Board member blog post: Finding a mentor

donna.layBy Donna Myrow, JAWS Board Member

My boarding pass was on the table, carry­-on bag next to the front door, winter boots ready for cold weather. I wore my favorite red parka vest over a turtleneck sweater with a scarf around my neck. Not my standard attire, since I live in sunny California. I was dressed for JAWS CAMP 2013 in chilly Vermont. It was time to leave, but I refused to open the front door. How would I describe myself in 30 seconds to the dinner crowd ­­— former newspaper publisher, youth media executive in transition or downsized retiree?

Teary-­eyed, I did get on the plane. From the moment I arrived at the Essex Resort, JAWdesses greeted me with warm embraces. I dropped my bag at the front desk and joined a group at the bar.  At that moment, there was no embarrassment explaining that my newspaper folded in February on our 25th anniversary. They knew the drill better than friends or family: the newspaper business was in crisis. I wasn’t alone. I mentored urban youth, who wrote stories that were ignored by mainstream media. Now, I wanted a mentor.

I joined JAWS seven years ago. I didn’t have to wait long for a mentor. Lisa Shepard had me laughing hysterically with her thoughts about teenagers. I reached out to her over the next few years when I needed solid advice about a story and a laugh or two. Michele Weldon encouraged me to take the one­ day Op­Ed Project workshop designed to get more women’s voices on op­ed pages.

(I shared my excitement with her when the LA Times published my op­ed three months after the workshop.) I recall Jane Isay’s kind words about deleting a chapter in my book that portrays a family member’s mental illness.

I hope to share the same support that I received at my next CAMP.

JAWS is my mentor.