A Look Inside the Loft Mentor Series (plus Kristin Naca audio)

Posted on Fri, May 27 2011 8:50 am by Guest Author

Submissions to participate in the 2011-2012 are due June 1, 2011 by 5 p.m. Guidelines

[pullquote]To say that my writing life would be much, much less without the involvement and generosity of these writers would be an understatement. [/pullquote]A friend once remarked "Overwhelming generosity is the answer to a world obsessed with scarcity." After being selected to work with six established authors and 11 emerging writers in the Loft Mentor Series this year, I know exactly what she means.

During the first of several Mentor Series potlucks, I kept reminding myself: "Pretend that you belong here. Pretend that you deserve this." I didn't have an MFA, I had only been writing seriously for two years, and good lord, I worked in the sciences. But when I applied, I knew that for one year I wanted writing and reading and words like "lyric essay," "reflective voice," and even "pedagogy" to be the axis around which all other parts of my life spun.

As a nonfiction writer, I spent the year working intensively with Patricia Weaver Francisco and Toi Derricotte, while still having the opportunity to study craft with the fiction and poetry mentors. To say that my writing life would be much, much less without the involvement and generosity of these writers would be an understatement.

The Mentor Series has not only been a chance to learn about the art and business of writing from authors who are deeply dedicated to each participant's artistic development; it has also been a year of self-discovery and firsts. For the first time, I wrote a manifesto, I wrote about September 11th, I wrote poetry after gazing at an electrical outlet, and fiction that sprang from archaeological notes. I wrote about my family, my religious faith, and my body. None of this writing would exist without the challenges and support of the mentors and the incredible community of other emerging writers that formed around this experience.

The other writers! At the end of a hard week or a difficult bout of writer's block were the other writers—among them a playwright, a geologist, an activist, and all of them dedicated to making writing a significant part of their lives, all of them believing that writing is a path and a destiny rather than a simple hobby. They acted as a haven on the weekends, ready to fix the beauty goggles back onto my eyes and prepare me for weeks during which making time for writing and observation became progressively more important.

At one of the last Mentor Series readings, Patricia mentioned to a group of writers that this year has effectively handed us our "writers' cards," our licenses to believe wholeheartedly that we are artists whose words belong in the world. This beautiful, generous, glorious year handed 12 people their writers' cards. It showered them with unending support, opportunities for professional and personal growth, and ensconced them in what I will defend to the death as the most vibrant literary community in the country.

Natalie Vestin is a writer, public health researcher, and yoga teacher who lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota. She is a recipient of a 2010-2011 Loft Literary Center Mentor Series Award in Creative Nonfiction. She writes to communicate her love of place, nature, and wildlife, and she has studied nature writing with David Gessner at Orion Magazine’s Wildbranch Writing Workshop.

Listen to Kristin Naca's April 1st, 2011 Mentor Series reading.