I announced the Kaya Toast Mini-Mentorship Initiative on 6 June last year, and the first batch of mentees on 2 July. Of the six applicants selected, two pieces made it all the way to completion, and were published here and here.
Since then, I’ve had a few people ask if I’m going to open applications for the Kaya Toast Mini-Mentorship again. I really wanted to do this earlier, but ran into a few problems, most notably the fact that I was already overworked, had a book project struggling to reach completion, and spent the last quarter of 2021 burning out. Furthermore, I wanted some time to think about how that first round went, and how I might want to do things differently in the future.
If I’m being absolutely honest, 2022 hasn’t been significantly better in terms of work or burn-out so far. But my thoughts keep coming back to this mini-mentorship.
I'd really like the Kaya Toast Mini-Mentorship to become a fixture of We, The Citizens; I want this newsletter to be a space for perspectives and narratives that aren’t given much space elsewhere, and I don’t want it to always just be my voice. I don’t think I’ve mastered the craft of writing (can anyone?) but feel like I have enough experience to be able to help others who might want to put their thoughts and stories down in words. I’m not looking to cultivate a professional stable of writers (although I think it’s great if someone wants to become one). What’s more important to me is that people who have stories to tell have a shot at telling them in spaces that aren’t mediated by the ruling party, the establishment, or the state.
Basically, my thinking hasn’t shifted in any significant way from this Twitter thread I wrote about starting the Kaya Toast Mini-Mentorship Initiative in the first place.
So what does this mean?
I’ve decided to re-open the Kaya Toast Mini-Mentorship Initiative on a rolling basis. There will be no deadline for applications; I’ll assess them as they come in. I've created a standing page for this initiative here — feel free to share it with anyone who you think might be interested!
The reason I'm doing this is because the first round showed me that a significant portion of applicants might not actually be able to complete their pieces. I don't see this as an indication of failure on anyone's part; writing is not easy, and it can be difficult to find the time to keep working on a piece while juggling other responsibilities and commitments (in the middle of a pandemic to boot!) But what this means is that I might not always have to wait for a 'round of mentorships to end before having the bandwidth to take on more pieces. Opening this up on a rolling basis means more flexibility to adjust what I take on, and how many I take on, at any given time.
This means that while the strength of the application will still be the main factor, I’ll also have to consider things like how much time I have to work on the piece with the person, and, very importantly, whether I can afford to pay to publish it on We, The Citizens, if it comes to that point.
On honorariums (and where they come from)
Although there is no obligation on either party for the finished piece to be published as a guest issue of this newsletter, I do offer an honorarium of $200 per piece that gets published. I don’t have a separate fund to pay for this — it just comes out of Milo Peng Funders’ subscriptions (i.e. my income).
This process brings things closer to my own experience of pitching to publications, where an editor’s decision to say “yes” or “no” might not always be about you or how strong your pitch is. The main difference is that I’ll try to make this as welcoming and not intimidating as possible.
Building on the experience of the first round, I’ve edited the application form slightly to provide more guidance on how to communicate your idea. I might not be able to give feedback on all applications, but will try my best. Pitches that don't get picked up the first time 'round can always be revised and improved upon, then submitted again!
How can I support this?
As mentioned above, I do offer an honorarium guest issues — $200 per piece. I don't have the capacity to manage separate pots of money for different things, so I've just been paying for guest issues out of my own income, of which subscription fees from Milo Peng Funders forms a significant portion. So the best way to support this initiative is to become a Milo Peng Funder, and to get others to do the same!
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