Personal Stories from the IPEd National Mentoring Program

With the accreditation exam now behind us, here is an article that one of Elizabeth Manning Murphy’s exam-preparation mentees, Melissa Faulkner, wrote for Blue Pencil (the newsletter of the NSW Branch of IPEd). Melissa’s article spells out a lot about how the National Mentoring Program works, and shows that it can be enjoyable and that both mentor and mentee can learn a lot from the experience.

Melissa’s article is followed by Elizabeth’s response, which was also published in Blue Pencil. Elizabeth urges anyone thinking about seeking guidance from a mentor, or anyone who has some skill to offer to a mentee, to get in touch with either Ted Briggs or her, or your local mentoring coordinator (see contact details below). They can send you all the information you need to get started on a rewarding journey.

A Mentoring Tale, Part One

In 2015, I attended the ‘Grammar in a Nutshell’ workshop delivered by Elizabeth Manning Murphy DE, and was inspired and entertained by her presentation style. How could grammar be such fun? I approached her and we established a mentorship with the aim of giving me a strategy for the 2016 IPEd exam. Elizabeth was clear that this was to be a mentee-driven arrangement; so I pored over the Australian Standards for Editing Practice, established a list of areas that I knew were my weaknesses, and we went from there. We conducted our sessions via Skype as I am based in Sydney and Elizabeth is in Canberra. I went to Canberra for one meeting when we got together for lunch – and a switch of the mentor role as I worked with Elizabeth on using LinkedIn.

I felt fully prepared for the IPEd exam after our series of mentoring sessions. Elizabeth was very generous with her time, but I had to deliver the goods. Before each session, I had to practise parts of the exam within the set times we discussed for the exam strategy, or I raised questions about grammar points that I needed to understand more fully. I also boosted my collection of editor references and grammar books based on Elizabeth’s guidance. I spent far more time studying these references than I would have done without the impetus of having homework to do for our next Skype session.

An unexpected benefit of mentoring was where our conversations would go. I gained insights into Elizabeth’s experience of working with postgraduate students and with government, her participation with the Canberra Society of Editors. She, in turn, learned of current trends that I knew from my work in book publishing. Anecdotes were shared about Sydney and Melbourne publishers and colleagues. Having the breadth of knowledge to share from our different positions in publishing – and being from different generations – allowed for great exchanges. A friendship has blossomed from our experience.

I was very grateful for having this contact, especially with the solitary nature of being a freelance editor. We shared some personal stories about our lives and this is a great advantage when you don’t have colleagues you see every day in the workplace. The proof of the success of this mentorship: I actually enjoyed the exam. I had been anxious about sitting it because I had not sat an exam for many years. This mentorship gave me the confidence to do my best – I couldn’t let Elizabeth down!

Melissa Faulkner

A Mentoring Tale, Part Two: The Other End of the Skype Hook-up

Melissa Faulkner [in her article above] rightly says that her mentorship with me was to be mentee-driven. The mentor shouldn’t impose anything, but should gently nudge the mentee along a path that will help them to achieve their own goals.

Our partnership for the months preceding the last accreditation exam was very enjoyable for me and, like Melissa, I learned a lot along the way – through swapping stories, chatting about editing and all aspects of the publishing industry, and even getting involved in social media – a foreign country to me.

Our national program is clear about what you can be mentored in: anything at all, provided it has some relevance to editing. Some programs are restricted to mentoring in basic editing skills, some regard participation in a mentorship as a stepping stone to the next level of membership in their organisation. Many people see mentors as wizened old men with white hair and flowing beards – not so in our program: mentors just need to have a skill that a mentee would like guidance in – age is not a consideration.

Melissa is right about the ‘homework’. If a mentorship is to work, there has to be an understanding between mentor and mentee about what preparation the mentee needs to do between sessions, and the mentor needs to allow time to review whatever the mentee sends for checking. It’s a two-way thing: we learn from each other, we respect each other in every way, we keep each other’s confidences. As mentors we guide, we don’t teach (though a little teaching comes into it occasionally). We help the mentee to think through their goals and how to achieve them, we point them in the direction of training if that’s required, we discuss with them some of the basic skills required for editing, but we never do work for the mentee – that would be overstepping the boundaries.

Mentors in our program attend workshops before they get started on mentorships. This is to help them understand just what we in this IPEd program mean by ‘mentoring’ and how to handle situations that crop up in the course of mentorships.

I was delighted to have Melissa as one of several mentees leading up to the accreditation exam, and very pleased to know that she appreciated the partnership. Being a mentor is one of the most rewarding things an editor with skills and experience can do, in my opinion. As in our case, it can certainly lead to lasting friendship. Why not give it a go?

Elizabeth Manning Murphy DE
Joint National Coordinator, IPEd National Mentoring Program (with Ted Briggs AE,

Mentoring in Victoria

These articles are a great snapshot of the mentoring program from a mentor and mentee perspective. Thanks, Elizabeth and Melissa!

If you are interested in being involved in the program as a mentee, mentor (or even both!), please send me an email.

Louise Zedda-Sampson
Victorian Mentorship Coordinator 


Thanks to Blue Pencil for permission to republish these two articles. Melissa’s and Elizabeth’s articles were originally published in the August 2016 and September 2016 issues, respectively. Both works are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.