Q&A with Nevin Mays, mentoring program coordinator

August 27, 2019

Editor’s note: Meet Nevin Mays in-person at the upcoming Red Pencil conference, where she’ll answer your burning questions about being a mentor or mentee in a session called “Q&A: Mentoring for Editors.” See you there!

Like all Northwest Editors Guild activities, our peer mentoring program is an all-volunteer affair, from the mentors and mentees to the volunteer who holds the program together—the mentoring program coordinator.

Group of 12 editors and Giant Pencil wearing sweater and glasses posing outside
Editors, along with Guild mascot Giant Pencil, posing after a mentoring program happy hour in Seattle.

The mentoring program was launched by Guild member Julie Van Pelt, out of Port Townsend, Washington, in late 2014. Julie handed the reins to Kyra Freestar, in Seattle, at the end of 2016. In April of this year, Nevin Mays, in Portland, took on the coordinator role, and she is bringing new ideas and enthusiasm to the job. We thought it would be fun to hear some of Nevin’s thoughts about professional mentoring.

Q: What inspired you to step up to coordinate the Guild’s mentoring program?

A: I am a huge believer that members of communities should actively work to pull up other members of their community, and mentorship is one way we do that, especially in professional settings. I think a mentorship program is especially important for an organization that supports people who so often work in solitude. I’m looking forward to supporting the mentoring program and everyone involved with it. 

Q: You recently participated in the Guild’s mentoring program as a mentee. What was that experience like?

A: It was fantastic to have a professional editor who supported my goals and helped me work through the things that were blocking me from reaching those goals. One of the things I wanted to work on was marketing my business, so over the course of our conversations, I put together a list of concrete materials and tasks that I’ll continue to implement in the coming months. My mentor also helped me gather up the courage to take on some speaking gigs that I don’t think I would have taken on without her encouragement. 

Q: And you’re a mentor yourself for another organization, right?

A: I volunteer for Dress for Success Oregon as a mentor. The mentoring program matches professional women with Dress for Success Oregon clients “to provide support and structured assistance, offering help getting, keeping, and advancing in a job.” My mentee and I work on setting short-term and long-term goals (we both do this!) and then meet about once a month to check in and make sure we’re both still on track and to discuss any obstacles we’ve encountered recently. I make sure she knows she can talk about the good and the bad things about her work and her life. I don’t always have ideas to “fix” what’s not great, but I try to at least be someone she can vent to and celebrate with as she navigates work and life.

Q: What do you think is unique about mentoring relationships?

A: Each relationship is different, but at its best, professional mentoring is a way that both parties can focus in on specific areas where they want to make improvements and then actively identify and activate steps toward that improvement. In some cases, it’s a matter of getting the right encouragement to just get started, and in others, it’s more about getting instruction, where one party learns directly from observing or working with the other. 

Q: And tell us just a little about you—what kind of editing do you do professionally, and what are areas you’d like to explore?

A: I specialize in books for children and teens, and I edit at all points in the publishing process, including developmental editing, copyediting, and proofreading. I’d like to add comics and graphic novel editing to my list of specialties, too. 

The Editors Guild encourages its members to learn from each other in a variety of ways, including through the peer mentoring program, which is open to any current Guild member at no additional charge. This is a great way to make connections, learn from colleagues, and contribute to the profession. Read more about the mentoring program here.

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Nevin Mays

Nevin Mays has worked in publishing for more than fifteen years with publishers including Penguin Random House, Hachette, Scholastic, and Disney. She worked in-house as an acquiring editor and list manager as well as a developmental editor and copyeditor, before opening her independent editorial services business in Portland. She also teaches Children’s Book Publishing at Portland State University, is a reading tutor with SMART, facilitates writing workshops with Write Around Portland, and is the baby bard at Green Bean Books.