Posted by: Kathy Temean | December 5, 2017

Opportunity: Writing With The Stars – Free Picture Book Mentorships

In 2014, Tara Luebbe jumped into the world of kidlit and started writing picture books with her sister Becky. She educated herself on the industry, joined SCBWI, found critique partners, and attended conferences. She started getting positive feedback from critiques and contests, but she needed something more. She knew the answer was a mentor and looked at the few options out there, but could not find a mentor that was the right match for her weird, quirky humor. Then fate intervened and she saw that author Stacy McAnulty was running a contest to find a mentee. She wrote funny books … just like her. Tara won and they worked together for six months. Soon after, Tara signed with an agent and sold her first books. Stacy’s only requirement was that she pay it forward and take on her own mentee when she was able.

But Tara wanted to do something more than that. She knew personally the immense value of a mentorship and the difference it can make. Tara firmly believes no one makes it in this business without help from others, so instead of mentoring one writer, she created this contest to pay it forward in a bigger way. After a successful inaugural 2017 year, she is coordinating WRITING WITH THE STARS for 2018.

Questions and Answers about Writing with the Stars

Q: How do I check the square boxes on the application?
A: You can highlight them or similar. Just make sure it is obvious to us that it is selected.
Q: Do I have to send the same manuscript to all three of my mentor choices?
A: No, you are free to tailor each application to that person’s taste if you choose.
Q: How much does WWTS cost?
A: It is free. The mentors are donating their time and talent to give back. We would ask that you support their books, give them reviews on Amazon, tell your local librarian, buy them or whatever else you can to show your thanks.
Q: Is the contest open to non US residents?
A: Yes!
Q: Can I send my applications in as soon as they are ready?
A: No. The submission window is January 8-13 only EST. Any applications received before or after that time are deleted.
Q: Do illustrators have to submit complete dummies?
A: You can submit whatever work you wish in whatever form: dummies, sketches, single images, online portfolio. You want to send your best work that gives the mentor enough information to get a good sense of your talent.
Q: Does being published in a magazine count as published?
A: No. The industries are very different so you can still apply.
Q: My application page is over two pages long. Is that ok?
A: Yes, but please keep to the 250 word limits where specified. Also think about the mentors reading a lot of these and try to be as brief as possible while still saying what you need to. If you are too wordy, you risk them skimming it. Consider it a writing challenge to get all you need to cover in a succinct manner, with your personality shining through.
Q: Can I send the application in pages or other Mac formats?
A: No, everything must be in Word for writers or for illustrators Word or PDF. We can not open Mac formats, One Drive, Drop Box or anything else.
Q: Why did I only get one email confirmation receipt but sent three email applications?
A: Gmail will only send one confirmation per email address every four days so if you submit them all on the same day, you will receive only one confirmation for the first one email sent. Email two and three will not get a confirmation. If you receive a confirmation, all is well for all of your emails. If you do not receive ANY confirmation let us know or re-send.
Q: When will the results be announced?
A: January 31 at 11:00 am EDT on my Twitter (@t_luebbe) using the hashtag #PBWWTS. After the winner announcements have all gone out live, a complete list will be posted on my blog here on this website. Individual winners will receive an email after the results are made public.
Q: Is there going to be a Writing with the Stars 2019?
A: Yes. This is our second year of the contest and we plan on being back every year.


The contest is open to picture book writers and illustrators. The purpose of this mentorship is to help writers on their path to publication. The mentors are offering their knowledge and are NOT offering access to their agents or any editors. Contestants may pick three mentors out of the group to apply to. The mentors will evaluate each application and pick one mentee to work with. Once selected, each mentor/mentee team will work out their own methods of working together, frequency etc. Mentorship dates are February 1-April 30 2018.

Applicants should be career-focused writers/illustrators, actively working toward traditional publication with three to four complete PB manuscripts, dummies or an online portfolio. The ideal candidates are at an intermediate level, belong to critique groups and attend conferences or participate in other forms of kidlit education.

The applicants must be un-agented and not previously published (self-pub is ok only if your intent is to pursue traditional publishing going forward and magazines articles are ok). Winners of WWTS 2017 must sit out one year before applying again.

The application window will be open from January 8, 2018 through midnight January 13, 2018 EST. Each contestant is allowed three applications. Anything sent over that number will be deleted. Applications submitted that do not follow the submission guidelines will be disqualified.

Applications that are sent too early or too late (anytime outside of January 8-13) will be deleted. You can send different manuscripts to different mentors if you choose, but no more than three applications in total. Tip: these applications take some thought and time so do not wait until the last minute.

Writing with the Stars Application

Winners will be announced on Twitter (@T_Luebbe) and on my blog on January 31, 11 am EST. Please sign up for blog updates here. The contest hashtag is #PBWWTS. Please use this for all related tweeting. Ready to apply?

Writers- Please download the Word document titled “Application Cover Page.” Add your manuscript beginning on page 2 after cover page document to form one Word document. Please have your name and word count at the top of the manuscript.

Fiction picture books must be under 800 words, non-fiction 1200. In the header put Mentor last name/your last name. (e.g. McAnulty-Luebbe). Please name your Word document with the same format as the header (McAnultyLuebbe.doc). Email this document to Use the subject line “WWTS Contest Mentor Last Name-Your Last Name (e.g. WWTS Contest McAnulty-Luebbe). You will send three separate emails, one per application.

Author/Illustrators– Please download the Word document titled “Application Cover Page.” Place the cover sheet document as page 1 and then the dummy starts on page 2 to make one new document. Fiction picture books must be under 800 words, non-fiction 1200. Save the file as Mentor’s Last Name -Your Last Name. (e.g. McAnulty-Luebbe). Email this document to Use the subject line WWTS Contest Mentor Last Name-Your Last Name. (e.g. WWTS Contest McAnulty-Luebbe). You will send three emails, one cover sheet and dummy combo per application.

Illustrators only– Please download the Word document titled “Application Cover Page.” Fill this out and make sure your online portfolio address is noted. Make this page 1 and add up to three images on the following pages to form one new complete document with the header mentor last name, your last name on all pages (e.g. McAnulty-Luebbe). Please no larger than 15 mb and 72 dpi. Name the document the same as the header (e.g. McAnulty-Luebbe) and send to In the subject line write “WWTS Contest Mentor Last Name-Your Last Name and “Illustrator.” (e.g WWTS Contest McAnulty-Luebbe). You will send three emails, one per mentor application.

Please Note: Format must be Word or PDF ONLY and sent as an attachment. Items sent in Dropbox, One Drive, links to any other programs, applications in the text of the email, non-Microsoft formats etc. will not be accepted. We get hundreds of applications and do not have time to deviate from the process. You will only get ONE return receipt-not three. If you get one, rest assured your applications arrived. All manuscripts are deleted after the contest.

Anything not answered can be addressed to Tara at

Meet The Stars

Talk tomorrow,



  1. So glad you’re offering this contest again this year, Tara. I had such a wonderful experience working with mentor Beth Ferry last year, and I encourage everyone to apply. What an opportunity!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Darlene Beck-Jacobson and commented:
    For all my “I want to be a picture book writer” friends out there…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: