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A Mentor’s Story

sherwood_anderson_1933One way a novelist can become successful is by having a more established writer as a mentor. Writing groups can also serve the role of a mentor. Let me share an illustration of the impact a mentor.

In 1919, a youthful veteran returned from World War I. He relocated to Chicago moving into a particular neighborhood with the hope of being near to the author Sherwood Anderson.

The green writer was impressed by the critical acclaim for Anderson and his novel Winesburg, Ohio. He had heard that Sherwood Anderson was willing to help aspiring writers. He worked to meet Anderson. The two men became close friends. They met almost every day to read newspapers, magazines, and novels. They dissected the writings they read.

The aspiring writer brought his works for critique having Anderson help him improve his craft. Anderson went as far as introducing the want-to-be writer to his network of publishing connections. The striving author did okay with his first book “The Sun Also Rises.” The new writer was Ernest Hemingway.

Sherwood Anderson didn’t stop there. He moved to New Orleans where he met another aspiring writer. He took the young man through the same steps and paces of the craft. He shared an apartment with this young man. He even invested $300 in getting this writer’s first book “Soldier’s Pay” published. This young author was William Faulkner.

Anderson would later move to California and repeat the process with John Steinbeck. Sherwood Anderson also mentored Thomas Wolfe and Erskine Caldwell. Ray Bradbury says Winesburg, Ohio was on his mind when he wrote The Martin Chronicles. He rewrote Winesburg, Ohio placing it on the planet Mars.

Only Mark Twain has had a greater influence in molding modern American writing than Sherwood Anderson. Anderson didn’t do too badly, did he? William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck each won the Nobel Prize for Literature, and there are multiple Pulitzer Prizes between them.

If you are serious about writing I encourage you to find a mentor or join a writing group. The support of my writer’s group and critique group keep me motivated. If you are an established writer, why not invest in the life of a new or aspiring writer?


Photo Credit: Public Domain
Photographer: Carl Van Vechten
English: Photo of author Sherwood Anderson.
Date: 29 November 1933

Source: This image is available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3a42796. As the restrictions on this collection expired in 1986, the Library of Congress believes this image is in the public domain. However, the Carl Van Vechten estate has asked that use of Van Vechten’s photographs “preserve the integrity” of his work, i.e, that photographs not be colorized or cropped, and that proper credit is given to the photographer.


clean shavenJimmie Aaron Kepler is a novelist, poet, book reviewer, and award-winning short story writer. His work has appeared in over twenty venues, including Bewildering Stories and Beyond Imagination. When not writing each morning at his favorite coffee house, he supports his writing, reading, and book reviewing habit working as an IT application support analyst. He is a former Captain in the US Army. His blog Kepler’s Book Reviews was named a 100 best blogs for history buffs. You can visit him at http://www.jimmiekepler.com.


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