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PBChat Mentorship Journey & Lessons from Lori

What a year it’s been… (and I’m not even talking about the thing that rhymes with shmamdemic…) It’s reached Lord Voldemort/He Who Must Not Be Named level in our house because it has been SUCH a stressful year. And because of it (among other things), my writing career has never had so many ups and downs in such a short amount of time (and I haven’t even been writing for THAT long)!

Let’s talk 2020…

  • I went back to work for the first time since 2017 = no writing productivity
  • The Lord Voldemort thing started (“it was dark times Harry”) = no writing productivity
  • I got a new job = even less writing productivity
  • We bought a house and moved = more stability, but still… no writing productivity
  • So many house projects/unpacking = no writing productivity

And then……

PBChat Mentorship Application is due! …..oh what the heck, why not!

Last year (2019) was the first year that PBChat Mentorship was open for applications and I did not get selected for a mentorship and I shouldn’t have because truly, I was not ready. Last year we were able to apply to four mentors, this year, only two, and I still only applied for ONE…Lori Degman.

I said to myself, If I get this mentorship, it will be a sign to keep going. A sign to not to give up on this fun dream of writing fun goofy stories for my kid (and others).

I applied to work with Lori Degman for a couple reasons:

  1. She was accepting applications for humour and/or rhyme;
  2. She’s a pun nerd;
  3. She was a teacher pre-retirement so open to teaching and mentoring in its truest form ❤ I knew she would be a great teacher and have patience with me 😉
  4. Her latest books were about monsters travelling around the United States (Travel Guide for Monsters, Sleeping Bear Press) and a book celebrating amazing women (Like a Girl, Sterling Publishing).  

In my mind – a perfect match!

So, did I freak out when Lori selected me as a mentee!? YUP!!!

And not really like a good freak out from excitement. It was like uh-oh I’ve literally written nothing for the last 6 months. So then began the busiest and most productive writing time of my life. I whipped out every manuscript I’d ever written and just tried to get as many as improved as I could before I’d have to show them to her. We focused mainly on my submitted manuscript but it has really tightened up and I learned so much from her through that process. So much growth, and so many lessons learned!

Lessons from Lori

To say I am grateful for Lori is an understatement! Lori selecting me really turned my writing career toward just that, a possible career. It was always a nice idea, something that I really wanted and made me realized that the dream of getting to hold my first published book in my hand for the first time would literally bring tears to my eyes.

So here are just a few things I learned from Lori:

1. Never settle for something that “just works.”

Make sure your manuscript sings, and is not just talking in a monotone voice. Every word has to push your story forward. There is no room for filler words when you only have 500-700 words to work with.

This is especially hard to do in rhyme because to change a line and have to admit it could be better after so many hours of coming up with something that finally fits the meter (or getting an awesome rhyme pairing) is SO HARD! But in the end, you’ll be happy that you put the extra effort in and made your manuscript amazing.

2. Revise, revise, revise!

During the mentorship, Lori held with her local SCBWI chapter a session about revising and it opened my eyes. It was mostly about prose but it was still so amazing to watch her slash through unneeded text. If you can get your point across in 10 words, don’t write 50. The illustrator needs to have a part in the story too, so if you are saying something in your manuscript that can be shown by the illustrator, leave it out!  

3. A good rhyming pair is not worth sacrificing the plot.

I submitted to Lori a certain soup related manuscript where I rhymed “gazpacho” with “macho” and thought, ok rhyme of the year award to ME! It IS a pretty stellar rhyme but I had to change my whole story around just to make this one rhyme work. Worth it? No. Because the rest of the story was….not great.

There are so many more, which as I slowly memorialize my experience, I’d be happy to share. I am so grateful that I had this experience to work so closely with her.

Here is what Lori has to say about mentoring:

“I really appreciate Jocelyn’s praise about being a good mentor, but I think it’s just that I’m good at spotting talent. It’s easy to help someone who has a strong manuscript and a great ear for rhyme and meter, as Jocelyn (and my other mentees) have! I think mentees get a huge confidence boost just from being selected and that confidence helps them become stronger writers and revisers. I’m so proud when a mentee works hard to polish their manuscripts and it leads to signing with an agent or selling a manuscript – or both!” (Lori Degman, 2021)

Thank you Lori for all the amazingly kind words (your cheque is in the mail!) 😉

To support Lori, check her out at and please check out Lori’s published titles, they are all so wonderful!

PBChat Mentorship

Now the creator of all of this wonderfulness was Justin Colón. Dude is straight up the coolest cat in kidlit (and he just landed his own agent – wow)! We are expecting BIG things from Justin. Here are a few words from him about his PBChat Mentorship program:

“It’s my goal to provide authors and illustrators, especially marginalized creators, quality resources, opportunities, and access in their path toward publication. Those resources include free chats, giveaways, mentorships, and more to help develop their craft and business savvy. Most of all, I want to give picture book creators a safe space to establish a community so there is a greater sense of solidarity. A safe space to pool resources; develop connections; share thoughts, feelings, ideas, and experiences. A place to learn, connect, and grow. A place to lift each other up.

And in thinking about authors and illustrators, I think about the readers. I think about the mentees and members of PBChat getting their books onto shelves around the world and how we can have a positive and profound impact on readers’ lives. That’s why it’s especially important to me that PBChat foster the voices and stories of marginalized authors and illustrators. In supporting and lifting up marginalized creators, we provide doors, windows, and mirrors to readers of all ages and all backgrounds. But most importantly, to marginalized children.” (Justin Colon, 2021)

If you are interested in applying for the 2021 PBChat Mentorship Program, please subscribe to receive updates and info at

I was very fortunate to be granted this opportunity and hope it brings many exciting announcements in the not-so-distant future!

Thanks for reading!

Picture Books, Uncategorized

10th Annual Halloweensie!

It’s the spookiest time of the year! I LOVE this time of year for writing competitions. Fall Frenzy kicked off the month of October and Susanna Leonard Hill’s Halloweensie finishes it off!

This year, Halloween will be very different in our house. We are celebrating with our quarantine bubble friends and having a candy scavenger hunt, piñatas and then finishing the night off with some Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin. My little man demanded that he be Bowser from the Nintendo family of characters and of course, I gave into the request. The head piece was purchased but the rest, I somehow figured out! And only a couple of glue gun burns!

So we are definitely more hyped up for Halloween this year than we would normally be!

BUT the MOST exciting thing is Susanna’s Halloweensie! This was SO fun last year and some how I managed to come up with a winning entry! I hope that you’ll all enjoy this entry too.

As you may know, the challenge is to come up with a Halloween story, not just a spooky story, it must be about Halloween, only use 100 words (or less) and include a variation of three words provided by Ms. Susanna Leonard Hill herself! This year the words are creep, skeleton and mask!

So without further a-boo!…

By: Jocelyn Watkinson

Double, double, boil and bubble; brewing up a bath.
Exhausted from my creeping and my normal witchy wrath.
First, I’ll bask beneath a mask, composed from wing-of-bat.
Then strip down to my birthday suit and hang my pointy hat.

Some arsenic will do the trick to make a frothy tub,
to give my fleshy skeleton a soaking and a scrub.
Laid-back, relaxed, no longer taxed by trying to be frightful.
I’m too subdued to even “BOO!” This bathtub is…DING-DONG!

How dare those kids disrupt my bath demanding sugared grub…


Oops! Forgot my bathrobe when I exited the tub!

Yikes! Get this witch a bathrobe!

EEK! I hope you enjoyed my naked witchy story – yikes – what a fright! 🙂

Thank you to Susanna Leonard Hill for a fun competition that everyone looks forward to each year, all the amazing donors and of course my fellow writers! I can’t wait to read all the spooky and goofy entries!!


Fall Writing Frenzy Contest!

I’m busting out my cozy sweater, because there is no time that’s better. Fallen leaves and crispy air, no where to go but I don’t care.

It’s Fall! Yes! And that means it’s time for The Fall Frenzy writing contest! This contest kicked off an amazing stream of writing for me last year and I’m hoping it does the same again this year!

The rules? Just a few…but not that many! 200 words, pick a picture to inspire your story and come up with something great!

Here’s the picture:

And here’s the Story!

Halloween in Quarantine, By Jocelyn Watkinson

We’re changing up our Halloween
and staying home to quarantine!
We’ll do our part to slow the spread, 
and trick-or-treat inside, instead.

Our house has got some spooky “guests,”
and most nights they are kooky pests.
But Halloween, this year, they’ll be…
handing candy out to me!  

The ghost that’s living in the attic,
tends to be a bit dramatic.
His moans are heard throughout the night –
my “TRICK-OR-TREAT!” will set him right.

The kitchen’s where the witch’s coven
brews up potions in our oven.
“No eye-of-newt or dragon feet,
just make me something sweet to eat!”

The skeleton that’s in my closet,
needs to make a treat deposit,
and I’ll collect some sugared grub,
from goblins in the laundry tub.

The werewolf living in the shed,
will serve sweet snacks, so I am fed,
and I’m expecting something sour,
from the zombie in the shower. 

The banshee and the growling ghoul,
will have to get out of the pool,
and get me cheezies and some chips
to crunch between my teeth and lips.  

I’ll be just fine this Halloween –
‘cause there’ll be lots of sweet cuisine.
So many treats, and here’s the trick…
by staying home…I won’t get sick.

What is it about Halloween and writing that is SO fun!? This year I chose a Trick-or-Treat picture because let’s face it 2020 has dealt us nothing but disappointment and yes, we will be staying home this year to celebrate Halloween but honestly, I think it will be MORE fun than Trick-or-Treating. All that lugging heavy candy around – pass! Pinatas, and candy “egg-hunts” and games! That’s our Halloween this year so we don’t “get it or spread it!”

Thank you to Kaitlyn Sanchez and Lydia Lukidis for pulling this together again this year and all the donors who sweeten the already sweet fun we are all going to have!


Halloweensie Contest – Vampire Stains!

Starting this website has been an obstacle I have been avoiding for a very long time. But here we are – and for my first post I think it’s a good idea to start off with bang!

So I recently was up in Canada for six, yes six weeks….for some immigration related business. So there I am sitting in my mother’s living room where I grew up, way past my adult bedtime and starting to think about Susanna Hill Leonard’s Halloweensie contest.

This contest is no joke. As a beginner I wasn’t even going to bother to try; 100 words with specific halloween themed words! On top of that, everything I write is in rhyme (my fav is anapestic tetrameter, but I’m becoming fond of trochees too!). This year the words were cobweb, trick and potion.

But sitting there in the almost dark, it hit me – whatever I write will be in Transylvanian slang aka vampire accent. And within an hour, I had written my first draft of Vampire Stains. With some love from my critique partners, it was edited and submitted for the contest.

Here is the entry:

Vampire Stains

Curses! No! It can’t be so!
I need to get to my chateau!
Zis cloak is now adorned with stains
From zees night’s many spurting veins.

Vhere’s my blood removal lotion?
Bleh! I vill just make a potion.
To rid ze blood, resume abductions,
Follow zees precise instructions:

Curls of cobwebs, vings of bats
Vort of toad and tails of cats.
Zen a scoop of Oxyclean
To look my best on Halloveen.

Ah-ha! That vorked! A vondrous trick!
Now back to hunting very quick. 
Bleh! I’m shiny as a spark!
I’m much too clean; glow-in-ze-dark!

I received so much support and positive comments (I LOVE THIS COMMUNITY!) and I made it into the top 12! I could not believe it!

Then it was up to the voters to decide who won and I really couldn’t believe it – I won the contest!

I won a pass the slush pile with Blue Whale Press which I am looking forward to hearing back from!

I’ve been on cloud nine ever since these results came through…I’m feeling the momentum, I’m feeling positive…now to start my 2020 goal of querying agents.

Wish me luck!