Mentors or Peeps?

Definitions for “peeps” as a shortcut for associates or friends cite slang and Internet use. One goes on to editorialize that she dislikes the term and hopes the word is short-lived. Real usage seems to include a layer that indicates a very close connection between members as signified in the expression “my peeps.” I have peeps who also serve another role.

For about fifteen years, I’ve been active in the monthly critique meetings of Louisiana SCBWI [Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators]. I thought of them this week when this quote turned up on A.Word.A.Day:
    "Just as mentors come in different shapes and sizes, they fill different roles. Ms. Brooks said the common denominator is that they are good and active listeners willing to offer constructive, but blunt, criticism and, at the same time, share stories about their own failures." Mark Evans; Age No Barrier; Globe and Mail (Toronto, Canada); Mar 30, 2012.

Check the picture taken at a monthly meeting and you can see some of the physical differences of my mentors, but variety goes beyond what you see. My mentors come from different political and religious persuasions, different marital and family statuses, and different cultural backgrounds. Trust me, they are good and active listeners.

They play different roles in this listening. Ears on one are sensitive to overly repeated words, and she is quick to suggest good synonyms. Another spots plot inconsistencies. A third says, “Scrap your first chapter. The story starts in the second.” All pronounce the death sentence on “ly” words.

But my peeps go beyond critiquing as they share rejection letters and sad stories or rejoice over acceptance or even near-acceptance. Without fail, they reassure the writer, suggest rewrite options, and offer ideas about which editor or agent should be the next recipient of the manuscript.

My mentors may not even realize they also furnish motivation to stay on track. Lollygagging in the yard, checking Facebook, or stirring up a batch of cookies seems pretty reasonable to me until the meeting date looms on the calendar.

I know the question I will face. “What are you working on?”

“Nothing,” doesn’t seem to be an acceptable answer.

Mentors or peeps? Actually, both. Thanks, Peeps.