11 FREE or LOW-COST Picture Book Writing Resources

antique-beverage-cup-958164(This article was originally posted in July 2019, but has been updated.)

I don’t know about you, but my writing budget is never as big as I want it to be! So if you find yourself pinched for cash, make sure to check out these 11 free and low-cost picture book webinars, workshops, scholarships, and writing resources.

This list is from my personal experience, and I hope you find it helpful. Now, in no particular order:

  1. Rate Your Story (RYS)
    Is my story ready for publication? Does it have big-picture problems? RYS can help with these questions. It’s $25 for a “speedpass.” Email your full picture book manuscript to RYS, and an anonymous author will rate it on a scale of 1-10 (1 is the best) and give you brief feedback. I’ve scored on both ends of the scale and attained valuable tips. Be brave! Remember it’s one opinion – take what resonates, leave what doesn’t.
  2. Susanna Leonard Hill’s Writing Contests
    If you haven’t been to Susanna’s website yet, you are in for a real treat, especially if you like chocolate! She hosts a few holiday writing contests each year and always includes a chocolate dessert in the post. You can win a free critique and other goodies. I love taking part. It gets me in the spirit of the holiday and gives me a chance to put my work out there. The contests are for very short pieces of writing (100 words, 210 words, etc.) You post your writing on her blog or yours. Bonus: Other writers often comment and root each other on!
  3. Highlights Foundation Scholarship
    This is the Willy Wonka golden ticket! There is nothing like the pampering experience you get at the Highlights Foundation: writing education, new writing friends, gourmet meals, and a beautiful location. You might think you can’t get one of these scholarships, but I did, so I know it can be done. Sometimes they are full scholarships and sometimes (in my case) they are partial, half-price scholarships. I have Highlights Foundation to thank for the connections I made with other writers, and it’s how I met my critique group!
  4. Storyteller Academy
    Arree Chung is the incredibly giving, gifted, and inspiring creator behind The Storyteller Academy. There are some wonderful paid classes, but if you can’t yet invest in them, join his FB group and get on the mailing list. There’s a free webinar now and then. Sometimes a low-cost ($20) webinar is available as well. Also, check out Storyteller Academy on YouTube for some informative tidbits. I found all of this valuable in my own journey!
  5. WriteOnCon
    The price varies for this from $10-$25 I believe. (It’s not active right now, so I can’t double check.) I can’t recommend this enough! There are plenty of picture book resources and overall storytelling advice during this online conference. Plus, you can watch agents critique pitches – or if you’re brave enough – get your own critiqued. There are also middle grade and young adult webinars. I was able to replay and watch the videos for over a month, and I don’t think I even watched all of them.
  6. Writing With the Stars (WWTS)
    This is a generous mentorship contest hosted by Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie. A collection of fabulous authors donate their time in a roughly three-month mentorship with one mentee each. Eager writers can submit a picture book manuscript to three authors. Each one picks a person who they feel most suited to help. I have not scored this wonderful mentorship myself (not for lack of trying!) but two of my critique partners have, and it was an amazing experience for them both.
  7. Picture Book Mini-Summit
    I’ve linked to the 2019 Mini Summit, but the full website is here. This 1-2 hour webinar is the free teaser for the longer, paid version. I find the mini summits to be amazing! There are always little nuggets of gold in there no matter what writing level you are at.
  8. Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 Scholarship
    12×12 is a wonderful writing community with monthly webinars, a forum that includes a section for feedback on your manuscript, and more. Scholarships are available for a year-long membership. I got some critical advice on a manuscript when I joined one year.
  9. SCBWI Webinars
    If you are already an SCBWI member, there are many low-cost ($10-$20) webinars and every so often, a free one. If you are not a member, it’s usually a little higher like $30. I’ve linked this to the Nevada chapter as they do a good job of keeping up on the webinars. There might be a better place to find this list, but this is the one I’ve been using.
  10. Picture Book Read-Alouds on YouTube
    Let’s face it, the best education in writing comes from reading. But if you can’t afford to buy every book you like and don’t always have time/availability at your library, you can often find read-alouds on youtube. Search for [book title] + “read aloud.” And if you can, leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads every so often. The author will appreciate it!
  11. Writing Craft Books
    Can you really learn about writing by reading about the craft of writing? Yep! And if you’re at that point where you don’t have a dime to spare, this is a great way to keep going! There are specific books for picture book writing, but I find it helpful to read books about storytelling and story structure as well. Some of my favorites are:

    1. Invisible Ink: A Practical Guide to Building Stories that Resonate
      by Brian McDonald
    2. On Writing by Stephen King
    3. Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence
      by Lisa Cron
    4. Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication
      by Ann Whitford Paul

I hope you found these 11 free and low-cost resources helpful for you picture book writing! Do you have any resources you could add to the list? Please feel free to mention them in the comments.

Oops! Point-of-View Mistakes

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Photo by Steve Johnson

I know what you’re thinking … It seems nearly impossible to make a error in your manuscript with point of view (POV). I mean, first person, third person … how many people start off in the manuscript saying, “I this and that” and ending up saying, “She this and that?”

Pish! Easy peasy, piece of cake. Case closed, I don’t need to read any further.

That’s what I thought until a recent mistake showed me it’s easier than you think to make a POV error, and it might not be as obvious as the prior example. Here’s what I did wrong. Continue reading

Halloweensie 2018 Entry!

It’s here! One of my favorite new Halloween traditions: Susanna Leonard Hills’s Halloweensie Contest!

There’s still time to enter! The contest closes at 11:59pm on Halloween. Details here. Good luck to all — especially my wonderful critique partners!

And now, my entry …. coming in at 97 words (and after about 97 candy corns):

The Misunderstood Ghost
By Karen LaSalvia

As a ghost, trick-or-treaters often misunderstand me.
When I smile …
“Help! It wants to swallow me!”
When I hug …
“Ahhh! It’s sliming me!”
And when I say, “Hi, I’m Hauntington,” they hear, “Howwlll Haunnnntttt!”
I give them the heebie-sheebie shivers.
But then …
“Meow. Hi, Hauntington.”
“You understand me?!”
“I speak three languages, including Ghost.”
“Vanishing vapors! But why are you hiding in a cauldron?”
“Kids say I’m a bad-luck black cat. Oh no, I’m seen!”
“Stand back. I got this!”
I smile, hug, and speak to each trick-or-treater.
“You scared them with kindness!”
She totally understands me.