Sherri Shackelford: What is a Mentor?

Winning the Widow's Heart, Love Inspired Historical, June

What is a mentor? I searched out quotes on mentors to see what people had to say. Here are some of my favorites:

A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.  Bob Proctor, Author, Speaker and Success Coach

The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.? -Benjamin Disraeli

Every Timothy needs a Paul; Every Ruth needs a Naomi.- Pastor Aaron Williams (Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Seattle WA)

I had always seen a mentor as someone to admire, someone to whom you aspire, someone whose advice you trust. As I read these quotes, I developed a more mature understanding. A mentor is someone who helps you discover and develop the talents already inherent within you.

When I first entered the career world, the wisdom of the time pushed people to discover their weaknesses, and attempt to strengthen them.  We took workshops and seminars, filled out assessments, and discovered our weaknesses. Then we set about changing ourselves. With mixed results.

Fast forward after a ten-year hiatus raising my children. The new wisdom had turned to ‘Strength Finder.’  The idea centered on finding your strengths, and exploiting your talents.  Suddenly it was okay that I was a loner! I didn’t have to force myself out of my shell.

I felt like a window had opened for me. Instead of fighting my nature, I could harness my strengths. For me, a true mentor is someone who helps you exploit your talents.

Almost five years ago, I joined Romance Writers of America, and my local chapter, Heartland Writers Group. I was terrified at my first meeting. I had never written a word. (Who joins a writers group if they’ve never written anything? Me, evidently!) When they asked me what I wrote, I misunderstood the question and thought they said, ‘read.’ The next meeting, my name tag had three lines: Sherri Shackelford, writes Regency, Victorian, some Contemporaries and the occasional Western.”


Luckily for me, I met Cheryl St.John at that meeting. I still remember the peach shirt she was wearing. In a weird quirk of fate, I discovered that we had lived only blocks apart for many, many years. We bonded over the old neighborhood, and Cheryl invited me to join her critique group for a limited, six-week, learning session.

Had I realized the six weeks was an ‘audition’ period, I probably would have frozen in fear. Luckily for me, I’m kind of slow. After six weeks, they invited me to stay for good.  Cheryl gave me the best writing advice I’ve ever received: eventually, you just have to believe in yourself.

Cheryl trained me in writing, and when it was time, she kicked me out of the nest. The novel I submitted to Harlequin Historical wasn’t picked up, but I received my very first personalized rejection. In writing, that’s a win!

It took another year after Cheryl encouraged me to submit before I sold a book. Cheryl encouraged me the whole way, and taught me the most important thing a mentor can teach a mentee: Eventually, you have to believe in yourself. A true mentor gives you the power to discover your talents, and believe in yourself.



A wife and mother of three, Sherri’s hobbies include collecting mismatched socks, discovering new ways to avoid cleaning, and standing in the middle of the room while thinking, “Why did I just come in here?” A reformed pessimist and recent hopeful romantic, Sherri has a passion for writing. Her books are fun and fast-paced, with plenty of heart and soul.


Visit her website at:

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21 thoughts on “Sherri Shackelford: What is a Mentor?”

  1. Happy Saturday morning! Thank you to the ladies of Petticoats and Pistols for hosting me. This was a hard post to write – I never felt the true gratitude I felt for Cheryl’s mentoring came through. Believe me though, she changed my life!

  2. What a wondeful way to have met your mentor, to bond over your old neighbourhood.. I think everyone should have a person in their lives who sees the potenial in them..
    I love this cover too…

  3. Hi Sherri, it’s great to have you here. Congratulations on your book release! That’s wonderful. I’m so glad you could share it with us. Love the cover. The Cover-Gods were really good to you. Also, thanks for sharing your thoughts about a mentor. I think mentors are very important for a writer to have. Cher is the best encourager I know. I love her to death. You’re so lucky.

    Wishing you lots of success with your books and writing. 🙂

  4. Sherri, what yiu say about mentors is soooo true. Those encouragers and teachers are invaluable, not only to your career, but to your confidence and to your heart. Oh and great cover – congrats!!

  5. Oh, Sherri, I am reading your book right now. AND I am traveling this week to meet a mentor of mine. We are blessed indeed to have these people come into our lives.

    Peace, Julie

  6. Sherri,

    Yes indeed I wish I had a mentor…They are priceless..I lost my husband recently and that is the hardest thing for me..I want to become a Harlequin author someday and I hope to meet my mentor. Cheryl is just a beauty…..

    I love the cover of your book and I love your writing..


  7. anon101: Thank you! I love how the art department at harlequin captured the ‘heart’ of the book!

    Kathleen: You’re right, everyone should be so lucky!

    *lizzie: Gotta love the birds 🙂

  8. Linda: Cher is AWESOME! And she speaks VERY highly of you 🙂

    Winnie: Thank you! We gotta alotta babies on the covers in June 🙂

    Julie: Give your mentor a big hug and safe travels! We all pay it forward eventually right?

  9. Cheryl is one of my favorite authors and she has been a jewel when I have talked to her personaly.
    One thing I love about a mentor is that they ate not doing it for themselves and I think the best way to honor them is to pass it on.

  10. I meant to tell you how much I love the cover! Looking forward to reading thius book.

  11. Sherri, you know how much I love this book! I’m so glad it’s out now and other people can share in it!

  12. I don’t often check mail on weekends, so here I am on Sunday afternoon, with tears in my eyes.

    Sherri, I am so proud of you, and yes I do believe in you. You have been an inspiration to me, as well. I knew from the beginning that you had what it takes, and if I was the type to say I told you so, this would be as good of a time as any to say it. It’s rewarding to see someone you’re emotionally invested in find success.

    I can assure you there is more to come, because you have so much more to offer.

    xoxo, my dear friend.

  13. Sherri, Congratulations on the release of WINNING THE WIDOW’S HEART. What a wonderful cover. It sounds like Cheryl has done a wonderful job of mentoring, The mentor is important, but you have to have the talent and the confidence to reach for your dream. It must feel wonderful to finally see your story out there for all of us to read and your name on the cover. We hope to see many more from you. You are lucky to live so near a group of supportive writers.
    Cheryl, thank you for helping someone reach their dream.

  14. Patricia,

    I can’t believe how fortunate I am to live nears such amazing and talented authors. People on the coasts think we’re still fighting the buffalo for land…In truth, the midwest is a fertile ground for talent.

  15. Sherri!
    What a great post. And it is amazing how many writers Cheryl has given the strength to, to follow their dreams. I am one of them. Her belief in me, after knowing me only a short time was life changing. Suddenly, I was a writer and new I could make this happen. She is one in a million and we are so lucky to have her, as we are so lucky to have you! Loves and congratulations my beautifully-hearted friend! (I know that’s not a real word, but it works to describe you! :-))

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