During the summer I don’t go into NYC to teach for Gotham Writers, which is what I normally do. Instead I work for Gotham’s Mentoring program, which is to say I work one-on-one with students over the phone. Every Monday at 6:30, for example, I talk to one writer from New Hempshire who’s working on a cozy mystery. She’s just getting started, so we’re at a brainstorming stage and if anyone were listening to my side of the conversation they’d find me insane. Does her uncle have a reason to kill her? Does that poison cause you to have convulsions? Could he secretly love her? Is there money involved? He seems nice, but who is he really? We spend our time speculating over murderous topics, and I feel like our energy feeds off each other. I always feel inspired about my own work when I’m done talking to her, and judging by how many pages she’s written, she’s inspired too. Then there’s an older gentleman from California, who’s been working on a short story for some time. Anyone who doubts whether writing can be taught should read his work. He’s gone from being somewhat long-winded to writing something that’s really good and he’s going to be sending out to literary magazines. Not all my students are published, but some are, and it’s always a triumph. Today I’ll be talking to a new student, and that’s always exciting. Who is this person and what are her dreams and what can I do to help her? It’s always a bit of a puzzle to figure out. A little bit like constructing a mystery.