We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) Mentorship Program Announces Sixth Year

Washington, DC — The We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) Mentorship committee is pleased to announce the program’s sixth consecutive year. Starting Oct. 1, upcoming writers and artists will get the chance to apply for one of 15 year-long mentorships in four different categories. The program has awarded mentorships to 48 diverse authors and illustrators since 2015.

In 2021, the program will grow from ten to fifteen mentorships given, spread out across four categories: picture book text, illustration, middle grade, and young adult. The 2021 mentors are an award-winning and bestselling lineup of children’s book creators including Nicola Yoon, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Dhonielle Clayton, David LaRochelle, Rajani LaRocca, Meg Medina, Alan Gratz, Baptiste Paul, Erin Entrada Kelly, Gary Schmidt, Mike Curato, Andrea J. Loney, Anna-Marie McLemore, Higgins Bond, and Elizabeth Zunon

Many of the Mentorship Program’s finalists and mentees have gone on to sign with agents and get book deals: illustrator Shirley Ng-Benitez, a 2020 finalist, signed with literary agent Ammi-Joan Paquette through her mentorship finalist status; 2019 mentee Angeline Boulley sold her debut novel in a 12-bidder auction; and 2019 mentee Diana Ma’s debut YA, Heiress Apparently, releases Dec. 1 from Amulet books—to name just a few.

“[The mentorship] has given me the confidence to try new things and I know I’m bringing these experiences with me when I revise new stories, a sharper eye or ear (rhythm) for what works,” 2020 mentee Cynthia Harmony says.

Building upon our track record of supporting emerging creatives to find success in publishing, later this year WNDB will offer up to 15 additional mentorships dedicated to Black authors and illustrators. Breanna J. McDaniel has joined the WNDB team as a Program Manager and will work to support this expansion of the mentorship program.

“We’re thrilled to kick off our sixth year with an incredible group of mentors and we look forward to meeting the 2021 mentees,” commented Nicole Johnson, WNDB Executive Director.  “This fall, we will lay the groundwork to host additional mentorships and educational webinars for Black creatives. We hope to partner with publishers, agents and Black kidlit authors and illustrators to honor Black voices in children’s literature.”

Children’s writers and illustrators of diverse backgrounds seeking craft-based mentorships are invited to submit applications between Oct. 1 to Oct. 31, 2021. The applicants will be reviewed for mentorship need and readiness, and manuscripts will be evaluated on elements such as craft, story, and diversity. WNDB mentorship recipients will be announced publicly in January 2021.

Cynsational Notes

Additional information about the mentorship and applications are available on the WNDB website here, and by subscribing to the WNDB newsletter. WNDB Mentorships will offer a free tutorial on how to create and compile application materials, which will also include tips for submitting work to agents and editors for publication.

We Need Diverse Books is a grassroots organization of children’s book lovers that advocates essential changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people. It is our mission to put more books featuring diverse characters in the hands of all children. You can learn more about WNDB programs at