Friday, May 20, 2011

I had a mentorship date with Susan Miller

Never Done: I had a mentorship date with Susan Miller

Two months ago, I wrote a blog post called I asked someone to mentor me, in which I wrote that I'd seen a Facebook status update by my favorite web series writer with a link to an article called Why We Must Mentor Other Women, and that after some consideration, I wrote to her to ask her if she would consider mentoring me on both the business and writing end as I write a web series I've been working on for a couple of months. I didn't want to name her without her permission, but now that we had a wonderful coffee date, I can tell you that it was Susan Miller -- multi-award-winning playwright, television writer, screenwriter and web series writer.

Susan's most prominent current project is Anyone But Me -- a web series about New York teens coming of age in a post 9/11 world. The main character is Vivian, an out lesbian NYC teenager who along with her firefighter father moves to Westchester, after his lungs got messed up on 9/11. When she moves out of the city, she is driven back into the closet, and the show follows her, her girlfriend, and her new community as she navigates the uncharted waters of being a gay city teen in the suburbs. It's good. Really good. (You can watch it if you follow the link I posted.)

So Susan wrote back to me and said yes, she'd be happy to meet with me. In the time before we had our date, I watched interviews she'd given, and in one of them (or maybe it was an acceptance speech?) she talked about how she and her current writing/producer partner, Tina Cesa Ward, met, which was simply that Tina cold-called Susan, and Susan answered her phone. In the anecdote, Susan advises the audience not to screen calls -- to be a person who actually picks up the phone, and I remember thinking, What good advice. I remember the days I eagerly awaited phone calls. Now I screen them relentlessly, afraid of what might push in on my overly-scheduled day. This calls up the mide (middah) of Righteousness: What is hateful to you, do not to do others, as well as the hokey metaphysical Law of Attraction, and makes me think that if I want people to answer my calls, I better start answering theirs.

And so it seems that before I even met her, Susan had become my mentor. And then we met, and it just got better (as Dan Savage said it would.) She was incredibly generous with her wide range of knowledge, and answered my questions about the business end of producing a web series (ads, sponsorship, budget, how does the writer get paid?) as well as the writing end (structure, structure, structure.) She made it incredibly easy to practice humility: seek wisdom from everyone, by being relaxed and open, but also genuinely interested in me and what I'm up to. Plus, she is a warm, smart, funny, kind person -- and so web series writing aside, I just plain enjoyed her company.

I came away from the meeting encouraged and invigorated to get on with my project -- as well as empowered with good, clear information and a growing network of support. I also came away more committed to offering my own knowledge, skills, and expertise to others when asked. What about you -- are you in a position to offer the same?


  1. I bet Susan came away just as satisfied and invigorated. Mentoring seems to be a lost art, but you are helping to bring it back by not only seeking it but writing about it. When I was ed. of Bay Area BusinessWoman we did a story about a mentoring org for women and girls, and the stories that came out of it - wow!

    And, yes, seek wisdom from everyone. I swear I've learned some of the most powerful lessons from the meekest or least powerful people.

    Thank you for your wisdom.

  2. I'm so behind on your blog but I'm catching up and this post is so exciting! I *LOVE* Anyone But Me, and I'm deliriously happy for you. :)