Read to Learn from Mentor Texts

Last week, I had the chance to attend an all day training by Kelly Gallagher, one of the leading voices on techniques to increase adolescent literacy. While there were many MANY ideas, lessons and concepts that excited me for my classroom, there were also many ideas that cross over to writing.

Recently, several collaborators on this blog listed their favorite lessons learned from the writing of different genres. While we of course encourage you to go back and read those, the most important lesson to be learned from all of those posts is that there is a fundamental necessity for writers to be readers. 
But as I was listening to Mr. Gallagher, I realized why. He taught, when working with new writers, it is important to give them a mentor text to mirror. Students can mirror form, study organization, allowing them to overcome some of the complications in writing. Then, once they have a solid idea, they can write these ideas in a way that adds meaning to original thought, gain confidence in their writing ability, and begin down a path of self-expression. 
This is why reading is so important. And while our focus was on the benefits and lessons learned within certain genres, it is a wide variety of genres that will give us, as writers, a multitude of templates from which we can create our stories.

For instance, one of my CPs just finished up the end of a character driven middle grade novel. She wanted this to have a strong emotional impact, so she tapped into the lessons learned from Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, which is most definitely not a MG book. 
Another friend who was exploring the nature of magic realism in books for an upcoming YA started reading Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen to understand how magic can be woven into contemporary settings with flawlessness. 
As for me, I’ve been reading a biography on Charles Darwin, which has provided insights into the way a person would have both a desire to move forward with an idea, and hesitate at the same time because of the newness of the situation. 
Additionally, there is great value in reading lengthy articles. I have a friend who got a two book deal from an article she read about a doll. And my own current book started with the idea of open adoption, followed by many MANY posts during November, as it is National Adoption Month. As we read, from books and texts, articles and social media, and are in tune with the idea concepts lingering everywhere, we can not only capture a sparkle of a shiny new idea, but we can experience our own series of mentoring experiences, mimicking reality in writing, and adding depth to the ability ever growing within ourselves as writers. 


Tasha Seegmiller is a mom to three kids and high school English teacher in Southern Utah. She writes contemporary women’s fiction with a dash of magic. Her loves include Diet Coke, owls, chocolate and cinnamon bears. She is the managing editor for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association quarterly newsletter.