[box]I get so excited when I discover a unique mentoring story, whether it’s in the form of a book, song, show or film. Today OMSF is thrilled to feature Kay Goldstein, author of Star Child. It’s a fabulous adult/YA book that takes us on a journey of Terra and Marius—two star children trying to fit in. It’s a story is about confidence and loneliness, fears and obsessions.

January is National Mentoring Month so we are particularly glad to have this tale, which uses mentoring to counter the alienation and negative feelings that diminish the possibility of hope. We all need more hope, and we all need a mentor. I’d like to thank Kay for taking the time to write this piece for the OMSF blog, and I hope you’ll buy a copy of her book!

—Dawn Carroll, OMSF Executive Director[/box]

As we begin the New Year and many of us think about making resolutions, I am reminded that all of us can use a little help achieving our goals. And one thing I learned from writing Star Child is that there is only one resolution that we really need: to be true to our selves. For if we know who we are and can nurture the very best and most unique parts of ourselves, then we will find a great satisfaction in our lives, our relationships, and our work. Any resolution that is not based in this truth is bound to fail, especially if it is designed just to please others.

The story of the star children offers inspiration as well as examples of how to get through difficult times, and how to realize one’s unique self. Both children recognized that they were different from the others. Both felt the pain of their “differentness,” even though they had caring adults and family around them. In fact, they were often pressured and even bullied to conform to the “norm.”

But each found a mentor who provided some special guidance. For Terra, it was the Ancient Mother; for Marius, it was the Baker: both appeared just when the characters most needed guidance. While different in their approaches and support, each provided similar assistance:

  • They were non-judging—that is, they were accepting of the young man and woman. The goal was not to change them into something more socially acceptable, but to help them develop their unique abilities so that they could share them with others.
  • They shared something of their own stories and experience, not all of which they were proud. In other words, they shared their common humanity.
  • Each encouraged Terra and Marius to trust themselves and to seek what they most desired.
  • Each had skills that they shared with Terra and Marius.
  • And finally, both the Ancient Mother and The Baker had great wisdom that allowed them to intervene in the lives of their community and those they mentored at critical times. Neither expected Marius or Terra to follow exactly in their footsteps but allowed them to find their own way with their guidance and support.

Kay Goldstein

Kay Goldstein

As the author of this story, I felt those characters help me understand how to write a book that was true to my own voice and self. When faced with the task of editing the final version of the story, I often imagined what the Ancient Mother or the Baker or even Terra might want to do or say. They ended up being my mentors too. It was only when the book was published that I realized that I was learning, at a much older age, many of the same lessons that Terra and Marius had learned.

January is National Mentoring Month. If you seek support, guidance, and good examples—no matter what your age—then seek out a mentor! You’d be surprised: they sometimes appear only once you have decided you need one. And consider offering your own gifts and skills to those around you. Everyone will benefit!

[box] About the Author

Kay Goldstein is the author of Star Child (Vineyard Stories), a spiritual fairy tale for adults and young adults and recipient of a 2013 Nautilus Book Award, as well as A Book Of Feasts, Stories and Recipes from American Celebrations, a James Beard Award nominee. Kay was formerly an editor for Zagat Restaurant Guides and founder of award-winning Proof of the Pudding, Atlanta’s first gourmet takeout store/restaurant and catering business offering innovative American and fusion foods. She is married to Buck Goldstein and has two grown children, dividing her time between Chapel Hill, NC, and Martha’s Vineyard, MA.[/box]

[box] Pure bliss is the only way I can describe the feeling when I get to thank the people who helped me in my career and life. So many people have shared and invested their time, wisdom, and expertise. Prior to starting this foundation, I spent most of my time tucked away in my office, writing. Then, without warning, something awful snuck up and polluted my creative ecosystem. The plug was suddenly pulled on my creative energy, and I hadn’t even completed my project. It was a ridiculous case of writers block! Desperate to get back the fire, I signed up for a class at Boston’s Pine Manor College MFA Program (founded by writer Dennis Lehane). The class was taught by a charming man named Michael Steinberg, who reviewed my writing, giggled at my frustrations and my plans, and told me that one of the “many” reasons my memoir wasn’t working “just yet” was—the end hadn’t taken place!

He told me to put my notebooks away and write something else for a while. He said that I couldn’t force my pages to fall into perfect alignment if I wanted any kind of authenticity, and that I could not cheat this project by crafting a quick (fictional)  resolution. It was the hardest, most honest advice I ever got. I had to wait—patiently—for the story of my life to develop. To a control freak like me, this wasn’t easy. I nearly threw the manuscript off the cliffs of Zuma Beach. But I didn’t. Instead, I packed it away and fiddled with some lyrics, which eventually became songs, which inspired the founding of the Over My Shoulder Foundation.

It has been years since I looked at that manuscript. Last weekend, curiosity started to burn. I rummaged through the antique chest, that premature coffin to my thousands of pages of notes. A lot has happened since I last tried to write my ending, though. So now I’m searching for a completely different one, inspired by OMSF! Then, after dusting off the manuscript, a funny thing happened—I got an email from Mike. Since I started the Foundation, I have been begging him to share his story on our blog. And now, finally, ladies and gentleman, I am so pleased to introduce one of my most important mentors, Michael Steinberg!

—Dawn Carroll, Executive Director [/box]

MJSWe encounter our most influential mentors, it seems, when we’re ready to receive them. In my case, it happened shortly after I began teaching freshman composition. In the late 60’s, all comp teachers were required to plan their courses according to an outmoded, prescriptive syllabus, one that required teachers to assign their writing students to produce a series of papers. Among them were a narrative, a descriptive essay, an argument, an expository essay, a piece of literary analysis, and a final term paper based solely on library research. This methodology had been in place since the late nineteenth century. It is a narrow, wrong-headed view of what writing is all about. But back then, there was no other option.

Around that same time, I happened to come across a book, A Writer Teaches Writing, by Donald Murray, someone of whom I’d never heard. Murray’s book advocates an inside/out approach to teaching composition. I was immediately drawn to his philosophy. And it kick-started what would over time become my transformation from writing teacher to teaching writer.

Donald Murray was one of the first writing teachers in this country to suggest that the teaching of writing (and literature) had been, for far too long, the exclusive territory of professional critics, researchers, and literature teachers—many of whom, though they might admire writing and literature, do not themselves write.

We didn’t know it back then, but this was the beginning of what would evolve into both the writing process and teacher-as-writer movements. From the late 60’s to the early 90’s these movements changed the way that introductory college writing was taught. In addition, Murray’s work sparked a renewed interest in the teaching of the personal essay, which helped foster the rise of what we’re now calling creative or literary nonfiction.

But now I’m getting ahead of myself.

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