The largest, most intimidating, and important activity of the six-month mentorship is showcasing a sample of the work produced during that time. Since I had a very specific goal, a first draft of the manuscript for the memoir, showing a sample of this is not going to be a problem.
Speaking in front of a crowd is also not an issue for me. I had my elementary school teachers in Philex Mines, Philippines, to thank for that. Also, since 2017, I have spoken in front of crowds about vulnerable aspects of my life because of all the opportunities during the Canada 150 celebrations.
In February, I was frantically getting organized for a potential new job which started after Family Day long weekend. At that point, I felt that I finished the last wholesale revision of all the 48 book chapters. I was also preoccupied with another important task that I didn’t envision as a part of my writing journey – funding applications. Sure, I did it in September but I was a bit more relaxed and wasn’t taking it too seriously. But after I actually got funding and I realized the implications of having money to help with artistic projects, I took it a bit more seriously. Doing three comprehensive funding applications asking for a larger sum of money and offering a detailed budget was more administratively taxing than I realized. And another person had an artistic idea and wanted to apply together. So, there are a lot of numbers, deadlines, and persuasive language telling strangers why they should give money for our project. Clicking the Submit button and getting the automated notification that the application was submitted gave me a huge sigh of relief.
In mid-February, I had my final one-on-one meeting with my mentor author. A few weeks before, she shortlisted three chapters that she edited for me to read in front of an audience. I timed all of them and was so happy to find one chapter that fits exactly within the six-minute limit. She gave additional tips that I didn’t even consider, such as taking a couple of seconds to self-promote afterward, and giving an introduction with enough context since I am not reading Chapter 1.
During the week before the event, I actually spent more time thinking of a meaningful way to show my gratitude to Wendy for all the help and mentorship she did over the past six months. I’m a terrible shopper and even a worse gift-giver since I tend to be anti-consumerist and simple. Then the perfect idea came. Since there is a nearby Filipino convenience store, I thought it would be great for her to experience my story in a deeper way. I purchased several products that I used to sell in the store that I managed as a child, placed them in a paper gift bag, and wrote a note.
When I arrived, it was one of those instances where I was happy to be wrong. I thought that it would be a quiet, intimate setting with just us mentors and mentees, a dozen people around a slightly larger table sharing our literary work. Turns out, it’s a whole performance, with a mic in front of a stage and a dozen rows of chairs. My quick mental math estimated about 80 people. There were writers and artists I’ve seen in the past who attended. When I told this, my husband had the same assumption and was impressed that my fellow mentees managed to present a piece of our writing in front of a larger crowd. On top of that, it is a very distinguished crowd too, people of the actual literary and artistic community in Edmonton. It’s not just a random group of people from the general public. They have a deeper understanding and appreciation of the artist and writer experience.
For the lineup of mentees, I was first, where I shared a chapter close to the end, right before I immigrated to Canada. People smiled, giggled, and shared a collective “oh!” and “aw” after I read some of the lines in the chapter. I felt they understood the rollercoaster of emotions that my younger self experienced in the stories and internal thoughts in the chapter. After my piece, I talked about the Edmonton Arts Council and the feature they did about my work, where I heavily mentioned the Horizon Writers Circle program.
Then my fellow mentees read their pieces. Essays, poems, prose, and story chapters that captivated and entertained the audience. After the formal event program concluded, so many people in the audience took the time to speak to us individually and congratulate us for being part of the program and for the work we have shared. The conversations went on for so long, the appetizers ran out by the time I finished chatting with people.
As a treat, I went to a nearby sushi restaurant and indulged. Being alone at a restaurant table was also the perfect way to wind down after being in such a cozy and crowded room – classic introvert of me.
It’s remarkable, partially unbelievable, that the six months flew by just like that. At this point, I need to wait patiently to get the funding application results so I can hire professional editors to polish the manuscript. I’m also purposefully not looking at any of the files. I figured that letting it sit for at least three months will give me a fresh perspective when I start my self-revisions again.
For now, learning a completely different kind of writing is at the forefront. Political news release writing and speechwriting will give me new skills that I think will help me improve my skill set moving forward.