Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Mentorship Contest Winners: 2016

Melanie Dearman
Winner of mentorship with PAL member E. Katherine Kottaras

In her mentorship application, Melanie submitted 20 pages from her young adult novel, Clarity, which opens with Holly, a high school senior, who has just broken up with her first girlfriend.

“I’m really inspired by the ever-evolving YA community and the bold new directions its writers and publishers are taking all the time,” Melanie wrote in her application for the mentorship. “Above all, though, I write because I can’t help it. Because whenever I have a question with no simple answer, I end up wrestling with it in fiction.”

Though Melanie has been writing since childhood and has about four novels and 10 short stories under her belt, she calls Clarity the most serious effort she’s made to date. “When people ask me in the future how many novels I’ve written, I’ll probably tell them that this was my first, because it feels like a much larger undertaking than anything else I’ve ever done.” She hopes the mentorship can help her prepare the manuscript for representation by an agent within the next year.

Cheryl Manning
Winner of mentorship with PAL member Catherine Linka

“I want to write a powerful, page-turning novel,” wrote Cheryl Manning in her mentorship application. “I wish that I could write a brilliant first draft, but that’s not realistic. I need constructive criticism to make my work better. … It’s a comfort to have the perspective of a reader regarding what works and what doesn’t work.”

Clearly, though, there is already a lot working in the first 10 pages of Cheryl’s middle grade novel, The Last Crane, which she submitted with her application. The same manuscript won first place in this year’s Writer’s Day contest in the middle grade category. Set in Hiroshima in 1945, The Last Crane is inspired by a true story about a boy’s resilience in the face of unthinkable devastation and loss. Twelve-year-old Kenji, a would-be warrior, witnesses the bombing of his city, which kills his brother and starts Kenji on a path toward valuing peace.

Though Cheryl thinks that writing every word, scene and chapter can present challenges, she struggles most with voice and hopes her mentor can help. During the six-month mentorship, she wants to hone not only the voices of her characters, but also her literary voice.