The Mentorship program aims to support writers and illustrators by pairing them with an experienced professional in the field. Our mentors work one-on-one with a mentee and their completed draft of a manuscript over the course of a year, offering advice to improve craft and to better understand the publishing industry.
The We Need Diverse Books Mentorship Program has now awarded 97 twelve-month mentorships. Current and former recipients have gone on to publish or contract over 75 books for children and teens.
In 2023, WNDB is offering fifteen mentorships split among the following categories: Picture Book Text (PB), Middle Grade (MG), Young Adult (YA); and Illustration (IL). (Please note there is NO separate nonfiction category and both fiction and nonfiction writers will enter their application by target age category). The winners will communicate with the mentor for approximately one year in a mentor/mentee custom-defined program. This mentorship period will run from January to December 2023.
The Mentorship Program will likely open to 2024 applications in late summer or early fall 2023. We strongly encourage applicants to submit their application materials early.
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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 or be fully bilingual, but the primary narrative must be English.)
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.
There is not an age limit on applying, however, readiness for a professional mentorship and compatibility 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.
No, you may apply for only one of the four 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. If you have applied in the past but were not selected for the program, you are welcome to reapply with the same work or a different work. Past winning mentee participants are not eligible to apply.
Please let us know if you’d like to work with a specific mentor in your application. While we can’t guarantee you’ll be matched with them if you’re selected, we will do our best to accommodate preferences. If you don’t have a particular mentor in mind, or you’d be glad to work with any of the mentors listed for your category, feel free to not include a preference.
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 About Page for our inclusive definition of diversity)
Yes, but only one author will be able to work with the mentor. This is because our mentorships are structured as one on one experiences. You’re more than welcome to relay any and all feedback to your co-author, but you will be the designated point person. Your bio and application letter should be personalized to you, although please state that it is a co-written manuscript when submitting.
Yes. An entire draft of the book should be complete by the time of submission even though applicants send only the first 25 pages (We also recognize that you may consider it still as a rough draft, or a work-in-progress to be revised, but it should be a completed draft.) 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 Middle Grade or Young Adult nonfiction, 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 with several sample chapters and an outline. You should clearly address your project’s status in your email body to ensure the potential category mentor understands that the manuscript is unfinished.
Note: If you are writing a fictional novel for a middle grader or young adult, your manuscript draft needs to be finished by the date you apply for the program. No exceptions will be made.
No. Please choose what you think is your best eligible work (up to 2000 words; “Back Matter” for informational books does not count in the total word count). 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 picture books and “easy readers”—fiction, nonfiction, and educational—should be submitted to the Picture Book Text category.
Anyone (in any category) who submits more than one application or manuscript will be disqualified. Anyone who applies for more than one category will also be disqualified.
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.
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.
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 and business-related questions as they arise.
Please use your real name on the portion of the application with contact information, and let us know what your pen name is in the body of the email as well. No names or identifying information should be on your dummy/illustration file or the manuscript itself.
Regardless of your publishing history, you are eligible to apply. However, please think carefully about applying for an opportunity that you may not fully need and potentially taking away that opportunity from someone at an earlier stage, with fewer connections and supporters, who may need the mentorship. That said, if you honestly feel like you could get the maximum benefit from this type of mentorship program, we welcome your application regardless of whether you are already agented or published, 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. This gives your mentor something in-progress to work on with you during the year.