Over the past few months, we've explored POC mentorship at writing retreats and residencies, as well as studied and surveyed graduate creative writing programs in the US to determine where faculty of color are teaching and who teaches where (and what). All of this is helpful if you have the time and resources to invest in attending a program or retreat -- but sometimes that's not always possible. What then? Where do you find a mentor or coach?
If you're a writer of color and find yourself outside of the university setting or far from writing retreats and local organizations that serve writers of color, it can be a hard and lonely experience. While you can purchase books, follow blogs and social media, and listen to podcasts, at some point you will probably start wondering what you might be missing -- or at least, wonder how to take your writing to the next level, especially when you do not have anyone around you who models what this might look like.
When I first moved to Portland, OR area, I found myself feeling lost and disconnected. I didn't really know anyone in the local literary community, and despite efforts to attend readings and events, I often felt outside the community and somewhat removed from the conversation. Partly that was due to my own anxieties as a newcomer to the area, but it was also true that in a predominantly white community, I frequently felt I had few if any fellow writers of color to converse with. It wasn't that I specifically wanted to discuss race or political activism, but instead, as I came to realize, that I simply wanted the reassurance that my lived experiences as a person of color were real, acknowledged, and reflected (even if only in a small way) in the work and conversations I was encountering. To confirm not only that I was not alone, but also that there was a community -- or at least a hope for a community.
A few months later in October 2015, I started reaching out to one of the other Asian American writers I had briefly met who happened to also live in Portland area. I reached out hoping to find or create a writers group of fellow POC writers -- and through her and a few others, we did start to band together.. That snowballed, becoming a huge FB group with almost 3000 members -- POC local residents from all sorts of creative fields not limited just to writing. It was a huge blessing -- but in many respects the most important thing wasn't the size that the group grew to -- it was the way in which it allowed many of us to find friends and colleagues whose work we respected, and who sometimes took on the role of mentor and coach, and who sometimes we in turn mentored and coached.
Over the past week, I've started gathering the names and websites of POC writers who offer private writing mentoring, coaching, editing, and workshop services. I'm sharing the list below in the hope that we can continue to expand this list, adding more names. I would love for this to be a resource for any writer out there, whether they are just beginning to write, are experienced but need a little help to get to the next stage, or just need to shake things up to get going again. This is by no means exhaustive, so please share your recommendations and links to the coaches and mentors you've worked with or know outside the university setting. Many of these individuals will work with you via Skype, over email, or over the phone -- some offer specific services, others are broad in scope and comfortable working across genres.
POC Writing Mentors, Coaches, and Workshop Leaders
- Neil Aitken - http://neil-aitken.com/teaching/
- Ivy Alvarez - http://www.ivyalvarez.com/mentorship/
- Glendaliz Camacho - https://www.glendalizcamacho.com/classes-courses
- Genève Chao - http://genevachao.com/coaching/
- Sam Roxas-Chua - http://www.samroxaschua.com/
- M.J. Fievre - https://mjfievre.com/professional-services/
- Jenn Givhan - https://jennifergivhan.com/manuscript-critiques/
- Linda González - http://www.lindagonzalez.net/coaching/writing-editing/
- Bernard Grant - http://www.bernardgrant.com
- Andrea Gutierrez - http://andreagtrrz.com/services/
- Roy G. Guzmán - http://www.roygguzman.com/
- Minal Hajratwala - http://minalhajratwala.com/coach/
- Rachel Heimowitz - https://www.rachelheimowitz.com/services3
- Naomi Hirahara - http://www.naomihirahara.com (email for availability)
- Elizabeth Liang - http://cargocollective.com/ElizabethLiangSoloShowandWriter/Workshop-Draft-Assessment
- Vanessa Mártir - http://www.vanessamartir.com/workshops--classes.html
- Tehlor Kay Mejia - https://tehlorkay.com/editing-services/
- Hoa Nguyen - http://www.hoa-nguyen.com/workshop/
- Wendy Ortiz - http://wendyortiz.com
- Shin Yu Pai - http://shinyupai.com/services/
- Dmae Roberts - http://dmaeroberts.com/talks/
- Lisa Marie Rollins - https://birthproject.wordpress.com/workshops/
- Claudia F. Savage - http://claudiafsavage.com/individual-consultations/
- Sandra Elaine Scott - http://www.sandraelainescott.com/mentoring/
- Sun Yung Shin - http://www.sunyungshin.com
- Bryan Thao Worra - https://thaoworra.wordpress.com/2017/12/11/booking-bryan-thao-worra/
When contemplating the value and importance of working with another POC writer as a mentor or coach, here are a few questions to consider. We'd love to hear from you on one or more of these. And let us know if you'd like to write at greater length on this subject.
1. Have you worked with a POC writing mentor or professor? If so, what did you value most about this relationship? What were some of the struggles?
2. If you've never had a POC writing mentor or professor, what do you imagine would be the difference? Have you wanted to work with someone POC, or even more specifically, someone who is also Asian American / Black / Latinx / First Nations / Pacific Islander / Arab American?
3. Where have you looked when seeking out POC mentorship as a writer?
4. Who has inspired you as a POC writing mentor / coach / professor?
5. If you are a POC writing mentor / coach / professor, what have you seen in the classroom or working one on one with students? What do you hope to offer to other POC writers who are starting out or seeking advice?
We look forward to hearing from you!
Neil Aitken is the author of two books of poetry, Babbage's Dream (Sundress 2017) and The Lost Country of Sight (Anhinga 2008), winner of the Philip Levine Prize. He is the founding editor of Boxcar Poetry Review, the administrator of Have Book Will Travel, and co-director of De-Canon: A Visibility Project.