After 40 plus years of observation, I have come to my own non-scientific conclusion about the difference between men and women. Men are born with their egos fully intact and they spend their lives making sure it doesn’t get nicked, tarnished, bruised or crushed. Women on the other hand are born without an ego….in essence, insecure little beings and we spend our lives trying to build up self-confidence. We both want the same thing…confidence, a feeling of worth, that our lives matter…but we come at it from different ends of the spectrum.
You may or may not agree with me but with that in mind….I have often heard it said that women do not make good mentors. That we can’t seem to reproduce the apprentice/mentor type relationship that has been going on between men for hundreds, possibly thousands of years. Sure we’re good teachers, good caregivers but mentors? I often wonder why this is so. Perhaps when men reach a certain stature in their careers and their lives, assuming the role of mentor becomes an ego boost for them. They have risen high enough that there are people “under” them and that’s quite a thrill. Perhaps when women reach a certain stature we worry that if we share all that we know with another woman, she will jump ahead of us. Or, no matter where we are at in our lives, we still have those feelings of insecurity that someone will come and take away what we have so diligently built.
I once read that the only obstacle preventing a woman from being President is other women.
So friends, I want to take this post here today to give a shout-out to a few women who have filled that mentor role for me over the past few months. These women have been teachers to me, yes, but they have also gone over and above by sharing any and all knowledge that they have about the writing industry with me. Sharing how they navigated it to create their careers. Advising me on what I might do to create mine. Sharing contacts. The pros. The cons.
I am so grateful.
I first “met” Christina Katz when she was a speaker at Portland’s Wordstock and a Willamette Writers meeting a few years back. I purchased her book, Get Known Before the Book Deal, and hung on every word. Finally this spring, I had the opportunity to take an on-line class with her and I am currently in one of her coaching groups. She goes over and above in her classes and coaching sessions. I can send her urgent, last minute emails with questions and she’ll take the time to get right back to me. In our groups, she patiently answers all of our questions and shares anything she might possibly think could help each of us succeed in our own writing lives. She does not get pulled down by the negative press the writing industry is currently receiving. She encourages us. She celebrates our successes. She does not hold back.
My introduction to Molly O’Neill came to me in the form of a distribution email that happened to catch my eye. An offer to be a part of a virtual Food Writing Boot Camp headed up by Molly for the month of August. On our first call she told us that with the writing industry in such disarray, she recognized that there was a lack of mentorship for those of us in the early stages of our writing careers. The newsroom floor where so many writers learned their craft from those who came before no longer exists. And so with her incredible career supporting her, which includes ten years at the New York Times, Julia Child/IACP awards, James Beard citations, and Pulitzer Prize nominations, she stepped forward to help fill this role. She shared any and all with us. She encouraged us. She critiqued us. She was honest about our strengths and where we needed to work a bit more. She was honest about the state of the writing world. She advised us. Coached us. She didn’t hold back.
As part of Molly’s Boot Camp was a reading list of about ten books. I’ve since made my way through about three-quarters of that list. I find it interesting how an author, someone you’ve never met, can also fill that role of mentor. Through what someone else has put down on the printed page, we can learn so much about ourselves.
After reading Judith Jones’ autobiography, My Life In Food, I came away inspired by what this woman did in her early life and continues to do today. The risks she took. The courage to forge her own path through life…in the 1940s. Her ability to pull The Diary of Anne Frank out of a rejects pile and recognize that it was a book that needed to be published. To receive the manuscript for Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and recognize it as its own masterpiece despite the fact that in 1961 American cooks wanted their food fast. To be on a phone call with her where she told us, “Good cooking is contemplative. The slow building of a meal. Light a candle and use real napkins. Eating is a ritual.” Sigh…..
Next, I read Diana Abu-Jaber’s book, The Language of Baklava. In the age where fewer and fewer people are actually buying books….buy this book. You’ll want to just hold it in your hands when you are finished and savor every single word she wrote as well as her recipes. I loved this book. I loved that she shared how life is messy. How her life is messy. People don’t always understand each other…even when they live in the same house. Or the same country. How it can be challenging to find your way and build up a life you feel good about. Sometimes you have to leave people behind…for a time…but eventually a connection can be made and for her, it was through food. So lovely.
I don’t know if women aren’t good mentors or if there simply aren’t that many around. Perhaps many of us don’t feel secure enough with ourselves to step into that role. (See paragraph one.) I’m so grateful to the women above for filling that role and enriching my life.
I’m hoping that you will take some time today to call or email another woman in your life who has been a mentor to you whether it be in regards to parenting, your job, your relationships, your health, your tennis game, your cooking skills…whatever…reach out and let them know.
What do you think? Are we insecure beings? Are women good mentors?
Thank you, friends, for reading my “food for thought” today…..xo
PS: If you happen to be a writer looking to propel your career forward, I highly recommend the classes by Christina Katz and Molly O’Neill.
You can find Christina Katz’s list of classes by clicking here. She also has a book coming out in December, The Writer’s Workshop, which is sure to be full of her nuggets of wisdom.
Molly O’Neill has a few spots left in one of her fall classes otherwise you’ll have to wait until January. You can find more information about those by clicking here.