Shane 's Reviews > Mentor: A Memoir

Mentor by Tom Grimes
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's review
Jul 14, 2011

really liked it

Tom Grimes never made a huge career out of writing. He has published a few mediocre novels with a handful of good reviews by renowned publications. After years of wishing to drink with the “big wigs” of the literary world, Grimes enrolled in the MFA program at University of Iowa. Soon after, he was hanging at the local bar with famed literary mogul Frank Conroy, the program director that personally accepted Grimes into the workshop.
Many writers have been writing memoirs on their writing endeavors such as Stephen King (On Writing), Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird), Joyce Carol Oates (The Faith of a Writer), and Ray Bradbury (Zen and the Art of Writing), but none have taken the time to really home in on their honesty and humiliation. Grimes writes: “The clumsiness of my prose stunned me. Why would anyone want to publish my novel? I felt ashamed to have it attached to my name” (67).

There is not one writer that can admit that he or she is entirely thrilled with everything he or she has written. In fact, I try to publish more recent work so when one Googles my name the atrocity I have produced in junior college doesn’t show up until pages later. (Yes, I Google my name, but only because people have published the horror zine my friend and I edit online for free.) But it’s refreshing to see Grimes write what all writers think. It gets lonely at that L-shaped desk with just a glass of tea spiked with Jameson and a small light you got in third grade and keep because it’s kitsch. We forget that there are people like us—people that stress over sentences, people that cancel plans with friends to stay in and craft the finest sentences or obsess over a paragraph, people that love words more than themselves. And because of Grimes’ memoir we are reminded not just that there really are other writers, but that the task is extraneous and daunting.

Throughout the memoir, Grimes writes that he constantly sought approval and refuge in Conroy, his friend-mentor. Although some writers may not have a writing mentor, they can identify with Grimes’ “puppy dog syndrome” from publishers and readers. We just want someone to love us. Mentor is less of a success story about writing than it is about friendship. The memoir has been getting rave reviews. Grimes never gave up and has found the piece that will define his career.
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