addition (or instead), some mentors will be asked to speak to the entire group of developing writers by Skype on their published work, storytelling style, etc.
Mentors must be:
- Published writers or professional editors with demonstrated skills in storytelling (vs. straight news or academic studies) OR ESL teachers. (We have two levels of developing writers in the program – those who most need help with English-language structure and those who are advanced in that respect and are seeking mentorship on the art of the narrative arc.)
- Enthusiastic about and committed to helping developing storytellers improve their skills and enhance their impact.
- Available and accessible to their assigned “students” (within reasonable limits).
Requirements of mentors (except those who speak only)
- Accept a minimum of one developing writer at a time, for three-month stints (with a goal of one story developed each month).
- Confer with the assigned writer(s) via email, g-chat, Facebook, Skype or any other mechanism that is mutually available and considered effective. This process may start before the writer begins his or her assignment, or when a first draft is ready for review. Each mentor and writer should touch base on the mutually desired process after their “introduction.”
- Throughout the process, and once you feel your work on a particular essay is as far as it can or should go, you should keep the Not Numbers international director (Pam Bailey) informed on progress and problems.
- When the three-month stint with a particular writer is complete, mentors who choose to continue (and we hope all of you do!) will be rotated to another participant. However, we encourage mentors and writers to stay in touch after their assignments are complete.
- Promote the We Are Not Numbers site to your networks, and re-publish selected essays, with a link back.
There is a tendency to think that coaching and critiquing constitutes censoring or “dilution” of their narrative. These young writers want and need help in telling their stories in the most effective way possible to Western audiences. In fact, Ahmed Ferwana, an English instructor in Gaza and one of the senior advisors to We Are Not Numbers, says that one of the biggest problems developing writers face there is that they don’t receive honest/comprehensive feedback. The key is to:
- Avoid editing articles yourself except for pointing out small fixes. (When you do the latter, use “track changes mode” so that all edits stand out.)
- Instead, highlight patterns that need to be addressed (such as run-on sentences, overuse of superlatives and need for anecdotes).
- Make liberal use of the “comment” function in Word to explain.
- Be sure to position constructive criticism as an “area needing improvement,” to further strengthen the good content that already exists. Although they desperately need more straightforward feedback to help them improve, they also need to be “built up” to overcome their insecurities.
Anyone interested in being considered as a mentor should email Pam Bailey (firstname.lastname@example.org). Include a description of your writing/teaching credentials, as well as an explanation of how you became interested in Palestinian rights and why you want to get involved in We Are Not Numbers.