This post was written by mentee-mentor pair Iris Torres and Heather Kristin. Recently, the two were interviewed for NPR’s LatinoUSA, during which they shared their poetry and discussed their personal histories, as well as their paths to writing. We were excited to hear more about their mentee-mentor relationship, the things they have given each other, and their growth together as writers – thoughts we feel are most powerfully stated in their own words.
“When I learned about your childhood and what you’ve been through, and I look at how successful you are today with your family and your writing, it honestly reinforces the notion that it doesn’t matter where you come from, it mattes how you finish. . . You really gave me a sense of hope.” –Iris
“You gave me an incredible amount of courage to continue writing. . . . You kept saying, ‘You can do it.'” –Heather
Iris: Girls Write Now is an after-school program – or as I like to say, it’s a powerhouse of empowering, innovative, creative, and free-spirited women who come from all walks of the world – tucked away neatly in the Garment District of downtown New York City. Girls Write Now has taught me the true value of my writing and it has provided me with endless amounts of opportunities, but most importantly, Girls Write Now gave me the chance to work with my phenomenal mentor, Heather Kristin. Heather and I have gotten significantly closer each and every year and I could go on and on about how grateful I am for her. I entered the program as a novelist who despised poetry, now I am half-poet half-novelist who scribbles prose within the lines of her papers during class all because Heather has given me the courage to sail confidently in the direction of my dreams. I have developed into a confident young woman who is unafraid of the sound of her own voice. I can rise up from a sea of people and read my work with the heart of a lioness even if I am petrified beyond belief all because I know in the back of my mind, Heather’s supporting me every step of the way. Beneath the bright light fixtures and fragments of loose conversations amongst a room full of strangers, I found myself as a writer. Knowing that Heather was (and still is) by my side makes me immensely thankful for Girls Write Now. Even after I graduated from Girls Write Now, I still maintain a healthy relationship with Heather; we still talk about our personal lives with each other even though we are in different states. The beautiful thing about Girls Write Now is that it’s not just some after school program that you spend a few hours in. Girls Write Now is a part of my life that I will always come home to because like a jewel in a golden crown, it’s a gorgeous, priceless prize that I am lucky to be a part of because it led me to Heather.
Heather: Iris and I met when she was a sophomore in High School and our relationship evolved when she and I finally trusted each other to reveal secrets about ourselves during her senior year. Her quiet determination and talent gave me the courage to forge ahead with my personal writing. I cherish and still tear up with graditude when I read the letters Iris has written to me over the years which are taped on the wall to my writing desk. Now that she is a freshmen in college, out of state, our friendship continues to blossom. Iris writes to me about the new ideas that she’s learning, her desire to be a professional writer, describes new relationships, sends me essays to review, and shares how she stares up at the stars and dreams of returning to New York City.
Iris Torres is a freshman at Rider University, majoring in Journalism. Recently, she read her poetry from a Girls Write Now anthology and had a conversation with her mentor on LatinoUSA NPR. This past May she received an Honorable Mention at the 2014 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and has been published three times with Girls Write Now. Currently, she is competing in the Austin Chronicles Short Story Contest, and Clockhouse, an online literary magazine. When she’s not writing, she’s avidly reading E.E. Cummings and Haruki Murakami, or watching reruns of How I Met Your Mother and Studio Ghibli films movies.
Heather Kristin has written for Glamour, Salon, Slate, Smith, Narrative, and Huffington Post, among others, and has been interviewed in Elle and live-on camera by Oprah. Her unpublished novel was a finalist for The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. She has been honored by the State of New Jersey for mentoring for almost eight years with Girls Write Now. A former actress and subway performer, she teaches violin and lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter Daisy. She is currently seeking a literary agent for my memoir and Y.A. novel.