Saturday, February 12, 2011

Mentor?

George Kelley was talking about heroes the other day, which sort of goes along with this post.

Do you have a mentor or role model--or did you have one in your youth?

I idolized Margaret Mead for years. Exotic locations, serious research, an almost missionary zeal to her work, a life of the mind. I was half-finished an anthropology major when the department self-destructed and I switched to history.

What about you? Was there someone you emulated other than your parents? Who led you in the path you took?

21 comments:

Charlieopera said...

Dave Gresham, although there was no emulating him (he was a genuine genius). He was my first English professor and he simply made me want to be smarter (not to mention write). Until then it was Dick Butkus and the like; athletes I had no shot in hell of ever being close to as good as. I took no real interest in education in general until college and Dave simply inspired me to want to do something with what was between my ears besides ram it into the chests of fullbacks. He’s the reason I eventually did pursue finishing college and writing. He was there every step of the way. I owe him an awful lot and mention him at every opportunity. Teachers, make no mistake, really do make a difference. He was one of three who kept me from going all the way wrong. And that makes all this talk about cutting back on education all the more frustrating, of course.

And of course I'm finally going after an MFA so I can teach someday, except there probably won't be any jobs then either.

Boy, oh, boy ... oh, boy

James Reasoner said...

Sam Merwin Jr. was sort of a mentor to me, because he sent me personalized rejections, usually with some writing advice, for more than a year before he finally bought one of my stories. My role models, as is obvious from my work, were all the prolific pulpsters and paperbackers. So nobody that I really knew in person.

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - I've had several mentors over the years. Some of them I've known, and some I haven't known, but have admired and tried to emulate. It's so important to have people to look up to, I think....

What makes me grateful is that there are still lots of great people whom I admire and respect and teach me all the time. I think the minute you stop being open to learning from others, you stop growing...

pattinase (abbott) said...

Sadly, I never had a teacher who really inspired me although my husband did. I really had a dull lot.
In writing, I revered many writer, but perhaps especially in my twenties, Anne Tyler Alice Munro and Ann Beattie.

Richard R. said...

P. Schuyler Miller

He was so well-versed in the subject, so able to convey a concise picture of his topic. I was amazed when I found out a person could read books and writer reviews and get paid for it. It made the book reviews I was asked to write, from that point on a completely different experience.

John McFetridge said...

Yes, I never had any teachers in writing classes that inspired me very much - I think it's because all the teachers I had were really writers and really far more concerned with their own work and only took the teaching jobs for a little extra cash and didn't put much effort into it.

Otherwise I'm like Charlie with Dick Butkus, although in my case it was Ken Dryden - how could someone win so many Stanley Cups and individual trophies and still find time to become a lawyer and then write books? And then why would he ruin his reputation by going into politics?

Yvette said...

Pippi Longstocking, the first feminist I paid attention to. (Didn't even realize she WAS a feminist, until I grew up.)

The prescient teacher (whose name I can't remember) who first took us to the library - I was six years old - and got us our first library cards.

Miss Eisenberg, my high school English teacher. Without her I might have withered.

Bob Blechman and Charles Slackman, two wonderful illustrators, two wonderful teachers. I was fortunate to study under them at The School of Visual Arts in NYC.

Walt Disney.

Agatha Christie.

Thomas Wolfe.

Robert Ardrey.

Richard Adams.

These last five are people I never met, but for one reason or another, their work inspired watershed moments in my life.

Margot is so right on the money: the moment you stop learning (and leaving yourself open to the possibility of learning), at any age, is the moment you stop growing. I was going to say: the moment you begin to die, but didn't want to get too dramatic. Ha!

Charles Gramlich said...

Two people influenced my choice of careers, both were teachers, one in college, one in grad school. As far as my life habits and philosophy, though, I've been much more influenced by fictional heroes than by real life people.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Okay, another mentor was childrens' librarian named Mrs. Robinson. She was the first African-American adult who knew my name and she led me through many books I would never have found on my own and when I was twelve, introduced me to the adult librarian, who ignored me for the next five years. Mrs. Robinson-you are my real mentor.

Cap'n Bob said...

Eddie Haskell from Leave It to Beaver. Yeah, I'm not proud of it.

Ron Scheer said...

I hope none of my teachers finds this, but I have to say that one of the driving forces that got me into teaching was that I was convinced I could do better than any of them. I've learned here and there from just about everybody who has touched my life, but I don't remember meeting a single person I've wanted to emulate. I realize this doesn't speak well of me, but it's a fact.

George said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
George said...

Bob Daly, the wizard who chaired my doctoral committee, is a big influence in my life. Bob's classroom lectures are delivered with clarity and panache. His writing is clever and insightful. Bob sets the bar high and I try to emulate him each day.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Ron-that's a great reason.
Phil is convinced his dissertation adviser never read his dissertation but he was an influence.
The Beaver and Wally were brought up to me constantly as a kid because they were so darn polite.

Rob Kitchin said...

Certainly the most formative person in my early life and mentor was Barry Otterson, my youth club leader (and certainly much more important than any teacher or the books I read). He was an all-round great guy who was prepared to debate any topic and give you the room to explore your own thoughts without imposing, but asked really penerating and non-judgemental questions that would get you thinking. One of the best things I did was dedicate my third book to him. He dropped dead of a heart attack a couple of years later in his early fifties. Much better to get the dedication in when someone is alive, than to do it remembrance. I still think of him often.

David Cranmer said...

Chandler and Hemingway inspired me more than any other writers. Later Robert B. Parker and Ross Macdonald. Never met any of them.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Pretty good mentors.

George said...

Bob Daly sure read my dissertation, Patti. I still have all those pages of his editing to prove it! And he made my dissertation a Whole Lot Better!

Chris Rhatigan said...

What a great question!

I was a jazz musician in high school and college and I tried to emulate my bass teacher, Brian Torff, in every way. Aside from being one of the best living jazz bassists (despite the fact that no one knows who he is) he was such a great guy.

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Beside my parents, I had a couple coaches and a few English teachers that I looked up to and inspired me. I would also add my Grandmother to the list.

Erik Donald France said...

As a real little kid, James Bond (international/cosmopolitan), my grandfather, and my 7th/8th grade English teacher, Mrs. Joan Boyd.