Los Angeles Region

Mentorship Contest 2023: Picture Book Writers Mentorship


Six-month mentorship with Cara J. Stevens. The mentorship will include six months of interaction and critiques, including weekly email check-ins and a monthly video meeting via Zoom. Cara will also be available in-between meetings to answer questions or provide clarification as needed. She adds, “I’d love to have the opportunity to meet in person a couple of times, too, if possible.”


The contest is open to picture book writers. The mentorship will focus primarily on craft-related issues and fine-tuning manuscripts.

After assessing your manuscript for story structure, pacing, character development, age/grade readiness, word choice, tone, and freshness, Cara will walk you through a 20-point checklist she created to assess and develop your manuscript to get it ready to query. Along the way, she’ll help you develop valuable skills and techniques to assess your future manuscripts.

“We will work exclusively on one manuscript at a time; however, if time permits, we can work through a second manuscript once the first has been put to bed. I’ll be available for the full six months!”

—Cara J. Stevens


1. You must be a member in good standing of the SCBWI-L.A. or Cen Cal region.

2. Associate or Full members may apply.

3. Limited to one entry per person.

*SCBWI membership levels: PAL (published and listed), Full (published unlisted), Associate (unpublished)


1. DO NOT contact the mentor directly.

2. Applicants not in compliance with the rules or that do not adhere to the application instructions will be disqualified.

3. To ensure fairness to all, no questions will be answered.


Your submission will consist of two parts:

I. Written responses to the following:

1) Share a brief bio.

2) Tell me about your inspiration for writing this picture book.

3) Give me an “elevator pitch” version of your story in one to two sentences that would get someone excited to read it.

4) What are your most pressing concerns or uncertainties about your manuscript or the writing process in general?

5) What else would you like me to know about your book?

6) What are you hoping to take away from this mentorship experience?

II. Your Project

Please submit one picture book manuscript. Please share your work in MS Word or Google Doc format. We will work on text only, not the images.


1. Your submission must be emailed with the subject line MENTOR CONTEST to:

2. In the body of your email include:

– Your current SCBWI member name

– Address

– Phone numbers

– Email address

3. Provide your written answers to the questions in Roman numeral I (above) as a PDF or Word attachment. Name your file: LAST NAME_ANSWERS. Example: Smith_Answers.pdf

4. Provide your manuscript sample described in Roman numeral II (above) as a Word attachment or link to a Google doc. Name your file: LAST NAME_MANUSCRIPT. Example: Smith_Manuscript.docx

5. Entries must be received by 11:59pm on 2/16/23.

About Cara J. Stevens

Cara J. Stevens has written more than 70 books for children. She has written and edited copy for Nickelodeon, Disney, and Sesame Street, and over the past decade has worked with Random House, Harper Collins, Penguin, St. Martin’s Press, Skyhorse, Oxford University Press, and several smaller publishing houses.

She is most well-known among reluctant readers and young gamers for her series of unofficial Minecraft graphic novels, video game and movie novelizations, and activity books, guides to Pokemon Go!, fidget spinners, and K-pop bands. These days, Cara spends a lot of her time diving deep into the world of popular preschool franchises like PAW Patrol, Dr. Seuss, and Blue’s Clues and You! to help introduce young fans to the joy of reading and storytelling.

As a freelance editor, Cara works with aspiring authors to help them find their voice, learn story and structure, and identify their target audience. She has created a 20-point children’s book checklist to help authors go through the process from idea to final manuscript. Cara is also a regular contributor to several lifestyle and parenting websites and dispenses the odd bits of writing and creativity advice on Medium and Instagram.

Cara is a member of the Author’s Guild and the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers. She has been a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators since 1996, when she spoke at the New York conference about creating online content for children via a new interactive medium known as the World Wide Web.

When she’s not reading, writing, or hanging out at the beach, she can be found playing pinball, doing yoga, and trying to recreate her grandmother’s recipe for rugelach. A native New Yorker, Cara now lives at the southern tip of Los Angeles with her amazing, supportive husband and kids, and a loud, fluffy dog named Oliver.