WNDB Mentorship Program and Application

The WNDB™ Mentorship Program had a successful first year! Read about it here and here and here.

For the 2017 year, we are offering mentorships to ten upcoming voices—eight aspiring authors and two illustrators—who are diverse or working on diverse books. This is an opportunity to be matched with an experienced children’s book creator and receive individual support and feedback on a work-in-progress. We are open for applications during October 1-31, 2016.

What: WNDB™ is offering ten mentorships, two in each of the following categories – Picture Book Text (PB), Middle Grade (MG), Young Adult (YA), Nonfiction (NF), and Illustration (IL). The winners will communicate with the mentor for approximately one year in a mentor/mentee custom-defined program. This mentorship period will run from late January 2017 to December 15, 2017. Click here to read the press release announcing the mentorship program.

The 2017 mentors for this program are Kevin Lewis (PB), Tara Lazar (PB), William Alexander (MG), Ellen Oh (MG), Padma Venkatraman (YA), Alex Sanchez (YA), Jane Yolen (NF), Carole Boston Weatherford (NF), and Juana Martinez-Neal (IL). One additional illustrator mentor will be announced soon. Click here to learn more about each of these mentors as well as past 2016 mentors. (You can also read more about the past illustrator mentorship here.)

Eligibility: These mentorships are available to diverse writers or any writers or illustrators who submit a manuscript for children or teens featuring a diverse main character or diverse central subject matter. (See the WNDB™ mission statement page for our inclusive definition of “diverse”). Applicants may only apply for one of the five mentorship categories, so it is up to the applicants to research mentors and decide which category is most suitable for their work. Applicants who do not comply with submission rules will be disqualified.

Judges’ Criteria: The first-round judges will select a pool of final applicants based on merit. Mentors will select their mentee based on merit, compatibility, and readiness/need for the mentorship as outlined in their essay. Applicants who do not comply with submission rules will be disqualified.

Cost: Free

Submission Period: October 1–October 31, 2016, only

Submission Guidelines:

Failure to comply with any of the submission rules results in disqualification. Please read the guidelines in their entirety.

To apply for the WNDB™ Mentorship Program, submit the following list of items via email to mentor@diversebooks.org. A panel of judges will select a pool of final applicants based on merit. The mentors will choose the mentee with whom they will work. All applicants will be notified of mentors’ decisions via email in January 2017. Due to an overwhelming number of applicants, we are not able to provide feedback or critique on submitted manuscripts.

To apply, please send an email and attachment according to the instructions below:

  1. In the body of your email, please include the following items:
  • An autobiographical statement and career summary (250 words or less).
  • A statement on how you or your work will bring forward an underrepresented voice or viewpoint (250 words or less).
  • The title, genre, intended age, and very brief pitch of your attached manuscript (100 words or less). For illustrators – a link to your online portfolio that showcases your children’s illustration.
  • Contact information (name, address, email address, telephone number)
  1. Attached as a document (.doc or .pdf), please send an unpublished work sample:
  • For Middle-Grade (MG) & Young Adult (YA) fiction applicants – send the first 10 pages of one novel plus a one-page synopsis.
  • For Picture Book text applicants (PB) – send ONE entire picture book manuscript of fiction, if less than 2000 words. (If more than 2000 words, please only send the first 2000 words of your picture book text.) Do not send any image files or insert images into your manuscript. If your picture book is a work of nonfiction, please follow these guidelines but submit it for the NF category.
  • For Illustrators and author/illustrators (IL) – send one PDF file containing 3-5 of your best illustrations (images may be on separate pages, but all in one file please). Images may be standalone or part of a book dummy with text/captions. Total file size may not exceed 15MB (we recommend 72 dpi for quick online viewing). Do not include any identifying personal information on any images or within captions/text of the PDF file.
  • For nonfiction (NF) submissions, follow the picture book guidelines if your manuscript if a nonfiction picture book, OR follow the MG / YA guidelines if your nonfiction manuscript is a longer book-length work geared for ages 10+. A one-page outline is acceptable instead of a novel synopsis.

Manuscript formatting guidelines:

  • Text should be typed, double-spaced, and have one-inch margins. Use standard paper/page-setup size (vertical 8.5 x 11”) orientation with 12-point Times Roman or Arial font. Page header should include title of manuscript and page number only. The manuscripts should not contain any personal identifying information (please remove names/contact info from manuscript file). Acceptable formats are .pdf and .doc/.docx (for text) and .pdf only (for image file/dummy files).

***When sending your application***

Please paste the essay/informational requirements (Number 1) in the body of the email and attach the manuscript or image file (Number 2). Send email addressed to WNDB Mentorship Team at mentor@diversebooks.org.

Email Subject line MUST be formatted as: Application for [Category Code] Mentorship.

Example: Application for PB Mentorship

The category codes are: Picture Book (PB), Middle Grade (MG), Young Adult (YA), Nonfiction (NF), and Illustrator/Author-Illustrator (IL).

Documents should only be sent as .doc, .docx or as .pdf file attachments as outlined in the guidelines.

Submissions must not be received before 12:01 a.m. (US Eastern time zone) on October 1, 2016, and must be received by 11:59 p.m. (US Eastern time zone) on October 31, 2016.

If you have questions, please check our Mentorship FAQ (below) before contacting us. We will continue to update the FAQ section below as new questions/answers arise. Questions not addressed here in the submission guidelines or in the additional FAQ section can be asked through sending an email to mentor@diversebooks.org. Please do NOT put the word ‘Application’ in the subject heading when sending a question only, or your message may not reach the regular inbox in time to be answered.


WNDB Mentorship Program FAQ:

Q: What are the deadlines?

A: Your submission must be received between 12:01 a.m. on October 1, 2016, and 11:59 p.m. on October 31, 2016, (US Eastern time zone). Entries received before or after the application window will be disqualified and deleted.

Q: Can I apply if I live outside of the United States?

A: Yes! As long as you and your application items meet the other eligibility requirements, there’s no restriction. Please note that all submissions must, however, be written in English, and all applicants must be able to communicate easily in English. (Your manuscript may certainly contain words in other languages, but the primary narrative must be English.)

Q: How are applications being evaluated?

A: A group of first-round judges will read through all applications submitted and select a pool of finalists based on eligibility and the overall quality of the materials received. Mentors will review the application packages for the finalists in their category and select a mentee based on merit, compatibility, and readiness/need for the mentorship as demonstrated in their manuscript and essays.

Q: Is there an age limit?

A: There is not an age limit on applying, however, readiness for a professional mentorship and compatibility to with a particular mentor are both consideration criteria. Applicants should display a certain level of maturity, commitment, and practice at their craft. Those who apply need to have completed at least one full book draft, a synopsis, and have a career biographical statement ready at the time of submission or they will be disqualified.

Q: Can I apply for more than one mentorship?

A: No, you may apply for only one of the five mentorship categories. If multiple applications are submitted by a single applicant, all submissions will be disqualified. Please think carefully about which mentors and/or category is most suitable for your work before submitting your application.

Q: I’m not a diverse author, but I’m working on a diverse book. Am I eligible?

A: Yes. Mentorships are available to diverse writers or illustrators OR any writers or illustrators who submit a manuscript for children or teens featuring a diverse main character or diverse central subject matter. (See the WNDB™ mission statement page for our inclusive definition of “diverse”).

Q: Do I need to have a finished manuscript at the time of entry?

A: Yes. An entire draft of the book should be complete by the time of submission even though applicants send only the first 10 pages. (We also recognize that you may consider it still as a rough draft, or a work-in-progress to be revised.) Applicants also have to include a synopsis of the full story (which can’t accurately be written until after a full draft is complete). Our Mentors are giving generously of their time, and to honor their commitment they will be paired with writers who have put in the work necessary to demonstrate readiness for such an award.  If you are writing a book-length work of YA Nonfiction (NF), have enough to complete the application requirements, and feel you’re far enough along with the project that the mentorship would help you, you may apply. You should clearly address your project’s status in your email body to ensure the potential mentor understands that the manuscript is unfinished.

Q: I’m a picture book author. May I submit more than one manuscript?

A: No. Please choose what you think is your best eligible work (up to 2000 words). The first-round judges will select a pool of final applicants based on merit, and mentors will select a mentee from that pool based on merit, compatibility, and readiness/need for the mentorship as outlined in the essays. Remember that you must be a diverse writer or submit a manuscript about a diverse main character or topic. Please remember that this year, all works of nonfiction should be submitted to the NF category.

Anyone (in any category) who submits more than one application or manuscript will be disqualified.

Q: How often will I talk with my mentor?

A: The logistics and frequency of communication will be mutually agreed upon by you and your mentor after the selection process. Because we have chosen an award-winning lineup of authors who are active in the industry, there will need to be flexibility on both the part of mentors and mentees, which is why the details of each mentorship will be individualized after being awarded. Most or all of the communication will be done through email or other mutually agreed upon forms of correspondence.

Q: How much work is the mentorship going to be?

A: The schedule and agenda of the mentorship will be mutually agreed upon by you and your mentor after the selection process, but you will only get out of it what you are willing to put into it. Please don’t apply if you can’t fully commit to the opportunity or if your schedule does not allow some flexibility.

Q: Is the mentorship a guarantee that I’ll get published?

A: No, of course not. The mentorship is an opportunity to work with a well-published member of our community, from whom you will receive individual support and feedback on a work-in-progress. Mentors will not be expected to provide referrals to agents, editors, or publishers. The focus of the mentorship is craft-based, with the opportunity to ask professional questions as they arise.

Q: I write some things under a pen name. Which name should I use to apply?

A: Please use your real name on the portion of the application with contact information. No names or identifying information should be on your dummy/illustration file or the manuscript itself.


Q: What if I’m already published and/or already have an agent and/or have previously self-published?


A: Please think carefully about applying for an opportunity that you may not fully need and potentially taking away that opportunity from someone else who truly does. That said, if you honestly feel like you could get the maximum benefit from this type of mentorship program, then we welcome your application, but please address this issue openly in your essay. Also, your submitted manuscript must not have been previously published in any form, including self-published.

Q: Who can I email if I have more questions?

A: Please email your questions to the WNDB Mentorship Team at mentor@diversebooks.org.