The 2016 Women’s Writing Mentorship Exchange is here!

The 2016 Women’s Mentoring Exchange sign up period  has ended. If you’d like to apply next year, sign up for my newsletter and I’ll e-mail you when the next one launches.

I have a custom of giving away gifts on my birthday. It started years ago after meeting John Blackfeather, a member of the Occaneechi people, one warm late summer day in North Carolina.

“Leigh,” John said to me. “We Native Americans do things a bit differently. We give gifts on our birthdays.” He leaned back in his chair, steadying himself by propping his feet against the retaining wall in front of him. “You end up getting a whole lot more.”

And so my birthday custom was born. In the Native American giveaway ceremony, sometimes called a potlach, people gift items to family and friends to celebrate a birth, marriage, death, new home or some other significant life event. There are no strings attached, no thought of what one might get in return. What a way to look at the world. It paves the way for enormous personal growth.

This year — the third year of the exchange — is the biggest year yet. Twenty-five experts on everything from young adult to science writing to fiction and resume writing signed up to offer their knowledge for a grand total of 65 hours of mentoring.

And now, you can sign up for a chance to work with one of these women. 


It’s not easy finding guidance and opportunities to write, publish and further your career. If you don’t have the time, money or access, this is for you. If you’ve found yourself blocked because of your race or gender or any aspect of your identity, this is for you. I designed this writing exchange  for you to find resources in a safe and supportive space.

The 2016 Women’s Mentoring Exchange sign up period  has ended. If you’d like to apply next year, sign up for my newsletter and I’ll e-mail you when the next one launches.

If you applied this year, I’ll be reviewing applications and announcing the 65 matches in early June.

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Once the sign up time ends, I’ll read through your answers and choose 65 people to work with the mentors. I will let you know if you’ve been chosen and connect you with your mentor by the end of June, 2016.

THERE’S ALSO A FREE WEBINAR: Why you need a mentor and how to find one.

To further celebrate this month of women mentoring other women, I co-hosted a free writing webinar with Jennifer Pozner, author of Reality Bites Back, media critic and a mentor in this year’s exchange. We’ll discuss the things that stand in the way with our work and writing, and how a mentor can help move you past that. We’ll also talk about ways to find a writing mentor

You can download or watch that webinar here.


Last year, I randomly chose mentees using a random number generator. Unfortunately, this system didn’t give adequate access to those who most benefit from the mentorship hours. This year, I’m making a bigger push to make sure these mentorship hours go to women who don’t already have these resources or access to this kind of mentorship.

Matches are made based on the information in the sign-up form. I’ll read your responses and connect you with a mentor who has expertise in the areas you request.


We have a total of 65 hours of mentorship to offer, covering business and resume writing, journalism, pitching, science writing, blogging, social media and more.

I am eternally grateful to these women for gifting their time, attention and support to me and my birthday. I couldn’t ask for a better way to celebrate my birthday.

Lola Akinmade Åkerström
As a Stockholm-based writer and photographer, Lola’s work has appeared in National Geographic Traveller, BBC, CNN, The Guardian, Travel + Leisure, Slate, Lonely Planet, Fodor’s, several in-flight magazines, and many more - Her photography is represented by National Geographic Creative and she is a founding member of NordicTB – a collective of digital storytellers and travel influencers in the Nordics  She regularly contribues to Sweden’s official website and is the editor-in-chief of Slow Travel Stockholm which is dedicated to exploring Stockholm slowly.

Jessica Ainlay
Jessica Ainlay is a writer, blogger and content strategist based in Brooklyn. After ten years living abroad and four years spent as a nomad, she now focuses on fulfilling storytelling projects. Her two current projects are Out With It, a storytelling platform for LGBT survivors of Domestic Violence and The Postnomadic Project, inspirational interviews of entrepreneurs who have gone from traveling the world to changing it for the better. 

Kiersi Burkhart
Kiersi is the author of two upcoming YA novels: HONOR CODE (Fall 2017, Carolrhoda Lab) and TOWER OF SMOKE & LIES (Spring 2018, Carolrhoda Lab). She is also a co-author of the middle-grade series, QUARTZ CREEK RANCH. She is represented by Fiona Kenshole of Transatlantic Literary Agency. Kiersi grew up riding horses in Colorado. At sixteen, she attended Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, and got a degree in Political Science. Now she works as an author and freelance writer in locations all across the country.

Darlena Cunha
Darlena Cunha is a former television producer turned freelance journalist and mother of twins. She writes for TIME Magazine, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic, amid others. You can find her on Twitter @parentwin.

Susanna Donato
Susanna Donato is writing a music-driven memoir about coming of age as a gothy, redheaded minister’s daughter. Her work has appeared recently in Okey-Panky, Blue Earth Review, Hippocampus and the anthology Everything I Need to Know About Love I Learned From Pop Songs. She lives in Denver, Colorado, and has studied at Lighthouse Writers in Denver and Tin House Summer Workshop. She makes a living as a freelance copywriter and editor. Find her on Twitter @susannadonato or on her website

Anjali Enjeti
Anjali Enjeti is an award-winning writer and literary critic. Her essays have appeared in The Guardian, The New York Times, Alternet, Huffington Post, Washington Post, Dame, several anthologies, and elsewhere. She won first place in the 2015 Prime Number Magazine Creative Nonfiction contest for her essay “Borderline.” Her book reviews, profiles, and articles have appeared in The Guardian, Los Angeles Review of Books, Kirkus, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, The Millions, The Rumpus, Paste, Khabar, ArtsATL and Atlanta Magazine. Her humor has appeared in Huffington Post, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and Scary Mommy. Anjali received a B.S. in Psychology from Duke University, a J.D. from Washington University School of Law, and a MFA in creative writing at Queens University in Charlotte, where she served as a fiction editorial assistant for Qu Literary Journal. She is on the faculty of the Etowah Valley Writers Institute, the new MFA program at Reinhardt University. She has been awarded writers’ residencies at The Hambidge Center and Rivendell Writers’ Colony and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle and the Decatur Book Festival programming committee. She lives near Atlanta, has recently completed her first novel, Shiva’s End, and is at work on her second novel, The Parted Earth.

Estelle Erasmus
Estelle Erasmus is a writing coach as well as an award-winning journalist, author and former magazine editor-in-chief of five publications, with a combined reach of over 10 million readers.

She is a 3-time BlogHer Voice of the Year award-winner, a NYC Listen to Your Mother alumni, and has been widely published in magazines and sites, including Salon, Vox,, Newsweek, Redbook, Yahoo!, Brain, Child, the Washington Post, Your Teen, Role/Reboot, Purple Clover, Marie Claire, Good Housekeeping, and more.

Estelle is a co-author of a best-selling beauty book and a contributor to seven popular anthologies, including The ASJA Guide to Freelance Writing (St. Martin’s Press), Mothering Through the Darkness and Love Her, Love Her Not: The Hillary Paradox (SheWrites). She has an essay in the forthcoming book How Does that Make You Feel? Therapy from Both Sides of the Couch (Seal Press, September 2016). She has spoken about publishing and editing at BlogHer15, BlogU15, iRetreat14, Erma Bombeck Writer’s Conference 2016, and will be speaking at the 2016 American Society of Journalists & Authors conference in NYC.

She blogs at Musings on Motherhood & Midlife. As a writing coach she helps polish her clients’ prose, and hone their ideas so they can reach their publication goals. Her clients’ essays can be found in traditionally-published anthologies and prestigious publications, such as the Atlantic, Quartz, The Washington Post, Brain, Child and more.

Caroline Eubanks
Caroline Eubanks is a freelance writer and travel blogger from Atlanta, Georgia. She writes mostly about the southern United States and millennial travel.

Maya Frost
Read more about Maya, her travels and her writing on her website

Christine Gilbert
Learn more about Christine’s newest book Mother Tongue on her blog Almost Fearless.

Pola Henderson
Pola Henderson is the founder of Jetting Around, a blog dedicated to city travel. Her writing has also been published on CNN, Yahoo, and Expedia, among other outlets. Pola grew up in Krakow, lived in Chicago, and is currently based in Paris. In addition to writing, she hosts a weekly city travel discussion on Twitter called #JAchat and international networking events for travelers, JA Café: Travel Talk Over Coffee.

Elizabeth King
Elizabeth is a freelance writer based in Chicago who writes about news, politics, pop culture, and feminism.

Devi Lockwood
Devi Lockwood is a poet / touring cyclist / storyteller currently traveling the world by bicycle and by boat to listen to 1,001 stories about water and climate change. Read more on her website

Pam Mandel
Pam Mandel has been a freelance writer and photographer for nearly 20 years. While she loves to write travel and jumps at the chance to do so, she’s also happy just avoiding a full time job and does plenty of unsexy work to get by. An early adopter of social media, she’s online at

Linda Martin
Linda Martin runs the Indie Travel Podcast, an audio show and blog, which has been running for almost ten years — as long as she has been traveling the world with her husband Craig. She also works for Performance Foundry, a web development and hosting company, which she and Craig founded in 2014.

Abbie Mood
Abbie has been a freelance writer and editor since 2009, covering topics from adventure travel to education to social/environmental/animal issues. You can see her work at Abbie has also recently launched a life coaching business to help women who feel like they are wasting their lives. You can find more info at

Ana Astri O’Reilly
Ana writes about the places she visits and the impact they’ve had on her. She’s fully bilingual and writes in English as well as in Spanish on her travel blogs, Ana Travels and Apuntes Ideas Imagenes. She’s keen on history as well, which she weaves into her pieces as much as she can. Spanish is her first language and English her second.

Laurie Pea
Owner of a small business for over 25 years offering editorial services (copyediting, proofreading, and indexing); grant writing; and white papers on sexuality and reproductive health, the leadership pipeline; and critical race theory, the arts, and organizing for foundations and nonprofits including Ford Foundation, Arcus Foundation, United Community Centers; FIERCE!, and Streetwise and Safe, and individual visual artists and creative writers. I have also served on the boards of a number of nonprofits, and worked as a legal liaison to the Lawyers Alliance of New York. I have a particular interest in the paperless office and setting up tech systems for owner-operated small businesses. Every time I hear Rihanna on the radio, I back-up all my files.

Jennifer Pozner
Jennifer L. Pozner is a media critic, journalist, and Founding Director of Women In Media & News (WIMN), a media justice group which increases women’s presence and power in public debate through media analysis, education, and advocacy.

Her book, Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV, was called “required reading for every American girl and woman” by MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry, and “insightful, funny, fun” by “Colbert Report” writer Cecelia Lederer. An incurable comedy nerd, Jennifer produced and co-wrote the satirical media literacy web series “Reality Rehab with Dr. Jenn,” and has served as an adviser and featured commentator for numerous documentaries, including the award-winning film “Miss Representation,” where she was interviewed alongside Rachel Maddow, Gloria Steinem, Condoleezza Rice, Katie Couric, Margaret Cho, and Rosario Dawson.

Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Newsweek, Ms. Magazine, Bitch Magazine, Elle Canada, Salon, The Daily Beast, Politico, Jezebel, and The Estalbishment, among other outlets and anthologies. She delivers media commentary on CBS, ABC, NBC, MSNBC, CNN, FOX, NPR, CBC, and Comedy Central… and, because she’s a glutton for punishment, she’s gone head to head with some of the most blustery boys of cable news, including Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Joe Scarborough.

As a media literacy educator she has conducted keynotes, workshops, and media trainingson gender, race, class, and sexuality in the media at more than 400 schools, non-profits, businesses, and conferences across the U.S., Canada, Ireland, and Turkey. She conducts media trainings for gender and racial justice groups such as Women for Afghan Women, NOW, YWCA, SPARK, Hollaback, Chicago Foundation for Women, and the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario.

Prior to founding Women In Media & News, she directed the Women’s Desk at FAIR: Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting, where she wrote for Extra! magazine and contributed to CounterSpin radio. Forbes magazine named @jennpozner one of “20 Inspiring Women To Follow On Twitter,” and the New Leaders Council has honored her as one of 40 Under 40 progressive leaders making positive change in America.

Adrienne Smith
Adrienne Smith started having tremendous success with her blog in early 2011. Over time she built an amazing and loyal community which convinced her to create a course, “Build a Blog Community”, teaching them how to do the same. She has built a successful consulting practice working with entrepreneurs who are eager to learn how to get their blogs more attention so they can get more results for their business.

Kayt Sukel
Kayt Sukel is a passionate travel and science writer whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, New Scientist, Pacific Standard, the Atlantic Monthly, National Geographic Traveler, Islands, and USA Today.  She is the author of the new book, THE ART OF RISK: THE NEW SCIENCE OF COURAGE, CAUTION, & CHANCE, as well as the critically acclaimed THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON SEX: THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE SEARCH FOR LOVE.  You can learn more about her work on her website:

Judy Mollen Walters
Judy Mollen Walters is the author of four novels: Start at the Beginning (March, 2016), The Place to Say Goodbye (2015), The Opposite of Normal (2014), and Child of Mine (2013). She is also an essayist whose work has appeared on the following web sites: Washington Post, Grown and Flown, Club Mid, The Tablet, Kveller and Writer Unboxed.

JoAnna Wendel
JoAnna Wendel is a science journalist in Washington, DC. She knew she wanted to be a science writer as early as high school, but many many science writers discovery the field even late in their careers. When she’s not writing about Earth and space science she’s drawing comics or painting or thinking about drawing comics and painting. You can read her stuff at!

Joanne Yao
Born in Shanghai and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Joanne is a writer/editor/teacher who splits her time between two worlds. She has stopped telling people about her former life as a food critic so they don’t get nervous about inviting her over for dinner. She recently completed her MFA in Creative Writing (Nonfiction emphasis) from Columbia University, where she served as a Teaching Fellow and Co-President of Our Word: Writers of Color. Joanne is at work on her first book, a family memoir.

Any questions or comments, feel free to e-mail me at leigh (at)