The Ugly Doodles – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Copyright 2020 Valeria Wicker, JIMMY Patterson Books

Written By: Valeria Wicker (Author & Illustrator)
Publisher: JIMMY Patterson Books, July 2020, Fiction
Suitable For Ages: 3-6
Themes/Topics: Making art, Fixing mistakes, Perfectionism

Opening: One trip to the museum was all it took for Raven to fall head over heels in love with art.

She wanted to turn her bedroom into a gallery of her own masterpieces…. If only she could make one. Just one masterpiece.

Copyright 2020 Valeria Wicker, JIMMY Patterson Books

Brief Synopsis: Raven wants to create art masterpieces like the ones she sees in the museum, but everything she makes turns out as an ugly doodle. When she tries to hide the doodles away, they come back to haunt her until she figures out what they need.

Why I Like This Book: I love this message that creating art is not something that happens on your first try, but after revisions. It’s reassuring for kids who often think they simply “lack talent” if it doesn’t come out right the first time. My kids loved the little bit of spookiness when the drawings keep moving to new locations on their own. Where were they were going to pop up next and could Raven get rid of them? The illustrations in the book are fabulous! I love how Raven is drawn and the color choices and feel of the book. The doodles and the masterpieces look like something a child could do. All in all, THE UGLY DOODLES is inspiring to young artists, as I witnessed with my 7-year-old daughter. She immediately wanted to color and create masterpieces to hang on the wall after reading the book!

How cute is this?! Copyright 2020 Valeria Wicker, JIMMY Patterson Books

Links To Resources: Hanging your kids’ artwork ideas from Pinterest. This can be really simple and inexpensive. Here’s how we do it in my house (below). We use string, secured with pushpins to the wall and tiny clothespins to hang the art.

Where to buy THE UGLY DOODLES:
Barnes and Nobles
Larger List of Retailers

I hope you enjoy THE UGLY DOODLES as much as my family and I did! For more Perfect Picture Book Friday books, check out Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog on Perfect Picture Books.

2020 Fall Writing Frenzy!

I’m participating in the #FallWritingFrenzy contest!! Whoo hoo!

How it works…
Write a KidLit story under 200 words that is inspired by one of the provided images. It’s for any age of KidLit AND the contest is still open (Update: closed now) if you are interested! Find out more here.

Also a quick thank you to Kaitlyn Sanchez and Lydia Lukidis for hosting the contest!

And now, onto my entry!
I chose this image because it tickled my funny bone. (Please keep reading despite that joke.)

Image 9, courtesy of Unsplash

136 words

Dem Bones

“Hey, Sam! The leg bone’s connected to the…”
“I’m not singing that song again, Bart.”
“Aw come on, pleaasssee?”
“Fine! The leg bone’s connected to the… thigh bone.”
“YES! And the thigh bone’s connected to the… back bone. The back bone’s—”
“You really love that song, don’t you, Bart?”
“Well, it’s all about skeletons and—”
“And we’re skeletons. Yeah I get it, Bart.”
“Lotta kids this year, Sam. But where are all the skeleton costumes?”
“Times are changing. They’re dressing like square people with swords now.”
“Well, at least we still have our song. The neck bone’s connected to the—”

“What the! A talking skeleton!”


“SAM! HELP ME, SAM! That kid took out my leg with his sword!”
“Yeah, Bart. Looks like the leg bone’s not connected to the… thigh bone.”
“That’s heartless, Sam. Heartless.”

My First Poetry Friday!

Hello all! This is my first time participating in Poetry Friday. Yay! I recently heard about it from one of my wonderful critique partners, and I’m excited to read new poems and share my own as well! (More about Poetry Friday here.)

This Friday, there is also a giveaway for the lovely picture book, NIGHT WISHES!! It is open until September 30th. It looks amazing and I can’t wait to read it! There are also many other poems to read if you follow the giveaway link.

And now for my first shared poem! *drum roll* I hope it will uplift you! 🙂


I am tiny, gritty, worn-
one piece of sand on a vast beach.
My presence is lost to all,
but those nearest.

And no matter how loud I shout,
the waves drown my voice.
The salt parches my throat.
The water pushes me down.

But I am no piece of dirt.
I am a remnant
of a great crystal
hardened in the magma of the Earth.

And small though I be,
washed and beaten,
stepped on and wind-tossed,
my facets shine.

And though you are worn,
and tiny,
drowned out,
and held down,
the angling sun unites us
And we sparkle,

The Worried Writer

blur-carry-dark-escalator-417014 (1)You know when it’s late at night and you’re trying to sleep, but you can’t stop worrying? Your mind is bent on chewing up scenario after scenario and venturing into territory that you berate yourself for even entertaining. What kind of twisted person even thinks of such terrible outcomes?! That’s not even likely to happen! Yet there you are, tossing and turning — a slave to your own imagination.

Obviously something in your brain is broken, or at least deviant. You must have a mental disorder. You curse your luck and wish you never had to go through this again. But is it a curse or blessing? If you, like I did recently, experience a blip where this worry function goes missing, you may realize it had a purpose after all.

Take for example, the day worry was shut off for me. The day I stood at the bottom of the escalator with my 5-year-old twins. They wanted to try the “magic stairs.” Certainly if this was one of those late night worry sessions, I would have imagined all sorts of disasters! But this time, I did not picture my kids falling backwards down the escalator. I didn’t picture us being slowly devoured by the mechanism. I even didn’t picture one kid sailing to the top out of my sight (Certain to be snatched by a stranger!) while the other screamed and threw a fit at the bottom. Well friends, some of this actually happened.

I made the oh-so-intelligent decision to set my purse down to have both hands free. I set Twin 1 on the escalator, then set Twin 2 on the following stair. I thought I would pick up my purse and hop on behind them, but Twin 2 held onto my hand because he was scared. Of course he was, why didn’t I think he would need to hold my hand?! As Twin 1 sailed upward with a huge smile on her face, I struggled to reach my purse AND hold the hand of Twin 2 who was stepping down instead of up. “Let go for a second,” I asked. Instead of letting go of my hand, he fell backwards and I rushed forward. Now, I’m awkwardly holding him and the two of us are coasting up to the top while my purse sits at the bottom with a gathering of onlookers. Not my finest moment. 

Now, keep in mind I’m just a regular person, interpreting my own experience, but I feel when your mind runs through many scenarios unchecked, it might be an overactive version of something you need very much. Believe it or not, you can predict the future sometimes! I certainly could have used a little predictive worrying at my escalator debacle. 

Later that night, while I was pondering my failings as a parent, I thought more about this. I ALWAYS worried. Are all writers also worriers? Hmm. Story is almost like an extended — what if X happened — worry session. It’s where you explore all options. Was this part of the mechanism that helps me write? 

If you’re wondering how it worked out on the escalator, Twin 1 waited patiently (thrilled at her triumph) at the top of the escalator as I went up with sobbing Twin 2, and a kind woman at the bottom of the escalator brought up my purse. Several people informed me where the elevator was. Thank you all very much. 

Are YOU a worrier? Are you a writer? Do you think there might be a connection? Share your opinions below.

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


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.