Getting the Words Out

April 2020

By Matthew Bennett, Guild Board Member

A few years into editing full-time, I came to realize that the publication process bewildered most of my writers. Not only did they not know what hoops to jump through, they very often didn’t know that editors could help them in the leaping.

I was in a similar benighted state in my youth. I knew no professional writers or editors; accordingly, I knew nothing about publishing for pay. Books appeared as if by miracle.

Photo by Justine FG from FreeImages

In 2018, the Guild board placed increased diversity and outreach at the center of our efforts. I had simultaneously won a residency with Seattle7Writers (now sadly disbanded), which supported aspiring local writers. It is from that special blend of working with amateur writers, reflecting on my own journey, getting a hand from comrades, and striving for literary justice that the NWEG Writer Mentor Program would be born.

But how could the Guild shepherd amateur writers from pitch to print?

I sought advice from the Guild board and Seattle’s literary community. The answer was: with the collaboration of writers, editors, and publishers. To that end, I recruited Jennie Shortridge of Seattle7Writers and Aaron Burkhalter of the South Seattle Emerald. Through our collaboration, we brought together volunteer editors, amateur writers, and a publication outlet for the pilot program.

One mentee of the program, Kimberly Goode, published her first article, “Refuge Outdoor Festival Fosters Healing and Community for People of Color,” under the mentorship of Guild board member Brendan McLaughlin, whom she described as “an enthusiastic advocate in my writing journey but also a general thought partner and someone who was excited to push me.”

On her experience in the program, Kimberly states, “[It] was a great way to build momentum and confidence in my voice as a writer. Sometimes there are so many internal thoughts to work through just to get something on paper. This mentoring program was helpful in quieting those voices and reminding me that I had something meaningful to say.”

To continue getting the words out, that “something meaningful,” this year the Guild will collaborate with another local publication, Seattle’s Crosscut, an affiliate of PBS station KCTS 9. Guild volunteers and several Crosscut editors will mentor aspiring writers and, as with last year’s program, writer mentees will be paid for their first ever publication. I’m happy to say we now have a full roster of mentors. Crosscut is prepared to host our collaborations and publish the successful articles. The next step is finding those underrepresented voices—the aspiring writers who need help in the leaping. Keep your eyes on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for our upcoming announcement seeking writer participants!

Amateur writers interested in participating in the program may follow this link to our application, which includes further details on the Northwest Editors Guild Writer Mentor Program.

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Matthew Bennett

Matthew Bennett began editing in 2008 at Ronsdale Press. He founded Cascadia Editors Collective in 2016 after completing his PhD at the University of British Columbia. His current editing work includes novels, creative nonfiction, short stories, academic texts, and white papers. He is also a writer. Matthew has worked with manuscripts at every stage of production, from initial submission to final publication, providing developmental editing, line editing, copyediting, and artistic guidance.