Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Interview with Candace Havens : Mentors

Candace "Candy" Havens is one of the nation's leading entertainment writers. Candy has interviewed countless celebrities, including Tom Cruise, Nicholas Cage, Tom Hanks, Susan Sarandon and George Clooney.

In addition to writing columns on everything Hollywood, she has published biographies on Buffy the Vampire creator Joss Whedon, and actor George Clooney.

A Texas native, Candy attended Houston's prestigious High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and the University of North Texas. A 17-year veteran of the entertainment industry, Candy has written thousands of articles and conducted thousands of interviews. She attributes her success as an entertainment journalist to two rules. One, treat each interview like it was a one-on-one chat between two friends. Two, never be afraid to go after the interview you want, no matter how famous the subject.

Candy was a columnist for Tribune Media for 15 years, where she wrote weekly columns for an overall audience of 44 million readers. Candy is also an entertainment critic for the Dorsey Gang on 96.3 KSCS, which broadcasts in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and the Managing Editor of FYI Television Features.

I came to Candy for an article about writing mentors, because for a brief, valuable span of time, she became one for me. Her Write_Workshop yahoogroup reaches over a thousand writers, offering everything from Fast Draft and Revision Hell workshops to guest interviews with bestselling authors and publishing industry insiders. Here's what she had to say on mentoring:

L.A: When did you know you were ready to mentor others?

Candy: I've always been one to pass on information as I received it. If I learned something cool from a class, I told everyone I knew. *Smile* I'd been writing nonfiction for 20 years before embarking on a fiction career. Though they are two different things, the work ethic that it takes to succeed at both is not. I'm not sure there was a moment when I thought, "Now I'll be a mentor." It sort of grew out of people telling me they liked certain aspects of my writing and could I help them. I opened the Write_Workshop (a free writer's workshop) online because I was trying to help too many people and I wasn't getting my own work done. That allowed me the opportunity to help a lot of people at one time. It's been an incredibly rewarding experience.

L.A: You've been on both sides of the relationship. With that perspective, what's the most essential quality of a successful mentoring partnership?

Candy: I was lucky to have incredible mentors right from the start. I think it helps if you are on the same page. If you're looking for the same sort of things out of your career. Jodi Thomas was inspiring for me from the beginning because she had longevity. That's something I wanted-and to build a great career. She's also the most giving and friendly woman I've ever met. I always say I want to be like her when I grow up. Our writing is nothing alike, but we want the same things out of this career we've chosen. Jodi introduced me to my first agent, and introduced that agent to the woman who became my editor four months later. That whole thing made me a big believer in giving back, networking and mentoring.

L.A: What advice can you give writers who want to find a mentor?

Candy: This can be difficult. I won't say who, but I can remember sitting across from a very famous author and thinking, "Please, be my friend." I had this whole scenario where if she were my friend she would introduce me to her editor--you know how it works. You can't push these things. They have to develop naturally. Go to conferences and make friends with other writers. I had six really great mentors there at the beginning and I met them through other writers. I've had people ask me directly to help them and it's tough, especially for someone like me who needs to help, to say no. If I were starting out and I was on some of the writing loops with published authors, I might send a post that said what I wanted out of a career and ask if there was anyone who might have a spare moment to chat. I have people I'm helping out now, who emailed me one question and I've been working with them ever since.

For more information about Candy's novels and workshops, visit her website.

What has been your experience with mentors, writing or otherwise?


Melanie Atkins said...

Great interview! Mentoring is a special experience, on both sides. Kudos to Candace for helping others!

Charles Gramlich said...

I enjoyed this. For me, the mentors really came from the books I was reading rather than any personal contact. I didn't know any writers growing up,

Marilyn Brant said...

Wonderful interview, ladies, although I kept wanting to tell the people in my house: "OMG! Candy interviewed George Clooney!!" :)

I've had writing mentors who literally cut sentences and paragraphs out of my drafts, which led to valuable lessons in editing. But I've also had mentors who--just by the way they approached their writing life--showed me by example the kind of author I wanted to be. So, I've been grateful to both types.

Sandra Ferguson said...

Great interview, LA and Candy. Mentors come from all sorts of backgrounds, don't they? I have a few readers who are major die-hards for my writing and are constantly asking for the next book. That can be a mentor too. Someone who pushes and prods and forces us forward. Mentors make us sparkle.

L.A. Mitchell said...

Charles-I really believe the written word can act as a mentor, too. I once read a biography on an author I adored. Her path made me believe it was possible at a time I really needed to hear that.

Thanks, everyone, for stopping by :)