Everybody keeps talking about “who build it,” “I did it alone,” “many helped you along the way.” Writers especially are very proprietary about how the work is their own. Well, of course we feel we did it alone, but I’m happy to say that without my mentors, the workshops I participated in, the writers’ retreats I attended, I wouldn’t be writing today. If Janet Fitch(White Oleander, Paint Black)hadn’t told me about Kate Braverman’s workshop, or invited me into her own private workshop and encouraged me, I’d still be trying to write short stories and never attempt a novel. If I hadn’t had the scrutiny of my fellow-writers, I’d never have had the nerve to complete that first novel or get to the second one. Natalie Goldberg, Jack Grapes, or Ron Hansen at my week at Tin House as well as my sojourn at Squaw Valley all combined to give me insights that illuminated what was right and what wasn’t working in my writing. And most recently the editing of Lynn Stegner alerted me to the strength and weaknesses in the draft. Some people worry that the presence of other writers would be hyper critical or too stifling for them to thrive, but while we writers need to be able to hone our own judgement, having an independent eye on our work can only add immeasurably. If we can find the right environment, we should treasure it.