Ten Reasons to Take Advantage of the Crystal Lake Mentorship Program

1) You get to work with Crystal Lake founder & CEO, Joe Mynhardt.

If I had a dollar for every worthwhile publishing, marketing, and general strategy insight Joe provided me with over the thirty days in March I spent working with him, I’d have, oh, somewhere upwards of $500 or so. The reading materials alone that Joe provides his mentees with are worth well over the cost of the mentorship in total (which is $150 for the full program. Crystal Lake also offers mentoring by a single editor for $75, career mentoring with Joe only for $100, and editing services of up to 5,000 words at a cost of one cent per word). By the time I completed my month with Crystal Lake, I had a giant, three-ring resource binder worth its weight in gold, as well as personalized career advice from Joe to consider before my debut fiction collection will be published in August 2018 by Unnerving, advice that I will absolutely be taking (keep your eye out for a free eBook on Amazon prior to the release of Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked. I’d tell you more, but then I’d have to lock you in a metal crate and sew hooves in place of your hands and feet so you can’t escape and, err, well, just read Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked when it comes out, my threats will make a lot more sense then).

2) You get to work with one of the best independent publishing companies in the business.

Do you know who won the 2017 Bram Stoker Award for Best Anthology? Doug Murano, for Behold!: Oddities, Curiosities & Undefinable Wonders, published by Crystal Lake Publishing. How about Best Poetry Collection in 2015? That would be Alessandro Manzetti, with Eden Underground, published by Crystal Lake Publishing. Nominations include Horror 101: The Way Forward and Horror 201: The Silver Scream, both by Joe Mynhardt and Emma Audsley. If you want to be the best writer you can be, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to surround yourself with anything but the best, and Crystal Lake Publishing undoubtedly falls into this category.

3) You get feedback from the incomparable Stephanie M. Wytovich.

Crystal Lake has a remarkable array of editors to choose from, but going with Stephanie was a no-brainer for me. I’ve been borderline obsessed with Stephanie from the moment I finished her contributions to Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Volume 2. “On This Side of Bloodletting” strikes perhaps the darkest, most delicious balance between heartbreakingly stunning beauty and the grotesque I’ve ever read, and the selected poems from Brothel lead me straight to devouring the Bram Stoker Award-winning collection in its entirety.

Working with Stephanie is a dream. I signed up for the Crystal Lake Mentorship program a few days before StokerCon, and was able to meet her in person for the first time. After our Starbucks meetup, I was riding one of the Biltmore Hotel’s crowded elevators to the next activity, and a writer from the back corner shouted, “Did I just see you with Stephanie? If you’re her new mentee, I just want to tell you that Stephanie is absolutely amazing. You won’t find a better editor or champion of your work than she, and it’s not just a job to her...she truly cares!” My experience with Stephanie has not deviated from this instance; she is so wonderful, you have to shout it across a crowded elevator, loud enough for the Biltmore’s ghosts to hear!

One of the stories I worked on with Stephanie over the course of the month went through such a metamorphosis, a reader would be hard-pressed to tell it was the same piece I’d come to the mentorship program with. Another story that Stephanie sprinkled her magical editor fairy dust over was further along when I sent it to her, but which benefited astronomically from her pointed, poetic insight. She challenged me to dig deeper into my characters, pushed me not to shy away from their humanity and their flaws, and ultimately, caused me to analyze the story to such an extent that an underlying thread—one I hadn’t seen initially but which was there for the taking—presented itself as a tie in to my story’s ending line, allowing for the entire narrative to flow in a way it hadn’t previously, and for me to be as satisfied and happy as I could have possibly been with the story’s final draft.

4) Ben Eads shares his personalized lesson plans with you.

The second editor I chose to work with was Ben Eads. If you’re not familiar with Ben’s resume, let me give you a little background information. His Omnium Gatherum published novella, Cracked Sky, has too many five-star reviews to count, he’s been a contributor to some of the most prestigious anthologies around, and his editing credits include the fourth installation of the illustrious Tales from the Lake series. But while his resume is stellar, it’s Ben’s energy and enthusiasm that cannot be topped. My mentorship month included three Skype sessions with Ben, and when I tell you that he packed as much material as possible into those sessions, I am not exaggerating in the slightest.

We covered fiction writing aspects from characters and plotting, theme, story structure, and editing your own work, to showing vs. telling, narrative voice, and everything in between, he provided me with anecdotal instances of working in the industry, thought-provoking writing prompts, and the quickest turnaround time on my numerous story drafts while maintaining some of the highest quality editing I’ve ever seen (seriously, sometimes he’d get a complete edit of a 5,000 word story draft back to me in a matter of hours!). Ben Eads takes horror writing seriously, and treats his job as a Crystal Lake mentor with the utmost care and consideration.

5) Ben Eads’ enthusiasm for writing, reading, and publishing great horror literature is unparalleled.

Ben’s getting a second shout-out here, because I want to highlight one more point regarding his teaching / mentoring style. I have pages and pages of handwritten notes from the discussions we had regarding my story he edited, as well as pages of typed notes from his craft lessons, and ‘pages’ of mental memories of the insights he shared in the course of the more casual conversations we’d have following those structured lessons on skill and technique. I have new ‘to-read’ titles shelved in Goodreads, notes jotted down in the margins of my notebook regarding everything from tips and tricks for dialogue tags to the best Twilight Zone episodes to watch, and all resulted from the laidback yet tremendously informative Skype sessions we shared, during which another editor may have required more than one coffee break, and perhaps a nap.

6) The other Crystal Lake editors you can choose to work with are equally impressive.

According to the Crystal Lake website, a mentee can also have the pleasure of working with Monique Snyman and Frank Cernik as part of the program. Monique started off her career by editing dissertations for university graduates before she branched out into fiction and non-fiction. As a content editor, she’s worked with a variety of authors at different levels in their careers, trying her best to make an otherwise daunting experience as pleasant as possible. She is currently the in-house editor at Crystal Lake Publishing, and has been nominated as the Best Editor of the Year at the SAIR Books Festival in 2015.

Shortly after his Fulbright teaching grant, Frank Cernik switched from editing literary magazines to developing novels. Since then, he has worked with independent authors in every genre from workplace comedy to space opera to medical suspense and horror. He helped found the Editorial Freelancers Assocation's Diversity Initiative and its Welcoming program in 2017.

While those esteemed biographies are on the Crystal Lake website, there’s nothing listed there about a ban on partaking in the mentorship program over back-to-back months, and working with all four of the Crystal Lake editors in addition to founder Joe Mynhardt!

7) All three Crystal Lake Publishing staff members I worked with offered to do more than the original mentorship plan entailed.

Ben Eads and I exchanged sixty emails over the course of the mentorship month. Sixty! That alone should tell you how hard he had me working. Stephanie and I exchanged twenty-five emails, and Joe and I, thirty. Ben offered me a fourth Skype session, should my story submission require it. Joe read through more than one document detailing my personal career goals, strengths, weaknesses, and background information. Stephanie edited two complete short stories, and also discussed my novel WIP with me, both in person at StokerCon and over email. I put in a lot of work over the course of the month, but the collective efforts of these three individuals were consistently astounding.

8) Your confidence as a writer will skyrocket.

Both Ben and Stephanie stripped my stories down to the bare bones (not as far as plot or structure, but in terms of deep character development, consistent tone, connective thematic elements, and other, more abstract, less pin-downable constructs), then worked to build them back up with me, but they also were quick to point out the positives, and never provided criticism that was anything other than completely constructive. I left every Skype session and every email exchange feeling like I had a hell of a lot of work to do, but also like I had the tools and the talent to complete that work, and that I was becoming a better writer in the process.

9) You graduate from the mentorship month with all the tools you need to succeed.

Expounding on that last point, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve turned to my career tailored resource binder for the answer to a social media, Goodreads, or Amazon question, and each time, the answer was in the materials Joe provided me with. As the release date of my debut collection draws ever closer, I feel like a fully outfitted soldier ready for battle, armed with strategic marketing plans, authorial best practices, instructions for social media success, and a great deal more knowledge about Amazon’s HTML codes and other retailer descriptions than one human should ever have to be subjected to.

10) Upon completing the mentorship program, you feel like a part of the Crystal Lake family.

When the mentorship month is over, you don’t have to say goodbye to the publisher and editors, rather, your relationship with Crystal Lake is just getting started. Your mentorship price includes the invitation to join an exclusive mailing list for weekly inspiration and tips from the team, and Joe, Stephanie, and Ben are all accessible and active on both email and social media.

The Crystal Lake Mentorship Program was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for my writing career. I highly recommend this service, for the knowledge that the founder and editors will impart, but also for a lesson in professionalism, grace, humility, determination, and perseverance that is worth far more than the cost of admission. Best of luck if you choose to work with Crystal Lake…I look forward to seeing more great horror collections, novels, and anthologies from their amazing team of writers and editors, and the mentees they work with, in years to come.

-Christa Carmen
June 15, 2018
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Published on June 15, 2018 05:26
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