We are teaming up with OKREAL for our interview series, “Pay it Forward.” We spoke with women who we collectively admire to hear what mentorship means to them, the advice that has been most meaningful and the importance of uplifting the women around you. OKREAL is a platform that curates wisdom shared by a range of smart, leading women role models.
Third in our series is Roxane Gay, author of “Bad Feminist” and “Hunger.” We spoke with Gay about informal mentorships, lifting up women writers and how she handles critiques of her work.
Check back next week for our fourth interview in this series. We’ll be talking to Charlotte Palerminio of Snapchat.
Novelist Tayari Jones has long been a mentor to me. I love her professionalism as a writer and how willing she is to nurture up and coming black writers and promote black writers in general, whenever she can. She has given me excellent advice on navigating the world of publishing, the tenure track and so much more. And she is an incredible, elegant and intelligent writer so she also leads through the example of her work.
A good mentor or leader is someone who is confident in what they know, willing to recognize talent in those they work with, and able to give criticism constructively.
This has absolutely been the case. Mentoring comes in such unexpected places and forms. There are formal and informal mentoring relationships and sometimes, a mentoring experience lasts no longer than a moment, but remains significant in someone’s life.
I try to support other women writers as much as possible by promoting their work, blurbing their books, offering advice when asked.
Having a great mentor earlier in my writing career really helped me to make good decisions that would ensure I could have a career and not be a one-hit wonder.
I struggle not to take things personally when my work is critiqued. But as I get older, I get better about taking it personally and then getting over it and hearing what’s really being said.
I do my best work when I am writing at home, late at night. I also do some of my best work at events, when I am on stage and focused on the audience.
None comes to mind.
Take yourself and your ambitions seriously.
I want women to know that they can speak firmly and confidently about what they want and need. They do not have to apologize or be demure or equivocate to be heard.