Mentor Monday: Mindy Hardwick, Mentor for Children-at-Risk


Mindy Hardwick connected with me through my website where she found the Mentor Monday series. She told me about her experience as a mentor and I knew right away I wanted to share it with you. Her work is a perfect example of how the idea of mentorship can be expanded — with very positive results. In addition to mentoring children at a juvenile detention facility in real life, her first novel, Stained Glass Summer, highlights mentorship as a theme. Our interview follows.

Readers can connect with Mindy on her website:
Twitter: @mindyhardwick

Please share a brief bio of you and your work.
Mindy Hardwick is a published children’s writer whose books include STAINED GLASS SUMMER and WEAVING MAGIC (Forthcoming April 2012). STAINED GLASS SUMMER is a story about artistic mentorship in glass art. In the story, twelve-year-old Jasmine adores her photographer Father and wants to be an artist just like him. But when Dad abandons the family, Jasmine is sent to spend the summer with her Uncle on a Pacific Northwest Island. Soon, Jasmine is learning stained glass from island glass artist, Opal, and thinking she might just be developing a crush on Island boy, Cole. But, it’s not until Jasmine finds herself mentoring another young artist that she can truly let go of her Father and call herself an artist by her own terms.

Mindy facilitates a poetry workshop with teens at Denney Youth Juvenile Justice Center. She is the co-editor of four anthologies, written by the youth at Denney, and the editor of their blog at Mindy is included on the Washington State Arts Commission Teaching Artist Roster. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College and is a member of SCBWI. When Mindy is not writing, she is a mentor to a young lady through the Volunteers of America Children of Promise Program.

Why did you decide to become a mentor?
When I began facilitating the juvenile detention poetry workshop, I’d just left teaching. I wanted a way to stay connected to kids, while at the same time, share writing with them. A good friend of mine was running a poetry workshop with Richard Gold’s Pongo Publishing program. She encouraged me to seek out the juvenile detention center closest to me and ask if they would like to have a poetry workshop.

After I’d been running the poetry workshop for a year, I began to work on a young adult novel (WEAVING MAGIC, Forthcoming April 2012) in which my main character’s parent was in prison. During my research, I found the Western Washington’s Volunteers of America Children of Promise Program in which mentors are matched with young people who have a parent incarcerated. This mentoring sounded like something I would like to do, but I didn’t know if I could make the two year commitment. I printed the application and set it on my desk. It sat there for a very long time! Finally, the time felt right and I applied. A year ago, I was matched with a young lady who was eleven. We have a great time together and I’m so glad I am a mentor!

How many writers have you officially mentored?
Lots! I’ve been running the juvenile detention poetry workshop for over five-years. Each week, I meet with two groups of kids. There are about eight to ten kids in a workshop. Some of the teens repeat back through the detention center many times. Others are only at the detention center once. You can read some of the kid’s poems and find out about the poetry workshop at

What strengths do you bring as a mentor?
I am a good listener, and fun! I also set good boundaries which is important when working with kids-at risk.

Have you been a mentee? If so, what from that experience helps you be the best mentor you can be?
I have been a mentee! When I left teaching, I met a woman at an American Association for University Women meeting. She and I connected, and she became my mentor. She taught and encouraged me how to run a successful business. Laura has also been a Big Sister in the Big Sister/Big Brother Program, and she encouraged me to become a mentor myself. I often go to Laura when I need a sounding board for my relationship with my mentee.

If you could mentor any writer throughout time, who would it be and why?
Any teen. I love working with teens. Their voices are so fresh, and they are so honest in their writing.

If you could be mentored by any writer throughout time, who would it be and why?
Cynthia Voigt! I loved her stories as a teen. I loved the courage and heart-felt honestly which resonated in her characters. I read and reread Dicey’s Song and Homecoming, and I think a lot of Dicey’s character is in my STAINED GLASS SUMMER character, Jasmine.

Thank you, Mindy!