Tom Grimes


"...a monument to both Frank Conroy and to the writer's terrifying quest for artistic excellence." Tim O'Brien

Biography

Tom Grimes is the author of five novels, a play, and a memoir. He edited "The Workshop: Seven Decades from the Iowa Writers Workshop," the creative writing program from which he graduated. He now directs the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Texas State University.

Mentor: A Memoir was a finalist for PEN USA's 2011 award for Best Work of Creative Nonfiction.

The Washington Post -- Mentor: A Memoir a "Best Nonfiction Book of 2010."

Kirkus Reviews -- Mentor: A Memoir a "Best Nonfiction Book of 2010" and a "Best Memoir of 2010."

Time-Out Chicago -- Mentor: A Memoir one of the "Top Twenty Books of 2010."

Barnes & Noble: Top 100 "Best Books of 2010," Top 40 "Best Biographies of 2010,"
and Top 7 "Best Literary Biographies of 2010."

"From now on, anyone who dreams of becoming a novelist will need to read Tom Grimes's brutally honest and wonderful "Mentor." While there have been plenty of books on how to write, or how to get published, or how to promote your work, as well as a number of triumphalist accounts of "making it," this is a story of what it's like to just miss succeeding." --- Michael Dirda, The Washington Post


"It's astonishing how much insight, passion, pain, joy, self-doubt, and sheer love Tom Grimes has managed to pack into this tightly made memoir of his relationship with the writer Frank Conroy. Mentor is a beautiful, beautiful book -- a monument both to Frank Conroy and to the writer's terrifying quest for artistic excellence." ---Tim O'Brien

"Mentor: A Memoir belongs on the shelf of every writer, every teacher, every reader." -- Jayne Anne Phillips

"The act of writing about writing should carry with it a bright flashing neon warning sign that reads ''Danger: Potential Self-Absorption Ahead.'' Authors are intrinsically more interested in the subject than their readers, and only the best can get away with it without being self-indulgent. But Tom Grimes' memoir Mentor — about his early career as a novelist (Season's End) and his relationship with his mentor, Frank Conroy — is refreshingly genuine and engaging. His memories are steeped in the writerly process, but the book also encompasses more universal themes: expectation, disappointment, and the need to impress your heroes. 
 What Grimes does, beautifully, is emphasize the communal elements of a solitary profession. A-" ---Entertainment Weekly

"Grimes delivers an eloquent portrait of the writer's life. Without wasting a word, [he] presents a view of how stories and writers, at least of a certain kind, are made." --- Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews

"Employing a constant tension of ambivalence -- shame and tenderness, pride and humility -- Grimes proves in this stunningly forthright, forlorn memoir that his great subject is Conroy himself." --- Starred Review, Publisher's Weekly

"Intensely personal, moving, powerful and insightful, Mentor: A Memoir is a must read for people who write and for every reader who has wondered about the mysterious alchemy that produces a writer." --- Abraham Verghese

"Mentor is a must read for any aspiring novelist to understand the persistence and strength of character needed to survive as a career novelist. Grimes writes intimately about his experiences with agents and editors, his successes and failures with his books and, most poignantly, his interactions with Conroy. It’s delightful, heartbreaking and ruthlessly honest." -- The Longest Chapter

"Grimes...covers any writer's touchstones - the waiting, the rejections, the crippling doubts and the felicitous phone call.. the crushing reality that no success, no matter how good, is ever good enough. Every procrastinating writer has devoted days to pointless yet irresistible comparisons: 'If I couldn't write about debtors' prisons with Dickens' authority, I failed.'... He is sweet about the youthful and irrational devotion to certain imprints, the fantasy that one day you will occupy the same list as your idols. And with beautiful simplicity he describes the surreal, physical experience of writing a last sentence and knowing your book is done." -- The San Francisco Chronicle

*Recommended Reading Pick, 8/​15/​2010


"... this beautifully written and heartfelt memoir may someday be considered [Grimes'] breakthrough work."
--- The Toronto Globe and Mail

"A kind of memoir of Grimes' time at the Iowa Writer's Workshop and his ensuing friendship with the workshop's director, Frank Conroy. The dynamic between these two is fascinating, but for our money, the best bits are about Grimes' own journey to publication and beyond." McSweeeny's recommends Mentor

"Grimes has perhaps written a memoir that exceeds its own bounds, delivering more than he set out to write. That's a very good thing to say about any book." --- Anis Shivani, The Austin American-Statesman

"Recommended for anyone interested in an honest, well-constructed, fairly bullshitless representation of an ambitious, semi-tortured variety of writerly reality. The sort of book that makes you keep the faith and/​or reinforces respect for the peculiarly important, intermittently maddening endeavor of reading and writing." Eyeshot.net

"Mentor is near-great writing about the mechanics of both writing and publishing, anatomizing Grimes’ career and memorializing Conroy’s." --- The Onion's AV Club

"Like all good memoirs, "Mentor" reveals more than its ostensible subject. The relationship between the two men offers a vivid illustration of the personal struggle at the core of a creative life." --- The Portland Oregonian

"If you know somebody with dreams of becoming a novelist, you'd better make sure they read Tom Grimes' amazing memoir of the travails of a pair of talented writers, "Mentor." --- The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star

"...I couldn’t put “Mentor” down." --- Dwight Garner, The New York Times

"What’s important about Mentor is that it takes the freighted terms of a place like Iowa and a man like Conroy and examines their character not with the grand stakes that make for a debate but the intimate ones that forge an artist." --- Time-Out Chicago

One of the Top Twenty Books of 2010


"An extraordinary new book...A haunting, heartfelt memoir about writing." --- Dallas-Ft. Worth Star-Telegram

"Mentor displays a writer at full-strength, finally capable of distilling promise into prose as he examines his meteoric emotional rise and the debilitating fall and then this new plateau, the writing of this memoir. It took only the need to tell the story of how much Conroy had influenced him, had attempted to enrich him, to bring out the very best writing of Tom Grimes's career." -- Tod Goldberg, Las Vegas City Life

Mentor: A Memoir -- a Top Ten Book of 2010

"Mentor: A Memoir, by Tom Grimes, is a tribute to a great teacher and writer, an inside dish on Iowa/​agents/​deals, an anatomy of a mental breakdown, and a tour-de-force through the famous: Marilynne (never Robinson), Mailer (never Norman), Charlie (Charles D'Ambrosio), and Frank (Conroy). It's such a mesmerizing book I read it in one sitting. But maybe I'm just a glutton for writers' lives." -- John Fox review

"A heartfelt and moving tribute to a lifelong friend and mentor." --- Sacramento Book Review

"Ultimately, Mentor: A Memoir can best be summarized in the following: I couldn’t put it down. Even more than the admittedly excellent novel I was reading concurrently, Mentor captivated me. I wanted to watch the development of Grimes as a writer, to see the impact of his friendship with Frank Conroy, to witness his experiences at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, to have that mouse-hole view into the world of modern literature. Grimes delivers all of that and more. In writing Mentor: A Memoir he has also written a memoir about all of those who strive to achieve." -- Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Mentor: A Memoir has been selected for Barnes & Noble's 2010 "Discover Great Writers Award."

Selected Works

"One of the truest accounts of a writer's life -- of two writers' lives -- I've yet seen. A poignant and beautiful book." T.C. Boyle
"Tom Grimes's novel is the funny, wistful story of a baseball player's ascent to the big leagues -- where immortality is but one of the many 'sweet illusions of the game.'"
--The New York Times Book Review
"WILL@epicqwest.com is a work of golden wit and narrative drive."
--Barry Hannah
"Grimes makes a quantum leap into DeLillo land...a work of visionary power." -- Kirkus Reviews, starred